Saturday, December 15, 2007

BodyGuardz™ Review

iSay? Have You Heard About ...BodyGuardz™?

Mobile devices -- these days we all have them, whether the ubiquitous cell phone or the more specialized electronics such as handheld game consoles, portable media players, handheld computers, MP3 players, personal information managers and the like. With so much going on in our proverbial pockets, where's the modern day equivalent of the nerd-chic pocket protector that kept our pens in order and our shirts ink-stain free?

The mobile devices market does provide protective options, ranging from hard-shell cases to flexible plastic wraps, that help us keep our gadgetry in pristine working order, but I have yet to encounter a perfect solution.

For example: While it will augment the protective outer case of your mobile device, a hard case also adds bulk. This added heft may make one more secure about accidentally dinging the device, but how's the thing supposed to fit in your pocket now that it's an inch thicker?

Then there are the flexible plastic covers. Even the clear ones tend to be too rubbery and unpleasant to stretch around a device. And at some point, it seems the plastic will inevitably stretch out of shape and leave noticeable gaps around the device, which in turn allows in the very debris that one is trying to prevent from coming into contact with said device.

I should know. One of my nephews has his own lawn-care business -- he's an enterprising kid -- and one day he borrowed my plastic-shell encased iPod Mini to wear while doing his rounds. I got back an iPod with a layer of grime wedged between it and the inside of the protective plastic case. (Needless to say, Auntie was not pleased -- with the poor product performance, not my nephew.)

So how does a mobile gadget geek protect her various and sundry mobile devices, without covering them up and bulking them up, but leaving them as intended -- as something that's easy to carry about, and that looks cool when she pulls it out of her pocket?

BodyGuardz™Recently, I got to do a ~10-day road test of a product called BodyGuardz™ (along with its companion ScreenGuardz) on my Onyx Nintendo DS Lite -- and while it's not a perfect system, the product delivers what it advertises -- virtually scratch-proof and transparent protection for mobile devices.

Made by a company called NLU Products, LLC, BodyGuardz (and ScreenGuardz) are transparent films that have been die-cut to match the shape of whatever it aims to cover. The product comes as a sheet containing all the pieces needed to cover your device surface, and rather like a puzzle you assemble the pieces over your device, encasing it in a protective skin.

So, what's the real deal? Let's start with the "bad," before getting to the good stuff.

When my test product arrived I eagerly opened the box and pulled out all the parts inside. (I'd given the product a cursory once over via its web site, so I had some idea what to expect.) Still, I was surprised to see a bottle of application solution and a squeegee card. Yes, that's right -- liquid, to be used in close proximity to your electronic device.

Once I got over my initial squeamishness, I took a gander at the instructions. (In true geek fashion, I usually don't bother with instructions unless something goes wrong, of course, but in this case I wanted to be fair to the product and not hamper it in some way due to my not using it as intended.) I smiled at the capital DO NOT SPRAY YOUR DEVICE warning.

Important Note: The application solution is designed to temporarily decrease the stickiness of the film making it easier to put in place. A bit of solution is sprayed upon the sticky underside of each piece prior to applying it.

And herein lies the main gripe I have with the product. You have to be quite careful in pealing each piece away from the sheet and spraying the sticky side with solution. (You're supposed to spray your finger tips first to make them lubricated as well.) If you drop a piece on your plush carpet accidentally or it brushes up against your favorite mohair sweater -- it's no good, as the sticky has been rendered ineffective.

I do understand why the product works this way. They want an ultra-tight seal between the protective skin and the device to guard against the problem I mentioned earlier, debris entering into the equation. But it's an annoyance and a bit messy (even though the solution eventually evaporates).

The second issue I faced was getting each piece aligned just right in order for all the pieces to join up and make a "solid" shell covering the device. Each piece is labeled on a diagram to describe where it should go, but there's a bit of guess work and shifting involved in making sure all the pieces abut perfectly. Luckily the application solution allows for relatively easy maneuvering of a just-placed piece.

The application of the skin was the difficult part -- pealing off the piece, spritzing it with application solution, making certain not to touch anything it could stick to other than the device, sliding it around to align on the device properly, and finally squeegeeing out any air bubbles and excess solution. (Don't worry if the air bubbles are too difficult to remove as most will disappear naturally after ~24 hours due to the application solution evaporating and the film adhering to the device.) After it's covered, all you have to do is let it sit a while to "dry."

Once it's dry you're good to go. And boy did I go. I was gaming all over the place -- even in the bathroom. I accidentally dinged my DS on the side of my desk one day -- I almost dropped it as I was reaching for the phone -- and nary a scratch appeared. In other words, if you can get beyond the application process, BodyGuardz™ puts in a solid performance.

BodyGuardz™ is so thin that any added weight or bulk is negligible. It's virtually scratch-proof so nicks and the odd bump won't affect it. It's custom cut to fit precisely to a specific device outline, so there's no gap for debris to wedge between. It's also transparent, thus (if you've done a good job applying the skin) you'll have to look closely to see that it's even there after it dries.

The only issue I experienced after the application process involved the end-folds not adhering well to the curved corners of the DS lid. The little edge pieces will pop up because they can't lie flush on a curve. If one of the corner edges were to get caught on something -- it's still sticky -- it might rip off a piece. This would take some doing, because the rest of the piece is very securely attached, but it's something to note.

More likely, some bit of dirt will eventually wedge its way in there and by doing so start to weaken the bond between the protective skin and the device. (However, the kit I tested includes a second complete BodyGuardz™ to account for such eventualities as having to re-cover your device or replace a piece that's lost its tack.)

Overall however, BodyGuardz™ did what had been advertised: it protected my mobile device from scratches and scuff marks without hiding the sleek look of the device itself -- you'll just have to get passed the application process.

If you can get the skin on, and do a good job at it, I think you'll be well pleased with the product's performance "on the road." I definitely like that my DS now wears a BodyGuardz™ protective skin. It makes me feel more secure about carrying the thing around all the time -- and it still looks like an Onyx DS Lite, black and sleek.

BodyGuardz™ for Nintendo DS Lite Product Overview:

Pros
  • Tight-Fitting (Custom-cut to fit a specific device without gaps)
  • Transparent (Does not obscure the look of the device)
  • Scratch-proof (Self-Explanatory)
  • Tough (Holds tight to the device through wear)

Cons
  • The application process (dealing with sticky pieces and liquid in close proximity to an electronic device)

What's in the Box:
  • 2 Complete BodyGuardz™
  • Application Solution
  • Squeegee Card
  • Application Instructions
  • Also includes 3 ScreenGuardz Screen Protectors
BodyGuardz™
My Rating:
3.5 Stars (out of 5). BodyGuardz™ is a solid product, but the application process was an annoyance.



DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary BodyGuardz™ for Nintendo DS Lite from NLU Products, LLC in order to facilitate this review. MSRP $24.95. Images are from the product press kit.

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