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Lenovo gets transparent about its see-through laptop at MWC 2024

Laptop with see-through display showing a video, sitting on a red table

Lenovo's ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop concept pairs a bright, see-through screen with a keyboard that doubles as a graphics tablet

The best thing about conferences like MWC is when brands bring their weirdest ideas out to play, and Lenovo’s proof-of-concept see-through laptop has started things out on the right foot.

Unveiled alongside the latest line of Lenovo laptops – which you will be able to buy this year – the transparent laptop isn’t going to be hitting shelves any time soon, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to play with.

At first glance, this see-through laptop looks much like any other: the base is a slim, metal rectangle with a trackpad and keyboard on its surface, and two feet towards the rear that hold up the display. That’s where things get weird.

rear view of see-through laptop display, showing a mirror image of a swimming fish

Where there might normally be black plastic bezels or an aluminium finish that matches the base, here, there’s only glass. A window without a frame. And then a fish swims across it. It turns out that, behind that glass, is a 17.3in micro-LED display, and until it actually starts to display content, it’s very easy to believe that it’s not there at all.

Lenovo calls this display “completely borderless”, which I find to be a little hyperbolic, as the micro-LEDs don’t run all the way to the edges. Instead of traditional bezels, a small lip of glass runs around the outside of the display. It’s not just there to keep the fish from swimming away, it’s where the two layers of Gorilla Glass 3 meet and join, sealing the micro-LED panel in a safety sandwich, and hopefully preventing any random floating scratches.

Close up of transparent laptop display, showing computer icons

During the demonstration, the laptop was said to be running at a brightness of around 1,000 nits, but apparently it’s capable of illuminating much higher than that: the listed peak brightness is a massive 3,000 nits. The resolution was less impressive, only running at 720p. No word was said on the possibility of it going any higher, but it’s still early days.

Of course, as transparent things tend to, the display also shows a mirror image of your screen on the back. Again, it’s a little early to be thinking about the privacy and security implications of this, but it’s something that would likely need to be addressed.

Laptop with see-through display sitting on a red table

While the see-through display is undoubtedly the standout feature, it’s not the only bit of tech that this proof-of-concept had to show off. The aforementioned keyboard and trackpad initially seem relatively straightforward: the keyboard is virtual, which adds nicely to the futuristic aesthetic, with the trackpad below it spanning the width of the keyboard.

As with everything else in this concept, however, it’s not quite what it appears to be. If you bring a compatible stylus within the right distance (in the demonstration, it seemed to be around the point where a normal graphics tablet would pick up your pen hovering) the keyboard vanishes, leaving a blank canvas and essentially turning the laptop’s base into one big graphics tablet.

Close up of the transparent laptop's virtual keyboard and trackpad

This worked great for light sketching during the showcase, with accurate pen strokes and hover tracking. Palm recognition wasn’t perfect, but that’s an easy foible to forgive in a concept device such as this.

The see-through display has a couple of tricks of its own in that regard, too. If you’re working in an application such as Microsoft Paint and you fill the background in black, it essentially becomes a transparent canvas. So if drawing freehand isn’t your thing, you can place something behind the display and trace it. That’s a fairly niche use case, and unlikely to be the main reason anyone buys this thing, but it’s a fun gimmick.

Side view of transparent laptop sitting on a table, people in the background taking photos

As AI was a big feature of Lenovo’s showcase, it’s unsurprising that the Transparent Display Laptop also comes with some of those AI-driven features. Details are fairly vague at this point, but Lenovo said its Artificial Intelligence Generated Content (AIGC) would be able to interact with physical objects (presumably behind the display) and overlay digital information on top of them.

What the practical applications of this are, I’m not exactly clear on, however. In fact, I’m far from convinced that a transparent laptop could make a practical product at all, exotic and interesting though the technology is.

Instead, your next laptop is much more likely to be one of these lovelies – our selection of the best laptops you can buy right now.

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