Lenovo’s Project Crystal is the world’s first laptop with a transparent microLED display

It’s not often that you come across a device that looks like it’s straight off a movie set. But Lenovo Project Crystal, the world’s first laptop with a transparent microLED display, is an example of science fiction.

There are currently no plans to make Project Crystal a retail product. Instead, Lenovo’s latest concept device was commissioned by its ThinkPad division to explore the potential of transparent microLED panels and AI integration. The most obvious use case would be sharing information in a place like a doctor’s office or a hotel desk. Instead of flipping the screen, you can simply flip the screen through the app, allowing anyone on the other side to see it while you get a detailed explanation.

When combined with the system’s rear-mounted camera, Lenovo says AR applications could be possible. For example, the camera can be used to identify an object similar to Google Lens. With its transparent display, it should be possible to take this idea a step further by placing a diagram or schematic on top of the object for things like troubleshooting or repair.

But the best thing about Project Crystal is that Lenovo didn’t bother to do it at all. Nowadays, even standard microLED displays are quite expensive, with these panels usually reserved for high-end devices like Samsung. The wall or Apple Vision Pro. And the transparent versions were only accepted as concepts like above transparent microLED TV Samsung showed itself a few months ago at CES 2024.

Personally, the transparency effect is amazing. When closed or with the display turned off, Project Crystal’s screen looks almost like a regular piece of brown glass. But suddenly everything burns like a battleship. Rated brightness is up to 1,000 nits, while Lenovo says the peaks can go up to 3,000 nits, which would make it even brighter again. Galaxy S24 family. Despite being multi-layered, the panel is extremely thin, which helps blur the line between the digital and analog worlds. Lenovo says it’s also considering adding some kind of contrast layer, so it can turn into a traditional opaque display with the touch of a button. However, for a relatively large 16-inch display, its resolution isn’t very high, so you can see individual pixels if you look closely.

Another design change is that instead of a traditional keyboard, the Project Crystal features one of Lenovo’s touch-based replacements, similar to older keyboards. Yoga books. Unfortunately, it still suffers from many of the same problems. The most obvious example of this is when your hands slip while typing due to the lack of tactile feedback, which leads to reduced accuracy. Lenovo says that artificial intelligence could solve this in the future by learning a person’s typing habits and then using that information to account for your hands missing the key sequence. But for now it remains a problem.

While there aren't many important use cases for a transparent display, the technology is pretty amazing in person. While there aren't many important use cases for a transparent display, the technology is pretty amazing in person.

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The rest of the laptop is also very much a work in progress. I only saw two ports on the entire system, which would be a major cheat for a large notebook. Project Crystal is also based on a last-generation CPU, while other components, such as its hinge, were so weak that it would close when the screen was tilted below 90 degrees. And for some reason, the laptop seemed to accumulate static charge, as it sometimes shocked people who touched its screen.

Project Crystal is a solution in search of a problem. It can be a problem that exists in niche situations and is worth addressing more seriously. But more importantly, it makes you think about what’s possible with emerging display technology and how it might fit into the laptop of the future.

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