LG Display claims it has the answer to this problem in the form of a new laptop display technology that it will unveil at CES next month. This new technology, which will be made available to laptop manufacturers to integrate into their laptop designs, is called "Backlight Data Signal Switching Technology." Essentially, this new display technology comes with two available light sources: a transmissive one and a reflective one.
When used in a normal indoor environment, the thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) is illuminated by a backlight; which is typically how most modern TFT-LCDs are illuminated. However, when the laptop is used in a "high luminance setting," such as outdoors in direct sunlight, the display's illumination source can be switched with the touch of a button to that of "selective reflection plates." The reflection plates essentially acts as mirrors that reflect the sunlight back though the TFT-LCD, illuminating the display and rendering it viewable in brightly-lit environments. Reflective illumination is not a new concept for TFT-LCD displays, but LG Displays claims "this is the first LCD panel to allow users to easily switch from backlight use (transmissive mode) to outdoor reflective mode with the touch of a button."
In addition to making the display much easier to see when outside, LG Display also claims that when the display is in reflective mode and therefore not powering the backlight, the display consumes only 25-percent of the power that it does when the backlight is active. As displays are typically the highest power-consuming component of laptops, this can add up to significant battery life savings when using a laptop outdoors.
LG Display will be showing off this new technology at CES with a 14.1-inch LCD panel. As of yet, no laptop manufacturers have announced whether they will start using the Backlight Data Signal Switching Technology in their laptops. As LG Display is one of the two largest suppliers of LCD panels (Samsung is the other), it is a safe bet that we will likely see this technology showing up in some laptop designs soon enough--perhaps at least in those units that are designed to be used outdoors, such as in "ToughBook" models.