For many years, those of us who prefer the Mac platform and a high-quality matte display have had to avoid Apple screens that are glossy (highly reflective) or use an invasive screen protector, which I dislike. Since several years ago, Apple began offering iMac computers exclusively with an ultra reflective screen, many have avoided the iMac in favor of either a tower (Mac Pro) or a Mac Mini. Many ProVideo Coalition readers will recall two of my 2011 articles which covered how STAFF HDTV/Alta Definición from Guatemala re-purposed its older Mac Pro tower for its DaVinci Resolve grading suite, and then found better performance in the editing room with a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac Mini together with a Pegasus disk array. At that time, they chose the Mac Mini over the iMac since they wanted matte monitors (not glossy). I have just become aware of a free, simple, non-invasive, and easily reversible approach to making an iMac become much more matte without using any screen protector.
In this article
- What’s bad and good about glossy screens
- My first awareness of the identity of the primary culprit
- John Lord’s revealing video which illustrates how simple it is to do
- Joshua Sowin quantifies the difference in reflectivity
- The matte (mate) play-on-words from South America
- When an iMac is more powerful than a Mac Mini
- Sign the petition
- Related articles
- Photo credit for main image
What’s bad and good about glossy screens
- Bad for your back: An advisory from Queensland University of Technology states that: “reflections and glare on high gloss monitor screens and their relation to the angle of the monitor screen could cause the operator to adopt awkward postures when viewing the monitor screen and using related equipment.”
- They distract, cause eyestrain, and premature fatigue.
- Men can use the glossy screen to shave when a mirror is not available. I have had occasion to do this myself when traveling to a place where there was no convenient mirror.
- Women can use the glossy screen when combing their hair.
- Both women and men can use them as a security feature, to determine who may be sneaking up behind them.
My first awareness of the glass being the primary culprit, in the HP Z1 workstation
Back in February 2012, I was at the HP media event, where they launched their Z1 all-in-one workstation, which Richard Harrington later covered in this video interview at NAB 2012. (At that HP media event, I met Jacob Rosenberg, chief technical officer and partner of Bandito Brothers, which created Act of Valor. Then I published this article about their use of the HP DreamColor monitor throughout the production, and later supplemented the article with details provided by from Mike McCarthy, Act of Valor‘s production engineer and online editor.)
The HP Z1 workstation, highly configurable by the end-user, comes standard with a highly-reflective screen and unfortunately lacks Thunderbolt and eSATA. Either of the two would have been fine. Offering neither of the two is unacceptable for me.
Despite all of its positive points, I was disappointed in the Z1 because of the following:
- The Z1 (like current iMacs) has a very glossy display (unlike the beloved HP DreamColor monitor).
- The Z1 lacks Thunderbolt.
- The Z1 lacks eSATA (which is even present in many HP professional laptop computers).
All directly attached modern disk arrays I know use either eSATA or Thunderbolt. Even though the Z1 offers USB 3.0, I’m not aware of any USB 3.0 connected RAID5 (or better) systems. Thunderbolt or eSATA are the ideal ways to connect a directly attached disk array nowadays.
During the hands-on session with the Z1 at the HP media event, where they covered how accessible all of the components are to the end-user, I reiterated my previous astonishment about the highly reflective display and asked why they had used it. The immediate response was that HP had struggled to find front glass for it that would be matte and at the same time would have the quality they were seeking. At that point, I became emotional and said: “Something is wrong with this picture! You are HP, the creators of the DreamColor monitor, which is the ultimate example of a high-quality matte screen! How is it possible that HP was able to create such a perfect high-quality matte screen for the DreamColor and not for the Z1 workstation?”
At that point, the HP representative clarified that the actual panel in the Z1 is just as matte as the one in the DreamColor monitor, and that the difference was in the ultra-reflective glass that is mounted in front of the Z1 for esthetic reasons. Since he had just been showing us how accessible and user-configurable the Z1 is, I asked whether the end user could remove the glass to reveal the pure matte panel behind it. He said that it was possible, but it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as the other user-removable components he had been describing previously.
Later that day, I discussed this with Jeff Gamet, who was also present at the HP media event. For those who don’t already know Jeff, he is the managing editor of The Mac Observer, and he and I are both very fond of the HP DreamColor monitor, although Jeff’s experience with it is much more with photo retouching and desktop publishing (print), and mine is much more with video. Jeff had the same concerns with the Z1 as I did, and I wondered aloud whether the iMac’s high reflectivity might also be due to the glass, more then the panel itself. Jeff remembered having seen an iMac once in a repair facility and thought it was less reflective with the glass removed, but couldn’t be sure exactly how much. However, at that time (in February 2012), I still thought that the removal of the glass from an iMac would be quite difficult and invasive, until I stumbled upon this video from John Lord.
John Lord’s revealing video which illustrates how simple it is to remove the ultra-reflective glass from an iMac
John Lord’s video illustrates how simple it is to remove the ultra-reflective glass from an iMac using a tool that’s already present in all households, and in many offices.
After seeing how simple it is to remove the glass, I investigated further to see how much it would affect the reflectivity.
Joshua Sowin quantifies the difference in reflectivity
In his article called A free & easy way to make your glossy iMac screen glare-free from April 2009 (I wish I had known about this sooner), Joshua Sowin states that removing the glass reduces about 50% of the glare. In that same article, Joshua states that: “Anti-glare add-in filters suck”. I agree with him!
Joshua Sowin’s article features Ian Richardson’s video, which shows the use of a different device to remove the iMac glass, and also how to clean the panel. Ian Richardson’s video also shows how to clean the glass and how to re-install it, which is of course not appropriate if you want your iMac to be matte, but is good if you ever want to re-sell the iMac in the future to someone who loves the glossy look.
Joshua’s complete article is available here.
The matte (mate) play-on-words from parts of South America
Photo by Jorge Alfonso Hernández, used by permission under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Since the word matte in Castilian (aka “Spanish”) is spelled and pronounced the same as the infused drink mate (often consumed in Argentina, parts of Bolivia, the southern states of Brazil, the south of Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay), invariably when I have a conversation about matte screens with people from (or familiar with) the region make a play-on-words about it. [The English guide to pronounce the word is “mah-tey” with emphasis on the first syllable. (If you mistakenly emphasize the last syllable, you’ll inadvertently say “I killed”.)] So when discussing matte screens in Castilian with people familiar with this drink, they often make a joke about drinking mate while viewing the matte monitor.
When an iMac is more powerful than a Mac Mini
Even though a built-to-order Mac Mini with i7 processor (or Mac Mini Server) has proven to be wonderful for video editing (as covered in Mac Mini for pro video editing: a field report from Guatemala), it is not an officially supported platform for DaVinci Resolve (as I’ll be covering in detail in upcoming articles), while the iMac is currently supported for DaVinci Resolve for certain modes.
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Sign the petition to request more matte options from Apple
Related Thunderbolt articles
- AJA announces T-TAP, the US$249 palm-sized, self-powered bridge from Thunderbolt to HDMI or SDI
- Thunderbolt in MacBook Pro: a new era for demanding video editors who prefer laptops from February 27th, 2011
- Mac Mini w/Thunderbolt: preferred platform for many new editing systems from August 8th, 2011
- Blackmagic delivers its first Thunderbolt-based i/o interface, the UltraStudio 3D from September 5th, 2011
- Matrox adds optional Thunderbolt connectivity to existing MXO2 family interfaces from September 5th, 2011
- AJA announces Io XT interface with Thunderbolt at IBC in Amsterdam from September 9, 2011
- Blackmagic breaks Thunderbolt price budget with US$299 Intensity Extreme from September 9, 2011
- Despite gloomy predictions from the naysayers, the Mac Mini beats the MacPro tower for video editing”>Mac Mini for pro video editing: a field report from Guatemala:
Despite gloomy predictions from the naysayers, the Mac Mini beats the MacPro tower for video editing from October 18, 2011
- Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID5 from PROMISE: The high-performance video RAID5 you need for today’s modern Mac systems from January 31, 2012
- AJA’s Io XT w/ Thunderbolt is now available, but it is not Riker: What’s the cover-up? Why are William Riker and Leo Laporte involved in a Pegasus cover-up? from January 31, 2012
Related DreamColor articles
- Allan T©pper’s: Does Premiere CS5 achieve the “impossible dream” for critical evaluation monitoring?
- Allan T©pper’s: Why should I care if my monitor shows ITU Rec.709?
- Allan T©pper’s: Who is the ITU, and why should I care?
- Allan T©pper’s: How to connect your HD evaluation monitor to your editing system properly: Let me count the ways!
- Allan T©pper’s review: DreamColor from HP: an ideal tool for critical image evaluation
- Patrick Inhofer’s review: HP’s DreamColor: A PVM CRT Replacement?
- Allan T©pper’s: DreamColor direct interfaces
- Allan T©pper’s: DreamColor converter boxes for non-compliant systems
- Allan T©pper’s: Matrox’s original MXO crashes the Direct DreamColor interface party from January 10, 2010
- Art Adam’s: GEEK OUT: The Non-Technical Technical Guide to Sony OLED Monitors from March 6, 2012
- Allan T©pper’s Bandito Brothers use multiple HP DreamColors + Adobe Premiere for Act of Valor from March 9, 2012
Photo credit for this article’s main image
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