Matte vs Glossy Screens, Laptops, Monitors and other Computer Accessories

I have no idea who started this fashion of gloss, but I know for sure that I don’t like it at all. Everything that is related to computers and other electronic devices seems to become glossy and shiny lately.

I try to avoid buying anything that has a glossy finish, but, unfortunately, it happens more often so that I have no choice. As a result, my monitor’s frame and stand (luckily not its screen!), new laptop, mobile phone, graphic tablet, mp3 player, keyboard and mouse are glossy now. This glossy finish not just looks cheap, it is also absolutely impractical as it is a perfect fingerprints collector. I wonder how many users damn and curse the manufacturers every time they are wiping the fingerprints off.

Software is contaminated by the glossy fashion too. The meaninglessness and absurdity of glossy interface appearance does not stop the interface designers from spreading the shiny epidemic. Nearly each element of interface became bulging, semi-transparent and glossy. The Earth globe is made of glass in software icons, flags that are in reality flat pieces of fabric turned into sleek pillows, and Windows Vista recycle bin became a ridiculous drinking glass. Of course, it is not life-threatening, but it is very sad to see how design is losing its meaning, usability, beauty, simplicity and reliability in favour of being “cool”.

Ridiculous glossy glassy icons
Thoughtless usage of gloss: our planet looks like a marble, and a recycle bin icon turned into a drinking glass (Windows Vista standard icons)

With all that said, glossy screens are worst of all. They are advertised as having “richer” colours and sharper image, but in fact they are mirrors with over-saturated colours that reflect the user’s face and the light sources from around the room, causing eye strain, fatigue, dry eyes and a dull headache. To be objective rather than emotional, I listed and compared aspects of glossy and matt screens usage in the table below:

Glossy Screen Matt Screen
(my experience)
As advertised My experience
More intense, saturated colours Over-saturated and inaccurate colours Real, natural colours
Deeper blacks and brighter whites Exaggerated shades and lights, poor greyscale accuracy Better greyscale accuracy
Sharper image Too sharp, especially for long reading. Too much contrast along the edges of colour Softer edges
More readable in extremely bright conditions, like outdoors Not true, especially when the screen is under direct light: Most of the time I use computers indoors, but matt screen is still better to use outdoors than glossy:
  Interfering reflections of lights, windows, user’s face and bright clothes causing “competition” for the eyes’ focus and result in fatigue and headache No noticeable reflections
  Distracting glare No glare
  Easily show fingerprints and smudges Good resistance to fingerprints
Wider viewing angle Irrelevant: I seat in front of monitors, not at their side Narrower viewing angle, but it does not bother me
  Tire, strain, hurt and damage my eyes No effect on my eyes during the last 6 years I’ve been using matt LCD monitors

As a designer, photographer and digital artist, I find glossy monitors absolutely unsuitable for graphics work which requires colour accuracy. I also noticed that glossy monitors strain my eyes, so I cannot consider a glossy screen suitable for prolonged, serious usage. I am very happy that I managed to find a matt screen monitor and that my old laptop that has no glossy parts at all still works, so I can work for many hours every day without any pain in my eyes.

No matter what “experts” claim about advantages of gloss, the pure logic says that there must be economic reasons behind all the guff about deeper blacks and richer colours. I remember that years ago people paid extra to get anti-glare or anti-reflective coating for their displays to make them non-glossy.

Though glossy things may be a current fad, the manufacturers could satisfy their customers and benefit much more by offering them a matt option for all models of laptops, monitors and other computer parts. While there can be some arguments in favour of glossy screens, nothing can advocate glossy outer surface of laptops, mice, keyboards and mobile phones, as they are unquestionably unpractical.

Sign: No to glossy screens without a matte alternative

P.S. Dear manufacturers, your customer does not want to suffer because some marketing guys think that shiny things are better; instead, the customer wants to have a choice of matt surface of screens, laptops and other computer accessories.

Choice is a wonderful thing: those who like glossy will go for it, but those who prefer matte should have an option to get what they want too.

Related articles:

The price of smooth looks: Anti-aliased fonts hurt eyes and damage eyesight

Design for design’s sake: when it loses the purpose

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