LG's Transparent OLED TV Is Here, And It’s Awesome!
Later in 2024, LG will begin shipping a TV so cool that Tony Stark himself would stand in line at Best Buy just to snag one. We’ve seen proof-of-concept demonstrations of transparent OLED screens at CES for years now, but the new LG Signature OLED T is no fanciful concept hinting at a possible future — it’s a real product that you’ll be able to buy this year. (Well, the TV will be available for purchase this year. Whether or not you can actually buy it is between you, your significant other, and your credit score.) This technological marvel combines a remarkably transparent 4K OLED screen with the wireless video and audio transmission technology that we first saw at work in LG’s M3 Series OLED TVs in 2023. You might be thinking that a transparent screen sounds impressive to look at, but impractical to live with. That was my first thought, anyway. But this TV has a simple yet brilliant trick up its sleeve, allowing it to “transform” into a regular OLED TV when you’re done impressing your friends and you just want to kick back and watch a movie. More on that in a moment. First, let’s focus on the transparent screen, and the reasons why LG thinks it could change how we coexist with the largest screens in our homes.
LG says that the OLED T “unlocks a world of near-limitless potential, giving users the unprecedented freedom to meticulously curate their living spaces.” What does that mean, exactly? At first glance, it might sound like marketing nonsense, but I think the folks at LG are onto something with the idea that a transparent TV brings with it many new possibilities, starting with where it can be placed in a room. Since the advent of plasma TVs in the late 1990s, we’ve been mounting TVs to our walls, or at least placing them up against a wall to take advantage of their slim form-factor. This makes perfect sense, especially as TVs have grown larger and larger over the years. Placing an ordinary 77-inch TV anywhere but against a wall would look pretty strange in most rooms. But a transparent TV removes this constraint, and could easily be placed in the middle of a room, or even in front of a window, without blocking the view or dominating the space with a big black screen. (At my girlfriend’s place in Seattle, layout restrictions dictate the placement of our OLED TV, which unfortunately blocks all of the windows along the front wall of the living room. A transparent TV would be a game-changer in our space.) For years, AV enthusiasts have been at odds with the interior designers in our lives, whether that role is filled by a spouse or a design professional. No matter how well a normal TV performs, it’s a big black screen when it’s turned off. Samsung has approached this problem with its “The Frame” TV, which hangs on the wall and looks like a framed piece of art when not playing content. But the OLED T takes this concept of “TV as art object” to another level entirely. Practically invisible when turned turned off, it can blend into its environment and go mostly unnoticed, or it can be used to display still or moving art content that appears to float in mid-air. The see-through screen also allows light from nearby windows to pass through unobstructed, making the room feel like a larger and more open space.
Speaking of open spaces, having a transparent TV in the middle of the room would be less aesthetically effective if it had a bunch of HDMI cables hanging off the back of it, tethered to gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and so on. But thanks to the included Zero Connect Box, the OLED T only needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet — perhaps hidden in the floor. All source components connect via HDMI or USB to the Zero Connect Box, which leverages LG’s “cutting-edge wireless transmission technology” to send 4K images and sound to the OLED T with low latency and no loss of quality. You can therefore have your AV rack on one side of the room and your TV practically anywhere else in the space, without any concerns about running lengths of cable between your source components and your TV. I have to admit that the Zero Connect Box didn’t make a ton of sense to me when it launched last year with the M Series OLED TVs. Those TVs are destined to be wall-mounted, so running an HDMI cable between an AV receiver and the TV itself doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Why pay extra for the M Series OLED when the G Series offers the same performance but for less money? The only practical difference is that the M Series includes the Zero Connect Box. Does that make the M Series worth the extra cost? For me, probably not. But within the context of the transparent OLED T, this clean and cable-free setup becomes much more desirable, and makes a lot more sense.
Because LG imagines a diverse range of installation applications, the OLED T features a modular design that facilitates options for free-standing, against-the-wall, or wall-mounted setups. Buyers can also further customize by adding standing or floating shelves on either side of the screen (or on both sides) to create a more bespoke look. This type of design would be especially striking when using the screen as a transparent digital canvas for showcasing artwork, videos, or photos via the OLED T’s Always-On-Display (AOD) feature. The AOD feature also supports a useful info-ticker that LG calls the T-Bar, which runs along the lower part of the screen to display news alerts, weather updates, or song titles while listening to music. Meanwhile, the rest of the screen can remain transparent.
As I mentioned earlier, the OLED T has a clever solution to the one very real limitation of a transparent screen: black levels. One of the main reasons why people love OLED TVs is that the self-emissive nature of the technology allows for deep, jet-black backgrounds against which images really pop. On a pixel-by-pixel basis, OLED displays can effectively turn off any part of the screen that isn’t displaying content, resulting in spectacular contrast ratios and a vibrant viewing experience. It goes without saying that a transparent screen seems to be incompatible with that experience, but the OLED T can deliver it with just a click of a button. When you want to watch regular video content, you can put the OLED T into “opaque mode.” With the click of a button, an ink-black “contrast screen” rises behind the transparent screen, making the TV look remarkably like an ordinary OLED TV. I would expect that the OLED T’s transparent panel isn’t capable of the same brightness levels as LG’s 2024 G4 and M4 OLED TVs, which use 3rd-generation MLA (Micro Lens Array) technology capable of delivering up to 3,000 nits. But the OLED T does use the same Alpha 11 AI processor as those flagship TVs. This new processor reportedly enhances picture quality thanks to 4-times greater AI performance than LG’s previous top processor. The Alpha 11 provides a 70 percent improvement in graphic performance and a 30 percent faster processing speed compared to its predecessor, according to LG (Note: The less expensive C4 and B4 OLED TVs for 2024 don’t get this advanced processor, and don’t feature MLA panels.)
We don’t have an exact launch date for the LG Signature OLED T, and we don’t yet know how much it will cost. We do know that the TV will only be available in a 77-inch screen size, at least for now. A few years ago, LG launched a rollable OLED TV that could rise from its stand and then scroll back down when not in use. That 65-inch wonder sold for a ridiculous $100,000 before it was discontinued. Again, the Tony Starks of the world were happy to pay. I have no doubt that the OLET T will be expensive, but I hope that this promising technology isn’t dismissed as a gimmick for the ultra-wealthy. Time will tell whether transparent TVs will be genuine game-changers, as the first flat TVs were a few decades ago. But the OLED T is already the winner of five CES 2024 Innovation Awards, including a “Best of Innovation” honor. Would you rearrange your living space around a transparent TV? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.