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What exactly is a glossy display? Is the glossy display used in the MacBook better or worse than the previous iBook display?
In a few words, a "glossy display" is one that has a "glossy" or "reflective" finish instead of the "matte" finish traditionally used by Mac notebooks.
In the original marketing copy for the MacBook, Apple heralds that the 13.3-inch "glossy widescreen display" is:
79% brighter with 30% more viewing area than the iBook before it, MacBook provides the perfect combination of pixels and portability. Photos feel crisper. Movies play vividly. Even daily tasks like surfing the Web and checking email take on a whole new sheen.
In an interview with MacWorld UK, Apple's Director of Portables Worldwide Product Marketing, Todd Benjamin says "we say glossy because when you look at the screens you'll see a glossy appearance. It means colours are much richer, they look great. . . users watching DVDs on a new portable MacBook should appreciate the extra lustre."
If you've ever walked past a PC laptop and noticed that its screen was incredibly reflective, you've seen the same type of screen that's been incorporated in the MacBook. While it's too early for me to have reached a judgment about whether this new screen style is an improvement to Apple's older, anti-glare screens, I am sure of this: some people will love it, and others will hate it. In the right conditions the glossy screen looks absolutely gorgeous; however, it's also remarkably reflective, and it can be quite distracting to continually see yourself reflected back by your laptop's screen.
The full piece is well worth reading in its entirety, but the author laments that:
Glossy displays have effectively taken over the entire laptop market. Why are they so popular? Here are three possible reasons.
1. They are better than matte-finish displays.
2. They are cheaper than matte-finish displays.
3. People are idiots.
The author then concludes:
In "shopping mode," . . . all people see [is] shiny, saturated, sharp. Customers aren't trying to read the screens or move the laptops to different locations in different kinds of lighting. Shopping is almost always an emotional experience, not a rational one. The fallout is predictable, particularly in the world of retail electronics. . .
It seems pretty obvious to me that shiny "looks better," and that's why it's taken over the laptop market. This makes me sad, and not a little bitter. Thus, reason number three. People are idiots.
A quick review of the comments posted on Slashdot reflect the variety of opinion. Some think it's great, others think it is a "step backwards" compared to the display used in the now discontinued iBook models, and still others think it isn't a big deal one way or another.
Ultimately, whether the glossy display used in the MacBook is better or worse depends on your personal needs and preferences. You may wish to evaluate a system in person to determine whether or not it is the right display for you. Some MacBook Pro models are available with both "matte" and "glossy" displays.