Curved TVs were everywhere at CES 2015. We’re not exaggerating: Almost all the TVs being shown off were curved instead of flat! But what’s the advantage of a curved TV, anyway?
It wasn’t all about TVs. Samsung was showing off curved computer monitors, too. 4K TVs will be useful someday, but we’re not so sure about curved TVs.
Curved Displays, What?
Remember when “flat screens” were the hip new thing? Those old CRT monitors curved outward toward you, and flat screens seemed like the future.
Well, curved displays are “in” again — at least, TV and computer monitor manufacturers want you to think so. Remember, though — these are the same manufacturers who were pushing 3D TV just a few years ago, and they’ve now given up on those 3D TVs.
Curved TVs and computer monitors are exactly what they sound like. The display isn’t a flat screen, but curved — around your face, in theory — to provide a wider field of view. TV manufacturers seem to think this is more immersive.
The Major Downsides
Manufacturers just haven’t put together a really compelling argument for curved displays. They feel a bit like technology for the sake of technology. And no, lines like “Curved objects are a relief and pleasure trigger in our brains” at the Samsung booth don’t count as a good argument!
Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL, and various other TV manufacturers figured out how to produce curved TVs and they’re showing off by doing so. They’re a new thing they couldn’t manufacture just a few years ago.
There are several big problems with curved TVs. The biggest issue is the precise viewing angle they require. To get the ideal image, you need to be directly in front of the curved TV. If you’re a bit off to the side, that curved display just won’t look quite right. That may not be the biggest problem, but what if you have other family members or friends watching the curved TV with you? Curved TVs aren’t really good for a larger number of people. (And good luck mounting a curved TV on a wall!)
To fix this problem, Samsung and LG both demonstrated “flexible” TVs last year at CES 2014. Press a button on the TV remote and it will transform between a flat screen and a curved screen. Samsung and LG weren’t showing that off this year, and it’d be a pretty silly thing to buy even if they were selling it. After all, a flexible TV would be way more expensive than even a curved TV.
Curved TVs are more expensive to manufacture, and they’re also more expensive to buy. You have to pay quite a bit more for a curved screen than a flat screen. And, quite frankly, they don’t necessarily look any better when you’re standing in front of them. They’re impressive from a technology standpoint, but they look a bit weird — a nice flat panel would be just fine.
The Theoretical Advantages
Curved screens theoretically provide a larger field of view and a more “immersive” experience. To really get those benefits, you’d need a massive 100-inch screen, and you’d need to be sitting close to it. That might give you a more “cinematic” experience. But you probably don’t want a TV that huge, and you probably don’t want to sit that close. If you have a smaller TV like most people do, a curved display really doesn’t make sense.
At CES 2015, TCL showed off a 110-inch curved 4K TV. At such sizes, a curved screen might make more sense so you can see every bit of that massive display at once. But you won’t be owning a product like that any time soon, as TCL doesn’t even have any plans to sell it. They just wanted to one-up Samsung.
Samsung is currently selling a 55-inch curved 4K TV for $1800 on Amazon. The curved display will really only be useful if you’re sitting directly in front of the TV and a lot closer than you’d normally sit. It’s just a gimmick at that size.
A curved display can also theoretically reduce glare on the TV itself, but that didn’t seem very noticeable to us. If you want to reduce glare, there are better things you can do that won’t have a negative impact on your viewing angles.
And Curved Computer Monitors?
All of the above advice is basically true for computer displays, too. Unless you really understand why you’d want a curved display for your computer, don’t get one. You could probably get several good flat panels for the same price and place them side-to-side in a dual-monitor or triple-monitor configuration. Multiple monitors would be more useful and functional, too.
You might want a 4K computer monitor, but you probably don’t want a curved one!
Ultimately, curved displays will allow new types of technology to exist. A wristband with a display that curves around your wrist makes sense — Samsung’s Galaxy Fit works in exactly this way. A curved smartphone display could potentially make some sense, too. But the 50-inch TV in your living room doesn’t need to be curved — that’s just a gimmick you’ll pay more for.
We recommend not buying a curved TV. Manufacturers haven’t actually explained why we’d want one yet. It’s pretty cool that they can make curved displays — if only they had an actual reason to make them!