SlashGear Review: Hands-on with SmudgeGuard

One of the occupational hazards facing new bloggers is getting caught up in the PR hype of a new product. It's not difficult to emulate – just go to the 'News' section of any reasonably sized manufacturer and read a promises-the-world press release, only imagine doing so with the added pressure of someone whispering "we can send you a review sample, you know" into the greed section of the pre-frontal cortex. Naivety and a desire to do justice to a new toy results, in the short-term, in overly glowing write-ups, and in the long-term the kind of jaded cynicism generally only found in the Catholic church. So when SlashGear received a tip about SmudgeGuard, a handy new accessory for artists and Tablet PC users, I fired off the usual email asking for more details and a sample to review; only to be told... "no"Read on to find out more, as well as the chance to win your own SmudgeGuard!

"No"?! But it wasn't some sort of reverse-PR, where bloggers are kept at arms' length until they're salivating, it turned out that the tip was not from the company but from a contented user instead. The old adage that disappointed customers complain, while happy ones get on with it, in general rings true, hence my surprise. So the tipster, Andy, even forwarded on my request to SmudgeGuard themselves, and soon a couple of what could be bluntly described as one-digit gloves were tip-toeing (or should that be finger-tipping?) their way to me.

SmudgeGuard is a one-woman enterprise set up by left-handed entrepreneur Jeannie Lit, whose inspiration came from seeing her similarly left-handed son come home from school with pencil smudges all down the side of his hand. She designed an ostensibly simple solution, in the shape of a cutaway glove-like sheath that prevented ink or pencil from smearing as you write or draw.

So far, so glove... but the clever bit is the thought that went into the design. The material – 87% Nylon and 13% Spandex, kinda like Spiderman's suit but a little more revealing – is lightweight and low-friction, meaning less drag across the page and an end to sweaty hands blurring what you've already written. Of course, that made it a decent proposition for Tablet PC users – myself included – for whom wiping greasy streaks from the screen becomes a ritualistic compulsion. In fact SmudgeGuard's FAQ offers up a whole range of different uses, some of which so odd that they could only come from imaginative users.

Available in three colours (black, lavender and burgundy) and five sizes (suiting everyone from children 4+ up to big-handed adults), measuring is simple either with your own ruler or the printable chart available on the SmudgeGuard site. Should you get it hopelessly wrong, they'll exchange or refund if its within thirty days of buying, but the stretchy material should generally accommodate a few millimetres difference (such as those post-cake-binge fat hand moments). The glove is ambidextrous so both left- and right-handed users are catered for.

On, the SmudgeGuard is quickly forgotten, hindering neither typing nor mousing, and making navigation across more traditional surfaces such as paper or canvas pleasantly smooth. The ability to brush away fingerprints or spills quickly becomes second-nature (and you'll be pleased to hear that the glove is hand-washable should you get it a little too mucky).

Drawbacks? Well, none of the three colours available are particularly discrete, and if you regularly wear SmudgeGuard in public you're likely to get a few "couldn't you afford the whole glove?"-style jokes. Of course, that has to be weighed against the potential embarrassment of going out with great big pencil stains down your hand and wrist, giving off the impression that you're unable to wash yourself. It might be nice to see some patterned fabric choices, too, to appeal to younger children. Other than that, there's little to be critical of; the quality of the stitching is great (though I'm no seamstress!) and the $9.99 price is frightfully reasonable.

Should you buy it? Well, if your artistic offspring is struggling with grubby fingers in their creative endeavours then this might be a good way to keep clothes and paws clean; similarly, if your Tablet PC or graphics tablet is smeared and greasy then SmudgeGuard might offer an inexpensive way around that.

SmudgeGuard websiteSlashGear and SmudgeGuard have teamed up to offer you a chance to win a glove of your choice, as well as show off your creative abilities – all you have to do is design your own SmudgeGuard! Download the tracing of my hand from here, decorate the glove, and send it to me: chris [at] slashgear [dot] com before midnight EST on Wednesday 16th May. Jeannie and I will pick the best three entries and those lucky people will win a SmudgeGuard. The competition is open to anyone, since SmudgeGuard ship globally, and our decision as bastions of good glove taste is final! Good luck!