Geek Tech Week 1: Skin Deep for Cheap

People skin coats for people!? That's absurd!

Mick

So you wanna skin your system. Problem is, the market is FLOODED with products. “Screen Guards” (2 of 30 actually work), “scratch resistant” and “reusable” are all buzzwords–but the reality is that a LOT of these products are single use. ESPECIALLY skins.

If stickers don’t suit you, casemods are always an option…be warned though: cracking the seal on your system, even to switch the intact components into a new case, will void your warranty. And, well, if you have an Xbox 360, we ALL know how important a warranty is. Adventurous modders can get around this by simply spraypainting a stencil onto the case…but this should be done with caution, as the air intake vents could become clogged with “hazardous materials” and likewise void the warranty.

And STAY AWAY from the “skins” populating Ebay–most are printed on the cheapest grade of 3M vinyl, which will stretch when pulled, even gently, resulting in creases that will have to be x-acto’d out. With skins, its a pretty simple rule: if it’s ridiculously cheap, there’s probably a pretty good reason.

That being said, if you want to skin on a budget, Gamer Graffix are a decent choice. I say decent, because their pictures are printed on nice, thick laminate…but the adhesive doesn’t hold well…ESPECIALLY on curved surfaces. However, if you’re looking to skin something EXTREMELY planar and glossy, you could do a LOT worse than the Gamer Graffix

We used the GamerGraffix Gears of War 2 skin, since it was cheap-ish ($15) and came with a faceplate-skin. BIG MISTAKE. The side-skins were perfect–but the faceplate skin was printed on the same, mega-cheap vinyl as the aforementioned Ebay stickers, so invariably, I ended up with a monster crease. And, well, with two killer side panels, the white faceplate just looks lame. But again, it was only $15. If you want super-quality, you’re going to have to pay a little more, and for that, I suggest you check our our featured gold medalist, Gelaskins, on Friday.

Another cheap alternative for 360 owners is a faceplate. The system’s faceplate is removable, and there are literally hundreds of prefabricated faceplates on the market, and they’ll run you from $4 to $30. It’s usually a safe bet that the Microsoft-sanctioned faceplates will run you $10+, but (thankfully) unlike most other peripherals, getting first-party faceplates is not a necessity.

The best bang for your buck, in terms of 360 faceplates is the Madcatz’s NFL set: it’s a faceplate that splits apart, and allows you to choose from one of 32 pre-printed NFL teams to adorn your system with. Not a NFL fan? Go here and create your own! The template allows for nearly limitless “swap-outs,” so you’ll never get bored with just one faceplate…and you won’t have to buy a new one every time you want something different.

If you’re not willing to buy a prefabricated skin or faceplate, your only other option is a standard adhesive (aka bumper sticker) or a die-cut vinyl sticker–the kinds you find in mall kiosks. Either way, it’s going to look half-assed, since the cases (save for DS, “big” PS3 and Wii) have a textured surface, which tends to be unfriendly to standard vinyl.

Screen protectors should be administered with tweezers for best presentation (a little fact they don’t bother to share), and my trick is to run a hot shower until the bathroom fills up with steam, THEN apply the screen protector. The steam helps to eliminate detritus from the air, as well as allow multiple “seatings” of the screenguard, because they NEVER go on right the first time.

Whether you have a DS(i) or a PSP, you’ll find that the Hori “screen protective filters” are the cheapest and best protector on the market. They’ll run you $10 or less, and are the thinnest and most durable I’ve ever encountered. Call them the Trojans of the market–they’re a geek standard…and for good reason.

So there you have it: your shoestring alternatives for skinning. Believe me, there are a TON of cheap, ill-performing products on the market…these three are the cheapest and best alternatives for quick and easy.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand speaking of quick and easy, you can win the MadCatz NFL Faceplate set simply by “liking” The Co-Operatives on Facebook, and commenting in the “Skin Deep for Cheap” thread. Winners will be chosen at random.

>Mick

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Mick
Author: Mick View all posts by

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