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Silver Plastic Is Ugly

Not long ago, every notebook computer, every bit of stereo or A/V equipment I owned was painted black or charcoal (or was made of a black or charcoal plastic).

Now, everything is silver. Matte or satin silver. Spray-painted silver.

For some reason, silver has become the most popular car color. (Click here if the preceding link is broken.)

Silver seems like a nice color for some cars... and I even have one car that color (but that car is a 1970 Pontiac, so it was not so trendy when the color was put on the car). But there is a vast difference between a quality, glossy automotive paint finish and the chintzy look of a dull, matte silver finish painted on my notebook computer, my camcorder, my DirecTV receiver, my television cabinet (I could go on...)

I can just imagine the product design meetings held in consumer product companies everywhere: "Silver is most popular! Silver is the way to go! Let's make it SILVER!"

Silver shouts "CHEAP"

Satin silver-painted plastic just exudes a fantastic Radio Shack TRS-80 quality that I've been missing all these years. The only thing missing from today's devices is the fake woodgrain-painted panel to add a touch of class!

Is this really what consumers want when they buy electronic devices?

A notebook computer is a particular problem - you tend to rest your palms on the area in front of the keyboard, and over time, the silver paint tends to wear off. It just looks cheap.

Black is cool

When I visit my friend's video production facility, I notice that most (if not all) of the high-end video equipment is black anodized metal or painted a nice satin black. I wonder why none of it is painted the same color as most of the consumer products these days? I suspect that the top-shelf, high-buck equipment has to look really nice. I can't imagine a $2,000 video processing deck being painted satin silver metallic.

Technical Ecstasy

Happy owners of non-silver-plastic phonesHappy owners: These people are excited about the product. The reason is obvious.

Even the latest high-end (or wannabe high-end) mobile phones are black, or if they are silver, they are anodized brushed metal - which has a quality feel and look.

I'm not a big fan of plastic - but I understand the economic reasons why things are made that way. If you have to make something out of plastic, please don't spray it with satin silver paint.

I like silver plastic My new

I like silver plastic

My new flat screen TV came in shiny new silver plastic and I love it!

I agree

Yeah, this is one of my pet peeves. I hate all the tacky looking electronics that has come out in a wave of silver over the last few years. Black does not exude tackiness so much and is much easier to match with other household colours.

One expection is my Proceed AMP 2 + 3 amplifiers which I think look better in silver than the Proceed AMP 5. Proceed were the baby brand of Mark Levinson, so luckily for me they are made from quality plastic and show no signs of the dreaded silver fade.

Great! All ya gotta do... slap a vinyl woodgrain appliqué on your shiny new TV, and you're all set.


I just moved into a brand new house and I found I dont have a single electronic that is black except for my 10 yr old speakers.
I want to throw it away Sooo much.

I think black (especially ABS plastic) is just plain ugly and yells ! Cheap !
The problem is, black "sticks out"; it's an obstrusive color matched to interior colors like white, beige & brown.
Just think about the wires for your entertainment system against hardwood floor/wall, wouldn't they look much more discrete if silver/white, but not black?

Silver in comparison blends into environment much better, relects light and "shines".
For this reason, many manufacturers choose to color their appliances silver, or use reflective materials for dark colors(polycarbonate coating). Eg, Ipod, PS3, Stainless steel appliances etc.

Conciousness in design and improvement in manufacturing techniques results in the move, not jsut from black to silver, but in general, from dull to shiny.
Silver plastic just happens to be the best solution because it is cheap and effective.

The economic decision for a silver TRS-80

The story of the TRS-80 silver color is funny, seen in retrospective. Other colors would have been simply to expensive for Radio Shack. So, in this case silver shouts "CHEAP" - really!

On the History of Computers one can read:

The monitor was a modified black-and-white TV built for Radio Shack by RCA. When RCA told Radio Shack that the TV case’s standard color was “Mercedes silver”, and any other color would cost extra, Radio Shack accepted Mercedes silver and painted the rest of the computer to match the TV. When you use a Radio Shack computer, you’re supposed to feel as if you’re driving a Mercedes; but since Mercedes silver looked like gray, Radio Shack became nicknamed “the great gray monster”. Californians preferred Apples, whose beige matched their living-room decors. (Later, in 1982, Radio Shack wised up and switched from “Mercedes silver” to white.)

Economic decision = "CHEAP"

See? Even that bit of history tells us that silver == cheap. Any way you slice it, whether it fits your interior decor or not, silver plastic looks and feels cheap. It's not that silver is an ugly color, it's just that the application doesn't work. It's usually matte or 'satin' (low-gloss) or 'flat' in order to avoid creating a nasty reflective surface; the color combined with the texture is lame.

When was the last time you saw a 'satin', 'matte', or 'flat' silver car? I'll bet it was 20+ years old, and badly oxidized. See? Ugly. Cheap. Neglected. Worn out. Junk.

How many Apple products are silver-painted plastic? How many Macs, iPods, iPhones? Sure, there may be one or two silver products, but I wonder if they are the minority, nowhere near best-selling. Does anyone know of a link to verified sales data for Apple consumer products, showing breakdown by color?

Here's an informal poll of favorite iPod Nano colors and silver is a distant third (black is most popular, as I expected, followed by red.)

Apple, the king of 'cool', the prince of 'popular', the sultan of sophistication, and Apple's customers, prefer other colors, it seems.