Girlfriend, sitting next to me playing a Tetris clone: "What?"
Me: "People on forums making fun of Apple."
Her: "Isn't that fairly traditional?"
Anyway, responding to sfdoddsy:
It is indeed contrast ratio that matters, but there is an external aspect of that also: ambient light reflected toward your eyes by the screen.
For people unfamiliar with the technology, a contrast ratio of 300:1 (which is probably what my screen has--it's not that great (eMachines M6811)) means that a completely white pixel gives off 300 times as much light as a completely black pixel (which should give off none at all).
Let's say that, in arbitrary units, we have the following numbers:
Black pixel, minimum brightness: 1
White pixel, minimum brightness: 300
Black pixel, max brightness: 10
White pixel, max brightness: 3000
In a dark room, there is no ambient light, and either setting preserves the full contrast ratio of the screen.
In a bright room, the ambient light might result in 10 "units" of light off the screen. Then we have the following numbers:
Black pixel, minimum brightness: 11
White pixel, minimum brightness: 310
Black pixel, max brightness: 20
White pixel, max brightness: 3010
The low screen brightness contrast ratio plummeted to around 29:1, while the high brightness ratio is still over 150:1.
Outdoors, the ambient reflected light might be 100 units, or even more; sunlight is bright. This makes even my brightest screen setting a little difficult to read if the machine is in direct sunlight.
Thus there are really three components of improving contrast on screens:
1) Improve the innate contrast ratio by making the black pixels pass less light from the backlight (this is the "contrast ratio" that's advertised)
2) Increase the brightness on the max setting, so the screen can overpower reflected light
3) Decrease the reflectivity of the screen
The problem with the shiny-screens is that they gain lower reflectivity in most directions (diffuse reflectivity) at the expense of higher reflectivity in one direction (specular reflectivity). This makes them better in environments with bright but diffuse ambient light (like a cloudy day, or a showroom), but makes them horrible in environments with light sources coming from specific directions. Then you get bright glary-bits in specific parts of your screen, which are horrible for a bunch of reasons.