3M, one of the largest global brands, now offers screen protectors for the iPad. There are no shortage of screen protectors and back skins for the iPad, with a range of prices that range from dirt cheap to upwards of $50. None of them offer all encompassing protection, so providing your iPad with the absolute best coverage can get costly, given you’ll have to add a few bucks for a case. Some would cringe at the very thought of applying anything to the screen, while some folks leave the factory plastic on until their screen protector arrives, counting the days until they can breathe again. I tend to be in the second group. When not in my hands, my iPad 4 was seated in its original box. I’ve been boxing and unboxing it until being able to provide it with the protection required to give me a sufficient level of comfort that it won’t get scratched. I’ve used countless brands, both cheap and expensive, using familiar brands like Wrapsol, ZAGG, BodyGuardz, Bestskinsever and Phantom Skinz. I was intrigued that a global brand had jumped into the fray of iPad skins. The company behind Scotch tape, post-its and Filtrete now want to protect my iPad. Read on for my full 3M Natural View Screen Protector review.
I think some folks like the idea of a screen protector, only to be put off by the laborious installation process. Things have gotten better with new dry processes. No more scrubbing in and using a squeegee to push fluid off the sides of our gadgets, hoping they make their inside. The 3M Natural View uses a dry application. A small area jets out that helps you determine which side is up. There was an alignment strip included that clearly said ‘Peel Here’, but it wasn’t affixed to the protector. I reapplied the Alignment strip, prior to applying the protector. This allows you to easily pull back the Natural Print several times until you have the alignment correct. The cut of the front screen protector makes it slightly smaller than the entire display, which is a good thing. What you lose in coverage is minimal and quite honestly, it’s difficult to line up exactly, so the cut was advantageous.
With other screen protector installs, manufacturers suggest you should apply them and then work out the bubbles. The 3M Natural View is slightly different. Using the alignment strip, you slowly pull back on the liner. I focused on getting it lined up perfectly with the home button.The appearance on the iPad should be similar to water washing up on a shore, you slowly see it creeping up the face of your iPad. If you go too fast, you’ll run into issues with bubbles. Bubbles can be an issue with either wet or dry installs. To date, I’ve had the best bubble-free experience using Steinheil screen protectors for the iPhone, although I cannot comment on how this translates to the larger iPad display. The drawback to realignment and reapplying the protector will rear its ugly head in the form of tiny dust particles that no level of buffing will remove. Surprisingly, I was unable to buff out a few small bubbles that were on the edge. I think the screen protector is ultra sensitive, with even smaller dust particles affecting ones ability to create a perfect application. If you get one of these in the middle of your screen, the added protection might not be worth it. If you look at the image below, I’ve got an imperfection that despite my taking every precaution, was unable to avoid. Now it’s there for eternity or until I install another screen protector.
With the front being completely flat, I thought I was in for trouble with the back installation. Not the case with the 3M Natural View. They don’t recommend the Alignment Strip, but I do. The same process applies here, using the back camera as you alignment indicator. The back protector was more cut to size, so you have little room to make errors. It was more forgiving when it comes to bubbles. I used the included soft cloth and my hands to rub out any bubbles. I was able to clear large swaths of bubbles in seconds. Once you achieve a good alignment, installation of the back skin is a breeze. Even the corners, which have proven pesky for me using other products, was a cake walk. In less time, I was able to apply the skin and had zero bubbles. I spent extra time buffing the Apple logo, which makes the pattern less visible against the black.
There is no curing time, so you won’t have to go through a 24-hour waiting period for the screen protector to affix. I was able to immediately start using the iPad, which is yet another benefit to the dry install. The hard plastic allowed the screen to feel smooth to touch and it did a fairly good job of replicating the feel of glass. You might initially notice a slight difference, but overall I was very pleased with how it felt. Images from the retina display were just as vibrant and I did not notice any lack of clarity. This product boasts of offering what 3M calls ‘fingerprint fading’ technology and it actually works quite well. Apple uses an anti-fingerprint oleophobic coating, but it still doesn’t do a great job in fighting against fingerprints. Having the 3M screen protector resulted in less fingerprints.
The back has a rubbery feel and a very slight pattern to it. It’s definitely not like any of the previous back skins I’ve used in the past. It does feel good to hold, which is important. It’s not a matte finish by definition, but it’s also not what I would consider ‘shiny’. By all appearances, the skin looks and feels as if it’s very durable. I really like the fit and feel of the skin.
- High quality screen protection
- Both front and back skin feels great
- Does not adversely affect quality of display
- Perfectly sized cut-outs for both front and back
- Back skin installation was easy
- Difficult to achieve the perfect installation of screen protector without any sort of imperfection
- Pattern on back skin
Having a positive brand image of 3M, I was expecting this to be a great quality screen protector for the iPad and was not disappointed. The front screen protector installation isn’t very forgiving and I could easily see where a dust particle in the center of the display could ruin your install. This is the nature of the beast, with some better than others. I’d say the 3M Natural View is among the best. Once installed, the fingerprint fading worked well and the film is hardly noticeable. The back skin was surprisingly good and by far my favorite back skin, even with the pattern. It was easy to install and has a great feel to it. All in all, this is a very good and complete iPad protection skin kit for the iPad.