Matte or Glossy? The price you pay for reducing reflections is lower image quality.

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by rjp, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. rjp macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2008
    I am ready to buy a new MBP but still debating the screen treatment.

    I've read about 5 million posts debating the benefits of both glossy and matte screens in the MBP. It seems there is a pretty strong agreement among photo/graphics users that matte is better because it preserves color accuracy and contrast. I really have a hard time coming up with any technical explanation for why this is, and I am wondering if it is just a little bit of reluctance to change rather than an actual image quality issue.

    How could putting a layer of essentially scratched-up glass in front of the LCD panel make colors more accurate?

    I would think that this diffusing layer would actually distort the image compared to the clear (glossy) screen.

    I think that matte has its place in certain environments, but the price you pay for reducing reflections has to be slightly degraded image quality.

    I am not concerned with the reflections, just the claims that matte has better color accuracy.

    How can this be true?

  2. TEG macrumors 604


    Jan 21, 2002
    Langley, Washington
    The matte screens are raw LCDs. There is no "difussion" layer, infact there is nothing between you and the screen. The glossy screens have a layer of, what I believe to be policarb on the notebooks, glass between you and the screen, causing both outside reflections to influence your perceptions of colors and internal reflections.

  3. Vader macrumors 65816


    Oct 11, 2004
    Saint Charles, MO
    On my MacBook glossy screen, shades of colors blend together unless you put the brightness all the way up and look at it from multiple angles. I wish it had a matte screen.
  4. Ranchdip macrumors member

    Feb 6, 2008
    Once you go matte you never go back! ;)

    Actually, arguably glossy screens have less quality. Glossy screens exaggerate the rich colors and brightness. It's like turning the treble and bass up on your audio system (Which I do by the way). But, I prefer the more accurate image and less glare that is produced by the matte screens. BTW, the new 17" LED mattes from what I hear are very bright now. The brightness was always my complaint about the matte screens.
  5. DocSmitty macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2008
    Lincoln, NE
    What TEG said. You are only adding extra material when you choose a glossy screen, which layers a piece of plastic on top of the LCD panel.

    There's no "image quality" difference, just different personal preferences as to color saturation and such.

    The reason people say matte is better for image editing is because the glossy surface *can* (not always, but can) artificially deepen color and black levels, and when your image is then displayed on a different product, say a matte screen, it will look washed out if you are going by look rather than by the actual digital color information in your editing software.

    You could just as easily argue the opposite, that editing on a matte will make images look over-saturated when viewed on a glossy - it just happens that the majority of LCD monitors are matte. ( think desktop )
  6. rjp thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2008
    I have read the opposite is true, but let's see what others say. If you are right I will choose the matte screen hands down.

    Here is what I've learned from my research:

    (1) A regular(clear) LCD screen (like plain glass) would be very reflective and hard to use. Nobody uses these.

    (2) A modern "glossy" LCD screen is an otherwise clear screen that has been coated with an anti reflective treatment to somewhat reduce the "mirror effect". It is essentially transparent when looking directly at the screen.

    (3) a "matte" screen is coated with a diffusing anti-glare layer that is designed to spread out incoming light from the viewer's environment so that when it is reflected it no longer looks like a what's behind him, but is just a "vague brightness" instead. All the reflected light energy is still there, but it is no longer distracting since it doesn't look like a mirror anymore.
  7. rjp thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2008

    I am going to look into this a bit more and try to get some confirmation as to which screen is closer to "untreated".

    Since you say that glossy is a treatment added over a "normal" matte screen, would it be correct to say that you believe that the matte screen is more optically transparent than glossy?
  8. TEG macrumors 604


    Jan 21, 2002
    Langley, Washington
    Yes. There is nothing sepecial done to the screen on the "matte" display. The Glossy get special treatment with a cover.

  9. rjp thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2008
    Then why is text clearer on a glossy screen? I though this was due to the roughness of the matte "coating".

    Can you point me to a link that supports your position for further reading?
  10. theLimit macrumors 6502a


    Jan 30, 2007
    up tha holler, acrost tha crick
    Matte and glossy are different types of anti-glare coating for LCD screens. There are windows everywhere I use my MBP, so I prefer the matte screen as it reflects less light.

    I know it's Wikipedia, but here.
  11. alleyslair macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2008
    Has anyone seen 17" matte & glossy side-by-side?

    I've already changed my order from glossy to matte based on a comment about the matte being improved by the LED backlight. Since I have plently of time to change my order again :eek:, I am still wondering if anyone has seen 17" hi-res glossy & matte side-by-side. Has anyone? If so, please post your observations. :D
  12. zepharus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2007
    Wrong. Glossy looks MUCH better , more vibrant and rich. this reflective crap is way way overstated. I have a 24" Dell Matte and I cant wait to get a glossy.

    Put a MBP Glossy and Matte side by side and tell me which looks better..

    If you arent a professional photograper you want the Glossy
  13. rezonat0r macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007

    If you like glare, you want the glossy.
    If you like over-saturated, fakey colors, you want the glossy.
    If you want a display that is more difficult to calibrate, you want the glossy.
    If you couldn't care less about seeing images realistically, you want the glossy.
  14. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    I'm not an expert on glossy and matte LCDs, but here are my observations:
    I have a matte screen on my laptop, and it's not nearly as bad as some of the posts here make it sound. It isn't "rough", except at a microscopic level. If I run my finger across it, it feels kind of like semi-gloss magazine print.
    It doesn't make text blurry or fuzzy. If I look really closely, I can see the pixels just like any other screen, and they are perfectly sharp and square.
    I don't know if there is a "diffusion layer" on matte screens or a "glossy layer" on glossy screens, but I don't think it matters. My guess is that it is neither, because glossy/matte is just a surface finish.
    One thing that I do notice on the matte screen is that if there is light behind me, dark colors, especially black will be hard to see because of the diffuse reflections off the screen. A glossy screen will not have diffuse reflections at most angles, but at certain angles it will have mirror-like reflections. The lack of diffuse reflections at most angles is most likely what makes colors look "better" or "more saturated" on a glossy screen, but the mirror-like reflections can be annoying and distracting if there are multiple light sources behind you and you can't angle the screen to keep them from being reflected. A room lit by rows of fluorescent lights might create reflections on a glossy screen at all angles.

    In my opinion, matte is perfect for things like browsing the web or word processing where you would never notice a bit of diffuse reflection, but you might notice a mirror-like reflection If I open up MS Word on my laptop, I can hardly tell that there is a window behind me, but if I open up something dark (like a black webpage), it looks pretty bad. Matte is worse for gaming or watching movies because both are generally very dark, and diffuse reflected light could hide details in the shadows. I'm not sure that glossy is that much better for gaming and movies because reflections can be distracting, so it really comes down to personal preference.

    I took some pictures of my laptop and my CRT for comparison. I don't know if my CRT id the same as a glossy LCD, but it will give you a general idea.
  15. rezonat0r macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    I think you are talking about perceived contrast here. Thing is, there's nothing inherent about a glossy or matte display that makes one show more shadow detail than another. As you said, I would think subtle reflections from a glossy display would mask more shadow detail than anything else.

    But anyway, a fair comparison would be a calibrated matte screen versus a calibrated glossy screen. Calibration inherently lowers the contrast ratio of the screen because it brings all 3 color channels in line with each other, which usually requires cutting the output of one or more channels to match the others.

    If you compare these two calibrated screens, I think you'll find colors are actually pretty close, but the glossy is still going to look a bit over-saturated no matter what. I believe most would prefer the more realistic and less-shiny look of the matte.
  16. sushi Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    I've heard this from a few folks who choose glossy screens.


    Obviously, there are some who would disagree with you.

    For example, I am not a professional photographer. I much prefer a matte screen over glossy. Side by side, matte looks much better to me. That is my I purchased a MBP with a matte screen.

    Besides, glossy screens give me headaches after looking at them for about 30 minutes. One reason that I went with a MBP instead of a MBA.

    That sums it up nicely! :)
  17. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    Right. I know the actual colors displayed are (or should be) the same, but when you look at a matte screen with a lot of light in the background, dark colors get washed out and hard to see because the reflected light makes it so black regions are no longer black.

    In this image, the top-right corner has a diffuse reflection. If you were watching a movie, anything in a shadow in the top-right would be harder to see.

    In this situation, a glossy screen is worse:
  18. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    What good are better colors and whatnot if there's a big glare on your screen that keeps you from seeing something? I remember our computer labs in high school where the lights were in a long row on the ceiling. There were three lines of white running down my screen at ALL TIMES. I'm using a matte ACD at work now, and I have no complaints about the color.
  19. soccerjoe5 macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2008
    I think apple describes it pretty well in their online store:

    " At no extra charge, you can choose a glossy widescreen display that makes graphics, photos, and videos appear with richer color and deeper blacks. "

    "Choose the glossy widescreen display to make your graphics, photos, and videos appear with richer color and deeper blacks — great for watching DVD movies. If you prefer a display with anti-glare coating for a matte rather than glossy viewing experience, choose the standard widescreen display."

    Edit: You'll also have to keep in mind that "Image Quality" is subjective but I do believe that Image Quality is something as close as possible to what you will see in a high quality output (i.e. printed photo).

    So with saying that, Matte has the better "Image Quality". This will be evident in PHOTOS and VIDEO EDITING.

    SO, if you don't really do any serious image or photo editing, then you can go with either. If all you do is do typing, watch videos and look at photos and don't mind some "sharper" reflections (matte diffuses the reflections), i can suggest the glossy. Some things will looks sharper, richer and more vivid.

    I personally got the matte screen because I am a photographer and do extensive photo editing. I need that color accuracy, and I don't want that extra bit of "exaggeration" as the slightest shift in color will be evident in my photo prints.
  20. rezonat0r macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    At the risk of going off on a tangent (yeah, here it comes), I see parallels of the matte/glossy debate in the audio world. The matte screen being like a sound system that is "flat" (accurate) in frequency response, and the glossy being like speakers with some "bass extender" or "smiley face" pattern EQ (artificially boosting bass and treble).

    The flat speaker system is more accurate. But this means that while well-produced music sounds really good, poorly-produced music sounds really bad.

    Personally I think well-produced graphics (whether its photos, webpages, or a DVD) should look really good on a matte screen, and poor, muddy or dark images should look like what they really are. In the end, I appreciate the better-produced stuff.
  21. johnellisdm macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2007
    dang it!

    i thought i had it all figured out... i started reading this post when i was in the house. i then moved to the backyard on my current glossy MBP.

    when you are outside, during the day, this glossy screen is almost useless. if the matte led i bright, then i'd guess that would be good if you plan on sitting outside during the day alot.

    i mostly use my laptop in doors where i can control the light, but those times that i do go outside, i guess i with i had matte. can someone confirm that outside, during the day, the LED hr MBP matte looks good?

    also, another reason for me to change would be the fact that matte MBP seems to be taking forever to ship.
  22. soccerjoe5 macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2008
    haha that's a pretty good analogy, and I can relate since I'm also quite into car audio (SQ not boom boom for me). very expensive hobby :eek:
  23. rezonat0r macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    Since both use the same backlight, there really isn't going to be a difference in light output between the two. Unless you had the sun directly reflecting on your glossy screen, I wouldn't expect the matte to perform any better. Pretty much all LCD screens look terrible in direct sunlight.

    I think you mean "glossy MBP". There isn't much delay on the mattes.
  24. johnellisdm macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2007
    right.. i ordered my glossy feb 27th... says ship date: march 19th... crazy... and i just saw a post from someone saying that his was delayed even further with a vague email from apple...
  25. Apple Corps macrumors 68030

    Apr 26, 2003
    I made a special trip to the Apple store JUST to compare glossy to matte - 5 minutes of viewing different images from different angles.

    CONCLUSION: matte all the way - reflections ARE part of the image when you think about it.

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