In describing computer displays, what do the terms “transmissive,” “reflective,” and “transflective” mean?
Transmissive is the most commonly used means of illuminating a computer display. The display is lit up from the back. While this method is fine for indoor use, strong sunlight may overwhelm it, making the computer screen difficult to read.
Reflective method does very well in the bright outdoors. The computer is illuminated by the reflected light of the computer’s surroundings. The brighter the sun, the brighter the display. However, it does not do well in dim settings, i.e. indoors.
Transflective combines the transmissive and reflective methods of illumination. This gives the viewer the best of both worlds, enabling the display to be optimized for the greatest variety of environments.
Even though transflective appears to be the best method, it may not be the best for you. You need to consider your applications specific needs, including energy usage, heat generation, and issues such as compatibility with night vision goggles. Display brightness may also be affected by chemical treatment of the surface (anti-glare coating), viewing angle, contrast controls, and a host of other factors. For more information, see Are nits the only important rating for hi-bright display?