Technology

I’ve looked through LG’s new transparent OLED TV, and seen something special

Transparent display prototypes have had a presence on the CES show floor for many years. They’re a guaranteed way to wow people and showcase the unique capabilities of an OLED panel. But LG has seemingly decided that the time has come to ship a real, bonafide transparent TV that people will actually be able to buy this year. At some undisclosed date. For what’s certain to be an exorbitant amount of money.

The company has announced the OLED Signature T (you can guess what the T stands for) here at CES 2024. The product that LG demoed for press in Las Vegas isn’t exactly “final.” The 77-inch display won’t be changing at all, but the company hasn’t decided whether it’ll come bundled with all the side furniture you see in these photos or if it’ll sell those items separately.

Behind the OLED T’s transparent panel is a contrast film that, with the push of a button on the remote, can be raised to make the TV look like any regular OLED or lowered if you want to see what’s behind the screen. The TV has custom widgets that take up only a lower section of the screen, which seems like an idea that LG carried over from its rollable TV. And it runs a custom webOS interface that’s optimized for the unique display. It’s certainly less cluttered and busy than the version found on LG’s normal TVs.

LG went through a ton of demos in its CES suite, and there were times when the TV’s transparency mode gave off a sense of depth that really messed with my brain, like in this shot below.

But here’s one downside: when the contrast filter is up, the OLED T technically isn’t on par with LG’s very best conventional OLEDs like the G series. It lacks the Micro Lens Array technology that has led to major brightness improvements for that line. I’m an unabashed display nerd, so if I owned this thing, I think it would constantly eat at me that it’s an inferior TV compared to the G4 or, if you want to go even fancier, LG’s wireless M series, which does include MLA. And this TV is destined to cost far more than either of those.

You’re making objective sacrifices for the transparency trick, so it’s worth considering how quickly the novelty of this TV might wear off. For certain people, maybe never. But me? I can’t help but feel like I’d be over the whole schtick within a matter of days.

The fundamental question is really this: who is the OLED Signature T supposed to be for? I asked the company’s reps why LG decided that now was the right time to launch a commercial transparent TV. The answer I got was that some consumers are in search of something that feels truly new and different. And that’s always been the driving purpose of LG’s Signature OLEDs. This is also the company that makes a damn suitcase TV — review coming soon, I promise — so it’s willing to go against the grain if it creates some buzz.

LG intends to ship the Signature OLED T this calendar year, but it’s not yet committing to a particular timeframe. And the price is anyone’s guess. That rollable OLED ended up retailing for $100,000. Last year’s more attainable 77-inch wireless OLED sells for a cool $4,999.99. Transparency will undoubtedly tack on several thousand more dollars. But at the end of the day, at least we’re seeing another longtime CES gimmick finding its way into a real product — even if the see-through novelty isn’t solving any real problems in the TV landscape.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

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