Reflective vs matte screens: not so simple as it’s portrayed

According to John Gruber, John Siracusa absolutely nails it on the glossy-MacBook-screens issue: He quotes Siracusa:

Glossy displays have effectively taken over the entire laptop market.
Why are they so popular? Here are three possible reasons.

  1. They are better than matte-finish displays.
  2. They are cheaper than matte-finish displays.
  3. People are idiots.

Gruber concludes I won’t spoil it, but you can probably guess what his conclusion was.

Yes, but his conclusion is wrong. In the comments to the Ars Technica article is a link to a page about PixelBright LCDs

Both anti-glare and anti-reflective LCD screens serve a distinct purpose. Anti-glare LCD screens may be better suited to office environments, where spreadsheets, word-processing, and similar tasks are the norm – along with many light sources and less flexibility in screen placement. Anti-reflective, on the other hand, may be better suited for graphics, gaming, and multimedia applications – like watching DVDs.
While anti-reflective high-gloss LCD screens may seem superior in all facets, they are better suited in indoor environments where ambient light conditions are not as bright. This way the user gets ambient light reflection reduction without sacrificing any image quality.
Anti-glare, on the other hand, may be better suited to the outdoors or indoor environments with brighter or direct light. In this situation, the user may be better off sacrifice image quality for maximum ambient light reflection reduction.

Clear enough? It’s horses for courses. It’s because “reflective” has particular benefits; we can conclude that reflective has won over matte because when people who had a reflective screen came to buy another, they chose the reflective one. They didn’t want to go back to matte. They had brighter colours, deeper blacks, all that stuff.

Other things this very useful page explains in simple language why Apple can now claim its screens are ‘brighter’. It’s because less light gets diffused going through the (matte) filter over the screen.


  1. But isn’t the whole purpose of a laptop is that it’s portable? By it’s very nature, it’s going to need to be a reflective screen tonight while I watch that DVD on the couch, then a matte screen tomorrow at work. I would understand having a reflective screen on a non-portable machine, but I still think it makes no sense on a portable where you don’t know what the lighting is going to be day to day.

  2. Anti-glare screens?

    Has there been any weather which would suggest that an anti-glare screen would ever be needed. Unless you’re taking your laptop on your summer holidays?

    Puts a bit of a soaking on the BT plans to put wi-fi antenna in park furniture!

  3. Why can’t we just fit a matte overlay on a gloss screen in harsh lighting environments?

  4. See Matte display for MacBook petition here:

  5. Another item. If your light is from a single source, it’s quite easy to angle a glossy screen for optimal viewing with little or no reflections. If you work in a room/office with multiple windows, or a ceiling full of florescent lights…, well, certainly stick with a matte screen.

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