'Book Value

Apple Finally Brings Antiglare to 15" MacBook Pro

Charles Moore - 2009.08.13 - Tip Jar

While Apple's "announcement" consisted only of a additional line of text and a new pulldown menu on the Apple Store's 15" MacBook Pro (MBP) build-to-order options page, for some folks Apple's quiet capitulation to the clamor for restoration of a not-glossy display alternative for the mid-sized MBP was a pretty huge development.

Low End Mac's own Dan Knight rhapsodized that the $50 antiglare display option tips the scales in favor of the 15" MacBook Pro as probably the perfect computer - at least for him at some future point when he's ready to leave Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" and Classic Mode behind.

Having been beating the "laptops are the logical Mac for most of us" drum for more than a decade now, I'm delighted at Dan's professed excitement over the unibody 15-incher's new display option and hope it eventually does entice him back into the 'Book brigade.

However, after nearly six months on my 13" Unibody MacBook, which is my first-ever machine with a glossy display, I'm not sure I would go for the antiglare alternative even if it were offered at no extra cost.

MacBook Value

I also agree with Dan that Apple's dropping the price of the entry-level 15" MacBook Pro to $1,699 a couple of months ago represented a more compelling value teaser, although I still staunchly champion the new 13" MacBook Pro introduced at the same time as the all-time value for the money king of Apple laptops to date.

For one thing, in comparison to the preceding model (the one I have), the base 13" MBP gained a whole lot and lost very little, other than $100 of sticker price. It no longer has discrete audio in/out jacks, but rather an iPod-style combo jack, but otherwise it's all good news: FireWire is back (über-huge), and now there's an SD Card slot as well. What a deal!

By contrast, while the price-leader 15" MBP is now $300 cheaper in price-of-entry to the midsize club, it lost quite a bit in terms of spec, not only the Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT GPU with dedicated VRAM that graced the preceding $1,999 15" base model (additional to the excellent Nvidia 9400M integrated graphics chipset that is carried over) but also gets the cheaper, albeit probably more practically useful to more users, SD Card slot instead of its predecessor's ExpressCard 34 slot. (There has been dismay among the smallish minority of 15" MBP fans who actually used the ExpressCard slot and in some instances found it mission-critical.)

Nevertheless, I won't quibble with Dan's value assessment too much. The discrete GPU was a nice option to have if one even occasionally worked with high-end graphics or video - or was serious about gaming - but for an awful lot of us neither really apply, and I'm happy to affirm the base 15-incher as number-two value leader in Apple's MacBook matrix after that sweet 2.26 GHz $1,199 13" Pro.

But the 13" MacBook Pro still doesn't have an antiglare display coating option, at least not build-to-order from Apple. TechRestore will be happy to retrofit your 13" or 15" unibody MacBook Pro with a real matte-finish display (not just an antiglare coating) for $199.99 (or, for that matter, your polycarbonate-bodied old-school MacBook for $169) including two-way shipping.

Both screen finish and resolution are subjective priorities, of course. Personally, it's not a big issue for me, and I can be perfectly happy with either matte, which my first dozen years of Mac 'Books all had, or the glossy display on my delightful 13" MacBook. After six months, I haven't noticed any eyestrain.


I'm also constrained to observe that up until the wholesale switch to LCD/TFT flat screen monitors began about a decade ago, only laptop users had matte displays - virtually everyone else used glassy, glossy-surfaced CRT monitors that usually had curved screen surfaces to boot. I actually did experience eyestrain from using CRT desktop monitors that I found happily disappeared when I switched to using a laptop in 2006 (although that probably had more to do with the CRT's refresh cycling than the displays' surface finish).

That said, I am obliged to concede that the antiglare advocates do have some science on their side. Queensland University of Technology at Brisbane, Australia, has posted a page on its Health and Safety Website containing considerations for Apple Macintosh and other glass or high gloss monitor screen users, warning that glossy displays could cause operators to adopt "awkward postures" when viewing the screen that may in turn lead to injury.

The Aussie university suggests users of high gloss monitor screens should assess the area where the laptop or monitor will be used to ensure that sources of reflections and glare are eliminated or minimized to reduce potential for injury based on the following points:

  • The amount of time that the monitor will be used during a workday. If the screen is only used for short stretches, some of the control options may not be necessary, while if the monitor is being used frequently or continuously, potential for injury increases and should be managed.
  • Place the monitor so that the glossy screen is at a 90 degree angle to overhead lighting to minimize glare and reflection and/or adjust the monitor screen tilt slightly so reflections from both internal and external sources are minimized. It's also suggested that venetian blinds or shades be closed to reduce glare and reflections from windows.
  • Adjusting the screen contrast to a low brightness setting can help increase readability for the user,
  • Consider positioning the glossy monitor on another section of the desktop where it won't be affected by reflections and/or glare.
  • Consider consultation with a building lighting engineer to determine if overhead lighting can be modified, such as by removing fluorescent tubes, while still providing adequate light levels.

The university also suggests considering the purchase of other types of computers or monitors that offer matte screens, and has posted further information on recommended use of screen-based equipment.


As for screen resolution, I quite enjoyed the 1440 x 900 display in my 17" PowerBook that was my primary workhorse for three years, but didn't find it a traumatic jolt or even much of a bother adapting back down to the 1280 x 800 resolution of my 13" Unibody MacBook. Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard's Spaces feature has eliminated most of the inconvenience of working with modest display real estate.

My biggest complaint is depth. I do miss those extra 100 pixels of vertical headroom. Of course, I still spend several hours a day working on a Pismo PowerBook with a 1024 x 768 resolution display, and get along reasonably happily, even without Leopard and Spaces, and having cut my laptop teeth on a PowerBook 5300 with a 9.5" grayscale passive-matrix 640 x 480 display, everything since has seemed luxuriously expansive. ;-)

There's also an aesthetics point that bears noting. The new "matte" display 15" MacBook Pro also dispenses with the black display bezel of the glossy version and replaces it with a silver metallic surround, which to my sense of aesthetics detracts from the looks. I'm a pushover for glossy "piano black" on pretty much anything, and I love the look of my MacBook's display decor.

However, more choice is always good, and if an antiglare screen option eliminates a deal-breaker issue for potential MacBook Pro users, I'm gung-ho for it. Let's have it available for the 13" Pro as well, Apple. How hard can that be?

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

Links for the Day

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ


The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's Amazon.com store


Open Link