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Displays Portables

Does Anyone Really Prefer Glossy Screens? 646

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-way-no-how dept.
An anonymous reader asked a question that I've been wondering about too: "I live in a small southern European country where natural light abounds. This may sound good, but it is a pain when it comes to using laptops that come with a glossy finish, making it impossible to work unless you are doing it in the dark. To make matters worse, since we are a small market, most manufacturers only offer a subset of their product line, and don't allow you to choose any options available in other countries (like matte screens). Buying abroad is not an option since we have our own very specific keyboard layout. Why are manufacturers doing this? Does anyone really prefer using glossy screens for day-to-day activities?"
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Does Anyone Really Prefer Glossy Screens?

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  • Yes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by NetJunkie (56134) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `hsan.nosaj'> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:18AM (#32963832)

    Yes, some of us do. I'm using a 27" iMac right now with one. My MacBook Pro also has a glossy screen. I probably use the combination of these two devices 10 or 12 hours per day, or more. Most of my time is spent indoors when working but I use it outdoors as well. Not a perfect solution but just get an anti-glare cover for the screen. Use that outside and take it off inside.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:19AM (#32963856)
    You might be able to find an anti-glare overlay similar to the screen protectors used for handhelds.
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by theNetImp (190602) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:20AM (#32963878)

    I personally can't stand them. Can't sit in front of a window without the glare. Have to close the shades all the time, and if it's hot in the house the shades block the fan from blowing cool air in from outside. Glossy screens are simply a pain, you should have an option of which you want.

  • by jfoobaz (1844794) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:21AM (#32963912)

    I can't stand them, but I actually take my laptop with me all the time and can't always pick where I'm sitting in order to reduce glare. If you're constantly at a desk, and have control over the lighting and other environmental factors, they might be fine, but they generally look crappy to me even in controlled setttings.

  • by kriston (7886) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:22AM (#32963924) Homepage Journal

    Matte actually has an opaque effect when the reflection is bright enough. Oddly enough, the same lighting is not opaque on a glossy screen surface. What's great about glossy is that if you have polarized glasses the reflection can be cancelled out if you're lucky.

    What we really need is a pair of untinted, polarized glasses that allow you to rotate the lenses to cancel out the reflections on that glossy screen, much like a polarized filter on a camera lens can do.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:28AM (#32964044)

    I prefer my screen without an anti-glare coating outside. All an anti-glare coating does is turns a specular dot into a diffuse white out, the specular dot can be got rid of by angling the screen, the diffuse white out can't.

  • Not to mention (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:28AM (#32964050)
    Not to mention that its easier to wipe the spunk off.
  • by Nargg (1678106) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:29AM (#32964070)
    In the past, there were problems with matte screens and colors. Today, that's not so much so anymore. I think one of the best examples was the iPhone 3Gs screens. They were anti-reflective and anti-smudge, but they were not matte. We should see more of those types of screens. IMHO, there is no amount of color that's worth all of the reflection on a glossy screen.
  • 3M (Score:5, Informative)

    by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:31AM (#32964104) Journal

    The sun may be shining, but I think that the ask slashdot folks must live in the dark... :-)

    These are obvious. http://www.visioncarefilters.com/products_3M.html [visioncarefilters.com]

    There are my favourites; the privacy polarized filter. No glare, and the fellow next to you in 12D quits craning his neck to read your Slashdot postings.

  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:33AM (#32964144) Homepage Journal

    What we really need is a pair of untinted, polarized glasses that allow you to rotate the lenses to cancel out the reflections on that glossy screen, much like a polarized filter on a camera lens can do.

    You do know that LCDs are based on polarization, and using polarized glasses will seriously screw up your view?

  • Re:Yes. (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:37AM (#32964204)

    A mac user who likes shiny things. What a fucking surprise.

  • by djsmiley (752149) <djsmiley2k@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:38AM (#32964222) Homepage Journal

    Unless you've got a house where three walls are all glass ( in which case stfu and stop moaning already ) just simply turn by 45 degrees, if this doesn't work then turn again. Continue this until you find a place which works.

    It's what I did in my office, and now I never get screen glare, as the sun rises and sets to the right of me. (*Can't be bothered to figure out what direction I am facing).

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:52AM (#32964454)

    Neither are optimal, and people should not be so polarized on the issue; there is a better option. It is called an anti reflective film, and you will find one on every piece of quality camera optics or eyeglasses. The goal of this film is to make lenses invisible, in order to transmit as much of the light as possible. (Which is more or less the antithesis of glossy. Matte is also reflective, it merely diffuses the light, though still degrades the image.)

    Anyway, the default state of my glossy MacBook was nearly intolerable. Fortunately, I came across an aftermarket AR film, the Nushield DayVue. It is less than ideal and painful to install properly, but it is a clear improvement. (For best results, there must be an AR film stack on each surface, but the interior surfaces are not accessible in this case.)

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:55AM (#32964500)

    You can't make untinted polarized glasses: blocking most of the polarised light from passing through necessarily makes them dark.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by fyngyrz (762201) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:05AM (#32964682) Homepage Journal

    That's nonsense. Accuracy is about the dynamic range and color gamut of the pixels. Spooging a matte surface over the screen reduces both. That's why glossy screens are more vivid -- blacks are darker (no reflected diffusion from the surface) and bright colors are brighter (no diffusion on the way to the eye.)

    If you want an accurate and optimally capable monitor, then when dynamic range and color gamut are equal, the glossy display will be superior every time.

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Informative)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:09AM (#32964776)

    What, pray tell, makes glossy screens "less accurate"? A matte panel is a LCD with a piece of pitted glass in front. A glossy panel is a LCD with a piece of unpitted glass in front. The pitted glass reduces contrast since it tends to scatter light. Other than that, it's all in the calibration.

    I suspect this myth came about because glossy screens are often used on consumer PCs which are coincidentally tuned for vivid, unrealistic color. Heck, I just ran across a HP whose graphics drivers came preset for "digital vibrance" that made the screen look like a Leroy Neiman painting.

    But claiming that "glossy is less accurate than matte" is about like saying that a frosted glass filter on your camera gives you more accurate pictures.

  • GPS on Motorcycle (Score:3, Informative)

    by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:10AM (#32964792)
    I had the same issue using a GPS on my bike ... the glossy screen was a pain in outdoor light. Solution: matte-finish film applied to the glass. Cost was under $10, probably a lot more for a 15" (38 cm) laptop display.
  • Deal killer (Score:5, Informative)

    by massysett (910130) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:15AM (#32964884) Homepage

    For me a glossy screen is an absolute deal-killer. I once had a MacBook (the white, plastic one.) There were things about it that took some getting used to--I am accustomed to PC hardware running Linux. I could get used to the one-button mouse, the different keyboard shortcuts, and differences in the software like no X11 (at least, not ordinarily) and the Finder. I rather liked the idea of a PC running Unix without having to futz with installing an OS not supported by the OEM.

    But what drove me to sell the thing on eBay was the glossy screen. Gloss makes it absolutely impossible to do any work with any bright light source over my shoulder. I do a lot of work in a terminal, and a black background is just impossible to read. So I switched them to a light background. That actually wasn't easy because the Terminal in OS X at the time (10.4, I think) made it really hard to switch colors--I had to download some sort of plugin to do something that X11 terminals have been capable of for years. Even with a light background, though, it was hard to do work if there was a lamp behind me and impossible to do work if there was a window behind me.

    I complained of this, and some people said "well, just close the blinds" or "sit somewhere else." I now laugh when Steve Jobs said that if you phone is dropping calls when you hold it a certain way, don't hold it that way. Seems responses like that are common amongst the Apple set.

    This was so bad that I sold the thing and now I won't buy a laptop with a glossy screen. That pretty much limits me to enterprise models as nearly all the consumer models have the glossy screen. I think Apple used to have a very expensive MacBook Pro that gave you a choice between glossy and matte but I don't think they have that choice anymore. No more Apple hardware for me.

  • by Rhys (96510) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:21AM (#32964972) Homepage

    You don't own polarized sunglasses, do you? Nor does anyone who rated you up. LCDs are already polarized light -- that's how they are able to turn pixels on and off. Two polarizations 90 deg out of phase = no light transmission. Put on polarized (sun)glasses and suddenly you have a entirely black LCD from certain angles. Not every angle mind you -- I can see my landscape display just fine, but the portrait one next to it goes jet black with them on.

    Now, I'll admit it lets you see dust and dirt on the display very clearly when you can't see the display itself. That's not really a great selling point...

    Now on an OLED or plasma display you might have something -- problem is you have to match the polarization orientations. So if you tilt your head, suddenly you can't see your screen.

  • Re:Deal killer (Score:4, Informative)

    by One Louder (595430) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:59AM (#32965572)
    I just bought a MacBook Pro last week - not only do they offer a matte display, but it also has a higher pixel resolution (1680x1050) than the glossy one on the same model.
  • by mr_gorkajuice (1347383) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:00PM (#32965594)
    You realize that if living on the northern hemisphere, and you're facing east, the sun will always be south of you, ie. your right hand side?
  • by yet-another-lobbyist (1276848) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:03PM (#32965658)
    I really think this is a great suggestion. However, keep in mind that there are no truly "untinted" polarized glasses, because every polarizer takes away 50% of light (when the light has random polarization like ambient light usually does).
  • by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:07PM (#32965740) Journal

    if you live above or below the north and south tropics, respectively.

    Of course, if you live within the tropics, the sun still only rises and sets directly (i.e. at an angle of 90deg to the horizon) one day per year, so you'd have to rotate your desk over the course of the year and within the day when necessary (which is only extreme at the equator; the limits are the tropics themselves where the sun is directly overhead on the same day it returns back down toward the equator.

    I suspect that the solid angle out the window is likely a bigger and more controllable factor, though.

  • Re:Deal killer (Score:3, Informative)

    by quacking duck (607555) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:46PM (#32966506)

    But what drove me to sell the thing on eBay was the glossy screen. Gloss makes it absolutely impossible to do any work with any bright light source over my shoulder. I do a lot of work in a terminal, and a black background is just impossible to read. So I switched them to a light background. That actually wasn't easy because the Terminal in OS X at the time (10.4, I think) made it really hard to switch colors--I had to download some sort of plugin to do something that X11 terminals have been capable of for years. Even with a light background, though, it was hard to do work if there was a lamp behind me and impossible to do work if there was a window behind me.

    I don't get it, I've had my Terminal as black text on white (translucent) background since OSX 10.0, almost a decade ago. What were you trying to do that required a plug-in?

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Informative)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:18PM (#32967006)

    We all know that once the ring goes on the finger, our libido stops cold.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:25PM (#32967142)
    Certainly some people prefer glossy screens. But nearly every poll on the subject [google.com] I've found with Google shows matte being slightly or strongly preferred over glossy. The truth is, manufacturers are moving to glossy screens because they're cheaper, not because they're preferred.
  • Re:3M (Score:4, Informative)

    by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:30PM (#32967218)

    These are obvious. http://www.visioncarefilters.com/products_3M.html [visioncarefilters.com]

    If you decide to go this route, remember Google (or the SE of your choice) is your friend.

    Took 3 seconds to find a 3M Model PF 17.0, listed on the site above for $104.05 at B&H [bhphotovideo.com] for 56.50.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:57PM (#32967684) Homepage Journal

    "LCDs are already polarized light -- that's how they are able to turn pixels on and off. "

    True so far, but...

    "Two polarizations 90 deg out of phase = no light transmission."

    Not completely true. There are 2 ways light can be polarized: planar or circular. In planar polarized light (which is what you are speaking of) the electric field will move in one fixed plane, and the magnetic field in a plane at 90 degrees. In circular polarized light, the E and H fields corkscrew through space in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

    Either form of polarization can be used to implement an LCD. Polarized sunglasses are vertical planar polarized, because the bulk of the reflections you get off things like roads and water are horizontally planar polarized. Looking at an LCD that uses either form of circular polarization with planar polarized glasses does NOT reduce the light transmission to zero at any angle (it does reduce it by a fixed amount, just as it reduces the amount of light transmission from a non-polarized source.)

    LCDs are moving to the circular polarization form for that reason.

    (BTW and semi-OT: the glasses used in movie theaters showing 3D movies use circular polarization (clockwise for one eye, counterclockwise for the other) for the same reason: with the old planar polarized lenses, if you tilted your head, you began to lose the separation of the views. You don't get that with circular polarization.)

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Informative)

    by ceraphis (1611217) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @02:37PM (#32968206)
    It doesn't. I'm using a thinkpad right now and the screen is fine. Every few months the screen gets a little dusty but even then you don't notice it until you actually touch the screen.

    He must be licking his screen or something.
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:10PM (#32971430)

    I don't like the glossy screen and their chiclet keyboard

    This is a chiclet keyboard. [wikipedia.org] The current Apple keyboards certainly do not qualify for that designation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:19PM (#32971530)

    I work for an LCD manufacturer so let me give you some pointers:

    First of all neither of them is best overall. It all depends on what you use it for. It is like having to decide on whether a fork, or a spoon is "best". Forks are great until you are served soup...
    The original poster asked for a screen that works in sunny conditions. In that case matte screens are best.
    Glossy is best in the dark.

    Let me try to explain why.
    Assume that you have a screen with 400 cd/m2 brightness and a 400:1 contrast ratio. That means that white shines with 400 cd/m2 and that the backlight bleeds through with 1 cd/m2 when showing black.
    What manufacturers will not tell you is that you only get a 400:1 contrast ratio in a completely dark room. This is not the intended use case of the display. It is like buying a car that is advertised to make 1000 miles to the gallon... but only in a downhill.

    If the room is even the slightest tiny bit dim your *viewing* contrast ratio will be degraded. The existing ambient light will be reflected from the display surface adding, lets say a mere 1 cd/m2 extra to both the white and black graphics. So now your viewing contrast ratio will be degraded to (white + reflected)/(black + reflected) = (400+1)/(1+1) = 200:1 even in a dimly lit room. When the brightness of the ambient reflected light is in the order of the display brightness itself, then your expensive 400:1 display is degraded to a (400+400)/(1+400) = 2:1 contrast ratio.

    Yeah, you may say, that is why I spent a boatload of money to get the TV with the advertised 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio so I am safe... But all the manufacturer needs to do, is to lower the blackness of the display from 1 cd/m2 to 0.0004 cd/m2 so he gets 400/0.0004 = 1000000:1 CR.
    But still... when the reflected ambient light reaches 400 cd/m2, your expensive 1000000:1 TV degrades to a measly (400+400)(0.0004+400) = 2:1 CR.

    There are only 3 ways to solve the problem
    1) Use only in a dark room
    2) Use a higher brightness backlight
    3) Get rid of the reflected light
    (or 4, get a transflective display like the pixel-qi, but at the cost of poor color graphics reproduction)

    Solution 1 does not apply to the original poster.
    Solution 2 works fine for desktop screens and TVs where you have electrical power available. A high luminosity screen on a laptop will drain your batteries like crazy and will need a fan to cool the display.

    Now to solution 3. There are actually 2 kinds of reflection: Specular and diffuse.
    To reduce the diffuse reflection you use an AR (Anti Reflection) treatment. That is commonly applied to eyeglasses and binoculars.
    To reduce the specular reflection you use an AG (Anti Glare) treatment

    A really good quality (and expensive) AR/AG will reflect only 0.5% of the ambient light. Plain glass reflects about 30% I think. So AR/AG is about 60 times better than glass.

    So comparing a hypothetical display with a plain glass surface, with a good AR/AG display we get the following calculations:
    1) Reference glass display with 400:1 CR that under some hypothetical lighting conditions reflects 400 cd/m2:
    CR = (400+400)/(1+400) = 2:1

    2) AR/AG display that is 60 times better at avoiding reflections:
    CR = (400+400/60)/(1+400/60) = 406.6/7.6 = 53:1

    The difference can be seen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Glossy-Matte-394-S1.png

    ***The conclusion is simple: To get best results in high ambient light conditions you must buy a matte display.***

    The reason why laptop manufacturers use glossy screens is the following.
    1) Good Anti Glare screens are more expensive to produce.
    2) Anti Glare is a thin film applied to the screen. If you pick an anti glare film up and try to look through it, you will notice that it is hazy. This means that applying an AG/AR will lose you some Distinctness Of Image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinctness_of_image)
    This is the reason that manufacturers will claim, in order to justify the choice of glossy screen. Sure it *does

  • Re:Yes (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:33PM (#32971708)

    > the ctrl key is in the wrong place!

    System Preferences/Keyboard/Keyboard Tab. Press "Modifier Keys..." at the bottom, and in the list selector next to Caps Lock, choose "^ Control".

    Glad to be of help.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:55PM (#32971976)

    A couple more things that I forgot to mention:

    Regarding loss of distinctness of image.
    Back in the day, ordinary scotch tape was transparent and glossy, so using tape to glue something to a paper would immediately show in the light. Now we have scotch tape that is matte. Notice how it appears hazy when you try to look through it, but once you apply it to a paper it becomes transparent, with some slight loss of distinctness of image. So although hazy, nobody would argue that it makes text unreadable... The hazy effect is reduced when distance is small, as explained in the wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinctness_of_image "The blur induced by a scattering layer increases with the distance between the information and the scattering layer."

    By the way, there are anti glare films that you can buy and glue onto a glossy screen. This will make your laptop anti glare, but the loss of distinctness is a lot worse compared to a screen that is manufactured from the beginning to be anti glare.

    In closing,
    As a professional in the field of LCD screens, I can offer my strongest advice to any laptop manufacturers reading this post:

    Please offer more consumer models with matte displays. There is a big customer demand for cheaper laptops with non-glossy screens.

  • Re:Deal killer (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:51PM (#32974034)

    The terminal in OS X has always defaulted to black on white.

    FWIW.

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