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Protecting Your GPS Unit Screen

10/24/09: I’ve purchased two more Zagg products since the one below, and installation has become even more problematic. When installed, it still protects well, but be prepared for a lot of frustration when putting it on (and keep in mind that if it doesn’t install correctly, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee).

I take my GPS out into the field regularly, where it runs the risk of getting scratched. On the body of the unit that’s not a big deal, but scratching the display screen is. A few scratches can be distracting, while a lot of scratches can compromise the display clarity. That’s why I’ve put a new screen protector on my GPS unit’s display screen, a brand that works better than others I’ve seen and tried.

You can buy cut-to-fit screen protectors, but I’ve never been happy with them. It’s difficult to cut them to exactly the right size and shape, and they tend to peel up and off at the corners before too long. On some displays, there are problems with a polarizing effect that diminishes the brightness and contrast of the LCD display. So I looked for a better solution, and I think I found it. Zagg creates invisibleSHIELD screen protectors from the same material used to protect helicopter blades. It’s extremely tough and scratch-resistant, won’t come off unless you deliberately peel it off, and doesn’t interfere with the screen display the way cut-to-fit does. And Zagg makes protectors pre-cut to fit many standard GPS models from a wide variety of manufacturers (Acer, Brunton, Garmin, Lowrance, Magellan, Navman, Trimble, TomTom, Typhoon); they’ll even make a custom size for you at extra cost. The protector is removable if you need to send your unit in for repair, and ShieldZone will send you a replacement in that eventuality for only the shipping cost.

It’s not perfect. Application can be a little tricky, involving spraying the screen and your fingers with fluid, sliding the protector into position, and then squeegeeing out the application liquid; Zagg includes complete directions, and has an application video on the website as well. If you screw up the application process, you have only a limited time to re-do it before the adhesive sets up. The protector’s surface has a slightly “pebbly” texture that can show up under high-glare lighting conditions, but the unprotected screen would be unviewable under these lighting conditions, so that’s not a big issue.

Overall, I’m very happy with mine. It’s solid protection, not too expensive ($9.95 shipped for my model, $14.95 for the most expensive one), and it looks like it will do its job for a long time. Zagg also makes pre-cut protectors for many popular phones, MP3 players, PDAs and the like.

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