We fix quite a few iPads for schools and have some thoughts on why, if you’re buying in bulk, you should purchase an iPad that has, as Apple calls it, a non-laminated screen instead of a laminated iPad screen. The reason is simple. iPads with laminated screens (like an iPad Pro) are much, MUCH more expensive to fix than iPads with a non-laminated screens (like an iPad 5 or 6). If you’re buying devices in bulk, your users will break them! So it’s important to have a plan for when that happens.
Non-Laminated iPad Screen
The picture shows a non-laminated iPad screen. You’ll see that the front glass is separate from the LCD. This means when the front glass is broken, you can pull the glass off and replace it without having to replace the LCD. The front glass generally costs between $10-$20 and is fairly easy to find online. The process of removing the glass is not too difficult with the right tools and training. A lot of companies (including us) offer the service for a reasonable fee.
The disadvantage of this type of screen is that it makes the iPad a bit thicker and the picture quality isn’t quite as good under some light conditions. You can get a reflective glare from the gap between the glass and the LCD.
At the time of this writing, the following iPads use the non-laminated technology:
- iPad 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
- iPad Air
- iPad Mini 1, 2, and 3
Laminated iPad Screen
It might be hard to tell from this picture but a laminated screen has the LCD and touchscreen glass fused together as a single unit. When the front glass brakes, even if the underlying LCD is fine, the entire screen assembly must be replaced. Since it’s the LCD that is the expensive part of the screen assembly, the repairs on laminated iPads are much higher than non-laminated versions.
The advantage of the laminated design is a slightly thinner iPad and a bit better picture quality.
Here’s a list of the current laminated iPad screen versions:
- iPad Air 2
- iPad Pro 10.5″ and 12.9″
- iPad Mini 4
The prices and availability of non-laminated screens are pretty good. Non-laminated screens, on the other hand, are not only much more expensive, but can often be hard to find. For example, at the beginning of 2017, an iPad Air 2 screen assembly (laminated) cost about $75. By the end of 2017 the screens were hard to find and cost about $200 if you did find them.
For an iPad Pro 12.9″ screen the cost of just the part is about $120.
Compare both of these to an iPad Air. Released in 2013, the screens for this device are still readily available. You can buy them on iFixit for $40 or from an eBay seller for about $15 (warning: the quality of a screen on eBay can be suspect so be careful).
This means most reputable repair shops will fix an iPad Air screen for about $90, most places won’t even fix an iPad Air 2 or, if they do, they’ll be charging you at least $250. An iPad Pro 12.9″ will generally run you about $200 to get fixed. You can almost buy a new iPad 6 for that price.
If you really want the absolute best visual technology, you should go with an iPad Pro model because it has a laminated screen and will give you the best picture quality. It really is a great device.
However, if you’re a school or business or just a frugal person wanting a solid tablet, I recommend the new iPad 6 (or a used iPad 5 if you really want to save some money). The iPad 6 is a high-quality device, and it uses a non-laminated screen. This means when it breaks (and most iPads will break eventually), you’ll be able to get it repaired for a reasonable price.