You've decided to use a screen protector on your handheld computer's screen. Now the question is which type -- adhesive or non-adhesive -- and which brand of protector should you use?
To help you answer that question, Brighthand tested seven popular screen protector products, evaluating them based on four factors: ease of installation, clarity, durability, and feel. What we found were three products that stood above the others and one that clearly lagged behind.
Brighthand tested each of the following screen protector products on a Compaq iPAQ h3955 Pocket PC for a period of three-weeks, sufficient enough time to evaluate normal wear and tear, and usability.
Though the testing was done on an iPAQ, these companies make versions of their screen protectors for a wide variety of models, both Palm OS and Pocket PC.
Keys to a smooth installation. Dust particles and air bubbles are the enemies of screen protectors. While eliminating air bubbles can typically be accomplished by using a standard credit card to push them out, getting rid of dust is a more vexing problem. One solution is to use a can of condensed air to blow dust away from your handheld's screen. Another solution is to create your own "dust-free" environment. Simply turn on the hot water in your bathroom and allow it to steam up the room. Voila. Dust particles adhere to the steam rather than your handheld's screen, creating a perfect environment for applying a screen protector.
Pocket PC Techs, Inc. offers two kits of its WriteSHIELD screen protectors: the Standard Kit ($29.99) and the Deluxe Kit ($39.99). The Standard Kit contains three (3) screen protectors, a MicroFiber Cleaning Cloth, four (4) KleanScreen Wet Single Packs, and six (6) applicator/removal picks for installation and removal. With the Deluxe Kit, you get everything included in the Standard Kit plus an additional MicroFiber Cleaning Cloth and a two-ounce Bottle of KlearScreen cleaner.
While the WriteSHIELD is considered an adhesive-type protector, it uses a silicone substance rather than standard adhesive to adhere to the screen. This makes it completely washable and easy to clean and reuse, since once it dries it becomes sticky again. It also has a static property that seems to repel dust. It wasn't until about two and a half weeks of use that we noticed any dust on the screen that needed to be wiped off.
Ease of installation. Installing a WriteSHIELD screen protector is a simple process. First, you thoroughly clean the handheld's screen. Next, you peel back about 1/4 of the shield from its backing and align it on an edge of the screen. Then you slowly remove the rest of the backing and the screen protector falls into place. Maybe it was beginner's luck, but this all worked perfectly on our first try, a near perfect fit with absolutely no bubbles and no dust. However, on our second try, after removing the screen protector to clean it, we noticed a few minor air bubbles. Still, those were easily eliminated with a quick swipe of a credit card. Removal was just as easy. Using the removal picks, the screen protector just popped up and was easy to remove and re-install later.
Clarity. Compared to an unprotected screen, the WriteSHIELD makes the screen seem slightly cloudy. However, it does eliminate glare, even in direct light.
Feel. The WriteSHIELD creates a "pencil on paper" feel -- right down to the sound. There is a definite increase in friction produced between the stylus tip and the screen protector, so the stylus tip never moves too quickly across the screen. This provides a high level of accuracy, and screen taps and writing were easily recognized.
Durability. After three weeks of use, there were no detectable signs of use.
Brando WorkShop offers a single washable, adhesive screen protector for $12, shipped direct from Hong Kong in a simple envelope.
Installation. The backing was difficult to remove, but once removed it was almost as easy to apply as the WriteSHIELD. As with the WriteSHIELD, you aligned the Brando screen protector on the screen and it just falls into place. We did have to apply it twice because we noticed some dust between the screen and the screen protector after first installing. There were a couple of air bubbles under the protector after the second application, but they were easily wiped away with a quick swipe of a credit card.
Clarity. The Brando screen protector seemed slightly cloudier than the WriteSHIELD, but it was still usable. Again, the cloudiness of the screen protector created a glare-free surface, making it usable in any lighting condition.
Feel. The Brando screen protector had the same pencil to paper feel as the WriteSHIELD, but with slightly less friction. Because the Brando screen protector is an adhesive screen protector, it feels like it is another part of the screen. Screen taps and writing were accurately detected, and there was no apparent loss in screen sensitivity.
Durability. The Brando screen protector was tougher than the WriteSHIELD in a key scratch test we performed on all of the protectors, leaving barely a mark. It appears the Brando screen protector could stand up to even the toughest user.
PDAScreenProtectors.com offers two screen protectors for $13.95. The G2 does not stick to your screen, rather it fits underneath the edges around the screen. While this eliminates tack, or stickiness, it does allow dust to get between the screen protector and the screen, something we noticed after a week of use. Occasionally removing and cleaning the screen protector and screen can overcome this problem.
Ease of installation. Installing a G2 screen protector is no simple task. In fact, it involves a series of steps to slip the edges of the G2 underneath the edges of the screen, and then give it a slight twist to set it into place. The installation instructions said not to rush and to "gently massage" the screen protector into place. Despite the warning, we bent the screen protector on our first try. On the second try, we took our time, slowly working it onto the screen, and eventually it slid right into place. The most difficult part of the process is to not touch the backside of the screen protector while you are trying to install it.
To remove the G2, you affix some Scotch tape and pull it down and sideways. This is definitely an acquired skill. We bent the screen protector on our first removal attempt as well, leaving a noticeable crease in it. On the second try, we actually used more Scotch tape and had no problems.
Clarity. The G2 is exceptionally clear, definitely the clearest screen protector of the bunch. In fact, it's difficult to tell the difference between the screen with and without the G2 in place. However, the downside of the G2 is that fingerprints show more easily, so you'll have to spend more time buffing them out, especially if you touch the screen a lot. Of course, if you are a purist and only use your stylus, the crystal clarity of the G2 would be the perfect choice for you.
Feel. Since the G2 floats on top of the screen rather than adheres to it, you occasionally feel a "double tap." This sensation comes from the stylus contacting the screen protector and the screen protector in turn hitting the screen. While this is not as severe as it might sound, it is noticeable. The surface of the G2 offers less friction than the actual screen, which makes the stylus almost seem to glide across it, which may be a little hard to get used to at first.
Durability. The G2 is the most durable screen protectors we tested. There were absolutely no marks after three weeks of use. When we put the screen protector through the pressure test, it produced no marks whatsoever. We even accepted a challenge from the manufacturer to try rubbing steel wool on it. After a few minutes of rubbing, there was not a single scratch.
NuShield offers its washable, non-adhesive screen protectors through its website for $11.99 for three screen protectors.
Installation. The NuShield is a non-adhesive screen protector much like the G2. However, it is much easier to install and remove; that is, once you figure out which side goes towards the screen. We did have to apply it twice because, once again, we managed to get dust between the screen and the screen protector. (So much for our "dust free" environment.) It was noticeably easier to apply the NuShield than the G2, because of its unique shape. The NuShield is cut so that the top and bottom don't actually slide under the edges of the case. The only part that does is the sides, which are slightly bowed. It was easier to apply this screen protector without the fingerprint problem than it was to apply the G2. Removal was also very easy. There was no need for tape, we just slid it to one side and picked it off of the screen.
Clarity. While the NuShield is not as clear as the G2, it is a close second. However, it does present a dust problem. After less than a week of use, we noticed dust accumulating between the screen and the screen protector. This was because the dust had a much easier time getting under the screen protector with not as many edges under the case. Still, it is easy to remove, clean and re-install the NuShield, so this should not present much of a problem.
Feel. The NuShield adheres better than the G2 because it is slightly bowed towards the screen. The slight bow is very helpful in eliminating space between the screen and the screen protector, so there's no "double tap" effect. There is also more friction on the NuShield than on the G2, as it seemed to mimic the actual feel of the screen.
Durability. The NuShield survived the three week test with no noticeable marks. It also passed the pressure test with a few marks, but nothing extreme. When we performed the key scratch test, there was a mark, but it was not significant enough to note. The NuShield appears to be a durable screen protector.
Boxwave offers its ClearTouch adhesive screen protectors through its website for $12.95 for one screen protector.
Installation. Installation is extremely easy. Peel it from its backing, line it up, and it falls right into place. It seemed to almost guide itself into the right place with no other need to direct it. Our first try resulted in a couple of minor bubbles that were quickly swiped away with the use of a credit card. Removal was a little trickier, because it was difficult to get the screen protector off of the screen without the use of a tool. (We used a toothpick to push the edge up.)
Clarity. The Boxwave was less cloudy than the WriteSHIELD, but cloudier than the G2. It also had a matte finish, which cut down on the glare. Overall, it was a nice compromise of clarity and anti-glare.
Feel. The Boxwave has that nice pencil to paper feel along with a perfect blend of friction, making it an extremely easy writing surface. We didn't have any trouble with the stylus slipping around on the screen and tapping accuracy and responsiveness was excellent. It almost seemed like this was an upgrade to the screen, adding a little friction with no loss of feel.
Durability. The Boxwave ClearTouch was very durable, with no wear marks from the three-week test period. In the pressure test, the Boxwave also did very well, with only had slight, insignificant marks. Finally, in the key test, it faired about as well as the others -- a small mark, but nothing too significant.
Incipio offers twelve of its adhesive Companion Link Screen Protectors for $19.99.
Installation. Installing an Incipio screen protector is more difficult than installing the other adhesive protectors. It is flimsier and not as easy to align on the screen. It also produces a lot of air bubbles, some of which could not be removed with a credit card. (However, after a week or so, the bubbles did work their way out.) Since the Incipio screen protectors are made of a different material, reusing them is not as much of an option. When we removed the screen protector, it got stuck to itself and became completely unusable.
Clarity. Screen clarity is good. While there is some degree of cloudiness, the screen is still readable. There is also a slight glare, but definitely better than no screen protector at all.
Feel. The Incipio screen protector produces more friction than the other screen protectors. Screen taps are also not as accurate, and sometimes do not register.
Durability. After three weeks of testing, there were visible paths where we had tapped a lot. For example, the top right corner of the screen was worn from closing applications. There were a good amount of marks in the area where the user writes for the letter recognizer. The Incipio screen protector also did not hold up to the pressure test, as it stretched and pulled.
Fellowes offers WriteRight Screen Protectors through its website for $23.99 for twelve screen protectors. You can also find them at your local computer store.
Ease of Installation. Installation is exactly the same as other adhesive screen protectors, except Fellowes includes its own squeegee card to help you push the air bubbles out after installing.
Clarity. The WriteRights are even cloudier than the Incipio screen protectors. In addition, they have a sort of pattern on them that is similar to lines, or microscopic ridges, that extend across the screen protector.
Feel. The WriteRights feel a lot like the Incipio screen protectors, except more rubbery. We noticed a number of missed taps and missed letters in writing.
Durability. The durability is similar to the Incipio screen protectors as well, but again the WriteRights are somewhat inferior. Because of the mini ridges on the WriteRights, there was a good deal of wear in our three-week test period, and it was definitely time to replace the screen protector at the end.
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