Curved TVs: new viewing experience or pointless gimmick?

by , Senior Technology Researcher Technology 16 January 2014
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After recently returning home from CES 2014 in Las Vegas, one thing I can’t seem to shift (apart from the jet lag) is the feeling that the days of flatscreen TVs may be numbered. Are curved TVs the future?

Curved OLED TV

Curved TVs were everywhere at the world’s biggest technology show, but are they just a flash in the pan or a genuine new way for us to enjoy watching television?

Curved TVs actually came out last year in the form of OLED models with eye-watering price tags. We saw various new models – both LED and OLED sets – at the Consumer Electronics Show, all featuring shallow concave curved screens.

These were mostly elaborate and high-tech TVs that may never see shop shelves, including 105-inch monster TVs from Samsung and LG. However, Samsung also threw in an, ahem, curveball by announcing that it’s 8-series high-definition TVs – usually among the most high profile sets to be released each year – are also to be curved in 2014.

So, it seems that curved TVs are here to stay… but is that a good thing?

Curved TVs: what are the benefits?

Well, we’re not 100% sure about the actual benefits, but the big brands – such as Samsung, LG and Panasonic – insist that it’s about getting a ‘more immersive viewing experience’.

The idea is that you sit watching the TV on your sofa and the curved edges of the screen ‘wrap’ the picture around you, similar to a movie at an IMAX theatre.

I’ve seen quite a few curved TVs now and I have to say that, while they do look nice, the difference in viewing experience appears subtle. Sometimes, you hardly even notice that the TV is even curved.

Can you wall mount a curved TV?

It’s doubtful that curved screens will come to small TVs, instead just sticking to the larger models. And at such a large size there’s a good chance you’ll want to mount the set on your wall at some point – on paper, that doesn’t seem straightforward with a curve.

Wall mounts specially designed for curved TVs are on the way, but don’t expect such a solution to look as slick as a mounted flatscreen. We’ve seen wall-mounted curved TVs and they do stick out further, particularly with those curved edges. There’s the option of recessing a curved TV into your wall, but that would be much more disruptive and probably not possible for most people.

To curve or not to curve

I’m 50/50 on the benefits of curved TVs, and we’ll want to get this new breed of sets into our lab for testing before we can make a proper judgement.

But what do you think? Can you see the value of a curved television, or is this just another flashy gimmick from the manufacturers aimed at loosening up our wallets?

Would you buy a curved or bendy TV?

No (65%, 725 Votes)

Don't know (22%, 242 Votes)

Yes (13%, 146 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,113

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22 comments

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wavechange

I would be interested to have a look at one of these TVs but certainly not interested in buying one, especially at a cost of thousands of pounds. I am suffering from technology fatigue.

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moudi

I suspect buyers would need a curved wall to fix the new TV to!

Like the 3-D TV before it, this is another attempt to persuade consumers to buy new TV sets when what they have is perfectly adequate to watch whatever is there to watch.

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NFH

This is a most stupid idea. Unless it is a huge television along the entire width or length of the room, the effect of the curve is lost. Totally pointless.

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malcolm r

I believe the principle reason wide cinema screens are curved is so that all parts are equidistant from the projector, thus avoiding distortion. “An immersive experience” is probably marketing speak to make a virtue out of this necessity. No such optical correction is needed with a TV.They are, however, a good way of keeping up with the Jonses (or going one step ahead) and reviving the TV market for the manufacturers in place of the failure of 3D. Extracting money from your pocket.

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clint kirk

I don’t think cinema screens are curved to avoid distortion. The projected image is taken from an object (i.e. a film or LCD screen) which is itself flat. Therefore, the ratio of the distance from the centre of the film to the lens over the distance from the edge of the film to the lens equals the ratio from the lens to a flat cinema screen and therefore all points on a flat cinema screen would be in focus. When using a curved cinema screen, some extra optics would be needed to provide focus at both the centre and edges of the screen. Therefore, I think the cinema screen really is curved for a better viewing experience. However, that’s different from a TV screen at home. The cinema screen is much wider compared to the distance of the viewer so it subtends a larger angle at the eye, and making it flat means the edges don’t look too far away. On a 42-inch TV at home, you won’t notice the difference.

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Ken

I’ve still got a 12 year old Sharp 32inch flat screen never had any trouble with it,have been looking to update but can’t find anything with as good sound unless I buy sound bars at extra cost,I think good sound is as important as the picture especially for music dads.

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Justin G8YTZ

So what’s new about curved TV’s? Not so long ago all TV’s had a curved screen… First there were round ones, then there were pin-cushion shaped ones, then there were Trinitron’s that were curved in one dimension only and then we had square ones… The good old FST (became known as the Flatter Softer Tube – due to the poor focus!)

The real appeal of a modern flat screen is that you can wall mount it to save space and have a massive screen all at the same time, but a convex curved screen is only of any use if you live at Eltham Palace and want to wall mount it on a curved wall!

Pointless gimmick, Samsung should spend time getting there existing TV’s working properly, my dreadful 65ES8000 series set is a discrace in the picture (uneven backlight) and (tinny) sound department and has multiple software bugs to boot and the more serious of these problems developed after only a few months of ownership.

Justin.

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Justin G8YTZ

Concave perhaps….

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clint kirk

Yes, the whole point is that these would be concave, not convex. Then the edges wouldn’t look too far away. However, the difference would be barely noticeable (unless you have a 100-inch TV in a small room).

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Mandy Holloway

I’ve seen them at John Lewis and they look impressive. My set is in a corner so it might make sense, but the price will have to come down before I’d consider one. I bought my first flat screen tv when they first came out and paid a small fortune – I’m older and wiser now.

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Wanderer8706

Does this narrow the field of view i.e. will you need to be positioned further towards the centre than with a flat screen?
I can see this taking off in lighthouses :)

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clint kirk

Yes, I believe that would be a major disadvantage with curved TVs. It seems to me that the manufacturers think TVs are placed in the middle of a wall and viewed by people who sit directly in front of it in the middle of the opposing wall. That’s not realistic. Some people will sit on a sofa that might be placed at an angle to the TV while others sit on armchairs at quite large angles to the TV. In these realistic situations, a curved TV would be worse than a flat TV, as the near edge would be turned away from you and would be viewed at a steep angle.

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Wanderer8706

Just had another thought:

‘Immersive experience”? – This is down to the mind, not the environment. All the worlds great paintings are flat!
I can look at a flat wall and not think to myself “hmmmm, this would be much better if it was curved”…

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Em

“All the world’s great paintings are flat!”

Sistine Chapel?

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malcolm r

Wasn’t that interior decoration?

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ALAN

well i have seen electronic come and go every week there is new camera comes out and it is not only cameras i would have experience them for a long time before committing and then the price would be a big contributing factor.

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clint kirk

Here’s an idea for manufacturers. The problem with curved TVs is that they leave a gap at the edges when you wall-mount them, and the problem with flat TVs is that there’s no room to put decent speakers inside. So let’s have curved TVs with flat backs. Then you can easily wall-mount them, and the internal space behind the edges of the screen can now be easily filled by larger speakers!

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wavechange

That’s an interesting thought, Clint. The problem with speakers at the edges of flat screen TVs is the lack of depth. With a curved screen it should be possible to have decent speakers at the sides. Having the speakers facing sideways would not give decent sound quality.

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Acquarian

Today TV’s last so long that there is no need to change unless something itches us to change for the sake of changing,
as manufacturers strugge to sell us more TV’s they have to come up every year with something new,

curve is the latest fad, and honestly I doubt it will last very long.

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Cherry

Curved TVs look good but are way to expensive to buy. I don’t think anyone I know could afford one. ✿

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Justin G8YTZ

Curved TV’s somehow remind me of Quadraphonics, now do you go for Matrix SQ or Matrix QS? Or am I just showing my age?

;-)

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moudi

Out in the shops now. The chepest is around £1800 and initial customer reviews suggest no added advantage.

I have just replaced our old TV set with a new Samsung ‘smart’ TV, costing just over £250, a saving of £1550.

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