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What's the point of a curved TV?

The world's first 110-inch curved UHD TV unveiled by TCL in September – but is curved better than straight?
The world's first 110-inch curved UHD TV unveiled by TCL in September – but is curved better than straight?
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The world's first 110-inch curved UHD TV unveiled by TCL in September – but is curved better than straight?
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The world's first 110-inch curved UHD TV unveiled by TCL in September – but is curved better than straight?

Over the last year or so, we've seen a number of curved TVs hitting the market. Sure, they look slick and stand out from the crowd, but what, if anything makes a curved TV better than a flat one when it comes to your viewing pleasure?

One of the biggest marketing hooks upon which curved TV manufacturers like LG and Samsung are hanging their hats is the idea that curved TVs provide better a better viewing experience, and there is some scientific evidence to back up the claim.

Oshin Vartanian and colleagues at the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology have been working in the the field of neuroaesthetics. This is the study of what neurological factors play a role in the things we find pleasing to the eye, or not. Research by Vartanian and his team suggests that we naturally find curved objects more pleasing than those with straight edges.

Whilst he acknowledges that curved TVs "provide some flair," Dr. Raymond M. Soneira of display diagnostics and calibration company DisplayMate argues that whether or not we like a curved TV more or less than a flat one is still primarily a subjective matter. Soneira, who earned a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at Princeton, says there are other, more tangible benefits to a curved screen.

Soneira explains that the concave shape reduces the number of reflections on a screen by eliminating certain angles from which they can be created. "This is very important for a display technology that produces excellent dark image content and perfect blacks, because you don’t want that spoiled by ambient light reflected off the screen," says Soneira.

He also says that curved TVs improve the viewing experience for individuals sitting off-center. Soneira explains that the curve of the screen works to eliminate some of the unintended "foreshorteneing" caused by sitting to one side. That is to say, images displayed on the far side of the screen that would otherwise look unnaturally small compared to images on the near side of the screen due to the larger viewing distance are, in fact, equalized to some extent by the curve.

Soneira also points out that the curved shape keeps the screen at a more uniform distance from the viewer's eyes when they are sitting centrally. This reduces the slight visual geometric distortion caused by the fact that the sides of the TV are further away from the viewer than the center when looking at a flat screen.

This more uniform distance from the edges and the center of the screen to the viewer's eyes is something to which Samsung, amongst others, has argued there are other benefits. By bringing forward the sides of the screen, a curve effectively increases size of a TV as perceived by the viewer. This is because it subsequently fills more of the individual's field of view.

Samsung also argues that curved screens deliver a greater sense of immersiveness and that the more uniform focal distance minimizes viewing distortion at the sides of the screen. Based on an average living room viewing distance of around 3-4 m (10-13 ft), the firm says that 4200 mm (13.8 ft) is the optimal curve radius to ensure a uniform viewing distance across the screen.

So it would seem that along with their futuristic looks (which let's face it, is a perfectly valid reason to buy one for many consumers), there are some tangible benefits to curved TVs. Whether or not these justify the significant price hike over their flat counterparts is another matter entirely.

What's your take on curved TVs? We'd love to hear from readers who have taken the plunge.

25 comments
Gadgeteer
I use a 42" TV on my desk as my computer monitor and find the geometric distortion at the sides very distracting. At that short a viewing distance, the distortion is more than "slight." I would love to have a curved screen. Hopefully, the prices will drop quickly the same way large flat screens have dropped in price over the last few years.
SeekerFinder
"That is to say, images displayed on the far side of the screen that would otherwise look unnaturally small compared to images on the near side of the screen due to the larger viewing distance are, in fact, equalized to some extent by the curve." How ridiculous. Did your man not consider that the opposite is true of the 'images displayed' on the near side of the screen are completely distorted for the same reason? Curved TV's epitomizes the anti-social activity that a TV represents - it works best for one single central viewer. Anybody that is off center is disadvantaged. Curved TV's promote exclusive viewing. Seeker
hdm
so many ways to try to keep people interested in using a tv. the 42" for desktop is probably a bad idea. 30" up close isn't a lot of fun , unless you have very high resolution. chasing tv technology is for those having trouble to think on their own.
Ben Evans
If there was any benefit then wouldn't cinemas be curved?
owlbeyou
About 13 years ago, I experimented by projecting 35mm images on a convex, round, frosted glass screen. The effect was remarkable. Although these UHD TV curved screens are convex, rectangular, and in one linear axis, I would imagine that the result would be quite similar... As long as the one or two viewers are centered, at an optimal distance from the screen that is tilted just right, and seated close together. Anywhere else and the effect of the foreshortening could be increasingly distracting if viewed for long periods.
Guido666
@Gadgeteer For your purpose, you'd need a screen curved with a very small radius, because you're so close. Like the article states, these TVs are designed for viewing distances of several meters, so the curve is slight. So while it would help you a little, it isn't really intended to solve the problem you have specifically.
tisi
Curved tv is all dependent on your seating position. Some theaters, such as IMAX do use curved screens, which project to a limited number of people. That is why their seating is limited and so expensive!It is all focused towards the middle of the screen. I have a 32" 1080p for a desktop, and it works fine. It all depends on what you are viewing, and your own preferences. (as a matter of fact, if I could find a use for the 32", I would love to upgrade to a 40 or 42"!) But for all s$#ts and giggles my theatre room will have a 122" projection screen by next summer. The curvature will be adjustable for best performance for all viewers.
djdude1327
I use Microsoft Flight Simulator X, for computer flying. My present setup includes three, LGHD, 27" monitors for forward, left and right views. The combination resolution of the monitors (1920x1080ea) gives me 5760x1080. The effect is awesome, but with three curved screens, I think it'll be even better, including an even higher total resolution. Of course, like Gadgeteer above, I'm waiting for a price drop, too.
Lewis M. Dickens III
You don't need to have a PhD to notice that the reflections are greatly reduced or condensed on the x axis, and that is the main reason to have one. And there is the phenomenon rarely talked about.. with respect to perspective. Culturally we have a "should" on that one and that is why they sell PC lenses (Perspective Correcting). As an Architect I have had several. Even had an oriental girlfriend who I stretched out by photographing her with an inversion of the lens to make her legs look longer. In fact Gizmag had a recent article on the Cadillac ELR and while I generally agree with the reviewer in that I think that they ruined the Converj in developing he ELR, and that the interior panders to the ghastly taste of the "rich", I also think that the reviewer has a PC lens and inverted it to make the ELR look stubby and ugly. Architectural photographs that make tall buildings look parallel in the y axis are flat out lies. That is not the real way it works but doing that panders to some center in the brain that operates in a most illogical, logical way. Culturally there is a demand for the parallelism. As a high school student I asked a college Art professor about the first car at a rail road crossing and the "notion" that all lines in perspectiv are straight and converge at a vanishing point. If you look to the left they seem to be straight and converge and the same for the right. So where is the inflection point in the middle. I looked hard and could not find it. His response was that you "fudge". I was repulsed by that response. So when the HP41CX came out I wrote the algebraic expression to produce lines normal to the viewing point and sure enough it produced smooth curves. The correct answer is that we see curves in space all the time but we use the knowledge that they are constructed with straight elements to "correct" the picture or the drawing. It was fun to make a rendering that incorporated the corrected, curved geometry and when you used one eye and placed it at the selected viewpoint everything looked "normal". Fun! The moral to this story is be careful when using a PC Lens. Bill
FollowTheFacts
I predicted (for myself) years ago that "some day, someone will make curved TVs"...I just didn't think it would come that quickly... In order for a curved TV to offer a meaningful advantage, it will have to be large...a minimum of 80 inches in my opinion...but there is a small advantage (besides coolness), if you site near center... The argument that it offers an advantage for someone sitting "off-center" is in my view totally bogus... Recently I checked some very large curved TVs at Best Buy and I became aware of a disadvantage – reflections...because with a CURVED TV....those reflections become enlarged and VERY distracting... Ideally, big screen TVs wouldn't reflect at all, but they do... A curved large screen TV is "right" – but it better be very large... : )