Magnetic viewing film gives me the ability to see magnetic fields.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I like using tech to give me superpowers. And one thing that tech is good at is giving you new senses.

Seeing small things. Seeing things that are far away. Knowing what direction I’m going in and how fast I’m going.

It’s all very cool stuff.

For example, one of my favorite tools is the Ulefone Power Armor 18Tfeaturing a FLIR infrared camera that gives me thermal vision. I use this for all sorts of things, from spotting faulty electronic components to uncovering problems with HVAC systems.

Review: AGM Glory G1S rugged phone has thermographic sensing and night vision

Being able to see things that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye is really useful.

Things like magnetic fields.

For this, I have a small sheet of magnetic viewing film.

Magnetic viewing film is a flexible sheet of plastic, impregnated with micro-capsules filled with nickel flakes suspended in oil.

These flakes move to align themselves with magnetic fields, lightening and darkening different parts of the film.

Also: Flipper Zero: Geeky toy or serious security tool?

Magnetic viewing film ranges in price (and size). You should be able to pick up a sheet around 3 x 4 inches for under $10.

Now, it may sound like a bit of a gimmick, and while there’s certainly a novelty to it, it’s also useful.

Green square of magnetic viewing film with a dark circle showing where the magnetic discs are underneath.

What magnetic discs look like beneath magnetic viewing film.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Useful when you want to see magnets or magnetic fields.

Here are two of the myriad of uses I’ve found for this magnetic viewing film.

First, quickly spotting counterfeit AirPods charging cases. The fakes either don’t have the magnets in the back of the case, or they’re weaker, poorer-quality magnets. The following picture shows what you’ll see on a genuine case.

Magnetic viewing film with four short lines bracketing a round dot

This is what the back of genuine AirPods Pro case looks like under magnetic viewing film.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Then there was the other day when someone had had their MacBook’s screen replaced, and it wasn’t closing properly. This was because the replacement display was a counterfeit and didn’t have all the magnets that are embedded around the edge of genuine displays. Here’s what it should have looked like.

Magnetic film on the corner of a genuine MacBook Pro display, showing a dashed line along each edge

The magnets around the bezel of a genuine MacBook Pro display.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

It’s amazing how many counterfeit items look to the eye to be identical to the genuine thing, but look completely different under the magnetic viewing film.

Also: How to quickly tell if your Apple MacBook charger is genuine

Like any tool — from magnetic viewing film to a thermal camera to an oscilloscope — you need to use it to know what to expect, and then you’ll know how to spot when you come across something that’s out of the ordinary.

So, to properly use this magnetic viewing film, you do need to learn what objects normally look like using this film. This does mean carrying it around and checking the world around you for what the film uncovers.

But that’s fun.

Well, it’s my kind of fun.

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