Waterproof vs. water-resistant is a common dilemma that certain people face when it comes to buying a new smartphone, speaker, or even earbuds. When you buy a new device, you are paying a lot of money for it, so of course, you would want to protect your investment. IPX ratings are helpful in this matter, and today we will take a look at what each rating means.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistant: The Actual Terms
The terms ‘waterproof’ and ‘water-resistant’ are often used interchangeably and as generic terms, but in terms of actually protecting your device from water, they both mean different things. Knowing this is the first step to understanding IPX ratings.
Waterproof means something that is impervious to water, and water-resistant means something that is not as affected by water exposure. A water-resistant smartphone won’t be damaged if it is, say, splashed accidentally, but it won’t work underwater the way a waterproof one might.
Other terms like ‘hydrophobic’ and ‘water repellent’ are also thrown around a lot in this regard. Water repellant or hydrophobic substances, as the name indicates, will repel water thanks to their artificially added properties, but there is no definitive scale to rate how water repellent something is.
It is important to understand that not even a waterproof device claims to be impervious to water infinitely. Water resistance has certain levels, with each level bringing the device closer to being completely waterproof. IPX ratings help you understand the degree of water protection your device claims to have.
Remember that devices may not necessarily be waterproof and water-resistant at the same time. Just because a device can survive immersion in water doesn’t mean it can survive water splashes or sprays as well, and vice versa.
IPX Ratings: What Are They Exactly?
IP stands for International Protection or Ingress Protection. You’ve probably already come across ratings in an ‘IPX7’ format or such if you’ve been looking into waterproof-ness. IP ratings tell you the degree of protection that the enclosure of your device offers from environmental hazards.
This means that IP marks the level of protection your device has not only from water but also from factors like dust and any other fluids. The general format of an IPX rating is ‘IPXXX’, where the first X indicates dust resistance and the second X indicates water resistance. The last X indicates any additional protection available.
Some devices offer water resistance but not dust resistance. In this case, the first X which represents dust resistance either becomes 0 (which means no resistance is offered whatsoever) or, more commonly, remains an X (which means there is no information available for that factor). For instance, in IPX4, there is definite water resistance available, but we can’t say about dust resistance.
Each IPX Rating Explained
There a total of 9 IPX levels. Everything that has IPX7 and above is considered waterproof. As you know already, the fact that all these ratings have that first X means that none of the devices having them are dustproof, but we are here to discuss water proof-ness anyway.
You will notice that most IPX ratings are very oddly specific, and improvements at each level are small at first, but more effective as we go higher.
This goes without saying, and you probably won’t even see an IPX0 rating anywhere, but an IPX0 rating basically means that a device is not waterproof at all. An IPX0 device might as well be made of paper because it will not hold up to water exposure at all.
An IPX1 rating means your device is safe from vertically falling water droplets. So if you were to, say, leave your IPX1 device outside during a light drizzle, it would be protected for about ten minutes.
IPX2 also offers protection from vertical drops of water, but with an added 15-degree angle tilt. When IPX2 devices are tested, they are sprayed from four positions to ensure the 15-degree angle condition.
IPX3 devices have a bit more water protection to offer; the 15-degree angle now expands to a 60-degree angle, but only from a vertical axis. So if you were to spray water on the top of your IPX3 device from an exact 60-degree angle, you would still be good to go.
A device with an IPX4 rating will be able to resist damage from water splashes from any direction. Most outdoor gear and speakers have at least an IPX4 rating (although higher as well, obviously). IPX4 devices are generally considered splash-proof. IPX3 and IPX4 devices are tested the same way.
IPX5 also offers protection from water splashes from any direction, but it also accommodates for added water pressure. Technically, IPX5 devices can resist damage even after being sprayed with water jets (because that is how they are tested) from any direction.
This is a good starting point for devices like pool or shower speakers. IPX5 vs IPX7 is a common dilemma for such devices, but it all depends on your needs. If your speakers are on a beach, then go for an IP67 device (fully dustproof, fully waterproof).
IPX6 ratings mean, like IPX5, protection from water splashes that have a lot of pressure to them, but IPX6 offers protection from greater water pressure. Both IPX5 and IPX6 are considered water-resistant.
IPX7 ratings are for fully waterproof devices, which means they can survive complete immersion in water. But there are still limits in the world, and so IPX7 devices will only be protected from water damage as long as they aren’t immersed in water deeper than 3 meters, and for longer than 30 minutes. (Still, IPX7 smartphones are good for underwater selfies).
IPX8 protection improves on IPX7 features by expanding the safe water depth for immersion to 3 meters, but there is no definitive time period for how long an IPX8 device can be immersed. This is because the testing time depends on the manufacturer, and you might be able to get this information from them directly if you really need to.
IPX9K rated devices can survive water sprays at very strong pressures, and the added plus point they have (indicated by the K at the end of the rating) is that they can also survive in water at higher temperatures. The temperature used for testing is about 80 degrees Celsius, and testing is done for about 15 minutes. IPXK is an elite rating, and hence only available on certain devices, which do not include audio equipment.