CES is always a battleground for new technologies — and at CES 2024, there's no bigger battle here than the one between the two new transparent displays from LG and Samsung. Is LG's transparent OLED the better fit for home theater enthusiasts, or should you start saving your money for a wall-sized microLED screen?
I've seen both displays up close and personal and I've got some strong opinions on the glass-like future of OLED screens. That said, it's worth pointing out right up front that while Samsung has a cool concept microLED display, LG has a full-fledged product that's going into production this year.
Is it unfair to pit a nascent concept screen against a fully thought-out consumer TV? Probably. But that's not going to stop me from doing it anyway.
LG Signature OLED T: A clear contender
The LG Signature OLED T is a culmination of all the work the company has done in the last few years all rolled into one product. It uses the rollable screen technology of the LG Signature OLED R combined with the wireless connectivity box found in last year's LG M3 OLED. The result is a TV that feels utterly futuristic.
When you're not using it, the LG OLED T can display fun screen savers or display the weather, but by pressing a button on the remote, you can unfurl a matte black panel that covers the back of the screen. Doing so allows you to take full advantage of the OLED panel's deep, rich black levels and well-saturated colors.
In short, the LG OLED T is kind of a two-in-one: You get a conversation-starting piece of furniture when you're not watching something and a perfectly fine OLED TV when it's time to turn the lights off and watch your favorite films.
Samsung Transparent microLED: A see-through concept set
OK, while it's not a TV per se, Samsung's transparent microLED is a prototype display that will, one day, make its way into Samsung's TV lineup. That's what happened to Samsung's The Wall, another microLED TV that started off as a concept and then became available to buy, and it will one day happen for this microLED, too.
So what makes this one special? MicroLED, in case you missed it, uses billions of small LEDs to power the screen. With such a high density, the LEDs can produce a brighter, more colorful image. Adding a transparent panel to it allows you to get some pretty neat effects like fireworks floating in mid-air.
I think the only real downside, from what I've observed is that the microLED looked slightly dimmer than LG's OLED T. That might just have been the content that it was playing or the lighting in Samsung's First Look demo space, but I'd definitely need to take a second look before plunking down my credit card info on one.
Speaking of credit cards, how much will a transparent microLED TV cost? It's going to be pricey considering that regular microLED TVs can be tens — even hundreds — of thousands of dollars. Maybe it will be a bit cheaper in a few years once Samsung has really nailed down the microLED manufacturing process, but for now the Samsung transparent microLED's looking like it will be a pretty expensive addition to any home theater room.
From a sheer practicality standpoint, the LG Signature OLED T feels like the better option for most home theater enthusiasts. The fact that it comes with a retractable screen that can boost contrast and color saturation helps retain OLED's secret sauce in spite of the new transparent screen. Maybe Samsung will do something similar in a few years, but the concept definitely looks a lot less impressive at this stage.
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Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.