Matte vs Glossy Screen – What’s the difference?
What’s the difference between matte and glossy screens? Short answer, they both impact display and image quality in different ways.
What are Matte Screens?
A matte screen has an anti glare coating applied, which makes it much easier to see a matte screen in a bright room or direct sunlight. In the long run this can help reduce eye strain.
The anti glare matte coatings applied to the monitors essentially act as an anti reflective coating reducing the reflective glass nature of a typical screen surface.
Matte displays are great if you like working in direct sunlight and plan to use your matte display outside a lot.
However, this doesn’t mean it is without it’s downsides. Like all tech it has positive and negative attributes. The anti glare protection impacts picture quality, making it appear less clear and in cases grainier than glossy surfaces.
What are Glossy screens?
Glossy screens are the nice shiny monitors you will see in stores, the once that look all brand new and have never been touched before.
Glossy displays use a reflective glass technology allowing close to all of the monitors light to show through the screen. This results in a superior image quality compared to the matte screen counterpart.
Glossy screens have a better image quality by showing fuller colors, the dark colors and truly rich, the light colors appear brighter, and this contrast between colors means the glossy display really pops off the screen.
This is why glossy screens tend to look much better than matte screens at the store, they have more vibrant colors in the store setting where there are no bright lights and the glossy screens are setup in such a way to reduce perceived glare.
The glossy screen image quality stems from the reflectivity of the surface, which not only increases eye strain but can also reflect images such as yourself back on the screen. I know I don’t want to be staring at myself all day.
How are they Similar?
At the end of the day glossy screens and matte screens are both screens, they both use LCD panels to power the pixels and in a lot of situations a matte screen is hard to tell apart from a glossy screen (by a lot we mean in most day to day situations).
After all this it doesn’t hurt the monitor sales that there is a matte vs glossy screen debate. The apparent choice between the two helps boost computer sales and helps monitor manufacturers use buzz words like low haze matte surface, ambient light, image illumination and glossy surface to try sell their products.
How are Matte Screens different to Glossy Screens?
The main difference at the end of the day between glossy displays and matte displays is the coating applied to the surface.
A glossy display uses a reflective surface and makes the colors appear brighter, this can provide a better experience for viewing content.
A matte display uses a different finish on the screen to reduce the glossy screen display found in stores and on ads which while reducing the color sharpness also reduces reflectiveness, especially helpful for bright light and outdoor viewing.
Matte Vs Glossy Screen – What should you choose
At the end of the day the disadvantages of both glossy screens and matte displays are situation dependent, specifically they depend on the environment in which you will be using the monitor.
If you are trying to build a new home office where the monitor is in a fixed location you should do for a glossy monitor, if you know there will be an ambient lighting and want a high image quality then there should be no need for a matte screen.
In office situations without bright lights, or where you can control the lighting a glossy display and the reflective properties shouldn’t be an issue.
On the other hand if you work in an office with a lot of bright lights or like working outdoors, or even just want the flexibility to move your display around then a matte display is a better choice.
I love working outdoors and as a digital nomad don’t always have the flexibility to control the harshness of the lighting environment which is why I use a matte screen laptop and think this is the main reason I chose matte over glossy.
The color display is also a personal preference, I’ve met people who actually prefer the image quality on a matte screen and claim the glossy display is far too harsh, personally I do like the colors on the glossy screen as I really think they bring the digital experience to life but clearly it depends on the person.
It would be fantastic if you could flick a switch on a matte screen laptop and turn it into a matte display but unfortunately this still isn’t the case so we have to choose between matte and glossy displays.
The best way still to tell which is better is to go into a store. One of the few advantages now days of tech stores is you can play around and view the monitors before you buy. Compared to online, which sometimes feels like you are praying your tech comes as expected.
Going into a store and testing the glossy and matte screens is an easy way to tell which is right for you. Figure out how you feel about the colors, whether you can actually tell the difference between the image quality, and try adjust the glossy screen so it is under a bright light to test how reflective it actually is.
Is there a compromise?
Yes, manufacturers are trying to figure out the best glossy matte screen combination and while far from perfect there are glossy monitors that come with a low matte finish, somewhat curbing the reflective property.
Matte displays are also frequently incorporating a semi-glossy finish which can be the perfect solution in certain situations and reduces glare somewhat.
These combinations strike a balance between color accuracy, color intensity and not having a mirror like reflection.
Gaming laptops generally have matte finishes because you wouldn’t want to be staring down the barrel of a rifle only to see your reflection in the background. Not helpful for gaming at all.
A Matte Vs Glossy Screen – The Final Verdict
At the end of the day the matte vs glossy screen debate will continue to rage on until the monitor manufacturers develop a perfect screen solution.
Until then it is down to the user to determine which is better for them. A matte display is great for flexibility and when dealing in bright light environments but the color quality isn’t as great under a controlled environment.
On the other hand a glossy screen looks great and can make the colors really pop off the screen but will perform very poorly as soon as you take it outside.
From personal experience glossy screens are great for indoor use but I’ve never been able to figure out how to use one outside and need to use a matte display with anti glare instead.w