Shiny, shiny! The window's behind me...

Has the matte-screen lobby finally given up?

Matte proud

To my possibly muddled brain, glass surfaces that have been fuzzed with acid or an anti-glare coating are harder to see through. I wouldn’t have this done to the windows in my house, the windscreen in my car nor the spectacles sitting on my nose. Doing so would make everything on the other side harder to see.

What shiny surfaces are best at, though, is reflectivity. Light sources or brightly lit objects situated behind you reflect readily in shiny computer displays, especially in dark areas of the screen. The image gets obscured and it becomes hard work just to see anything at all.

Sure, dickheads can go to silly extremes just to make a point, such as deliberately positioning their computers so that massive, bright windows are directly behind them and then go complaining that shiny screens and voices made them do it. Please, if you’ve done this yourself, go read Meddlesome Ratbag in Viz comic because that’s the kind of nobend you are turning into.

Viz' Meddlesome Ratbag

Source: Viz/Dennis Publishing

I work with two monitors side by side. One happens to be shiny, the other matte. Both are unusable if I sit with bright windows, kitchen spots, blinking Chistmas lights, a smelting factory or the core of the sun directly behind me... so I don’t do any of those things. When I look at my watch and I can’t read the time because of a reflection on the glass, I gently adjust the angle of my wrist so that the reflection goes away. When I work at my notebook and its angled shiny screen tends to pick up ceiling lighting, I adjust the display angle.

But all of this is irrelevant. If you want a matte display, you should damn well be able to get one. Back in 2009, all that the matte camp - and there are millions of you - was asking was to have a choice. Yet as far as I can see, the situation has worsened: every bloody computer, notebook, smartphone and TV set has gone glossy whether you like it or not. Despite apparent massive demand for matte screens, we’re all expected to be shiny happy people holding hands in this glossy new world built for us by industrial product designers.

REM's Shiny, Happy People

Shiny = happy (it says here)
Source: Warner Music

I’ve been told that shiny “is what most people want” but I’m not sure that’s true. I’ve heard reasons that involve everything from manufacting processes to stock control. “What is it you do to keep your displays all shiny?” I want to ask, Decembrist-stylee. “And tell me why you lied!”

Forget Apple: they don’t do choice, so you’re wasting your time there. Instead, I think it’s time to reload this debate and put new pressure on other manufacturers to offer matte-screen options. My matte display, by the way, is a Samsung. They know a thing or two about making screens, I hear.

What’s really starting to bother me is that perhaps people who work at matte-screen displays really do find it easier to concentrate. That might explain why their open-plan area is quiet and the shiny area isn’t: they’re getting more work done.

No chance!

Oh, and just for anyone in their 40s, this is what you’ve been humming since reading the headline:

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. The worst matte-screen device he has ever tested was the View Quest BookBox e-reader. Lovely people, admirable company, but it was like trying to read through a layer of coarsely granulated sugar.

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