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Hands-on review: Paperlike iPad screen protector

Image credit: Paperlike

Go paper-free with this premium paper-like drawing, sketching and writing screen overlay for your iPad.

If you have an iPad and you use an Apple Pencil, you probably need Paperlike. It's as simple as that. End of review!

The USP of Paperlike is that it has been expressly designed for drawing on the iPad, using an Apple Pencil or other stylus device. Jan Sapper, the affable creator of Paperlike - who also appears in the amusing instructional video for affixing Paperlike to your iPad - came up with the idea in the absence of finding anything better on the market.

After months of experimenting, Sapper launched his Paperlike idea in 2017 with a Kickstarter campaign. In 2019, a second iteration was developed (called, wait for it, Paperlike 2). Now, the company continues to issue new versions for new machines. We tested the latest release of its product, now cut to fit Apple's new iPad Pro models.

Paperlike is more than just a basic screen protector - although you could buy it just for that purpose, you would (a) rather be wasting the real design benefits of Paperlike and (b) honestly, overpaying for just screen protection.

Tapping on the glass screen of an iPad with a stylus even as elegant as an Apple Pencil is still a mildly unsatisfactory experience. For artists used to working with physical media - e.g. pencil and brush on cartridge art paper - the artificial feeling can be even more pronounced. The hard rubber tip of the Pencil inevitably sometimes slides around on the glass, impacting the precision of one's strokes.

Paperlike Inline 2

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Paperlike - as the name suggests - aims to restore the feeling of drawing on paper when writing and creating on an iPad. The difference is made by the patented 'Nanodot' smart technology, which provides a subtle amount of friction, resistance and engagement, just like a real lead pencil drawing across paper. The Nanodot microbeads texture has been optimised to create the ideal real-feel experience over extended drawing sessions.

Those microbeads are distributed evenly across the whole screen protector and make the Apple Pencil vibrate almost imperceptibly as you draw it across the Paperlike protector, which is how the sensation of writing on paper is recreated in this hybrid analogue/digital situation. The microbeads have also been designed so that the display light shines around and through them to minimise refractions, as well as being less abrasive on the tip of the Apple Pencil. Paperlike is a lot more than just a bit of sticky plastic. The company already has a loyal following of artists from all over the world who appreciate the improved precision and tactile feel of drawing on their iPads with Paperlike installed.

Paperlike also provides an anti-glare soft matte finish to improve the iPad's visual display experience and feedback. We found this more restful on the eyes when using the iPad for long periods. Having Paperlike on an iPad Pro also made every touch operation a little nicer, with fewer obvious fingerprint smudges and trails.

Each Paperlike package contains two screen protectors and multiple wet and dry screen wipes, dust absorbers and sticker guide sheets. The company advises that a Paperlike won't last forever, so when the inevitable wear and tear reduces the performance of the first sheet you install, you've got a second sheet ready and waiting.

Applying the Paperlike in the first instance (you can refer to that comprehensive installation video, if necessary) is much the same as any other good-quality screen protector you might have used in the past. Given that iPads are much bigger than iPhones, with the attendant greater opportunity for things to go pear-shaped, Paperlike has taken great pains to make the application process as foolproof as it can.

Paperlike Inline 1

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We applied Paperlike to a new 11-inch iPad Pro, having done all the necessary wet-and-dry cleaning and dustproofing beforehand, and everything worked out well. We did accidentally trap a couple of tiny artefacts under one edge - which hasn't impacted using the Paperlike, nor has it affected the attachment of the sheet to the iPad - but we ended up with a completely bubble-free installation that is barely noticeable to the casual glance.

That's all there is to it. Paperlike is now a permanent feature of our iPad use - and we love it. Using the Pencil for everything, from drawing and painting with apps such as Procreate and Affinity Design, to writing notes, emails and messages, everything just feels better. There is, indeed, a paper-like quality now to the Pencil experience.

The company is upfront about the fact that one Paperlike won't last forever. Also, the fact that it is very lightly textured, not smooth, does mean that tiny dust and dirt particles and your hand oils will stick to the screen. The company advises cleaning the Paperlike - whilst still affixed to your iPad, so go easy on the water - with a tiny bit of washing-up liquid and a damp towel (or the wet and dry towels supplied in the delivery). This will keep Paperlike in good condition and extend its life; just be accepting of the fact that there will come a day when it's time to replace it.

Paperlike is available for all iPad sizes, with a one-price-for-all business model. The company also offers a 100 per cent satisfaction or your money back guarantee for the first 100 days.

If you have an iPad and you use an Apple Pencil, you probably need Paperlike. It's as simple as that. End of review!

£34, all sizes

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