Matte vs Glossy Screens
The Two Kinds of LCD Monitors
There are two main kinds of panel coatings used in modern LCD monitors: matte (anti-glare) and glossy. Both have their pros and cons and are a subject of many heated discussions.
Matte displays have a "rough" anti-glare surface which diffuses light, eliminating reflections. The downside is significantly reduced contrast and less vivid colors, as light from the backlight of the monitor also has to pass through the same light-scattering layer. This might be less of a problem in new LED-backlit LCDs, as LED backlights tend to be quite powerful. Another drawback of a strong anti-glare coating in matt-finish displays is a grainy "crystalline" pattern which is best seen on a white background.
Glossy displays have vibrant colors as well as high contrast and brightness because they have a smooth surface which lets most of the light through. As a result, it is often the choice for movies or gaming. However, strong lighting sources in the environment cause glare on these screens which is not only annoying, but can also cause eye strain and pain. Depending on the lighting, you will also see distracting reflections on top of the image. Some graphics designers may find the colors inaccurate, although that mostly depends on the LCD matrix. Glossy will work great for you if the lights in your room don't create any reflections on the screen.
Which ones do you think are better, and why? Go ahead and share your opinion in the matte vs glossy debate below.
Comparison of Matte & Glossy Monitors
You can see two laptops compared side by side in the photo above. The right one has a matte (anti-glare, or just AG) LCD display, while the left one has a glossy one. The test was clearly performed in a brightly lit room and as a result the glossy monitor has highly visible reflections on it.
Downsides of Matte Displays
Some of the biggest downsides of anti-glare computer monitors
- Lower contrast and brightness compared to glossy displays.
- "Grainy" screen appearance if aggressive anti-glare coating is used.
- Can be more expensive and harder to find (majority of LCDs on the market have glossy screens).
- Will use more power to achieve the same brightness as a glossy LCD.
Drawbacks of Glossy Displays
The biggest issues are glare and reflections
- Depending on the lighting conditions, glare and reflections can be a huge problem.
- Smudges and fingerprints tend to be more visible (usually a concern with touchscreen-equipped laptops and tablets rather than desktop PCs).
Glossy or Matte Laptop for Outdoor Use?
A popular question that many people ask
If you expect you'll be using your laptop outdoors a lot, a matte display is probably your best bet. From my experience, glossy screens have unbearable glare during sunny days, which makes such laptops unusable outside most of the time. Of course, an anti-glare screen isn't a magical solution, either: if there's direct sunlight involved, you will probably have to crank up the brightness to the highest setting just to be able to read anything.