Review: ZAGG invisibleSHIELD Extreme and HD

Several months ago, I accidentally dropped my iPad 3 on the ground as the Smart Cover I was holding detached itself from the tablet. Sadly, the screen got banged up and several inches of scratch marks were made. Thankfully Apple replaced it for free and gave me a brand new iPad – this despite not having the extended AppleCare+ warranty. Now if I had bothered putting on a worthy screen protector, the iPad’s display wouldn’t have been damaged in the first place. Since then, I’ve gone through several brands (mostly the cheap ones), though all of them left much to be desired for one reason or another. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. That’s when I decided to finally skip the junk and try out some of the “premium” screen protectors out there, like the hugely popular ZAGG invisibleSHIELDs. In particular, the invisibleSHIELD Extreme for the iPhone 5 and High Definition shield for the iPad 3/4.

ZAGG, as many of you already know, is one of the biggest names in the protective film biz. All their skins are made from military grade patented material and features a technology ZAGG calls “Nano-Memory”, which is supposed to have ‘self-healing’ properties and are highly resistant to scratches and overall damage. Over the years, different lines of invisibleSHIELDS were introduced, and the two that I ended up using are the Extreme and High Definition.

invisibleSHIELD Extreme for the iPhone 5 (Case friendly screen coverage)

The Extreme is the latest invisibleSHIELD made available by ZAGG and it’s also the one that offers the most protection. The film itself is relatively thick and offers both break protection and shock resistance. In a promo video that’s since been watched over 1 million times, an iPhone 5 sporting an Extreme shield takes major abuse from the likes of a paintball, hammer, an arrow and other lethal forces.

Installing the ZAGG Extreme invisibleSHIELD

Unlike other typical screen protectors, the ZAGG shields are wet installs, meaning that you need to spray a (provided) solution on before applying to your iPhone. One of the major benefits with this method is that you can adjust the film by sliding it ever so slightly once it’s on to get that perfect alignment. With the dry ones, this isn’t possible; you’ll have to lift up the film and reapply a second time.

As it was my first time doing a wet install, it was a bit daunting, though ZAGG does provide a detailed Installation Walkthrough with video, pics and text.

After clearing my work desk and washing my hands, I proceeded to spray some of the solution (aka SHIELDspray) on my finger tips – ZAGG recommends this to prevent leaving fingerprints on the invisibleSHIELD. I then removed the shield from the paper backing, sprayed both its front and backside and applied it on my iPhone 5′s screen. Since it’s slick with the solution, it was easy to shift the shield around until I was satisfied with the position. And using the included squeegee, I pushed out the bubbles and excess solution from the centre towards the edges of the device and wiped away the moisture with the cloth.

Cloudy spots appear after applying shield. It’ll take 4-5 days for it to fully disappear

The next step was probably the most difficult of all, and that involved leaving the iPhone 5 turned off and left to sit for 12-24 hours. This is required in order to let the shield set and properly dry. All in all, it took me approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. I ended up starting at 8pm and didn’t turn the phone back on until 9am the next morning. One thing to note is that immediately after putting on the protector, cloudy (and yellowish) spots will appear randomly throughout  the screen. This is normal and is a result of the adhesive beneath not drying completely. It took nearly 5 days before all the spots dissipated.

After installation and using the invisibleSHIELD Extreme 

One of the most obvious things when you apply the shield is that the triangular cutting around the earpiece seems off. At first, I thought it was a bad cut from the factory, but after emailing ZAGG, I learned that it was by design – in particular, to avoid covering the sensor around the earpiece. It’s awkward to look at at first, though I have found that I stopped noticing it after a few days. The other exposed area is around the home button, where the shield doesn’t completely wrap around it. Seeing how this is the “Case Friendly” version, this particular Extreme doesn’t cover the screen fully from side to side. There’s a about a millimeter and a bit of space left so that there won’t be issues with case compatibility.

The actual Extreme shield is thick by screen protector standards, and certainly the thickest I’ve ever laid my hands on. That said, it really is impressive how it still provides excellent clarity and the touch responsiveness is surprisingly good. I’ve basically had no issues typing or using the iPhone 5 with the shield on.

I haven’t unleashed the hammer or fired a shotgun at it, but the Extreme does a good job of protecting the screen. Most of the everyday bumps and thumps haven’t left any visible marks on the shield (I’ve already dropped it accidental several times over the past few weeks). The only scratch mark I’ve left on it is from a nail I used to scrape along the surface. I wanted to see how well it’d hold up, and while the “self-healing” properties didn’t fully kick in (there’s a faint line only visible under a certain angle and light), my iPhone 5 screen was perfectly fine.

Pros

  • It’s thicker than most, but the clarity is excellent
  • Touch responsiveness barely affected, if at all
  • Gives screen a solid layer of protection
  • Backed by free lifetime replacement warranty

 Cons

  • Takes 4-5 days for cloudy spots to disappear
  • Cut around earpiece not even and leaves area exposed
  • Home button not fully covered
  • More prone to fingerprints

invisibleSHIELD HD for iPad 3/4 (Maximum coverage)

The ZAGG HD shield, like the Extreme, is fairly new to the invisibleSHIELD lineup and was first announced at the beginning of 2012. Its biggest selling point – besides offering the protection of the original film – is the ‘Advanced Clarity and Glass-like Surface’ feature. True to its word, once applied you’d be hard pressed to notice that a screen protector is even there.

Installing the full body ZAGG HD invisibleSHIELD

Applying the ZAGG HD on the iPad is a bit more tricky, as there’s more ground to cover – not to mention that this is the Maximum Coverage version, where there’s a film for the back as well. Thinking it’d be easier and that it won’t take long, I decided to work on the back first. Well, it turns out it was neither easy nor fast. Looking back, my biggest issue was not applying enough of the ZAGG solution on the adhesive side of the shield. This coupled with the fact that the film for the back is soft, I had a difficult time adjusting it and making it fit properly around the camera hold, sleep/volume buttons, earphone jack etc. Getting all the corners of the shield to wrap nicely around the iPad’s own four corners also added to the challenge. For seasoned vets, the process probably isn’t a big deal, but for a first timer like me, it was definitely harder than I’d imagined. All in all, it took me nearly 45 minutes to complete this one side. It turned out ok for the most part, though I wasn’t able to line up all the edges perfectly.

Thankfully, the front shield was significantly easier to install for me – almost like night and day. Realizing my previous mistake, I sprayed loads more of the solution on its adhesive side. This allowed me to slide the film around with much more ease and I was able to apply and squeegee off the bubbles and excess moisture in less than 10 minutes. If I were to do the back again, I’m pretty confident that I’d do a better job the second time around as I’ll know what to expect. But if you’re a complete newbie and don’t have much patience, paying that extra $5 (or even $10) to have it installed for you by the pros (assuming the service is available at the kiosk/retailer) wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Retina display looking great with HD film

Using the invisibleSHIELD Extreme 

Unlike the Extreme, the High Def shield doesn’t get the same cloudy spots, but it’s still recommended that the iDevice is turned off and left unused for 12-24 hours. And the remaining bubbles on both the front and back all disappeared after a day or so.

Once settled in, the results are quite amazing. The screen is crystal clear and the Retina Display can be enjoyed in its full glory. I’ve noticed basically no difference to the touch sensitivity – it’s like there’s nothing there. The one downside is that it picks up on fingerprints easily. As for the rear skin, I love the rubbery feel it offers; it just feels better to hold in my hands than the brushed aluminum, and I like how it doesn’t slide around as much anymore when placed on a surface.

Also worth noting is that with the HD shield applied on the back, the iPad still fits into the ZAGGFolio Keyboard Case, though I’ve found that it is extremely hard to remove. Just something to think about if you do use this keyboard accessory. The case itself will close, but with the added layers (albeit thin ones), it’s a tighter fit.

Pros

  • Glass like surface is very clear
  • Film resistant to scratches
  • Front shield easy to apply
  • No change in touch responsiveness
  • Rear shield gives iPad a nice grip
  • Backed by free lifetime replacement warranty

Cons

  • Not easy to apply film on the backside
  • Did I mention how hard it was to apply film round back?
  • Fingerprints
  • Hard to remove from ZaggFolio when back shield is installed

Final Thoughts

After using both the HD and Extreme shields on my iDevices for the past few weeks, I have to say that I’ve been more than pleased with the results. It’s surprising to see how the much thicker Extreme skin still offers great clarity and touch responsiveness, all the while giving your iPhone’s display added shock protection. Since my iPhone 5 doesn’t go anywhere without a case (the chamfered sides are just too easy to scuff), the case friendly screen coverage version is more than sufficient for my needs. Whereas for my iPad, I personally prefer the feel of the skin than the aluminum back; it just provides a better grip and isn’t prone to scratches. To top it off, the Smart Cover works perfectly even with the full shield installed. Now if only the rear installation wasn’t so difficult.

There are several options available for the invisibleSHIELD Extreme for the iPhone 5: Full Body (a back skin is included) retails for $49.99; Case Friendly Screen Coverage for $29.99; and the regular Screen Coverage also for $29.99. As for the HD Shield for the iPad 3/4, the Maximum Coverage option sells for $49.99 and just the front Screen will set you back $34.99.

Final Rating for both Shields, a solid Grab It (4/5).

Grab It Rating - 4/5

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