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Matte Screen Option Returns to 15-inch MacBook Pro

Apple has quietly reintroduced the antiglare matte display as a premium option to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Recently, and without notice, the company updated its online store to offer the antiglare display option for $50. The option had been available only for the 17-inch MacBook Pro. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook remain available only with a glossy display.

In October 2008, Apple moved the unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup to glossy displays, doing away with an option for a matte screen. The 17-inch MacBook Pro, released in January 2009, retained the option for a matte display. (For details, see “On the Way Out: FireWire and Matte Screens?,” 2008-10-18.)

It’s worth noting that Apple also brought FireWire back with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, leaving the MacBook Air as the only Mac without FireWire; see “Apple Refreshes MacBook Line at WWDC,” 2009-06-08.

The decision generated a thunderstorm of scorn from users who found the glossy display’s glare to be a distraction. Most people agreed that the new displays were brighter, had deeper blacks, and offered more saturated colors, but the inevitable glare that resulted in brightly lit environments caused a divide among users. While many found the glare easy enough to ignore – or at least worth the trade-off for better colors and brightness, others found the reflection to be too distracting.

Underlining the vitriol was the fact that Apple had removed what many felt was an essential option, rather than acknowledge differing opinions on such a central design feature. While it’s easy to see why Apple would want to streamline options with consumer-level systems, to do so for models targeted at working professionals was insulting.

Many MacBook Pro users are design and graphics professionals who spend their days tweaking subtle visual details. If Apple expected these users to continue buying premium systems, the company needed to acknowledge that not everyone fits comfortably into the same box; that’s especially true with visual perception, where opinions on what’s best vary widely. Wasn’t this the company that encouraged us to Think Different?

Given this context, Apple’s reversal deserves some applause, as it’s apparent the cries of snubbed users have been heard. Yet there remains the issue of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. If Apple truly sees the smallest MacBook Pro model as appropriate for professional users (and we think it is), why should it be denied the display options of its larger brethren?

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