Cheap Screen ProtectorAug 6, 2001 (Updated Jan 9, 2002) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Don't shell out $25 for a PDA screen protector when a cheap (often free) sheet of vinyl will do.
I was appalled to see PDA screen protectors being sold for $25.00. All I wanted was a piece of plastic to cover my PDA's screen, and these companies wanted me to shell out this kind of money! Well, I found a really cheap alternative that works really well - vinyl sheets! This is the same stuff that manufacturers use to create those temporary, easy-to-remove labels that you find stuck to new electronic equipment.
Clear vinyl sheets are crystal clear, and won't distort or haze your PDA's screen. The material has a really smooth surface over which the stylus glides. Tapping the surface has a nice, "soft" feel to it. Vinyl has a natural "stickiness" that will adhere lightly to your screen without leaving any residue or damaging the surface. It's really tough, and will stand up to many months of abuse. Finally, the material does not interfere with the sensing of the finger or stylus on the touch screen. It is also thin enough that you can still fit a REX PDA into a PCMCIA slot without a problem.
This stuff is really cheap. Often you get clear vinyl sheeting free in the packaging of another product. I got my first sheet from inside of a wallet package. You can also purchase it in relatively large sheets in the form of table cloth covers, etc. (see the update below for a good source). If you're unsure if you have a piece of vinyl or not, here's how to tell: window-clear (you can look through it), very smooth, somewhat soft and tacky feel, very flexible, will stick to smooth surfaces, feels "tough" or "thick" compared to other types of plastic or cellophane packaging.
You will have to cut it to size to fit your PDA's screen, so that it fits loosely within the bezel. Make sure it's not too big, or it won't stick well. A fraction of a millimeter too big is not good, even if it seems to fit into the screen area, but a little smaller is ok, as long as the edges are beyond where you will use your stylus. I recommend using an Exacto knife and a metal ruler on a cutting pad for this. Never cut it on the PDA itself (duh). If you have enough left over, store the remainder in an airtight zipper-bag to keep it "fresh".
Before placing your trimmed sheet onto your PDA, make sure both the screen and the vinyl sheet are perfectly clean. Any little speck of dust will create a little air pocket. You can't be too picky, however, as this can be hard to achieve. After setting the sheet onto the screen, it usually takes about a week for it to "settle in" and fully adhere to the screen. Don't let that stop you from using your PDA immediately -- it will stay put, and tapping it with your stylus helps it to adhere.
I have a little REX 6000 PDA that I always have on me in my front pants pocket. Its touchscreen was starting to show wear, and I needed something to protect it. The vinyl sheet has been on the screen for months, and is working perfectly. It's resisting the abuse and staying clear and smooth. I also love the feel of my stylus on the soft, smooth surface. No more cringing when a speck of dust crunches between the stylus and the sensitive screen ((shiver)) -- this just doesn't happen anymore. I wouldn't do without it.
Update: Wal-Mart sells bulk, "medium weight" clear vinyl sheeting for $0.87 a yard from a 54" roll in the crafts section. (Price may vary in your area.) This means you can get a 54"x36" sheet of clear vinyl for 87 cents. That's an awful lot of screen protector for an insanely cheap price. Make sure to seal the excess in a zipper bag to keep it "fresh".
I just replaced my first sheet with the Wal-Mart stuff after a few months of heavy use and wear from being in my front pants pocket (this is a REX, after all.) The old sheet is quite beat up. I'm glad that the sheet took this abuse, and not my PDA screen! The new material sticks to everything (ruler and work surface), making precise cutting a little difficult, yet it still takes a little time to settle onto the PDA screen. It works great!
Update: How to make it stick to your screen. Dip your PDA's stylus tip into some water, and touch it to the center of your screen to deposit a tiny drop of water. Place the vinyl sheet onto your screen and spread it gently with your fingers. The water will spread out and help the vinyl stick, instantly. As the water evaporates, it will pull the vinyl tightly against the screen. Don't worry if the liquid doesn't spread all the way, this is just to get the adhesion process started.
Be careful - you don't want to use too much water, as it will spread to the edges of your screen and get underneath the bezel. A drop off of the tip of your stylus seems to be a very safe amount. Distilled water is best, because it is pure and non-conductive. Bottled or filtered water is good. Don't use hard tap water, as it can leave a deposit on your screen. The thin water film won't interfere with using the touch screen and it will quickly evaporate.
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