How laptop screens will steal the show at CES

Laptop screens are normally pretty boring. But a host of new announcements will next month will change all that. The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month promises weird and wonderful new technologies and products that will make laptop displays actually exciting.

How is that possible?

Well, check out this list of expected CES announcements:

  • Lenovo will unveil its ThinkPad W700ds laptop, which looks pretty standard until you pull out a second 10.6-inch screen. It just slides out from the right side of the lid (see video below).
  • LG plans to roll out a 14.1-inch display that acts like a normal screen until you push a button, at which point it magically transforms into one illuminated by sunlight. This is fantastic news for us digital nomad types for two reasons. First, when you're traveling abroad, you find yourself using a laptop outdoors. Normal screens just get washed out in full sunlight to the point where you can barely make out what's onscreen. But in "reflective mode," LCD screens get better in brighter sunlight -- and up to four times higher contrast than backlit screens. Second, screens illuminated by the sun use just 25% of the power as backlit screens. In fact, screen backlighting is one of the biggest drains on a laptop battery. So using a laptop with one of LG's new screens lets you compute outside (say, at the beach or on a mountaintop) and simultaneously extend your battery life by hours.
  • It's also likely that the 16:9 aspect ratio will go mainstream at CES. That means laptops will increasingly ship with much wider screens using the same dimensions as HDTVs. Not only does this make watch Blu-ray movies on your laptop more enjoyable, but it turns out they're cheaper to manufacture as well.
  • Touch screens are often a "touchy" subject, mainly because it seems that OEMs keep pushing them on users, and users keep pushing back. The trick to acceptance, in my view, is for laptop makers to embrace iPhone-like multi-touch user interfaces. I believe that's the only thing that will make touch screens worth using for most users. Rumors are circulating that at least one company will roll out a mult-touch tablet at CES.

So there you have it: Change, innovation and -- dare I say it? -- excitement in the laptop display universe at CES!

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