The Great Computer Monitor Debate, Glossy Vs. Matte

Planning to purchase a new monitor for a computer dual monitor or multiple display configuration? If you do, then you should know that there are a lot of things you need to consider in choosing a monitor, from brand’s reputation, display quality, specs, size, etc. Though there are lots of things you need to keep in mind when picking an LCD screen, sometimes, it can just be boiled down to your preferences and needs. And with this, you need to decide between glossy or matte LCD screen coating.

If you can’t see anything on your computer screens in a bright room, or you feel like the colors of images that comes out from your display seemed dull and lifeless, then maybe you chose the screen coating that doesn’t fit your needs.

(image source: How-To-Geek)

Lighting and How it Hurts Your Computer Display

Did you know that the biggest challenge of using a computer is not viruses or spams, but the sun and too much room lighting? Well, at least that’s how it feels like when using a glossy LCD screen to light. An open window or an errant lamp can be enough to make your computer display near unusable. This is why it is important to consider the type of screen of your prospective monitors before deciding to purchase them.


There’s a huge difference between glossy and matte coating, and it pays to know which one suit you best.

Glossy vs. Matte

How They Are Similar

Both glossy and matte monitors are the same LCD panels. The only difference between these two are the coating applied to their screen. In a controlled environment (and situation), glossy and matte monitors will look similar to each other.

However, this similarity is also often the root of all the debate between these two types of screen coatings, as both computer users and monitor manufacturers can’t decide which one type is the best type.

How They Are Different

Glossy – Glossy monitors provide more colorful and vivid images and better contrast. Colors look more intense, richer, and saturated, while black are deeper. The common complaint about this coating however, is its weakness under direct sunlight, sunlight coming from a window, or room with strong lighting. Glossy screen is smooth with a polarizing layer, which causes its screen reflects light directly, making unwanted glares and reflections.

Sunlight is always the worst case scenario, which is also the biggest dilemma of most laptop users, these portable computers are often used under direct sunlight, in outdoor environment such in coffee shops, or on the beach while sitting on a recliner. The light causes the screen to reflect and make the glossy screen unusable under direct sunlight. Even indoors, glossy screens can still reflect great amount of light, making things on the screen hard to read and see.

These displays tend to look better in stores, where there is no overpowering source of light that hits the monitor and cause it to glare.

Modern glossy LCD monitors are now treated with AR (anti-reflective) chemical coating, which works by absorbing some ambient light. Good example of which is Samsung’s recent models “Ultra Clear Panel”, such as the Samsung T27A950  which is designed to aid in absorbing some ambient light better than most reflective chemical coating, without compromising or impeding the screen’s performance. Also, Dell Studio XPS15 is a decent laptop even on summer days. Of course, sunlight should not directly hit the screen.

(image from Amazon)

Samsung T27A950 for example, is designed to serve as either a widescreen computer monitor or an HDTV. This 27-inch monitor HDTV combo delivers exceptional picture quality and rich color. The Ultra Clear Panel help reduces light diffusion, minimizing glare while providing 100% photo accuracy technology to display images and videos just as you remember them.  It is equipped with 3D HyperReal Engine for clear, Lifelike 3D effects, Real-Time 3D conversion,  and Magic Angle for optimal image quality from any angle. It also comes with PiP or Picture-in-Picture Multitasking capabilities (which can be activated through its Menu system and put the TV inset in any of its four corners) that allows users to work on their monitor and watch TV shows both at the same time.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of glossy screen with anti-reflecting coating.

Advantages of a Glossy Monitor with Anti-Reflective Screen

  • Direct light emissions of the screen makes way for improved contrast and vibrancy of images.
  • Makes “cleaner” images without haze or grains.
  • Generally makes aesthetically better-looking monitor (provided the screen is clean).
  • Easy to clean due to lower dirt penetration and higher visibility of dirt and grease.
  • Reduced reflection in certain environment and lighting conditions compared to untreated glossy surface.

Disadvantages of a Glossy Monitor with Anti-Reflective Screen

  • In areas with strong ambient light levels and direct lighting can make the monitors troublesome and cause ‘bleaching’.
  • Can potentially increase the risk of eyestrain as reflection can make focusing in images and things on screen difficult.
  • Dirt, dust, and grease are more visible, especially when the monitor is switched off. Routine cleaning is important and necessary.

(image from Amazon)

The Acer H276HL is quite an attractive 27-inch display that uses IPS panel technology to deliver accurate colors and good grayscale performance for versatile computing and viewing use. However, glossy and reflective screen can be distracting, especially when showing dark background.

(image from Amazon)

The Acer XB280HK is an example of glossy coated monitor. The glossy screen allows the monitor to show more vibrant colors. Glares and reflections are minimized with the help of slim borders.


Matte – Matte monitors on the other hand, are designed with anti-glare features, making them more tolerant against reflections. They are designed with “polarizing layer” on its surface coarsed through mechanical and sometimes, chemical process. 

The matte finish on its surface works by diffusing ambient light, rather than reflecting it back to the viewer. It reduces ambient reflection, which makes things displayed on its screens are easier to see under a brightly lit room, outdoors, or even when placed under fluorescent light bulbs in an office. The downside however is that, colors and images appear dull and lifeless compared to its glossy counterpart.

This however, to some degree, affects the light coming off the monitor, causing some colors of images to not look as lively and as vivid as they should be, as the desirable effects of glare reduction also causes the same diffusion to the monitor’s display.


 

Advantages of a Matte Screen

  • Reduces glares and reflection, improving screen visibility in areas with strong direct or ambient lighting.
  • Helps reduce the risk of eyestrain as your eyes are saved from stress caused by intensely focusing on the screen’s glares and reflections.
  • Dirt, dust, and grease are less visible on the surface.

 

Disadvantages of a Matte Screen

  • Reduction in the vibrancy of color and contrast.
  • Low to moderate reduction in terms of image sharpness. This however, ultimately depends on the thickness of matte layer applied on the monitor’s surface and pixel pitch.
  • Can be difficult to clean because of dirt penetration.
  • When displaying white or other colors, the monitor’s display may look grainy and hazy.

If you’re planning to put your dual monitor setup in a brightly-lit room, then matte is the best option for you, as matte counteracts light better, keeping your monitor viewable from glares.

(image from Amazon)

The AOC IPS i2367fh is an example of matte monitor. It is designed for people who are looking for a decent display on a tighter budget. It’s an attractive near-borderless IPS monitor with accurate colors, solid grayscale performance for both gaming and watching movies. The front of the panel is coated with a matte coating that negates reflections and glares in a highly-lit environment, and doesn’t easily accumulate fingerprints and smudges.

(image from Amazon)

The Asus PB278Q is another good example of matte screen monitor. It’s an excellent 27-inch multi-purpose monitor designed for professional users. It brags great performance, while its matte-coated PLS panel does a fantastic job in showing rich and vibrant colors, all without the glares and reflections. It’s well-equipped with feature and wide array of customization options, all for a reasonable, if not affordable price.

 

Which One Should You Buy?

If you’re looking for an extra monitor to complete your dual monitor or multiple monitor setup, and you use your desktop computer in a non-extremely bright environment, then a glossy display will make a huge difference, as it will give you more vibrant colors. Glossy monitors will look far better in electronic stores, as glares and reflections aren’t that much of a factor.

However, if you’re working in an office where there’s a bright overhead fluorescent light, or if you’re looking for a laptop that you can carry around and use outdoors, you’ll want a matte display. You should also remember that even matte monitors are not perfect under direct sunlight, and you may still get some glare when used in a bright room. But it’s usually minimal and far less extreme than in glossy monitors.

 

The Difficult Decision

There is absolutely no end to this back-and-forth debate of advantages and disadvantages. The debate will go on and on, until manufacturers find the new technology that will erase the line that separates the two types of monitor coating and provide the best of both worlds simultaneously.

 

It is indeed, can be very difficult to find a good monitor that fits all your needs. Your needs and preferences are different from other users. The best way to start your search is through understanding what you need from a monitor, how you’re going to use it, where you will use it, etc.

 

The Half-way Solution

Some LCD monitor manufacturers nowadays offer compromise solution to try to bring the best of both worlds. One example of this is the ‘semi-glossy’ screen – a matte monitor roughened a little less, leaving it with smoother appearance, and which causes less diffusion of light, or low haze value. Low haze screens lowers haze value of monitors to 13% (normal haze value of glossy monitors is at 25%). This improves clarity and vibrancy of images and greatly helps in reducing visible grain and light colors. Though it doesn’t quite bring the level of clarity and vibrancy of a good glossy monitor, it certainly does help in reducing the diffusion of emitted light and improves the monitor’s characteristics compared to high haze matte surfaces. The downside however is that, the light round the monitor that bounces to its screen reduces less, which can cause slight glares.

(image from Amazon)

BenQ EW2420 is one great example of a low-haze matte.  It is the world's slimmest LED monitor to date, and it offers sleek design with extraordinary picture quality, unbeatable dynamic contrast ratio and high energy efficiency. It is equipped with Senseye Human Vision LED technology which amplifies image clarity, depth, and richness, perfect for games, movies, etc. Additionally, this technology allows the monitor to adjust in brightness, contrast and backlighting to perfectly fit any viewing environment. It also comes with color management which further adds both dimension and realism, purifying images and improving hue without compromising to others.

(image from Amazon)

Samsung S27A850 on the other hand, come close second with the same ‘semi-gloss’ (low-haze) screen which has a haze level of 18%. Dell U2713HM also has the same kind of solution. BenQ BL2710PT and 4K TN panel monitors like Dell P2815Q may not have the same level of ‘semi-glossy’ coating, but still come with relatively light matte screen surfaces (with haze values of around 22%), lower than most older IPS monitors (more than 30%).

(image from Amazon)

Dell P2815Q for example, is a new breed of computer monitor - it's a 4K 28-inch monitor that is said to be the cheapest of its kind. It sports the Ultra High Definition standard of resolution, which tends to be insanely expensive in other models from other brands.

Here is how glossy and matte screens differ in laptops

More Alternatives

If it’s possible to simply switch and change from one type of coating display (glossy to matte), we would probably switch based on the environment and the situation we found ourselves. Sadly, we don’t have this technology yet, so we have to pick one. If you really want to have the benefits of vivid images, then you get an anti-glare screen film for your glossy display. This is not entirely a good idea, and you’re probably better off just using a matte display in the first place. Because even reflection from ambient light can be reduced, it can never be completely eliminated, especially in areas where light is strong or the image displayed is dark.

Glossy monitors can be set to a reasonable brightness and ambient light levels should be low to allow small amount of light to fall directly onto the screen. This can make reflection a non-issue in some cases.

Also, using different type of coating display won’t hurt. This will give you an option which to use on different situations. For a home theater and gaming (where you turn off the lights in a room for better viewing experience), glossy is the way to go. But if you’re looking for a display where you can work conveniently in a brightly-lit room, matte is your best option.

For more tips like this, check out Dual Monitors Guide now!



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