Laptop Screens – Glossy versus Matte

   Posted April 21, 2008 by David Kirk in Technology reviews

My father will soon be purchasing a laptop. Like most people considering buying a new laptop, he will have to decide if he should get a glossy or matte screen. I will discuss and contrast the two screen types and conclude by describing my personal experience with the two types.

The discussions between glossy and matte laptop screens are almost as heated as Apple versus Microsoft and XBox versus PlayStation. Many people considering purchasing a laptop are frustrated by the matter.

Glossy screens have a reflective coating underneath the screen. This reflective nature gives higher degrees of brightness and contrast. Colors really seem to “pop” with glossy screens. However, due to their reflective nature, the view on a glossy screen will frequently be polluted by glare from other light sources.

With matte screens the user can almost visualize darkness between individual white pixels. To many people they perceive this as a “grainy” appearance. Glare is greatly decreased, at the cost of reduction in contrast and brightness. Subtle degrees of saturation are better perceived with the matte screens.

For some people the higher brightness and contrast of the glossy screen actually causes eye strain. Other people find that the lower, diffusing contrast with a matte screen is more likely to cause issues. Improving backlight technology is balancing out the brightness and contrast issues on both sides of the argument.

Complicating the issue more is that fact that some manufacturers are using glossy displays to hide cheaper LCDs. In the right conditions, glossy displays hide many, but not all, weaknesses in substandard LCD screens. This is why many inexpensive laptops now come standard with glossy screens.

In a dark, glare-free room, the glossy screen will look better than the matte screen. However, most people do not always use laptops in ideal conditions. Fingerprints and smudges also show up on glossy screens more than matte.

My first laptop had a matte screen. Back then I am not sure I knew I had an option. For my second lappie, I purchased the glossy screen because the images and video in the demo room looked the best. However, after day-to-day use, I eventually decided that matte was best for me.

I use my laptop everywhere. Frequently this includes bright lighting conditions that cause high glare situations. With my matte screen glare is never an issue. Do glossy screens look better? In perfect conditions they do indeed. However, matte screens offer me much more flexibility. Plus, with my glossy screen I was constantly having to clean it to remove fingerprints and smudges. With the matte they are barely noticeable.

Obviously in the end it is a personal choice. Hopefully this article has helped to express the arguments on both sides.

Good luck with your laptop purchase.


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

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  • Excellent Comment, very helpfull, too bad over here in Thailand they ONLY sell glosssy…;(

    I’ll be sure to buy an after market glare protector. Do you have any advice on that also?

  • Harisharan.Rao

    Exellent review… Will go in for matte finish…. Thanks

  • Harisharan.Rao

    Excellent Review… It was really helpful to me… Will go in for Dell Inspiron 1525 with Matte finish screen.

    Harisharan Rao

  • I use a transparent matte folder on the screen, it helps a little.

  • MB

    I’ve been researching the anti-glare vs. glossy debate for a few days straight now, and this article is a relief. Balanced, straight-forward information that is obviously informed by what people are talking about. I only wish it was more in-depth. I want to read more of what this writer knows!

    Take it from someone who’s trudged through all the dross in the forums and read all the pay-for-play “reviews,” this article gives a good breakdown.

    Now chose your preference: glossy or matte!

    While I’m at it, though, I want to shake a mean finger at Apple for not making the distinctions between these two screens clear. After pouring over Apple’s online sales materials before buying a new MBP with an anti-glare screen, to then have it show up with no idea how different it was in qualities and performance from the glossy screen. To be embarrassingly honest, I didn’t even know there was no glass plate. I assumed it has a coated glass plate!

    From what I’ve seen, when researching MBP’s on Apple’s site the only admission of the differences is in a drop-down frame on the final purchase configuration page in terse, vague text. Maybe I missed something, but that’s either incredibly amateur or shamelessly manipulative. Disappointing, Apple.

  • NoLightBoxes

    Glossy displays are light boxes designed by marketeers.

    Sure, light boxes are impressive but not made to be stared at. Ophthalmologists are the real winner here.

    The bad news is, there is [or it appears to be] no more choice. Glossy screens are the only option in most shops now. Matt displays are difficult to find and have become very pricy.

  • The ONLY time that a glossy screen looks better than a matte screen of comparable quality is when they are turned off.

    The ONLY time that a glossy screen looks even as good as a matte screen of comparable quality is when there is NO light source behind the user: no window, no lamp, not even a light-colored wall in a well-lit room.

    Outdoors, the matte advantage is even greater: a glossy screen is unusable outdoors except at night.

    If you have a choice between matte and glossy screens, ALWAYS choose matte. Always.

    • Poete40

      >Hi, thank you , you´re right.Very good opinion 🙂

  • Art Toegemann

    You did not mention the other problem with glossy screens: all of the dark areas on the image become mirrors.
    When I go to retail outlets I tell salesmen to tell their people I will not buy a glossy screen.
    My first laptop, a toshiba, had a matte screen.
    What about boosting contrast and saturation at settings?

    • Ruggb

      UNFORTUNATELY, it isn’t a matter of choice anymore. So there is no sense in even discussing it. What we all need to do is to stop buying unusable shiny screens. THAT is the only way to get the message across.

      There are about 2 laptops with matte screens – and without the latest technology, processors and graphics.
      So I am back to my OLD, slow, none upgradeable, matte screen XP laptop.
      YA, I am angry about that. We are back to the old cars companies marketing, telling us what we want, how we can use it, and how we must pay for things we do not want. But I’ll be damned if I am going to buy a mirror to watch myself.

      • Hookecho

        HP has a business laptop with i5 or i7 options and an “anti-glare” screen..the HP Probook…..Acer has the Travelmate 8472 as well. You can waste lots of time these days trying to find much else…unless you go with Apple.

  • Aikenwest

    We had a glossy hp laptop and it looked great, at first, but then was very difficult to use since we have alot of light and windows in our home. UNUSABLE out in the yard or on the deck. It broke. We’ve been using an old matte hp that was my son’s (with a jump around cursor) that I like much better. We shopping for a new laptop and you’re right, all we see in the stores are glossy screens…. ugh…. Thanks for the input!

  • Golssy the better, looks more comfortable.
    anyway it can be used as a mirror if you don’t have one. 😀
    Herve Leger Dress

  • Seejay

    glossy screens are impossible to use during the day unless you’re a basement dweller.

    I thought the idea of a laptop was for it’s usability almost anywhere. Glossy screens severely limit the usefulness of a laptop to the point where you might as well just buy a desktop computer.

  • I posted a photo comparison of matte vs. glossy screens.

    As everyone said, glossy screens are unusable, except in darkness.

    The best pick, while you can still find it, is LED-backlit matte screens like the one in the ASUS EEE series.

  • jk

    Apple store workers explained to me today that the matte screen is really designed for photographers who need to see images more clearly. In addition they kept saying that they personally have the glossy screen and that its perfectly ok.. I don’t always find that statement valid when buying high ticket items. In addition, I find the glossy screen extremely distracting to view and am concerned that I’ll have increased eye strain over time. However, i do like the smaller 13″ unit minus the gloss! – that’s my 2 cents.

  • N9egitod

    I had a new HP with glossy screen. What a mess. Nice to use whenyou shave , but not worth anything for computing.
    Traded it to a person for an old, slow, IBM Thinkpad T40 with plug-in Wireless receiver.BUT the screen is MATTE. what a relief. Slow, but I can read the emails while sitting in the sun…!!! And they paid me for the trade.
    Laptop makers need to awaken…..

  • Shreya

    Thank you so much everyone!
    My laptop’s screen broke a month bck and i am getting it repaired,with a matte finish(i had glossy screen earlier). I was worried that the picture quality would be bad. But after reading all the comments i think matte is good.

  • John Doe

    I had to buy a matte screen monitor and connect it to my laptop just because the greedy corporate clowns don’t sell matte screen laptops anymore and my eyes are getting damaged having to stare at the damn glossy screen all day. The new matte screen monitor is like a relief to the eye.

  • Jeetu!

    Excellent review!

    Having used both, I agree that, Matte is better than Glossy in all aspects. Primary factor would be strain in the eyes. Straining your eyes just to get a li’l more effects in color is not worth it.

  • Emily

    Many people commented above that matte screens are not available. I recently went to Best Buy and found two laptops with matte screens made by Samsung. The salesman said that Samsung is the biggest seller of matte screens. I do not know what else is on the market but I wanted to share that for anyone looking for matte. (Sept. 2012)

  • The Marv Dog

    Thanks a bunch, I’m going for a Crème de la Crème laptop with the best of everything, so I’ve been researching what would be best to get to play games on. It seems as though a glossy screen is the best as long as I can keep light sources away, which should be easy with good curtains 😛

    Thanks for the article, did it for me!