Transparent TVs have been a staple of CES for years, but always as a tech demo, much like the transparent micro-LED tech from Samsung this year. This year, however, LG says its transparent TV will be available to purchase.
It's called the LG Signature OLED T, and I got the chance to see it in action during a demo at CES, and it's incredibly cool, and feels like a real product.
Like many LG Signature OLED products, it has an odd design. It's built into a set of shelves, though LG hasn't decided quite how much of the shelving will be in the final version, which is an incredibly odd sentence to write.
There's a 77-inch clear panel at the heart of it, and this is where the pixels sit. Underneath this panel is a box that contains a powerful downward-firing speaker system, and some other hidden tech that I'll come back to in a minute.
The TV also comes with an LG Zero Connect box, of the kind used in the LG M4 wireless OLED TV. This means that the transparent TV doesn't need to have any HDMI cables or other unsightly mess going into it – the Zero Connect box can sit elsewhere in the room with your games console and 4K Blu-ray player plugged into it, and beams 4K HDR 120Hz video over to the Signature OLED T.
The Zero Connect box is kind of the cherry on the icing of this TV, because it means the actual TV gets to just work like magic – and it really is amazing.
As with all transparent OLED TVs, the glass is not quite as truly clear as a pane of glass in a window (although, I've been in Las Vegas for three days, where every window is weird because it has an advert painted on the outside, if there are any windows at all, so it practically looked like crystal to me…), but you absolutely can see straight through it, and LG has cleverly added light strips to the top and bottom of the empty space behind the glass, which means it looks stylized and mutes the effect of the glass being every so slightly cloudy.
But when LG plays me some demos of content on the glass, the magic starts. Stars twinkle and shift in floating space, with an instant 3D-like effect simply because you can see that they're actually floating. The image is not 3D, to be clear; but because there's six inches of space between the glass and the wall behind it, your brain kind of fills in that what you're seeing on screen might extend into that space.
LG had a few animation demos, and some original footage of a live performance of a singer who's just floating in space. LG said that it hopes to inspire original content that has transparent screens in mind – the concept of this one is to make it feel like the singer is right in your living room with you, thanks to the fact that it's literally your wall behind her.
But these are the kinds of demos we always see for this stuff. The real test is switching into using it for regular fullscreen TV. It's clear immediately that there are real issues with the contrast, but then something changed – from the bottom to the top of the screen, it became richer and more color-dense, with a clear line rising through the picture until, in the space of a few seconds, it looked like a more standard OLED TV.
This is the secret weapon to this set, even more so than the Zero Connect box. It's a contrast-boosting layer that can be raised or lowered with the push of a button, and is apparently based on technology developed for the LG Signature R OLED rollable TV.
LG doesn't want to reveal exactly what this material is, but it basically sits just behind the layer of OLED pixels, it looks just like a layer of blackness, and it rolls down into the base of the TV when you're not using it.
Now, even with this up, the brightness of the OLED panel isn't at the same level as the LG C4 I saw in the same room. It feels like the OLED TVs of a few years ago, with more muted highlights, though still great contrast, as you'd expect.
I can't say I mind that too much. If image quality is your ultimate concern, LG has multiple other TVs with the quality to rank among the best OLED TVs. This is about the coolness factor. It's about owning something that looks and feels almost impossible, and the Signature OLED T is the ultimate tech status symbol.
How much will it cost to own a slice of the future, you ask? There's no answer yet, and no definite release date other than it being planned for 2024 some time. It will only come in the one 77-inch size, though as a I mentioned before, it'll be basically built into a shelving unit of some kind, so the size of the screen is semi-immaterial to its overall dimensions.
I had a blast seeing it in action, and I think the only trick LG missed out on pulling was turning it transparent to reveal a second OLED TV mounted on the wall behind it. But this is why I'm only allowed to look at tech and not plan demos.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at T3.com, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.