Displays are made up of many different layers that each influence the image and user experience. The backlight layer responsible for illuminating the screen and the LCD layer responsible for producing the image are well-known by many, but in this topic we’ll discuss a layer that most users see right through. Literally. The top layer of a display panel not only serves to protect the panel from its environment, it also greatly influences reflections and color performance.
Always on the lookout
Back when we were developing Spectrum, we heard the voices calling for a glossy display. And though we looked into the possibilities at the time, including options using cover glass, we were unable at the time to source a panel that did not have a matte anti-glare coating. It was our first foray into the monitor market, and manufacturers weren’t going to stop production lines that were pumping our hundreds of thousands of panels just to make a couple thousand special ones just for us.
Even though this was not an option at the time, we have not stopped asking our suppliers about future possibilities. Between the success of Spectrum and our continued requests, display supplier LG Display has reached out to us to participate in the development of a glossy display panel.
In general, glossy screens offer deeper darks, brighter whites, and richer colors compared to displays with a matte finish. However, their smoothness also introduces reflections. Room lights and windows mirrored in the screen surface can interfere with the image shown, and can even cause fatigue as your eyes strain to make out the intended picture. Because of this, glossy screens are much more common in TVs than in computer monitors: Light in a living room often is often much more controlled when you’re watching TV, reducing the impact of reflections.
The reduced reflections of a matte screen improve visibility of your content if your monitor is affected by strong direct or ambient light. This can increase comfort and reduce eye strain. 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.
The increased clarity of a glossy panel makes darks darker, lights lighter, and colors more vivid. Due to its reflective nature, it also mirrors its environment, especially bright lights. This can cause interference with the image shown. If you can control the environment, the picture will be amazing, but if the screen reflects strong lights it may be frustrating instead.
Your ideal top layer
What do you think – is the improved image quality worth a few reflections? Do you have good control over the light sources around your work or play space? What does your ideal display finish look like and why?