Updated

Reflections on TVs
Glossy and matte

What it is: How much light is reflected by the TV.
When it matters: Bright rooms.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Reflections refers to the amount of light that will appear on a TV screen when there are other sources of light in the room. Some TVs take on a yellow tint when light is shining on them, and on others, objects that reflect on the screen are well defined, and distracting. If you watch TV in a bright room, it’s important to get a TV that can handle reflections in a way that looks good in your setup.

For reflections, we take two photos: one of the TV reflecting a moderate amount of light, and one of the TV reflecting a large amount of light. We also measure the amount of light reflected by the TV as a percentage of the luminance of the light source, and verify the kind of screen finish that is used on the TV.

Test results

See our results for 2013 & 2014 TVs.

When it matters

If your television is in your living room, light can become quite an annoyance during daytime viewing. Light shining into your viewing area can reduce the perceivable contrast of the onscreen material, and if light is shining directly onto the screen, it can be very difficult to see through the reflection.

1.9% reflection (w/ rainbow glare)
0.7% reflection (no additional glare)

If you have lights in your room, or sources of sunlight, the way reflections appear on your TV are going to be important. Keep in mind that all TVs reflect some amount of light, so you won't be able to totally avoid reflections if you watch TV in a bright room. It’s also worth mentioning that in bright rooms, it's not only how much light is reflected that is important, but also how bright a TV's backlight is capable of getting.

Our tests

Picture

Our first picture captures the amount of reflection that you would see with light sources of moderate strength shining on the TV. The TVs use our regular calibration settings for this photo, meaning they’re set for a dark room. If you watch TV in a dark room that sometimes or often has a bit of light opposite the TV, this test will be of some importance to you.

Initial test image
 
Reflection picture

For this test, we display the image on the left on the TV, and we set up and power on a lamp opposite the screen, and then take a photo. The TV’s backlight is set so that white emits at 100 cd/m2, which is appropriate for darker rooms. The two lights both have a color temperature of 6500k; one is the equivalent of 40W in strength, and the other is the equivalent of 60W.

Picture (bright)

We take a second photo of the TV, this time with a much brighter source of light opposite the TV. This test is meant to simulate the kind of reflections you might experience in a bright room, with a window shining on the TV. If that’s a concern for your current setup, this test will be pretty important.

Initial test image
 
Reflection picture (bright)

For this test, we display the image on the left on the TV, and we set up and power on a few lamps (the two from the initial picture test + a soft box) opposite the screen, and then take a photo. Because the lights are so bright, we set the TV’s backlight to the maximum, as that’s the only way to prevent the details from being totally washed out. The soft box has a color temperature of 5500k.

Reflection

What it is: Ratio of ambient light reflected by the TV.
When it matters: Ambient light in the room.
Good value: < 1%
Noticeable difference: 0.5%

Our reflection test results tell you the actual amount of light reflected by the TV. This helps categorize TVs in terms of how much light they reflect, which is of some importance, though it isn't quite as useful for most people as our subjective score, which also looks at how the reflections actually look.

To measure the amount of light a TV reflects, we power off the TV and shine a light on the screen. We use a luminance meter to measure the brightness of the light source, and then the luminance of the reflection on the TV’s screen. We then note the reflection's brightness as a percentage of that of the source.

Screen finish

What it is: Type of coating on the screen.
When it matters: Bright objects in the direct reflection path (for example, opposite the TV).
Good value: Glossy is good for ambient light, but not for direct reflections.

Our screen finish test verifies what kind of finish is used on the screen. Glossy finishes reflect less light, but have defined reflections, whereas reflections on semi-gloss screens are stronger, but look a bit hazier. Depending on your needs, one finish will be better than the other; we recommend a glossy finish for people who only have ambient light sources around their TV, and a semi-gloss finish for people who have a light source than shines directly on the TV’s screen.

There are really two ways this is verified. First, you can tell based on how much light is reflected. If a TV's reflections equal to less than 1% of the brightness of the lamp lights, the TV has a glossy screen finish. Over 1% means a semi-gloss finish.

The second is based on what the reflections look like. Glossy finishes have defined reflections, whereas reflections on semi-gloss screens look a bit hazier.

Score

Our reflection score is based on the subjective impression we get from reflections on a TV. We take into account the amount of light reflected (based on results of 'Reflection' test), as well as the appearance of reflections on the screen. Because there are multiple factors inherent to what kind of reflection will look good to a viewer, and it is difficult to compare all these objectively, we decided to make this score one of our few subjective evaluations. Since this is focused on what people will actually experience with their TV, we consider this the most important evaluation that we do for reflections.

Things like obvious discoloration when light shines on the screen, halos around light, glare, and clearly defined reflected objects in the screen are all considered negatives, and have an impact on our scoring for this category.

Additional information

Reflections & picture quality

Reflected light will change the appearance of the light generated by the TV itself, which changes how you perceive the colors, and also washes out some of the details.

As a rule, the more light there is in the room with your TV, the brighter the backlight should be. This will allow the TV to at least somewhat outcompete the other light sources, helping to retain intended color and let you enjoy details in the image that might otherwise be washed-out.

Glossy screens, matte screens & contrast

Glossy screen finishes reflect less light overall than do other screen finishes. Because there is less light reflected back, the blacks in the picture remain darker than they do on TVs with a semi-gloss screen. Contrast is one of the most important elements of picture quality, and so it is safe to say that, overall, glossy screen finishes offer the best picture quality of any screen finish.

This is also why matte screens are no longer around. The perceivable depth of blacks isn't as great with matte, and so in that regard, picture looked worse than it does with semi-gloss or glossy screens.

How to get the best results

The best way to diminish the appearance of reflections on your TV is to position the TV somewhere where there will be no light shining directly onto the screen. You should also raise the lighting (either backlight or OLED light) setting to the level that looks best in your space.

Related settings

  • Backlight/OLED light: Controls the luminance of the TV screen. If you want a TV that looks good in a bright room, you should get a TV with a backlight that can get very bright.
  • Peak brightness: Some higher-end TVs include an option to make an image’s highlights extra bright. This won’t be so useful for regular footage, but is important for HDR video.

Other notes

  • Glossy screen finishes reflect less light overall, but because reflections will look more defined, aren’t ideal for light sources directly opposite the TV. The outlines of reflections will look distracting. Get a glossy screen to cut down on ambient light, and a semi-gloss screen if light sources are opposite the screen. 
  • While matte screens used to be common, we have not seen any for a few years now. Their big disadvantage was that they reduced picture quality and clearness considerably. To reduce the amount of reflection, matte screens diffused the light coming into the screen – with the added effect of diffusing the light coming out of the screen. This added blurriness to the picture. Matte screens also reflect more ambient light. If you really want a matte screen, it’s possible to buy a filter online and apply it to your TV.
  • Virtually all high-end models use a glossy finish. This is because of the benefits to contrast and general picture quality that you get from having less light reflected back overall. Unfortunately, that means that if you really want a semi-gloss finish, high-end models won't be the best fit.

Conclusion

Light reflecting off of a TV screen can be distracting, or even ruin your TV’s picture. Some TVs are better at handling light than others, and the importance of getting one of these better performers increases for those who watch TV in a bright room. We take photos of each TV while it is reflecting a moderate and a high amount of light. We also measure the amount of light reflected by the screens, and check to see what kind of finish was used on the screen.

If you watch TV in a room that gets a decent amount of light, make sure you get a TV that can get nice and bright. You should also select a TV with a finish that works well for your TV’s positioning. For a TV that is directly opposite a light source, pick a semi-gloss screen, since those won’t make the reflection well-defined on the screen. For rooms with lots of ambient light, get a glossy screen, since those reflect back less light overall (but aren’t as good for direct reflections). Unfortunately for some, matte screens no longer exist, and so you will need to get a separate filter if you want your TV's screen to be matte.

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Questions & Answers

27 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
58
Is it worth investing in an anti-glare screen?
Check out our pictures of 2013's plasma TVs to see what an anti glare filter does. It works well, but it reduces the vertical viewing angle.
31
Thanks for the comparison! The TV Reflections guide top choice is a plasma TV (ST60). My understanding is that for a bright room with windows like mine, this model is the best choice, and better than any LED?
Not really. Yes, it has the least amount of reflection. However, there are two things to consider in a bright room: reflection and brightness. Plasmas (with the exception of the Samsung F8500) don't get very bright (82 cd/m2 for the ST60, compared to 300 cd /m2 for some LEDs). In a medium-bright room like the ones in our pictures, they are bright enough. However, if you have a lot of windows, you will need a TV which can get to at least 150 cd / m2.
13
We bought a Samsung LED, or LCD instead of a plasma. It is a 60 in screen. Problem is I can't see the picture from the side in the lighted room. Only when we sit right in front. We bought it because we didn't want glare, but now we can't see picture across the room. What do we do?
Samsung LEDs all have a very narrow viewing angle. If you haven't already, check out our viewing angle videos. If you need a wide viewing angle and want an LED, you are better off with an LG TV. Of course, plasma will have an even higher viewing angle, but entry level models have a lot of reflection.
12
I have a Sony SXRD kds-50a 2000 (green screen, therefore looking for a new TV) that does very well in my room facing four large windows and three more on the side. The only Sony TV I can find that seems to be a matte screen is the KDL60W850B. Do you think this will work in our 20x20 room? Seems like all the 4k models are glossy screens. Am I on the right track? I have been researching this for approximately two months, and I must say you have the BEST info that I can find (that applies to me) on the web. Thank you for this great site!
The KDL60W850B is semi-gloss, not matte. They don't produce pure matte TVs anymore. Glossier TVs have less ambient reflection, but in your scenario, the more defined reflections will be more of an issue. So go for the KDL60W850B. It is a great TV.
8
I am installing a TV outside under a patio. As the temps here in AZ can reach 110F, I wonder if that will be a problem? If so, is there a recommendation?
Will the TV be turned on at that temperature? The recommended max temperature is 120F, but the TV generates heat itself so if the airflow isn't good, it can go past that.
7
I find your site to be very informative, so thank you for that. I'm wondering why you don't have a section on vertical/horizontal banding, or the so-called "DSE"? It would be useful to know which sets suffer more from this, and which ones less so (or possibly even not at all, if such a set exists).
Thanks for the feedback. We will consider it when we update our test bench for next year, if we can come up with a good way of exposing it consistently for all TVs. Let us know if you have other suggestions!
Update: We added this test in 2014. Thanks again for that great suggestion!
7
My LED TV is placed very near a window and exposed to direct sunlight every day. A friend recommended that I always pull down the curtains, but it's tiring to do that every day. Does it really matter? What happens to the screen if it's exposed to the sun?
It doesn't really matter (except for the reflections when you are watching, of course). The direct sunlight will not damage your TV. The TV will likely break by itself long before the sun can visibly damage it.
7
We purchased an LED TV, but unfortunately, as it faced a large window, the screen acted like a mirror and we couldn't see the picture. We took it back and got a full refund. Our old TV is a matte finish, and so is much better. Is there any way around this, as we want to purchase a new TV?
Not really. TVs are now only semi-gloss or glossy. Depending on the model, though, some are better than others (as you can see in the pictures above).
7
We have a sunroof in the room, and in the afternoon it allows direct sunlight onto the wall where we want to place the TV. We are looking for a 55 - 65 inch TV. What do you recommend?
Sunlight directly on the TV will always cause problems, so you can't expect perfect visibility. Check out the Samsung H6350.
6
In your bright room reflection test, I don't see any correlation between the numbers and the bright white reflections (max white numbers). Some have lower numbers and big white blotches. Others have similar blotches and have high numbers. Smaller white blotches have the same thing happening - high or low numbers. I know YOU know what you have tested, but the idea is not coming across. (I hate being the dumbest kid in the class, uhrrr...but I gotta ask to learn, sensei!) Are the high numbers good or bad?
You are right, this isn't clear. In the 'Average room' test, it is pretty straightforward, because the number we show is the amount of reflections. The lower, the better. With the 'Bright room' test, the number is the maximum luminance (brightness). Bigger is better. However, the score of the 'Bright room' test is based on the combination of the reflection + brightness. We will think of a better way to represent this (any ideas are welcomed).
6
I have a two-month-old Samsung curved TV that has dead pixels. Samsung is sending a repairman out to replace the panel. Should I insist on a new TV?
Not really. If they replace the panel, it would be like getting a new one anyway.
5
I find your site very informative as well, but was wondering if you would be able to put a section where you ask to buy the size you are looking for instead of getting all the sizes priced out that you don't want.
Thanks for the feedback. We have this tool to navigate by size, but as you mentioned, it isn't very good. We will create something better.
Update: We decided to manually recommend TVs for each size group, for example.
3
I am interested in the 2014 Samsung pn64f5000 plasma. Have you had a chance to see this model? By the way, your site is #1 in my book. Better than CNET. Great reviews. Unbiased and no fluff. Just great unbiased info. Thank You!
Don't you mean the PN64H5000 instead? If so, we haven't. It looks just like the 2013 F5300/F5500 though. Those are great (except for the reflection problems).
3
I'm confused... in your "Bright Room" tests, you can clearly see that the H7150's reflection of the window is very minimal. Heck, you can still see some of the TV's images through the glare of the reflected window. So when other people have asked about this very problem, why did you recommend the H6350? Regardless of the screen finish, it seems to me the H7150 is still better. Maybe I just don't understand. Can you help me out? Thanks.
The H7150 reflects less light, yes. However, it is glossy. Even if you can better see the picture behind the reflected window, the eyes tend to focus on the reflection, not the screen. If the lights come from opposite of the TV (behind you), the H7150 isn't a good choice. But if the lights are overhead or coming from the side, the H7150 is better.
3
I have searched the internet and plowed through big box TV stores for two months to replace a Toshiba with a matte finish or anti glare screen. None of the high tech stuff is of value if you cannot watch it without looking through reflections and making the eyes perform millions of muscular movements to respond to the picture and NOT the reflections in the room from a lamp, window light, etc. The high tech stuff is not practical. I need a simple 32 inch TV with a matte finish screen that I can actually watch for more than three minutes without eyes watering. Can you please help?
We didn't encounter any TVs with a matte screen in 2014, and it seems that companies are moving away from selling them. If you want a matte finish for your screen, you'll likely need to buy a filter and apply it to a TV yourself. Here is a company that sells them.
Keep in mind that the conditions inside of a store are different from what you'll get in your home, so you shouldn't base your decisions off of glare you might see on the showroom floor. TVs with semi-gloss screens tend to handle themselves well in light, and are usually suitable for bright rooms.
3
Hi! Can you please tell me what you would recommend for a 32" 720p TV? I will not have a cable box hooked up to it - just the cable from the wall - and it will be on a patio that will get indirect sunlight from the west. Thanks so much. I am really enjoying your site for the first time!
Since the sunlight is indirect, you shouldn't have to worry too much. Most decent TVs can get bright enough that some ambient light won't be a problem.
The best TV we reviewed in 2014 that is available in a 32" size is the H6350, which is a 1080p TV. It has good contrast and should have decent uniformity, and it comes with Samsung's smart features. If you want to save money and go for a 720p set, the Vizio E320i-A2 offers similar quality for less money (it has slightly worse black uniformity, but comparable contrast), though its smart offerings aren't as good.
2
How many hertz is a Samsung TV with a clear motion rate of 8oo?
You can convert the CMR number into the refresh rate using this table.
2
I saw a recommendation that now is not the time to buy a new UHD Smart TV, because current models have 8 bit chip technology, and 10 bit chips will be introduced very soon. I don't want to invest in an immediately obsolete device. Your advice?
There will always be something new on the horizon. If you use that logic, you will never buy a new gadget, because it will be even better next year. The 10 bit adoption will be an even longer one than 4k in terms of content, so I wouldn't wait for that one.
1
Most TVs seem to have lousy built-in speakers. I am looking at 48-50 inch sets with clear, loud speakers built in. I am trying to avoid buying the all-in-one speaker box you can set the TV on for around $300.
Unfortunately, we didn't test the sound quality on our TVs this year. We wanted to simplify our testing process and focus on picture quality. You are right that TVs have very poor sound in general. They optimize for the thinness of the TV, which is a problem when it comes to sound. Manufacturers don't really care, though, because not only does it help bring the cost of the TV down, but they can also sell you another device.
1
If reflection is a problem, wouldn't it be better to buy secondhand "old technology," say a non-LED LCD TV? My seven-year-old LG has virtually no reflections, even though there is an entire wall of windows behind my sitting area. There is nothing I would give it up for.
If you really want a matte screen, your best option is to apply a matte film to the screen. For example, this company makes some. Keep in mind that a matte screen reduces the apparent contrast ratio (and thus the picture quality).
1
We brought home three that looked like good candidates. They were awful from any angle. My wife said she can put on her makeup with them because they reflect so well. All the hype about picture technology, but what is it worth if you cannot view without the eyestrain of looking through the reflections? My close friend spent a bundle on one of those applique filters. They sent him a smear tool to lay it on and get the air bubbles out of it. He worked so hard on it for over an hour that he shaved off a bubble and left a huge hole in it. He got help from a sign company on the second attempt. They put expensive "wraps" on cars and buses. They did the same thing. Two filters ruined, house call from vinyl sign shop, and in the end it cost more than the TV. Thanks.
Glossy and semi-gloss screens aren't for everyone, so it's too bad matte screens aren't more available to those whose setups would benefit from them. It's true that it can be difficult to apply a filter to a TV screen, and people should take that into consideration when purchasing a TV with the intention of adding a filter. Thanks for sharing your experience with this.
0
We have a wide viewing area. Is there an appreciable improvement of color saturation and picture quality between the e70 and the m70? Is a dead pixel (black when screen is light) a normal thing, or a problem to be repaired and a possible indication of a bad set?
No, they both have the same viewing angle issue. As for the dead pixel, make sure it isn't just a stuck pixel. Apply slight pressure to it while turning the TV on and off. This often fixes the issue. If it stays there, return your TV.
0
Which is better, the Vizo M4221-B1 or the Samsung UN40H5201A, and why?
We didn't test the H5201, but we expect it would be about the same as the H5203. The Vizio M has less motion blur, which is important if you want to play video games or watch sports. It also comes with motion interpolation capability, handles itself better in brightly lit rooms, and it looks nicer aesthetically. The 5201 does have slightly better color uniformity, but its build quality is quite cheap, and its smart capabilities are sluggish. Overall, the Vizio M is a better buy.
0
Looking for the best anti-reflective TV I can buy in my area. The closest I have available to what you have reviewed is the Samsung H6300. Is that model similar to any that were reviewed?
Yes, the H6300 should be the same as the H6350, which we reviewed here. It performs quite well in a bright room. If the light source is off to the side, you might want to try to find an H7150 or H7100 (both the same TV), as those have a glossy screen that reflects very little ambient light. They aren't quite as good as the H6300 for light sources that are directly opposite the screen, though, as the reflections are quite defined.
0
Just bought an LG LF6090. When lights are on in the kitchen behind the family room (facing the TV) we get a string of colored star-like lights across the top of the screen. Get the same thing when a large lamp is on in the family room. What can we do about this? Thanks.
Unfortunately, your options are pretty limited here. Turning off the lights or re-positioning the TV would be the simplest options. If those aren't possibilities, you might want to get an anti-glare filter and put it over your screen.
0
UN78JU7500: Is the glare real bad with windows behind the viewing area, or do I definitely need blackout curtains? Thank you.
Just to be clear, are the windows are directly opposite the TV? If so, there will be quite a bit of reflected light. Blackout curtains would be best for that kind of setup. If the TV is in front of the windows, then you shouldn't have a big problem, though curtains would still help.
0
For many of the images of LG models, it looks like the reflections have a purple cast. What's up with that, if you know or can speculate?
It is the tradeoff to reduce the ambient reflections. We measured the least reflections on LG OLEDs, but this come at the cost of the purple tint and the glossy finish. For example, a lot of electronics devices (like the new iPads) use this kind of purple reflection technique.
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