Why glossy screens don't work in notebooks

Why glossy screens don't work in notebooks

Summary: I've been complaining about Apple's switch to glossy screens for a while now. As I've said in the past, glossy screens simply don't work on portables as the glare makes the screen practically unreadable.


Gloss = glare = bad

I've been complaining about Apple's switch to glossy screens for a while now. As I've said in the past, glossy screens simply don't work on portables as the glare makes the screen practically unreadable.

What started as an option on the MacBook Pro, became the only choice on the MacBook. Then the iMac. The MacBook Air. Now Apple’s gone 100 percent glossy across their entire line. Bummer.

I got this email recently from a long time reader that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the glossy screen trend.

I just got a new MacBook to replace my 1st Gen MacBook and after an 8 hour migration nightmare  (No gigabit on one, No FireWire on other so it was all USB) then I finally got it ready for my trip. On the flight I decided to get some work done and was amazed at how unusable this is in non-optimal situations.  Like an airplane!?

With glossy screens then there are little things you could do to make things better or worse. But for this picture I turned the brightness 100%, shut the window shade and this is an accurate picture of what I saw.

Dark backgrounds are obviously worse, but even with white then you're still fighting to focus on the screen rather than your reflection. Not only because it's a glass screen, but also because it has a pretty huge black glass bezel. This is really going to be a problem because your environment will be dictating your computer usage.

I can relate to migration nightmares thanks to a lack of FireWire but that's a topic for another blog post, but it's the glare in the picture above that speaks volumes. How can something like this slip through QA and testing in Cupertino? Have Apple's MacBook team turned into a bunch of yes men for Ive and Jobs?

Stop the madness!

[poll id=90]

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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  • Looks like I've purchased my last Apple computer.

    If ALL Apple computers now come with these annoying glossy screens, Steverino has just lost a customer until they go away.

    The reader who sent you this photo, is running VISTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nice plug for M$. ;-)
    • They're running OS X. Vista is running in a VM (nt)

      • Again...NOT the point.

        • Well... The author of the post...

          ...did say:

          [i]On the flight I decided [b]to get some work done[/b] and was amazed at how unusable this is in non-optimal situations. Like an airplane!?[/i]

          What else was he supposed to do? Hmmm..
          • Getting back to the subject of glossy screens...

            I think we need to get back to the original subject of glossy screens and undesirability of them under most conditions.
            Yes, I see that this MacBooPro is running 10.5.5 with some form of virtual machine running Vista, I can't tell either Parallels or VMware, with the horrid reflection and glare I can't see the details.
            I have a glossy screen MacBookPro, first computer display I owned with an glossy screen, have have 50/50 with this glossy display. I like it for the better contrast and "clearer" view but I hate it for glare and make any fingerprints, dust and other junk show up too well on the display.
  • In a VM

    You can clearly see the OSX menubar in the screen shot.

    That being said, I'm liking my new MacBook Pro. It smokes compared to my old PowerBook.
    • Not the point Sparky.

      • So what is the point?

        So what is the point?
        • That the Mac is running Windows.

          Even if under emulation.
          • And we have a winner in isle 4!!!

            Congratulations...you figured it out. Now, if only the other one could. :-)
          • Amazing!!!

            Ha ha ha. This is the point you are trying to make Albert Einstein. Holy moly, I am so impressed. I did not know that. I am from Mars and I was not on Earth the past few years. Macs are running windows now. When did that happen?
          • I think the point is...

            ...The PC vs MAC adds that attack VISTA are highly ironic and this is some everyday proof. Apple spends millions to attack M$ while their users financially support them. "Vista is BAD!" is their main advertising campaign while increasingly more and more MACs have licensed copies of VISTA installed on them.
          • DCMann, I think it's irrelevant

            I don't think a lot of Mac users that have Vista or XP on their Mac are doing it out of love for using Windows. It's more out of necessity because of Windows being so entrenched in everything. I don't run Vista because I love it, I run Vista to play the latest games, and there was some morbid curiosity too, I will admit. ;)
            Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
          • @ Kid Icarus: Reasons for running Vista

            Why you run Vista is irrelevant to MS. They're making their money when you buy their product and that's what they care about.

            Furthermore, it's quite laughable that Apple and many of its supporters, like you, trash on MS all day long, but at the end of the day they also run Windows because they can't run all the software they need on OSX.

            I get around that by simply running Vista natively on hardware for which I haven't paid Apple tax.
          • The winner is where?

            Either you meant to write "aisle" or your winner is perhaps relaxing on a small body of land surrounded by water?
          • Congrats to you as well!

            No typo...just seeing who is paying attention...and obviously you are.

            This is a great indoor sport. ;-)
          • The point...

            And you've missed the point of the blog...not about the OS, it's about glossy screens. Funny how, no matter what the guys (and ladies) at ZDNet write about, y'all make it into an OS war. Jeez, some use WinDOH's, some Linux, some OSX. I use Mepis Linux...you don't have to. And I can see where reflections on a glossy screen would make life...difficult. You didn't get that with matte...
        • The point? They're MS Fanboys

          The guy buys a MacBook because he likes the nice hardware,
          then loads a VM with Windows Vista because he doesn't know
          how to set the desktop to black in order to take a photo to
          prove his point about reflectivity of glossy displays?
  • Where are the 3rd party vendors

    Shouldn't there be several types of stick-on films, or professionally applied coatings available to cut the glare?

    Is this a result of going to "environmentally correct" glass, rather than a plastic, as the top element of the screen? (i.e. are there laptops with glass screens without the glare problem?).

    This looks like an open market for a reasonable cost solution.
    Wm. Brown