Matte vs. Glossy Screens

This is a comparison of matte versus glossy HP laptop/tablet PC screens. The matte screen belongs to the Compaq nc6400, and the glossy screen is sported by the HP Pavilion tx2000 Notebook PC.

I did not have any preference towards matte or glossy screens before doing this experiment, but I had worked mostly with matte screens. I used the matte Compaq nc6400 for web surfing, programming, document and spreadsheet editing, and watching DVDs. The only slight complaint was that the black level while watching movies was more towards dark gray. However, I watched the same movie on the glossy screen, and could not tell any significant difference.

The big difference, however, is in the amount of light reflected by the glossy screen. Notice in the pictures below how the glossy screen acts almost like a mirror. I was wearing a green t-shirt (imagine wearing a white office shirt), and you can see it clearly in the glossy screen. The light coming from my window is almost blinding when reflected by the glossy screen, and unless you adjust its angle, the glare will prevent you from doing any work.

All pictures were taken with the camera placed exactly at eye level. When comparing screens side by side, I switched the position of the laptops to account for the difference in incoming light angle. The black laptop has the matte screen, and the silver laptop has the glossy screen.

Click any picture for a full-size version.

Standalone laptop
Light from the side
Light from behind

Verdict

If you use the laptop in normal conditions (daylight or evening work with overhead light), a matte screen is strongly preferred. As far as I can tell, glossy screens are a marketing gimmick for selling laptops. Note that LCD-backlit screens such as the one in the ASUS EEE series, look astonishing and are still matte. This is the screen I recommend: matte with LED backlight.

For a technical discussion, see this Slashdot article: Laptop screens, Glare or Matte?

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