/ Technology

Do glossy screens perform better? Our tests say ‘No’

Laptop on man's head

Which? Convo regulars will know that we’ve been asking for the return of matte laptop screens. Some have said that glossy screens offer better image quality, but the results of our lab tests tell a different story.

The majority of comments made on our Conversations about laptop screens have been in favour of a matte option. In our poll of 1,667 the answer was clear – nine in ten chose matte over glossy screens.

With so much interest, we wanted to investigate further, so we also spoke to 1,345 Which? members – 44% said they’d prefer a matte screen on their laptop, compared to just 11% glossy. Additionally six in ten members thought manufacturers should offer the option of both glossy and matte so that people can choose the right one for them.

Sure, there are laptops with matte screens available, but numbers are limited and they tend to be on premium priced or business models. And although we were happy to see Samsung announce that its latest range of laptops will feature non-reflective (aka matte!) screens, this is just one manufacturer of many. Others need to jump on board, to give consumers a choice.

The matte vs glossy laptop screen test

We also took to our lab to find out whether there were actually any differences between the performance of matte and glossy screens, looking at things like colour, brightness, contrast, reflections and viewing angles.

We compared two Dell models – one with a standard glossy and one with a matte screen from its business range. And we also looked at two of Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro’s – one of the few laptops on the market to offer both antiglare and glossy options (though you do have to pay an extra £120 for the matte option).

In our technical measurement tests (using a spectrophotometer) both Dell screens were on a par. When it came to our experts subjectively rating the screens, again both performed similarly well, with the glossy screen doing slightly better in a mid-lit room. In a brightly lit room, they were equal.

As far as Apple’s MacBook screens, there was some slight variation in brightness and colour errors in our technical tests (with the matte screen coming out on top in some areas). But again, just like the Dell screens, both performed the same when our experts rated the screens.

The only place there was a difference was when our experts subjectively rated the screens for reflections – the matte MacBook and matte Dell achieved full marks with a “very good” rating, compared to the glossy versions “poor” rating.

So the upshot from our tests appears to be that there’s no great difference in technical performance between the two types of screen. In the end, the question of matte vs glossy is very much a matter of personal preference.

Our matte screen campaign

With support from our lab tests, and with such clear demand from you, we’re going to take the matte screen cause straight to the laptop manufacturers in order to make them answer this consumer need.

We’re certainly not suggesting that all laptops should have matte screens, but we think that all manufacturers should offer a choice between the two.  Plus, this matte option should not only be available on laptops at the top of their price range.

We’ll be keeping you up to date with what we hear back and, in the meantime, keep your matte screen support coming in!


The £120 price difference for the 15 inch MacBook Pro is between a standard resolution glossy display and a higher resolution antiglare display. The price difference between the higher resolution displays is ‘only’ £40.

If more manufacturers were to offer glossy and matt screens at the same price we would know what people really want.

KLCDax says:
13 November 2011

I have a large amount (several weeks) of on-line marking to do during the summer – I want to be able to take my laptop out into the garden. With the reflective screen I currently have the only way its possible is to find a totally shaded corner and also wear a dark top to minimise the impact of my own reflection! Whereas with my E-Reader I can sit in full sunshine and read with ease.

I called in to PC World yesterday and saw a Samsung model as well as an ASUS laptop (a brand I’ve never heard of before) both below £500 with non-reflective screens but in-store advisors could not guarantee how they would perform in full daylight let alone sunshine. Frustrating as they didn’t really seem to realise it was a selling point until I pointed it out.

Has anyone tried them out in sunlight?

E-readers are designed to be used in bright sunny conditions, relying on contrast rather than a backlit display. Ordinary produce good colour under most conditions but most are not designed for outdoor use. Any cheap laptop with a matt screen might be adequate but the battery life will be pathetic at full brightness, which is what you will need for outdoor use.

Those people who make door-to-door calls and scientists doing field studies have the right tool for the job, but their large tablet devices are not cheap.

Joe-B says:
26 February 2012

The perceived benefit of a glossy screen is an illusion, the same as with glossy photographic prints and glossy brochures. I work with two screens side by side. Both use the same IPS technology. One is matte and the other glossy. The images are identical. The difference is that I cannot work with the reflections on the glossy screen, which is why I bought a matte version. The only reason to want a glossy screen is that you like shiny things.

I couldn’t agree more with Joe-B.

I also want more 4:3 ratio screens available. To get the same screen height I have to go to a *much* wider wide-screen, for which I don’t have room on my desk!

One often stated benefit of glossy screens is that video looks better.
So what?

If I want to watch video I use my much larger screen-ed TV hooked up to my surround sound system and sit, very comfortably, on my sofa.

We’ve heard from Sony, Samsung and Dell – read their responses to your call for matte screens and tell us what you think of them in our latest Convo: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/matte-screens-laptop-glossy-samsung-dell-sony-respond/

Gary Swift says:
15 July 2013

I wonder if it is a con that glossy screens are better. I have refused to buy a new laptop or Ipad because they are glossy screens. My Dad used to spend a lot of time positioning his TV to reduce glare from the windows.Why Why did manufacturers go all glossy. To overcome the glare you have to increase brightness, is this energy efficient? I wonder.

Crankcase says:
30 August 2013

The same problem exists with televisions. Manufacturers are no longer producing televisions of 32″ and above with matte displays, even though many people in forums throughout the internet is screaming out for them. Glossy = darker blacks? Who cares. When the very dark grey of a matte screen in contrasted against bright colours it can easily pass as black. I have a small 21″ Samsung standard display tv with matte display and it’s far more pleasurable to watch (easier on the eyes) that than my recently purchased 32″ Sony Bravia (with semi-gloss screen), even in high definition!

Clearly the manufacturers are employing idiots as decision makers, likely raised on the vacuous ethics of that overrated so-called ‘genius’, Steve Jobs. Luckily, many of us never fell for his baloney.