The introduction of stronger glass materials such as Gorilla Glass, DragonTrail (manufactured by Asahi Glass) and sapphire glass products hold the promise that the displays on our smartphones and tablets will one day be impervious to the wear and tear of daily use and the odd more catastrophic event like being dropped onto the ground. But as these devices become essential tools for us, they also have to put up with more: Stuffed in pockets with change and keys, dropped into purses with everything from wallets to makeup kits and simply taken everywhere, the risk of the display getting scratched or even broken remains a very real prospect.
Until such time as glass can truly be impervious, screen protectors remain a valuable tool to ensure that displays are not only scratched but have a better chance of not breaking when something more dire happens.
But if you have used screen protectors in the past, you know that they can be pretty frustrating. Not only can be they difficult to install but they may leave you distracted by annoying air bubbles that are nearly impossible to get rid of. This is where Expert Shield comes in. They promise to not only protect your display from those annoying scratches but to do so without bubbles and the usual hassle of screen protectors.
Expert Shield explain on their website that they use a Japanese Optical Grade CrystalFilm technology for their screen protectors. In fact, they are made of three scratch repelling layers. The first is a scratch resistant coating. Underneath it is an ultra hard optical grade PET layer. The third is a silicone gel layer. Once applied, that last layer should create “a vacuum tighter than a Scottish banker.”
They also promise that installation will be straightforward. No glue, spray or “faffology” is required and the instructions promise to be as “easy as lemon squeezy.” There is also the promise of a custom fit “that’s as precise as cosmic molecular geometry.” If nothing else, it all shows that they have a sense of humour.
And behind the product is their lifetime warranty. They will replace your Expert Shield should it get scratched or damaged while protecting your device for as long as you own your device. And there is no limit to the number of times they’ll replace it if need be.
A closer look at the Expert Shields screen protector
I was surprised when the package from Expert Shields arrived. Remember, this is a review for a screen protector but I received a box larger than some for smartphones. It also bears the company’s logo in glossy black.
Upon opening the box, I found a personal note as well as two Suede Effect MicroFibre Cleaning Cloths and two screen protectors for the Nexus 5. Quite an impressive first impression albeit not one you should expect for a typical order (although I was told that it is under consideration).
The screen protector package includes both the screen protector as well as a cleaning cloth to help clean the screen before and after application of the screen protector. On the back of the packaging are the instructions. There’s nothing complicated here.
Installing the Expert Shields screen protector
When you’re ready to install your Expert Shields screen protector, be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time. Read that last to mean that this will likely take longer than you expect. You will also need two other things as well: A very clean work space as dirt is the enemy of a good Expert Shield installation and a healthy dose of patience. So if you’re having a bad day, consider doing the installation another time.
Each shield comes protected by two plastic layers so that it does not get dirty or damaged before you install it. To begin the installation, you’ll simply start to peel off the first layer using the convenient tab and apply the exposed portion of the shield to your device.
Applying the shield is relatively easy but you will need to be precise. Remember that claim of “a custom fit that’s as precise as cosmic molecular geometry?” They are not kidding. The shield will cover very nearly all of the display and if you are off ever so slightly, you risk it overlapping the frame itself. On the Google Nexus 5, if that happens, the shield will not adhere properly as the frame is like a small lip that rises ever so slightly above the glass. Fortunately, you can easily peel the shield back at this point, make the necessary corrections and reapply. You’ll find it goes on just as well with no loss of adhesion.
The only real challenge you have is really to keep your work space clean. Any speck of dirt that gets trapped beneath the shield will cause a small bubble where the shield cannot stick to the glass. Because the bottom of the shield is a gel layer, the dirt will stick to it and cannot simply be blown off. Fortunately, a piece of scotch tape should be enough to lift that dirt off.
Once you have the shield properly aligned, you can peel off more of the protective layer and continue to apply it gradually, making sure always that the alignment is good and that no dirt is getting under it.
Once the shield is in place, you may need to squeeze out a few air bubbles. I found that applying pressure and essentially guiding the bubble to the edge was enough. No fancy tools were needed; just a bit of pressure from my thumb to push it along.
The last step is to peel off the second protective layer off the top of the shield. That part is relatively easy and you just have to be careful not to pull the shield off the glass as you do so.
Aside from the need for more patience (something that Expert Shield cannot help me with), the only difficult part of the application is aligning the shield accurately. The one thing I wish for is that the installation began at the top of the Nexus 5 rather than the bottom. Aligning the top of the shield with its cutouts for the speaker and front camera would probably be easier to do at the start of the application. The additional cues would also have been helpful with the initial alignment. Realizing that the alignment is just ever so slightly off when you get to the end is a frustration I could have done without.
I also got to test Expert Shield’s warranty first-hand with the first screen protector I tried to apply. Whether it was defective or just not up to my impatient first attempts at installing it, the bottom of the shield would not adhere correctly to the glass. I got in touch with Expert Shield. Without any question on their part, I was told that a replacement was on its way and showed up promptly a couple of days later.
My second installation went much more smoothly. Knowing what to expect certainly helped and I made sure to take my time. I ended up with no dirt and only two air bubbles that were quickly squeezed out.
Using the Shield
Assuming you’ve applied the shield correctly, you’ll hardly know that it is on your device. Perhaps most importantly, I found that the Expert Shield does not affect screen sensitivity. There is a slight texture rather than the smoothness of the glass but it is almost imperceptible. Even playing arcade games, I found that the screen response was uncompromised.
The Expert Shield is not flawless though. I found that it diminished visibility in direct sunlight quite significantly. It also is more of a fingerprint magnet than the Nexus 5 display itself. While I found the latter to be a minor issue, the former is far more annoying. In the end, it boils down to a question of whether these inconveniences are worth the protection the shield brings. Interestingly, Expert Shield offers anti-glare shields for some devices (including the Samsung Galaxy S5) so this may not even be an issue for others.
While my first impression of the Expert Shield was positive overall, I also wanted to see how well it would continue to work over time. My Google Nexus 5 spends a fair portion of the day in one of my pockets. Shirt, pants, jacket, it normally gets slid in and out of pockets tens of times per day. Knowing this, I was wondering how the Expert Shield would fare in this situation and whether the corners would eventually start to lift and let dirt in. In the past, I found that I did away with screen protectors as the dirt managed to get under over time and became a distraction that I did not need.
Three weeks in, the Expert Shield has managed to stay on as tightly as on the first day. The corners show no signs of having lifted and only a single spec of dirt has found its way under one of the sides. A quick lift of the shield and a piece of tape later, it should be gone. The edges sometimes show a slight discoloration (see on the right below) as they lift a bit. Fortunately, pressing down on those areas seem to get them to stick again.
As for the the Shield itself, it shows little sign of wear. There are no scratches and screen visibility remains as good as on the first day.
- Nearly invisible once installed
- No effect on screen sensitivity
- Solid warranty
- Installation requires patience and a very clean workspace
- Reduces screen visibility in direct sunlight
As I indicated at the beginning, I don’t normally use screen protectors. But I have yet to remove the Expert Shield from my Google Nexus 5. Installing it was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done but it offers an additional degree of protection at the cost of only slight distraction. While not perfect, replacing a scratched or damaged Expert Shield will cost you significantly less than replacing the display on your device.
Expert Shield offers screen protectors for a range of devices including smartphones, tablets and cameras and even other devices including gaming gear. Prices vary but most recent smartphone (including the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5) protectors sell for £7.95 (about CA$15). They may not be the cheapest screen protectors out there but it will be money well spent given that you won’t need to replace it in two weeks as you might with a cheaper alternative. Throw in that lifetime warranty and the Expert Shield should be a strong contender on your list of screen protectors.