Glossy Screens

A few years ago, I bought a PSP to entertain myself during long train rides. I quickly found out that on sunny days, the device was unusable for this purpose. The device's screen reflected too much light, and the moving train made for quickly changing light, which in turn made it impossible to avoid the reflections for more than a few seconds at a time.

Fortunately, science prevails. Modern LCD screens typically have an anti-glare finish. Reflected light is scattered, which blurs reflections and makes it easy to ignore them.

Yesterday, Apple introduced a bunch of new portable computers, and none of them provide screens with an anti-glare finish. Apple doesn't even pretend that their screens are made with usability in mind. Their own pictures and movies show an incredible amount of glare:

Apple likes reflections

There is no question that Apple has the best hardware design in the computer industry - by a wide margin. But in this case, they seem to have gone with form over function.

When asked about the glossy screen, Apple's Phil Schiller replied:

You offset the reflection by the brightness, and consumers love it. One of the great things about a notebook is you can turn it however you want!

Unfortunately, turning the notebook "however you want" does not solve the reflection problem when you're sitting in a train or a plane.1

And yes, people tend to like shiny things - at least until they try to use those shiny things while lounging in their garden on a sunny day.

The Solution

Apple's own pictures seem to contradict his claim that the screens' brightness offsets the reflection, but there is a chance he is right. And if he is not, I have a 20-years-old solution for this problem. Back then, screens were so poor that people regularly attached filters2 to them to improve the picture:

Glare Guard Maximum Plus

Unfortunately, such a solution would probably make the beautiful MacBook Pros look a bit ugly. I solved my PSP problem with an anti-glare screen protector. Selling these in MacBook Pro sizes will soon be a viable business.

  1. Macworld's Rob Griffiths agrees, writing "I simply cannot bring myself to use a glossy display on a laptop computer when there are known and better solutions available – solutions that Apple itself offered up until now." ↩︎

  2. The picture shows the Glare Guard Maximum Plus, in case you want to buy one. ↩︎

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