Paperlike iPad Screen Protector Review

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Art Pad

It’s not often that we review things like screen protectors at NGB – after all a screen protector tends to have a very simple job of stopping that nice screen on your portable device from getting scratched up, but as many of us at team NGB are creators as well as gamers, the idea of the Paperlike protector was one that resonated pretty highly with us, so much so that when the opportunity came up to take a look at them we were very up for it.

Okay first off, what is Paperlike and what makes it different from normal screen protectors? Well, it’s all in the name – Paperlike is a screen protector for iPads which adds a layer of “Nanodots” to the screens surface giving it a texture that’s like… well… paper! The benefit of this is that when using an Apple pencil with the iPad for drawing or writing you get the feeling that you’re working on actual paper and not a glass screen. It’s fairly remarkable and the benefits of this paper like feeling stretch beyond simple drawing and writing… with some unfortunate caveats.

Applying Paperlike is a pretty straightforward process thanks to the various guide stickers included in the box and the very clear video on the website. The whole process took me about half an hour to properly get the cover on my iPad Pro 11″, making sure that I’d cleaned the screen before carefully using the guide stickers to lower the protector on. Frustratingly there were a couple of unseen bits of lint remaining under the protector which left air pockets, but these were fairly small and on the bezels at the edge of the screen; still, it shows the importance of making sure your screen is as clean as possible when applying these things!

The Paperlike itself is a great fit on the iPad, with a small amount of the bezel left exposed to accommodate wrap around covers, and a cutaway for the front facing camera and sensors so that the texture of the screen doesn’t interfere with things like face recognition for unlocking. In use it’s fantastic, the texture of the surface underneath the pencil making it far easier to write or draw on than the bare glass screen, and there is no reduction in responsiveness – if anything Paperlike enhances it. Interestingly enough this enhanced responsiveness also extends to general use of the iPad outside of drawing and writing, with touch actions like swiping through open apps or pinch zooming feeling like they have more “grip”. I’m 100% sure this is a psychological thing but the general use of the device is improved no end by this surface. Using the on screen (musical) keyboard in Garage Band, for example, makes it easier to hit and sustain the right notes. It’s genuinely bloody marvelous.

So where are those caveats? Well, one of the things I initially noticed when I applied the screen protector was how its textured surface changed the tone of the screen, dulling some of the colours. The iPad Pro screen is gorgeous, with crisp Dolby Vision colours in many of the video streaming apps. I watch a lot of movies and TV on mine, often propping it up while I’m doing chores and the dullness of these colours is definitely noticeable, particularly in rooms with strong light sources. In these instances there’s often screen wide glare introduced that wasn’t there prior to applying the Paperlike. It’s a real shame and really blunted my initial enthusiasm at the feel of using the Paperlike for creativity.

There’s also the concern of wear and tear. The Nanodots on the Paperlike seem to be more prone to picking up fingerprints and other smears which persist after a wipe, likely caught in the texture of the surface. I also have some concerns about Paperlike’s long term durability. After a week’s use, during which I was keeping the iPad in my official Apple keyboard cover, I started to notice that the keys on the keyboard were scuffing the surface of the Paperlike. This isn’t particularly noticeable when using the device but it is worrying and after looking into it further there seem to be differing reports online about Paperlike scratching and tearing with repeated use – thankfully you do get two protectors in one pack so you can swap them if you find yours wear down quickly.

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If all you do is watch Netflix and make facetime calls then take a hard pass - you don't need Paperlike. But if you use your iPad primarily as a creative device I'd recommend you grab a pack in a heartbeat. The feel of them for using pen and touch interactions is fantastic and the enhanced control you get will definitely help your creative workflow. If, however, you use your iPad for a mix of creation and consumption you may want to do a little more research as the colour muting and possible wear and tear issues may be a turn off. Either way, Paperlike as a concept is a fascinating enhancement of how we interact with touch devices, particularly for creative applications, and it feels like an innovation that will only get better with time.

Writes and produces films at independent outfit Shortorme Productions. Records music under the guise of Stage of History. Gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum. Always on the lookout for something new and fresh.

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