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Are the "glossy" displays used by the 20-Inch and 24-Inch Aluminum iMac models better or worse than the displays used in the previous White iMac models?
Please note that all Aluminum iMac models with 20-Inch and 24-Inch displays have been discontinued. Models with 21.5-Inch and 27-Inch displays first were introduced on October 20, 2009.
It at least partially depends on your definition of "better" or "worse."
On a straight "specs to specs" comparison, the displays used by all 20-inch Aluminum Core 2 Duo models -- Original, "Early 2008/Penryn", and "Early 2009" -- have a reduced viewing angle but are slightly brighter (160 degrees vertical and horizontal and 290 cd/m2 compared to 170 degrees and 280 cd/m2 for the iMac "Core 2 Duo" 2.16 20-Inch).
All 24-inch Aluminum Core 2 Duo models use a display that is slightly dimmer than that used by the iMac "Core 2 Duo" 2.16 24-Inch -- On August 7, 2007, Apple originally published that the Aluminum models used a display that provided "380 nits" of brightness, but changed this a few days later to 385 cd/m2 compared to 400 cd/m2 for the previous "White" model -- but each have the same viewable angle of 178 degrees horizontal and vertical.
The 20-inch Aluminum Core 2 Duo models use a lower quality 6-bit display rather than the 8-bit display used by its predecessor -- as the reduced viewable angle attests -- and some customers were disappointed enough regarding the quality of the 20-inch displays to file suit against Apple over the issue. However, the difference between the displays used in the 24-inch models is fairly negligible from a quality standpoint.
Perhaps the most notable difference for the majority of users between the displays used by the Aluminum models and their predecessors is that the Aluminum models have displays with a "glossy" finish rather than a "matte" one.
Much like the glossy display used on the MacBook models, reviewers from AppleInsider, MacWorld, and ArsTechnica had mixed opinions and essentially agree that it is a matter of personal preference and intended use.
Each complete review should be read in its entirety, but a portion of each writer's opinion regarding the display is below for your perusal:
Like the 13.3-inch MacBook, the gloss is intended to produce bolder colors compared to the occasionally washed-out look of matte screens. For the average home user. . . in a properly-lit room, reflections are still a fact of life but are seldom distracting enough to overwhelm the positives of the new display. Still, we question the wisdom of a glossy display, especially for the large surface area of our test unit. But it's not the fatal blow some would have expected.
Ask a professional artist or video editor what they think, however, and you'll likely receive a very different opinion. The same vivid colors that make the screen "pop" also distort the perceived colors for producers trying to judge how well the image will translate to someone's print ad or DVD. Reflections play even more havoc with accuracy by hiding detail and blending into the on-screen colors. Using a fixed color profile mitigates the problem but just shouldn't be necessary for a system being marketed to both home users and pro customers alike.
The glass makes the display look bright and crisp. Colors pop, the blacks look rich, and images are very pleasing. I've come to enjoy the glossy displays on Apple's laptop models, but it can be potentially problematic on this larger model under certain conditions. The monitor’s high level of reflectivity means that if your iMac is set up in a place with a lot of light, the display can act very much like a mirror. . .
Some people may find the glossy screen distracting, especially since the 20- and 24-inch displays are bigger than anything you'll find in Apple's MacBook line. And unlike with a laptop, it’s not as easy fiddle with the iMac's position and angle to find the perfect placement (although you can train your eyes to look "behind" the glass and ignore your reflection after a while).
I was very conscious of the glare when I first sat down in front of the iMac, but after a couple of minutes, I forgot all about it. Apparently, my eyes adjusted to it, or my brain tuned it out. Either way, the glossy screen was not a distraction during periods of prolonged use.
That said, I noticed the glare each time I sat down at the iMac, and as I type this sentence, I can see the reflection of the window behind my desk in the iMac's display. Overall, I found the glare much more distracting when looking at the display from an angle rather than head on. If you hate glossy displays with a passion, you're going to want to pass on this iteration of the iMac; glossy is the only game in town.
For more, you may wish to read through a variety of opinions from a "Reader Report" courtesy of the always excellent MacInTouch and "Feedback" from the also excellent AccelerateYourMac. Ultimately, however, your opinion is the only one that matters. You may wish to evaluate any Aluminum iMac Core 2 Duo models in person to determine whether or not you find the "glossy" display to be acceptable.