If your iPad isn’t inside a case, one accidental drop is enough to shatter its screen or dent its body. That’s why roughly 80% of iPhone users use cases, and one of two good reasons (besides adding a stand) that many iPad users do the same. But the iPad Air 2 is changing things — it’s so thin that even Apple’s own Smart Case feels overly bulky, making more minimalist protective solutions highly appealing. If you could shave millimeters off of your encased iPad’s thickness, would you pay $60 just for a screen protector? That’s the question presented by BodyGuardz’ ScreenGuardz Pure, which invisibly covers the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 screen with a thin but strong layer of glass. With an $80 MSRP, BodyGuardz is offering it for $60 through the holidays, and it’s currently on sale for only $50 through Amazon.
Most screen protectors are semi-soft plastic — often very cheap plastic — that are easily scuffed, susceptible to air bubbles, and sometimes rough around the edges. ScreenGuardz Pure is a firm piece of tempered glass, shipped in a cardboard box with a rigid plastic tray for protection and installation. While the price is around twice what you’d pay for a good plastic alternative, ScreenGuardz Pure is optically gorgeous, boasting scratch and impact protection, plus a warranty program entitling buyers to an unlimited number of lower-cost replacements, one at a time, in the event that it’s damaged.
Installation turns out to be a big differentiator between ScreenGuardz Pure and off-brand rivals. While the “Express Align” system sounds like marketing fluff, BodyGuardz’ tray nearly guarantees accurate installation of the glass protector. Working in a dust-free environment, you peel a backing layer off of the glass, place your iPad screen-up on a flat surface, then place the tray with adhesive down atop the iPad. Pull another sticker off, press down on the glass above your iPad, and you’re done.
ScreenGuardz Pure aligned better on our first try than any other screen protector we’ve tested over the years — within a half millimeter of perfection, and not enough to mess around with repositioning. If you’ve ever screwed up screen protector installation, particularly on an iPad, you’ll understand why this is a big deal. The only thing you’ll need to do is gently work the air bubbles by pressing down on them and inching them off to the edges of the glass, an easy process.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that despite an “anti-smudge oleophobic coating,” ScreenGuardz Pure attracts the same sort of fingerprints as a bare iPad Air. You can use the included cleaning cloth to wipe down the screen, but it’s still an issue. It fits both the first iPad Air and the iPad Air 2, but as the newer model’s screen has an improved anti-reflective coating, you’ll go back to a glossy, reflective surface with ScreenGuardz Pure. BodyGuardz sells an Anti-Glare version for the same price, but we haven’t tested it yet, and can’t comment on whether — like most anti-glare solutions — it diffuses the Air’s tiny Retina pixels in a way that creates little sparkly rainbows on the screen.
One other small issue: ScreenGuardz Pure adds enough glass to the top of an iPad Air that the Home Button becomes somewhat recessed. For iPad Air users, BodyGuardz includes nice convex black and white Home Button stickers, but they won’t work on the iPad Air 2 unless you’re willing to give up fingerprint scanning. Without the stickers, you can still use Touch ID on the iPad Air 2 without problems, but your finger will need to go a little deeper into a groove to use it.
Is it worth $60 to add another piece of glass to the front of your iPad? That’s debatable: you can buy a full iPad Air or iPad Air 2 case for the same price, and screen damage isn’t as much of a concern for the Airs as it is for iPhones. But if you’re looking for a really minimalist protective solution, ScreenGuardz Pure offers a nice combination of quality and guaranteed easy installation. Consider grabbing one while they’re on sale.