A Comprehensive comparison of glossy vs matte monitors: Pros and Cons
If you're in the market for a gaming monitor and looking for something with a little more pizzazz, we've got some good news: we're now offering our Spectrum monitors with two display options: a matte coating and a glossy coating! But what's the difference between glossy screen vs matte?
TLDR: if you can control the lighting of your environments, such as your home office or game room, always go for the glossy monitor because it helps to bring richer colors and deeper black. But a matter monitor is a safer option if you're in open environments with lots of lights.
Overview: Understanding monitor displays
A monitor display comprises different layers influencing the image and user experience. The backlight layer is responsible for illuminating the screen; the LCD layer is accountable for producing the image. The display panel's top layer protects the panel from its environment. It also dramatically influences reflections and color performance. So when people mention matte monitors or glossy monitors, they often refer to the top layer of the monitor's display panel.
Layers of an LCD panel
What are a matte monitor and a glossy monitor?
A matte monitor has an electronic display with a matte anti-glare coating. Matte monitors feature a light-scattering anti-reflection layer, which reduces reflectivity at the cost of decreased contrast and color intensity under dimly lit conditions.
Source: Pc Monitors
A glossy monitor has an electronic display with a glossy coating. A glossy monitor is coated with a layer of clear plastic during the manufacturing process, which appears as a much shinier surface. This allows the panel lights to pass through the screen transparently.
LCD Basics /j-display.com
When it comes to the screens we interact with on a daily basis, the majority tend to feature some form of glossy finish. Whether it's the displays on modern televisions, laptops, smartphones, or even smartwatches, these screens typically have a glossy coating or cover glass, which is often treated with an anti-reflective solution. This glossy finish allows for higher contrast ratios and better image clarity, which can greatly enhance the viewing experience for users.
On the other hand, the gaming monitor industry seems to be the exception to this rule, with conventional wisdom suggesting that gamers prefer matte displays. This may be because matte screens are known for reducing glare and reflections, which can be particularly important in well-lit environments where excessive glare can be a major distraction. Despite this, the popularity of glossy finishes in most other types of screens suggests that they offer a number of benefits that many users find appealing.
So what is the reason for matte monitors being the norm?
It's difficult to dispute the fact that matte monitors have gained a great deal of popularity over the years, and this is largely due to the many benefits they offer.
The goods of matte monitors
Reduce glare and improve content visibility in open environments
If you're currently using a modern monitor to read this, there's a good chance that it features a matte coating. This particular finish has become the most widely-used option for IPS gaming monitors due to its ability to scatter external light as it hits the surface of the display. By breaking up the light in this way, matte coatings reduce the intensity of reflections and make it less likely for them to interfere with the image on the screen. As a result, users are able to enjoy better visibility of their content, even when their monitor is affected by strong direct or ambient light sources.
One of the key benefits of matte monitors is that they tend to produce less glare and reflections than their glossy counterparts. This can be especially important for individuals who work in bright or sunny environments, as excessive glare and reflections can be a major distraction. By reducing the amount of light that is reflected off the screen, matte coatings make it easier for users to focus on their work or enjoy their favorite games without having to worry about unwanted distractions.
Reduce eye strain
It's not difficult to see the reason behind the popularity of matte monitors. A major factor contributing to this norm is the fact that most monitors are used in office environments where lighting conditions are often beyond the control of individual users. Unlike in a home environment, where lighting can be easily adjusted to suit individual preferences, office managers typically have the final say on lighting conditions, making it all the more important for users to have a monitor that performs well under a variety of lighting conditions.
In bright environments, one of the key benefits of a matte monitor is its ability to reduce eyestrain and increase overall comfort for users. By eliminating intense reflections and glare from the screen, users no longer have to struggle to see the image on the screen, which can be a major source of discomfort and fatigue over time. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who spend long hours working, as it can help to reduce the risk of eye strain and other related issues.
Less visible dust on matte monitors compared to glossy monitors
The matte surface of a monitor has a unique quality that makes dust and fingerprints less visible than they would be on a glossy monitor. This is because the matte finish diffuses light that hits the surface, scattering it in all directions and reducing the contrast between the surface and any smudges or marks on it. As a result, dust and fingerprints are less likely to stand out and detract from the overall viewing experience.
This is a particularly important consideration for individuals who use their monitors in public places or shared spaces, where others may inadvertently touch the screen or leave behind smudges and fingerprints. With a matte monitor, users can enjoy a clear and uninterrupted view of the screen, without being distracted by visible dust or smudges. Additionally, the matte surface is easier to clean and maintain than a glossy surface, as it is less prone to showing smudges and requires less frequent cleaning.
The trade-off of using a monitor with matte panel
Reduce perceived contrast and color vibrancy
As a downside, the diffusing nature of this matte layer will also diffuse the image from the monitor itself a little, causing a slight reduction in sharpness and affecting color and contrast. Think of how frosted glass doesn't reflect what's on your side, but also doesn't show you what's on the other side as clearly. This layer also affects the light emitted by the monitor itself. Because of this, the visible brightness is reduced, which also leads to slightly muted colors.
Improved perceived contrast and colors (Source: Dave2D)
Reduce in sharpness, depending on thickness and layering of matte surface
A close inspection will show that the individual pixels are slightly blurred, though the image is still clear.
Above: showing improved text sharpness and image Quality (Source: Dave2D)
Should I choose a matte monitor?
To achieve a matte effect, manufacturers apply an anti-glare (AG) film to the monitor's screen during the panel production process. This AG film diffuses light that hits the screen's surface, resulting in reduced glare and improved visibility against directly lit light sources. In effect, it minimizes distractions by diffusing reflections and is ideal when you have little control over the lights in your environment. Or if reflections and fingerprints on the monitor would drive you up the wall, go for a matte monitor.
How about glossy monitors?
We were surprised that many consumers wanted glossy monitors during our crowd-development process. Some people even mentioned that for one who is able to experience the glossy monitor, it's hard to go back. The demand is seemingly strong, but there is little reaction on the supply side. Very few brands venture into the production of glossy monitors, not to mention glossy gaming monitors. Currently, the most notable brand that offers glass-coated screens is Apple with its display line, including many iMac models that mainly target creatives and designers. Before our glossy project launch was announced at the beginning of 2022 and by the time I am writing this article, no other gaming hardware brands had entered into this venture.
Throughout the development process of the glossy monitor, we could confirm that the main reason is because of the huge amount of additional R&D and factory recalibration required. In our case, it required LG to re-calibrate its fully automated LCD assembly line and changes to the certification process, tuning color performance, and conducting durability testing; it was not easy. Neither was our effort to convince LG. We guess it's enough, for now, to make you curious about why we spent tons of effort on working and developing the glossy monitors. Here they are:
The goods of glossy monitors
We describe the technical aspects in the post named Project: Spectrum | Reflecting on Reflections on our community. But the best way to explain the difference and benefits would be to have a matte monitor and a glossy monitor side by side. Luckily, TFT Central did an amazing job of creating close-up analysis with a camera and a digital microscope.
Crisper text and sharper content
As shown below, the text on a matte screen has a small amount of blur to the edges caused by the anti-glare coating. In contrast, the text is sharper and crisper on a glossy screen than on a matte screen.
Above: Text clarity and sharpness comparison – zoomed in on a normal font of 11-point size (Source: TFTCentral)
Improve perceived contrast and color vibrancy
The most significant benefit of a glossy monitor is that it provides a more accurate representation of the colors you're trying to display (especially blacks!). If color accuracy and contrast are essential to you - whether for gaming, graphic design, or other professional use - then a glossy monitor may be a better choice.
Above: photos taken with a digital microscope capturing sub-pixel structure clarity (Source: TFTCentral 38)
You will notice an enormous difference if you use the glossy monitor to play games. Quoted from Jacob Roach - journalist at Digital Trends
"From the moment I booted up Destiny 2, it was clear: This is the best HDR picture I've seen on a monitor. That should show just how powerful the monitor finish is on the final product. The contrast is deep and moody, the colors pop off the screen in a way I've never seen before, and the brightness is only rivaled by a display like the Alienware 34 QD-OLED."
The Trade-off of using glossy monitors
However, just like any other technology, there are trade-offs to consider based on your use case. Because glossy monitors reflect light without dispersing, so they can appear more distracting in brightly lit environments (i.e., it's more mirror-like compared to matte). If you often find yourself working or playing games in direct sunlight or under fluorescent lights, you may want to stick with a matte finish.
Above: Visual demonstration showing the difference in reflections (Source: Dave2D )
Some gamers will prefer the look and feel of a matte monitor, while others will prefer the increased clarity of a glossy monitor. So, it comes down to personal preference, which is why we let you choose your coating when buying a Spectrum monitor.
The reason for the lack of glossy monitors before Dough Spectrum's Introduction
We are very familiar with the glossy coating of TVs and mobile devices. However, it was not applied to gaming monitors until the Dough Spectrum. The implementation requires recalibration of the production line that gaming manufacturers are seemingly unwilling to commit to. But the beauty of our crowd development is that provided there is enough demand for it; we are here to make it happen. And we did. After extensive research on reflections, we had the fantastic opportunity to work on an exclusive glossy project with our display manufacturing partner, LG Displays. In December, we probed your interest in a glossy screen and got your strong support to make it. In February, we officially confirmed that we would offer glossy coating variants to our Spectrum line-up. Finally, we began shipping the first units out to our customers in July. If you're still undecided whether a glossy monitor is right for you, check out the detailed third-party reviews comparing the differences.
Grab a glossy or matte monitor in Spectrum 4K 144Hz line to immerse yourself fully into the game-changing Spectrum experience.
In Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Matte and Glossy Monitors Compared
In summary, matte and glossy monitors offer distinct advantages and disadvantages. Matte monitors are popular for office environments and settings with high ambient light due to their ability to scatter light and reduce glare, which in turn reduces eyestrain and discomfort for users. They also have the added benefit of being less prone to showing dust and fingerprints, making them easier to maintain. Glossy monitors, on the other hand, are popular for their ability to produce more vivid and lifelike colors, making them ideal for gaming and entertainment purposes. However, they are more prone to glare and reflections, which can be distracting and uncomfortable for you if you have no control over your lighting conditions. But ultimately, the choice between matte and glossy monitors comes down to personal preference and the intended use of the monitor.