Tempered Glass vs. Plastic Screen Protectors: Pros & Cons

Last Updated: May 15, 2023By
Screen protector on hand

In our current era marked by the dominance of technology, handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets are more than just luxury items; they have evolved into essential tools that we use for a wide array of tasks. They connect us to others, serve as platforms for business and learning, and offer endless entertainment options.

Given the significant role they play and their high replacement cost, safeguarding these devices, especially their screens, is of paramount importance. This is where screen protectors come into play.

There are primarily two types of screen protectors to choose from: plastic and tempered glass. While plastic screen protectors were widely used during the early days of smartphones, the emergence of tempered glass screen protectors has provided users with a more premium, feature-rich alternative.

The decision between a plastic and tempered glass screen protector, however, is not always clear-cut. This blog post aims to dive deeper into the characteristics of both plastic and tempered glass screen protectors.

Understanding Screen Protectors

Screen protectors serve as a shield for your device’s screen, a barrier that helps prevent physical damage. They are specifically designed to protect the screens of electronic devices from scratches, smudges, and breakage due to drops or impacts. 

While the primary function of a screen protector is to provide protection, they also offer other benefits such as reducing glare, enhancing privacy, and improving viewing angles, depending on the type you choose.

The Evolution of Screen Protectors

Screen protectors have come a long way since their inception. In the early days of PDAs and smartphones, screen protectors were mostly made of plastic. They were primarily designed to prevent scratches, as early device screens were more prone to scratching.

However, as technology advanced and touchscreen devices became ubiquitous, the demand for screen protectors also evolved.

The initial plastic protectors were notorious for reducing screen clarity and were often challenging to apply without trapping dust or air bubbles. Over time, manufacturers improved the materials and the design. The modern plastic screen protector became more durable, clearer, and easier to install.

The significant leap in screen protector technology came with the introduction of tempered glass screen protectors. These offered superior protection against not just scratches, but also high-impact drops.

Tempered glass protectors also improved the touch experience, closely mimicking the feel of the original screen, and provided excellent clarity.

The Two Contenders: Tempered Glass and Plastic

Today, the two most commonly used types of screen protectors are tempered glass and plastic. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between the two often depends on individual preferences and the specific needs of your device.

Plastic Screen Protectors

Plastic screen protectors are thin, lightweight sheets made from PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane). These materials are pliable and can be cut to fit any device screen. They are typically less expensive than their tempered glass counterparts, making them a popular choice for those on a budget.

Types of Plastic Screen Protectors

There are two main types of plastic screen protectors, each with its own unique properties:

PET Protectors: PET protectors are thin and lightweight, offering basic protection against scratches and scuffs. They have a feel similar to the original screen but don’t offer much impact protection.

TPU Protectors: TPU protectors are thicker and more flexible than PET protectors. They offer better protection against impact and are highly resistant to oil, grease, and scratches. However, they can be a bit more challenging to apply due to their flexibility.

Benefits of Plastic Screen Protectors

Affordability: Plastic screen protectors are generally less expensive than tempered glass, making them an affordable option for many users.

Flexibility: Because they’re made from flexible plastic, these protectors can be easily applied to your device’s screen, and they conform better to curved screen edges.

Lightweight: Plastic screen protectors add minimal weight to your device, keeping it light and easy to handle.

Drawbacks of Plastic Screen Protectors

Screen protector on iphone

Durability: While plastic protectors are durable, they are not as resistant to scratches or impact as tempered glass.

Clarity: Plastic protectors may not offer the same visual clarity as tempered glass, potentially impacting the viewing experience.

Feel: They often don’t have the same smooth, high-quality feel as the device’s original screen or a tempered glass protector.

Ideal Use-Cases for Plastic Screen Protectors

Plastic screen protectors are a good option for those who are primarily concerned about protecting their devices from scratches, who prefer a lightweight solution, or who are looking for a more budget-friendly option. They’re also ideal for devices with curved screens, as they can adhere better to the curves than tempered glass protectors.

Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

Tempered glass screen protectors, as the name suggests, are made from a specially processed glass known as tempered glass. They are heated to high temperatures and then cooled rapidly to make them significantly stronger than regular glass.

This tempering process makes the screen protector resistant to scratches and capable of absorbing impact to protect your device’s screen effectively.

Types of Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

While all tempered glass screen protectors offer superior protection compared to plastic protectors, there are a few different types to choose from, each with unique features:

2D Glass Protectors: These protectors cover only the flat part of the screen and are ideal for flat-screen devices.

2.5D Glass Protectors: These protectors have a slight curve at the edges, offering better coverage and protection for slightly curved screens.

3D and 5D Glass Protectors: These protectors offer full coverage for devices with curved screens. They wrap around the sides of the screen, ensuring complete protection.

Benefits of Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

Superior Protection: Tempered glass protectors provide superior resistance to scratches and can absorb the impact from drops, protecting the device’s screen from damage.

High Clarity: They offer excellent visual clarity, ensuring an optimal viewing experience.

Smooth Touch Experience: A tempered glass protector feels much more like your device’s original screen, providing a superior touch experience compared to plastic protectors.

Drawbacks of Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

Cost: They are generally more expensive than plastic screen protectors.

Installation: Applying a tempered glass protector can be a bit more challenging due to its rigidity.

Weight: Tempered glass protectors are heavier than plastic ones, potentially adding some noticeable weight to your device.

Ideal Use-Cases for Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

Tempered glass screen protectors are ideal for those who prioritize screen protection, particularly against impacts and scratches. They’re also perfect for individuals who want to maintain the clarity and feel of their device’s original screen.

While they may be a bit more expensive, the superior protection and improved user experience they offer can make the investment worthwhile.

Direct Comparison: Tempered Glass vs Plastic Screen Protectors

Cracked screen protector 2

In order to help you make a more informed decision, let’s directly compare the key features of tempered glass and plastic screen protectors.

Durability Comparison

When it comes to durability, tempered glass screen protectors outshine plastic protectors. They are more resistant to scratches and provide superior protection against impact damage.

On the other hand, while plastic protectors are durable, they are not as scratch-resistant and their ability to absorb impact is limited in comparison.

Protection Level Comparison

Tempered glass protectors excel in offering high-level protection. Their ability to absorb and distribute the force of an impact can prevent screen damage, even in the event of a severe drop.

Plastic protectors, while providing some level of protection against scratches, do not offer the same level of impact protection.

Touch and Visual Experience Comparison

The visual clarity and touch experience of a tempered glass protector are far superior to those of a plastic protector. Tempered glass protectors maintain the feel of the original screen, and their high translucency ensures an optimal viewing experience. 

Plastic protectors, while offering acceptable clarity, do not quite match the smooth, high-quality feel of the device’s original screen or a tempered glass protector.

Cost Comparison

Plastic screen protectors are generally more affordable than tempered glass protectors. However, the higher cost of tempered glass can be justified by its superior protection and improved user experience. Therefore, the choice between the two may come down to your budget and the level of protection you desire.

Installation Process Comparison

Plastic screen protectors are more flexible and can be easier to install without trapping dust or air bubbles.

However, they may require careful handling to avoid creasing during the application process. Tempered glass protectors, due to their rigidity, may be a bit more challenging to install, but once properly applied, they provide a seamless fit.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Screen Protector

Choosing the right screen protector for your device can significantly enhance its lifespan and your overall user experience. Here are some key factors to consider when deciding between a tempered glass or plastic screen protector:

Device Type and Usage

Consider your device and how you use it. If your device has a flat screen, both tempered glass and plastic screen protectors can work well. For curved screens, plastic protectors may adhere better.

If your device usage involves a high risk of drops or scratches – for instance, outdoor use, or use in a setting with children – you might want to opt for a tempered glass protector for its superior protection.


Your budget can play a significant role in your choice. If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution, plastic screen protectors are generally less expensive. However, if you’re willing to invest more for better protection and a superior touch experience, a tempered glass protector would be a suitable choice.

Clarity and Touch Experience

If maintaining the original visual clarity and touch experience of your device’s screen is a priority for you, a tempered glass screen protector would be the ideal choice. It offers a smoother touch and clearer view compared to plastic protectors.

Installation and Replacement

Consider the installation process and how comfortable you are with applying the protector yourself. Plastic protectors, being more flexible, can be easier to install. 

However, tempered glass protectors usually come with an installation frame that can aid the process. Also, think about the frequency of replacement. While tempered glass protectors might cost more upfront, their longer lifespan could mean less frequent replacement.

Weight and Thickness

Cracked screen protector

Consider the weight and thickness that a screen protector adds to your device. Plastic screen protectors are thinner and lighter, while tempered glass protectors add a bit more weight and thickness. If minimal weight and thickness are important to you, a plastic protector might be more suitable.

By considering these factors and understanding the benefits and drawbacks of both tempered glass and plastic screen protectors, you can make a decision that best fits your needs, preferences, and lifestyle.


The decision between a tempered glass and a plastic screen protector ultimately depends on your personal preferences, budget, and the level of protection you require for your device. Both types of protectors have their unique strengths and weaknesses. 

Plastic screen protectors are lightweight, flexible, and more affordable, making them a suitable choice for those on a budget or for devices with curved screens. However, they may not provide the same level of protection, clarity, and touch experience as tempered glass protectors.

Tempered glass screen protectors, on the other hand, offer superior protection against scratches and impact, maintain the original screen’s visual clarity and touch experience, and have a more premium feel.

They do come with a higher price tag, and they add a bit more weight to your device, but the trade-off can be worthwhile for those who prioritize screen protection and user experience.

When making your decision, consider your device type, how you use your device, your budget, and the qualities you value most in a screen protector. By doing so, you can ensure that you choose a protector that not only safeguards your device but also enhances your overall user experience.

No matter which option you choose, applying a screen protector is a small investment that can go a long way in maintaining the longevity and functionality of your device.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, we will address some of the most commonly asked questions about tempered glass and plastic screen protectors to further assist you in making an informed decision.

Can a Tempered Glass Screen Protector Damage My Screen?

No, a tempered glass screen protector will not damage your screen. It’s designed to take the brunt of any impact or scratch, protecting your screen underneath. If applied and removed correctly, it will not leave any residue or cause any harm to the screen.

Can Plastic Screen Protectors Stop My Screen From Cracking?

While plastic screen protectors can provide a degree of protection against scratches and minor impacts, they are not designed to prevent screen cracks from significant drops or impacts.

Tempered glass screen protectors are more effective at preventing screen cracks due to their higher impact resistance.

How Often Should I Replace My Screen Protector?

The frequency of replacement depends on the type of screen protector and its condition. Plastic screen protectors may need to be replaced more frequently as they are more prone to scratches and wear.

Tempered glass protectors generally have a longer lifespan, but they should be replaced if they become scratched, cracked, or chipped to ensure maximum protection.

Does a Screen Protector Affect Touch Sensitivity?

High-quality screen protectors, both tempered glass and plastic, should not affect the touch sensitivity of your device.

However, poor-quality or improperly applied screen protectors can interfere with touch sensitivity. Tempered glass screen protectors often provide a touch experience most similar to the device’s original screen.

Are Tempered Glass Screen Protectors Worth the Extra Cost?

The answer to this question largely depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you prioritize high-level protection, visual clarity, and a smooth touch experience, then the extra cost of a tempered glass protector can be well worth it.

However, if you’re on a tight budget and primarily need protection from scratches, a plastic protector might be a more suitable choice.

Remember, the best screen protector for you is one that fits your device perfectly, suits your usage patterns, and aligns with your budget. It’s always wise to do some research and read reviews before making a purchase to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product.