Technology Reports:

TV Technology Roundup

TechReport (UK)

Flat or Curved Screen?

A few years ago, the major TV manufacturers introduced another new feature to their ranges – curved screens. The question that many people have asked is ‘Why?’.

The market for advanced consumer electronics products is such that any new functionality / feature introduced by one manufacturer is rapidly copied and the initial ‘price premium’ which it attracts is soon eroded away to nothing – if / when you can compare the prices of consumer electronics products with similar performance / functionality over several years, the drop in price for these models is colossal.

Thus, the only way that large consumer electronics companies can maintain their profits is to introduce new features and through extensive marketing, create consumer demand for those features (if they can) – this is very much the case with curved TVs.

Manufacturers created these models because they could and then tried had persuade a fickle public that the curvature gave these models certain performance advantage over their flatter cousins and, above all, sell the ‘look’ of a curved screen as being very desirable.

So what are the actual advantages / disadvantages of a curved screen:

- Appearance:

There is no doubt that many people are attracted to the appearance of a curved screen TV when mounted on a stand – it stands out in a world of ‘box’ shaped products.

However, mounting a curved screen TV on a wall (as probably more than half of large screen TVs currently are) is not a simple task – the relatively small size of the VESA mount (which has to be flat) that can be accommodated on the back is limiting and, of course, a swivelling mount is just not going to work. It should also be borne in mind that any curved screen is going to immediately draw attention in a room, which is possibly not something that everybody would want.

- ‘Immersive Experience’:

Curved TVs are often said to give viewers an ‘immersive viewing experience’:

The implication is that the wrap-around feeling when in front of the screen brings the viewer into the scene and can (and does) create an impression of depth. Unfortunately, the degree to which this is true for any screen of say 65 inches or less is absolutely minimal and would require the viewer(s) to sit very close to the screen anyway.

Some manufacturers will adjust the contrast settings across a curved screen to try to give an artificial impression of depth, but like most ‘manufacturer’s effects’ this is probably of questionable benefit.

- Field of View:

The curvature of a large curved TV means that, primarily as the screen has slightly more ‘real estate’ than a flat TV described as having the same screen size, the overall field of view for a curved TV will be fractionally larger than that for a flat TV of similar size – but we are only talking about, say, 1 inch for a 70 inch screen size – it is simply not perceptible for typical UK Living Room sized TVs

- Viewing Angle:

A curved screen can seriously affect the viewing angle of a TV. All TVs suffer from a degradation in picture quality as the viewing angle increases from directly ahead – colour washout, contrast reduction and foreshortening of the image are typical effects. Unfortunately, these effects are greatly exaggerated by a curved screen, leading to typical maximum ideal viewing angles of about + / - 35 degrees from head on. This effect can be largely mitigated, however, by the use of OLED technology, which offers much wider viewing angles (when compared with a more conventional LED / LCD TV) irrespective of whether the screen is curved or not.

- Distortion and Reflections:

With a large area of glass on the front, all TVs suffer from reflections of other light sources in the room to a greater or less extent, interfering with the intended picture. The greatest effect on the level of reflection is from the kind of glass used on the front surface of the TV, matt being better than gloss. Curved TVs, however, do seem to introduce more reflections (and often ones which are more distorted) than do flat screen TVs, so in any room that is not quite dark, this can interfere with the viewing of the actual TV picture to a greater extent.

- Cost:

If you have been reading the above points, it should become clear that to really enjoy the benefits that can be offered by a curved TV, it is necessary to purchase a fairly large one. This raises the awkward question of cost – buying a very large screen TV will be expensive and even if not going for the very largest, the curved models at specific sizes are priced at a premium to their flat screen equivalents. Also, to reduce some of the less pleasant effects of curved screens (reduced optimal viewing angle, reflections interfering with viewing) it is probably best to go for an OLED model, which adds even further to the cost.

Taking all the above points into consideration, our advice would be that the only real reason to go for a curved screen TV would be if you particularly like the aesthetics of these models (and only then if plan to stand-mount rather than wall-mount your purchase).

It is the considered opinion of TechReport (UK) that curved screens will be considered a gimmick of this particular period in a few years’ time and TVs will go back to their original flatter shape.

Next: 3D

Back to TV Technology Roundup