/ Technology

Do you want matte screens to return?

Baby looking at reflection in laptop

There was one obvious omission in our latest laptop and netbook batch – only one had a matte screen. The rest were glossy. Why is it so difficult to avoid glossy screens and why can’t matte monitors return?

In our latest batch of reviewed laptops, just one had a matte, diffuse, anti-glare (or whatever you want to call it) display.

That was out of 15 pieces of computing kit. And worse, the lone anti-glare device wasn’t even a laptop – it was an expensive, high-end business netbook. The Samsung N350 is hardly going to suit your everyday consumer.

Mourning the death of matte

So the problem continues – where have all the matte screens gone? I know there’s a demand for them – you’ve told me so on Which? Convo when I moaned about shiny gadgets (complete with expletives). Kris commented:

‘My Toshiba laptop has a shiny screen and it’s terrible, particularly if I sit in the wrong place I just can’t see the screen with the sun hitting it.’

I’m with you there Kris, my Sony Vaio laptop threatens me with my own reflection morning and night. Francisson joined the chorus:

‘Personally I hate these glossy, glassy, glittering reflective surfaces, but I’m putting up with one because when I bought a new laptop not long ago I found no choice, though I tried hard enough!’

And that’s the rub – people are willing to go out of their way to track down a matte screen laptop and would probably pay a little more for it. Commenter Timothy Ryan certainly would, ‘if a company made a point of advertising the matte screen of their device I would most definitely consider it above one that didn’t’.

Why not make matte screens?

You’d think computer manufactures would want to make a quick buck – so why aren’t they investing in matte screens?

There are a number of theories. People, like monkeys and magpies, are attracted to shiny and reflective objects, meaning they’re more likely to buy a glossy laptop in a store. Matte screens are said to be more fragile and may even cost more to make. Plus, some commenters on Reddit say they use glossy screens as a mirror:

‘I like to check to make sure my toupee is on right, the shiny screen helps…’ commented ObamaisYoGabbaGabba.

Those poor (and sarcy) reasons aside, I’m not buying it.

Bring back matte iMacs

Loyal Apple customers aren’t buying it either. A petition calling for matte iMacs to return has had over 1,500 responses – they’re not a happy bunch, refusing to buy another iMac until there’s an anti-glare option.

Professional graphic designers seem to be the angriest – they’ve been using iMacs for years and find glossy screens a distraction that often give them headaches. These are existing Apple customers who are desperate to upgrade their hardware, but Apple apparently isn’t listening, despite the company’s promise to take note of customer feedback.

So, we really want to know – do you miss matte screens on laptops and computers? If there’s a big enough call for their return then we’ll use our clout to take this straight to the manufacturers (just like with our viewfinder campaign). Let us know in the comments and vote in our reopened poll – I certainly know which result I’ll be rooting for.

What type of screen do you prefer?

Matte (89%, 1,491 Votes)

Glossy (11%, 178 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,667

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Jim says:
21 June 2011

As a keen photographer I love matte screens as they display my pictures for critical inspection without me having to mentally subtract my own (distractingly gorgeous) reflection from the image.

I have a Dell laptop with a glossy screen and I HATE it. Fortunately most of my work is desk based so I’ve invested in an external monitor. Wonderfully matt but still made by Dell !!!

Fred says:
21 June 2011

Other than laptops, we haven’t bought an iMac since they went glossy which is back in the days of the powerPC processor, we only have Mac Minis with matte screens or Mac Pros with matte screens. The only thing the glossy screens are good for is straightening your tie and watching movies. If you want to do some actual work, forget it. It’s horrible, tiring and useless. The problem of course is laptops which are almost exclusively glossy. Why?

Adrienne says:
24 June 2011

Just how did the trend for glossy screens start? Now we also have glossy casing which is even more annoying to me. I have kept the plastic protector on my Samsung laptop lid for almost a year now but it’s on its last legs and will soon be full of fingermarks! With more people using their laptops on the move and particularly outside, glossy screens are a real hindrance especially in bright light and the rare British sunshine. Please, Which? can you use your powers of persuasion to urge manufacturers to use matte screens or at least give an option?

Adrienne says:
24 June 2011

By the way, all the televisions in my house have matte screens. Is this relevant in any way?

Personally, I much prefer a glossy screen. The colours seem more vivid and you only need to adjust the screen angle by a few degrees to get rid of the reflections. But I can understand those who prefer matte.

Until recently, Apple gave you a no-cost choice on their laptops (if you ordered direct). Now you have to pay a premium – a fairly hefty premium since you also have to upgrade to a hi-res screen..

Richard says:
20 July 2011

I struggled to get a matte screen but the answer is to look at the laptops aimed at the business user. I found one on the HP website for under £500.

At last a laptop screen I can actually use in daylight.

Most monitors I’ve seen on display are matte so I don’t understand why most laptops are so shiny!

Why no mention of anti-reflective (AR) screen coatings I wonder?

They avoid the blurring effect of matte coatings whilst giving much dimmer reflections from the glass surface. AR coating was introduced on CRT screens just before being ousted by plasma & LCD, so adding it can’t be an expensive process. AR coating is widely available for spectacles and my recently acquired Nikon P500 camera has an AR coated monitor screen.

AR coatings do mean that finger-marks are more apparent, so AR coating + Touch Screen is not a good mix. However, for touch-free screens, AR coating is excellent.

Peter says:
21 August 2011

I just bought a new laptop direct from Dell but couldn’t use it anywhere except in a darkened room.
Absolutely useless, sent it back after a week and got a refund. Will not be buying another – will put up with the old one until the makers provide what the public want.

Martin Lammiman says:
22 August 2011

There is one manufacturer who has avoided this collective insanity. They are a German firm called MEDION. I have just bought a new laptop and also a desktop screen from them. The products are excellent, with a high specification, reasonable price and MATTE SCREENS! Their laptops are also sold in Sainsburys.

peter says:
24 August 2011

Matte! Matte! Matte! Glossy screens may show more detail PROVIDING the ambient lighting is properly controlled – ie surroundings that don’t cause colour casts and an absence of movement around the workstation area.

I think Apple needs a good kicking if it claims to listen to users’ views but doesn’t!

contains details of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (as amended in 2002). On page 15 there is an office check list which concerns reflections in screens. Employers are required to minimise reflections.
It is unlikely that the reflective screens one sees in places like PC World would be considered acceptable in an office environment.
Therefore some manufacturers, e.g. Dell with their Vostro range for business use, still provide matte screens.
I cannot envisage me voluntarily buying a machine with a reflective screen. Why can’t we all vote with our feet?

Having read through the comments I begin to wonder whether manufacturers have another motive, apart from price, to limit the choice of screens. That motive could be “touch screens” like the shiny screens you get on smart phones. Windows 7 is touch-enabled, and I believe that Windows 8 will be even more so. This would mean we can look at finger prints. Personally, I couldn’t stand that.

I have to say that I hace already voted with my wallet – I’m already a Samsung notebook customer, precisely becuase of the non-shiney screen and I prefer their keyboards.

You have only to watch sales people struggling with tablets outside to realise that tere is a ready market, if Samsung would like to win their legal with Apple and push their (in my opinion) more versilile and better value tablets.

I put non-reflective glass in picture frames for no extra money and all pricing is ablut margins today – all matt screens need is volume – if we want them then vote with your wallet and Twitter.

Heathy says:
1 December 2011

I paid the extra for an anti-glare (matte) screen on my MacBook Pro and I’m so glad I did. I just can’t understand glossy screens…if I want to look at my ugly mug I’ll use a mirror:-)
Now why don’t Apple make an anti-glare iPad 😉

I think the iPad and phones have glossy screens because it makes it far easier to clean finger marks off the screen. With a fairly small screen like an iPad it is very easy to alter the angle to avoid the reflections.

I don’t have problems with my glossy MacBook Pro either, but I don’t use it outside. I would like to try the matt screen but it was not available when I bought my MBP.

Kathy says:
5 March 2012

I also paid the extra on my MacBook Pro for an anti glare screen. But I paid even more really because I actually wanted an iMac (my old iMac is nearly ten years old, matte screen and still going strong, bless it) but I simply will not buy a glossy screen for the myriad reasons everyone on this site has posted. And with iMacs you no longer have the choice of screen.

So my machine cost me nearly £1,000 more to get a laptop because that was the only way I could get my lovely matte screen. I think Apple are being stupid and arrogant and should start to actually listen to their user base instead of ignoring it. Shiny is not best. How dare Apple behave like this.

stevyreilly says:
3 January 2012

Has anyone raised the possibility of a good keyboard for the visually impaired?

Check out http://www.logickeyboard.com/shop/large-print-775s.html. I got an Apple keyboard from them for my 75-year old mother with some vision problems, and she loves it.

cyberlawusa says:
7 September 2012

Someone on another site provided the follow explanation as to why people love reflective, shinny screens and I have to admit it’s the most convincing explanation I’ve heard:

‘Dude, I totally dig the glossy screen. Just watch your fave porno and you can see yourself in the middle of the action. Like literally!!!’

Thü Hürlimann says:
20 June 2015

In 2005 when Apple stopped selling iMacs with matte screen, I felt very disappointed by Apple. It was us designers who carried Apple through its difficult times. Withhout us, Apple would not exist anymore. After its success with the iPhone, Apple became ignorant to the needs of its former main customers. Hybris overcame Apple every since. Or why does it try to defend their bad screens so much? A glossy screen is good for no one. Sure there are some people who are blinded by the shiny surface to falsely beliefe it would have some kind of an advantage – but it does not. Far from that, and you can see it every time you watch a poor fellow trying to see his screen beyound the reflections.

I was concerned when Apple started using glossy screens but in practice I have had no problems. You need to be careful where you put an iMac, but the same is true of TVs. I use a MacBook Pro much more and have never had any problem. I might if I tried to use it outdoors. My compact camera is more of a problem because the angle of the glossy screen is dependent on what I’m trying to photograph, not what’s best for viewing. It’s also mainly used outdoors.

I’m not saying saying that a glossy screen is better, just that I have lived happily with glossy screens.