Glossy screens, the idiot looking back at you

My recently acquired laptop has a screen that suffers the same problem as pretty much any laptop screen you can get nowadays. It’s glossy, shiny and mirrorlike. It’s a frustration shared by a lot of consumers and there has been a comprehensive article on shiny screens on Ars Technica since 2006, so it seems to be more than a hype.

The author of that article concludes the reason must be ‘people are idiots’, picking a shiny screen simply because it is pretty. I agree that I would have also picked a matte screen if I had the choice. But there are a couple of points to be made about the shiny screens that he – nor his commenters – doesn’t pick up on that I would share with you.

As one of the possible reasons for the gloss, he suggests an economic advantage but he seems to forget that apart from production cost, there might be a slightly more fiendish advantage. Glossy screens show scratches more readily and as a result, the demand for replacement screens will increase. It’s too conspiratory for my taste, but with the current behaviour of market controlling economic giants you can’t be sure of a lot.

The other reason for the glossy screens could be functional. Generally, people agree that they deliver a slightly better contrast and – because they don’t diffuse the light as much – they perform better in strongly lit situations like in sunlight. The obvious advantage of the matte screen would be a lack of glare. The aesthetic effect in my opinion could go either way and isn’t really relevant to the discussion of which is ‘better’. Since there are advantages to both, which sofar haven’t been combined in a single type of screen, screen manufacturers will continue to be torn between the two, sometimes even offering the choice.

What the article fails to mention though is that you can put anti-glare foil on a glossy screen, but it would be pointless to apply glossy foil to a matte screen. This alone makes the case for the glossy screen. I dislike having to go out and buy foil and mess around with it to apply it properly, but I can definitely see the case for the manufacturer who feels offering the choice will drive up the price without good reason. More so because a good anti-glare foil would be removeable and would return the screen to it’s former glossy ‘glory’.

Which is not to say I don’t agree with the assessment that people are idiots, I just don’t think it is a deciding factor in the availability of shiny screens 😉

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Jaap van der Velde

I live and breathe software, love games and spent many a vacation touring Europe on my motorcycle. Currently diving, riding, hopefully flying and gaining perspective around Oz.

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