Too glossy?

May 18, 2006

Well obviously I am talking about the glossy displays of the recently released MacBooks. The new display provides more brilliant colors and much improved contrast. The downside — annoying reflections.

One of my displays already has this sort of glossy screen — and I must admit that I love those bright and intense colors. The reflections don’t really bother me, since I ain’t got no bright light sources behind my working place.

Now I’m playing with the thought to get a MacBook Pro and I’m not sure which one to take since in contrast to the normal MacBook you have the option to choose between a conventional display and a glossy one. I mean I really like those glossy displays — however I fear that the reflections will be quite annoying when using it in different environments or maybe even outside.

Well what’s your point of view? Would you choose the new display or rather stay with the conventional matte one? Your opinions are much appreciated :) Btw here are some galleries of the new MacBooks highlighting the pros and cons of the display.


I really dislike the glossy screens, on any laptop — to me it’s like looking at my screen through a glass window. I have a Powerbook and I love the matte screen — makes it look almost like it’s printed paper. I see that glossy/matte is an option on the Macbook Pro line — I hope they keep that option, and also introduce it for the Macbooks as well.

paul haine

glossy screens really make colors look bright. i’ve compared my powerbook to vaios and it fails in comparison. vaios just have those amazing xbrite coatings… the annoying thing is if you focus your eyes right you can actually see yourself…


Personally I love the glossy screens that vaios have, so if the MacBooks are like that, then I would defiantly go glossy :)


I’m just about placing my order for an MacBook Pro 17” — and I’ll definitely go with the matte screen. I hate to look at a screen “through a glass window”, as Paul pointed out. I want to use a laptop at school, on the way (yes, I know, that 17 inch thingy is big…) and so on — there are always some bright light sources and I certainly don’t want to see other stuff on the screen than what’s displayed on the screen ;-)

Julian Schrader

If the machine is going to be used for design work, I’d completely avoid the glossy screen. As nice as it may be to look at, the colour reproduction is a little off, and given that OS X is so far ahead of Windows for colour reproduction anyway, it’d be criminal to mangle it and your work for the sake of some shininess. Of course, final decision up to you :)


2 friends of mine both have an acer, one of them has a glossy display and the other doesn’t. On the glossy display you can see better outside than you can with the other. I don’t know if this is the same with the macbooks though…

Justin Halsall

uhm…well….i now got my asus laptop for about an month now with that shiny/glossy display, i would say if ur are sitting in front of the laptop, with eyes focused on that what ur doing (everybody normally does this) …this glossyness doesnt disturb me while i’m working….okay…if there are lights behind or even the sun things chance a little…but i have to say that i’m working on 15 % brightness…so just raise the brightness up to 90% or so, and nothing is going to reflect on the display. glossy is cool ;)


having glossy screen isn’t that bad when used for white work. sound like rasict :-p , what i mean is— when designing with white color, there’s no anoyying reflection. But, when comes with dark color, the screen become anoyying. That’s why i hate my CRT and my Girlfriend Acer Laptop, i can see my face instead the image.


Matte all the way. Of course, I hate the gloss. I hated it on CRTs and putting it on a notebook seems like a big step backwards. I like my display to feel like an object in the room—like a piece of paper. It feels more natural. I like that gloss is the only option for the MacBook, though. It makes my purchasing decision much easier.

Mark Eagleton

I’d want the screen on my notebook to match that on my external display — and since Apple don’t offer a glossy alternative for the Cinematic HD Displays, the decision is an easy one.

Steve Hubbard

i use glossy screen. at first i need some getting used to, but it’s true the colors really do come alive. strangely even with the reflections outdoors, the colors get across stronger than in matte screens. now when i go back to matte screens, they seem so dull. but that’s just me.


I am going onto my fourth day with my Macbook. I love it. The glossy screen is flawless and perfect.

Colin D. Devroe

Well that’s an interesting aspect I haven’t thought about before — I mean that matching of both desktop and notebook screens as well as color consistency… this may make my decision easier.


I really like the glossy screens — the colors are so beautiful! I don’t care about the reflection, ‘cause I think if you’ve got a lot of light behind you it won’t be fun to work with a normal laptop screen too. I would buy a glossy one.


“As nice as it may be to look at, the colour reproduction is a little off…” Actually that’s really not true. The color reproduction is identical, since it’s the exact same lcd panel. The ONLY difference is the coating. If you google this stuff a bit you’ll find lots of info on the differences between the two. Some general info: Matte screens diffuse the lights going into AND out of the monitor. You will see this when you point a bright flourescent light at your matte screen and you can see not glare but a sort of blurred ‘smudge’ of light on the monitor. This is good for the majority of situations (such as outside and under bright direct lights). But it is also bad in the sense that the lights and colors coming from behind the matte coating are being diffused the same way. The way the glossy screen makes things better is that instead of ‘anti-glare’ it is using ‘anti-reflective’ principals. This is meaning that instead of light being diffused into the coating it mostly just bounces off. This gives you the glare you see on the glossy screens, some worse than others. The upside to this is that the light from inside the lcd are not being affected AT ALL, so you’re contrast ratio is up and your colors look more vibrant. Contrary to what someone else said above this type of lcd screen IS recommended for design work since typically a person doing design will being in a less brightly lit setting and so will recieve a much nicer contrast ratio and much more vibrant colors (infact MORE true to the apple colors, since the colors aren’t being ‘mangled’ by the diffusion on the way past the coating). Some really meaty information is on the following page: Link The site explains in pretty in depth detail why exactly the different lcds are made the way they are and what differences you can expect and so on. Hope this helped. By the way I love the site and your designs, might come and talk to you one day when I need some gfx! :p Take care, Ryan


I use an older, (circa 2001), laptop in many different environments and even with it’s not-glossy-at-all screen reflections in bright situations, (outdoors, or even indoors in an area with bright natural sunlight), can be pretty annoying, so I would test out the new glossy screen in very bright conditions before buying if possible. That said, the colours on the new screens are incredible.

John Beales

Thanks Ryan for your detailed information on the difference between the two approaches. Anyway I think I will definitely go and have a look at the two variants in real life before I make my decision. Unfortunately there is no real Apple Store here in Austria — so I’ll probably have to wait a couple of weeks until other stores have updated their inventory.


Hey no problem. I would say that’s a good idea! A lot of the consensus on the net and other places (like my store) is that is basically comes down to personal preference. Personally I don’t like the glossy on, say, Acer laptops. But I find  usually does things quite a bit better than everyone else anyways… I checked out the screen on these babies and I am impressed. One thing I didn’t mention that might matter to you is another little thing about the differences. The regular matte screens lose a LOT of their contrast in high light, say outside or in a school library, but they dont suffer too much from glare and such. The glossy screens will be nearly just as good in high light as they are in low light, except that you have the glare issue. So essentially if you can move to a place / angle that there isn’t much glare, it’s better overall…. If you don’t have an apple store in your area (i feel you pain, i drove 2 hours just to see one! :) it’s probably worse for you tho i guess :( ) then check out the flickr clusters as people have already been going crazy with these things: Link I especially like the chick in the don’t panic t-shirt :) See ya, Ryan


I have the EXACT same problem, as I’m also on the brink of ordering a MBP. I mean, glossy seems cool and stupid at the samt time.. ;) Could you please, please (please) blog about your impressions if you get to try one out?


@Ryan: I didn’t mean the actual colour reproduction, but the perceived colour by your eyes. I suppose if Wolfgang is used to using a glossy screen on his desktop, he’s already adjusted for it, but to me it makes choosing the right colours that little bit harder, due to the extra saturation. Nice point about how the gloss/matte affects outside use though. Something to be aware of now that summer is finally here :)


Well I finally decided not to buy a MacBook Pro, but a normal MacBook. I think it fits my needs much better. 13” MacBook (white), 2GHz, 2GB RAM, 80GB HD :) I’ll post some photos as soon as the package arrives.


i’m sittin here outside all the day long with my vaio-notebook and i can definitly say that “more information” reaches my eyes in contrast to my brothers asus-notebook with it’s matte display (both workin in photoshop) and if you have real trouble with glare just change the angle


Kyle: Yea you’re right the color reproduction is definitely DIFFERENT, i was thinking you meant it was somehow ‘bad’ or ‘broken’ or something, if anything it’s more true to the color profile you’re using since it’s not being distorted on the way thru the coating. Wolfgang: Good stuff my fiance ordered one for herself too, her’s left from China on the 18th and made it to anchorage Alaska and then left there 2 hours later… it’s making a pretty quick trip!


My sony viao has a glossy screen, and I love it. Next to my brother’s matte dell, it looks 1000x brighter. I find the reflections to mostly be ignorable in favor of the great sharp glow.

Elliott Back

Nice blog mate :) As to the glossy screens, I’m rather unfussed on the matter, both look fine- The real issue is; Do you wan to pay that extra AUD800 (USD500ish) just for the X1600 Graphics Card, ExpressCard Slot and 2 more inches? I’m torn between them, mostly because the Expresscard allows the speed of two Internal SATA drives if you use a SATA Expresscard. And the X1600 is needed for Aperture and Motion. I’m really liking the MacBook (Black) at this point though- It seems to be just like that 12” Powerbook i always wanted aha :)


Ryan: I guess if more and more people are moving to glossy screens, then they do give more ‘true’ colour reproduction. But half of the time, when I’m doing work for people, I know they’re going to be looking at it on desktop TFT displays, or God forbid, even old 15 inch CRTs. Having the colour on my screen as close to the one on theirs as I possibly can is a lifesaver- I hate when someone says “What’s with this dirty green?” when I’ve actually chosen a rich grassy colour. There’s no accounting for end user calibration, and I personally think the richness inherent in a glossy screen makes my job that little bit harder. They do look pretty tempting though…


That’s why i hate my CRT and my Girlfriend Acer Laptop, i can see my face instead the image.
You’re girlfriend is a laptop?


I just got my macbook the other day and I absolutely love the glossy screen. I would recommend it to anyone. I have yet to try and use it outside, but indoor lighting and windows and things like that have not been a problem at all for me. :D

Edward Scherf

I have a Sony Vaio 17 wide beautiful, glossy, screen. I try to work outside in the summer, and the reflection is mirror-like. Does anyone know of a solution to reduce the screen reflectiveness without severely diminishing quality? -----




I cannot understand why manufacturers (especially Apple) put those "high-gloss"/"glare" displays on laptops and sell them as a "feature". That's not a feature, it's a bug. Outside use is absolutely impossible, those reflections are too much annoying. Some schoolmates of mine have such a display and I posted one of them on flickr a few months ago:


I've got a MacBook Pro, a 15", and I can honestly say it's not needed. The screen is quite sharp and bright without the glossy surface.


I love the glossy display on my 13" MacBook. I don't use mine outside much at all and even when I did, the glare wasn't that bad. I think the boost in brightness overcomes some of the reflectivity issues. In normal photo-editing or design environments, the glossy display is vastly preferred.

Ian Pitts

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