iPad screen protector shootout – which one is best for pilots?

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Screen glare is a persistent problem for pilots flying with the iPad. The latest iPad Pro models incorporate an anti-reflective coating that is an improvement over the earlier models, but it still can be difficult to view in sunlight or when covered with fingerprint smudges. While smart mounting strategies can reduce it (we’ve been able to make the iPad screen usable in even bubble canopy airplanes), there’s no way to completely eliminate glare. After all, the iPad is a giant sheet of glass. Is there anything pilots can do?

For years, different companies have offered anti-glare screen protectors to help with this problem. We’ve tested dozens of them and most are, frankly, worthless. A good screen protector should pass four tests with us:

  • It is easy to install, without hundreds of little air bubbles.
  • It protects the screen from scratches and smudges.
  • It does not negatively affect the touch-screen interface.
  • It reduces screen glare without dimming the screen.

We decided to test the two top competitors in the anti-glare screen protector market: 3M’s Natural View screen protector and MyGoFlight’s ArmorGlas. We installed each of these on an iPad Air 2 (a model without the newer antireflective coating), with the screen brightness on maximum, and took it into the cockpit of a Cessna 172 on a sunny spring day – a really difficult lighting situation.

What you see below is a comparison of the iPad with no screen protector compared to the two contenders. It’s hard to show in the picture exactly what it looks like in the cockpit, but you get a good idea of each one’s performance.

iPad screen protectors test small

In the end, we found the ArmorGlas to be our top pick. Here’s how it stacked up on our four criteria:

  • ArmorGlas is actually a thin sheet of tempered glass, so it’s rigid. That means it’s fast and easy to install – no bubbles to press out and no thin film flying around in the wind.
  • The ArmorGlas is thicker than the traditional 3M film, so it provides better protection. We even took a box cutter to it and couldn’t scratch the iPad screen.
  • Somewhat counterintuitively, the ArmorGlas left the iPad screen more responsive than the thinner film. There was almost no difference between it and the naked iPad screen.
  • While not a miracle cure, we felt the ArmorGlas did reduce screen glare noticeably. Under our extreme test conditions, the screen still needed to be tilted just a bit to be able to read it clearly, but this was better than no protector and less washed out than the 3M.

At $49.99, ArmorGlas is not cheap, but it’s comparable to other high end screen protectors from companies like Zagg – you get what you pay for. It’s our top pick for pilots searching for an iPad screen protector that will last. ArmorGlas is available for the iPad Pro 9.7″/iPad/iPad Air, iPad Pro 12.9″iPad Mini 4iPad Mini 1-3 and the original iPad 2-4.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for testing the screen protectors. Finally, an easy to understand, clear (no pun intended) conclusion. I had been waiting for information like this before buying one.

  2. I installed the ArmorGlas on my iPad and it looked good. I set it down on the counter and it landed corner first and the ArmorGlas cracked across the entire face. Be careful with it.

  3. Glare has been my one and ONLY issue with my mini 4. It seems there is no place I can mount it in the cockpit of my 182 that glare isn’t a problem. I’ve even gotten to the point of having to wear dark colored shirts to help eliminate reflective glare. Is that crazy or what? I’ll give this a try. If a fifty dollar piece of glass cures the problem, then I’m a happy camper. We’ll see.

    • Ron,
      I have the Armor Glass on my Mini-4. The glare was reduced but not eliminated like a mat finish would do. The best trick I have used is to set the screen brightness as high as it go. Hope this helps.

  4. I currently have this product on my ipad2. It helps somewhat but, under no circumstances do I think that the glare has subsided enough to make the $50 price worth it. In direct sun, it is no major help. I have an open cockpit plane so it is a continuous battle when flying.

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