Today most laptops are sold with a glossy, shiny screen, but traditional matt screens are still available from a few laptop makers. Since the screen is the part of the machine you interact with most -- even more than the keyboard -- it can be a very personal decision.
Laptop makers advertise glossy screens with names like HP's BrightView and Dell's TrueLife. Selling points for glossy screens include better contrast, clarity, and bright colours. To some users, movies and video games look livelier on a glossy screen.
Glossy screens don't have the glare-diffusing surfaces that matt screens use. When there is a bright light behind the user or off to the side, glare can make the screen almost impossible to use. Swedish ergonomic studies at Acreo show the disadvantages of glossy screens in an environment with bright lights can make them almost unacceptable to users.
If you're going to be using your laptop outdoors in full sunshine, a matt screen is more practical. On the other hand, if you know you'll always use your laptop in an office under mild florescent lights, you may be able to take advantage of brighter glossy screens with no disadvantages.
Availability and Price
Dell charges more for a glossy screen on some laptops. Apple charges £32 more for a matt screen on some models. Dell usually makes a matt screen standard on business models while glossy is standard on home models. Neither type of screen is consistently cheaper, so pick which you want and look for a good deal on a laptop that offers it.
There are filters for sale that claim to transform a glossy screen to a matt screen with a thin film light diffuser. They are very hard to apply and not as clear as a manufacturer's matt screen.
Glossy screens have quickly become a large majority of the market in the last few years. Some manufacturers like Apple have started to offer matt screens as an option again. Both types continue to be available, but you may have to hunt around for a matt screen.