The Curved Screen TV: Fun or Flop?

Curved Screen TV

The curved screen TV, after some tentative introductions, officially entered the home theater arena in 2014, with multiple curved screens showing up at trade shows from big names like Samsung, LG, and others. It seemed like all the brands caught wind of the curved screen TV trends around the same time and no one wanted to risk being without a curved HDTV in the market when people started buying them.

Curved screens have been used in theaters for many years, but this is the first time they have been marketed to our much smaller living room TVs, and it raises the immediate question: What are the advantages? Are these TVs somehow better than my flat screen? And, ultimately — should I buy one now?

Science of the Curved Screen

Movie theaters use curved screens because they (usually) rely on projectors to display images. You probably haven’t even noticed that the screen is curved, and that’s the point. While the details relate to the way that light behaves when it hits a flat surface, the essential point is that a large projector needs a curved screen to make the image look ordinary, otherwise the projection gets distorted, the same way a photograph would look strange if you bent it outward so the center bulged.

Perhaps it is because our modern TVs have grown so large, but the big brands are now applying concave curves to our HDTVs, too, pushing the sides forward and center of the screen back. However, the movie screen logic doesn’t necessarily work in the living room because — as you are probably already thinking — HDTV sets do not depend on projection (HD projectors, however, are a real thing) and our TVs are not always big enough to create image distortion problems. So what sort of difference do the curves make?

The Center of Attention

The most cited reason for the curved screen is to make sure you do not miss anything, and get a more immersive experience. When the screen curves toward your eyes, it feels like you are closer to the action, more like you are looking into a real experience, especially if you use 3D. A screen curved toward you will also be less likely to catch annoying glares off of surrounding lights. That, of course, is what the marketing claims.

In real life, this type of immersion may work well for a camera lens, but on a TV it really only benefits one person — you, if you happen to be sitting in the very middle of your living room and looking directly ahead at the TV.

Here we find the primary problem with the curved screen TV. It works, but only for one person with a great position, possibly two people if they snuggle, and maybe a few people if they are willing to sit directly in front of the screen, a scant few feet away. In a typical living room situation, those curves can distort and hide the image for most viewers, sometimes creating the same problems they were meant to help solve.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

So, should you avoid the curved screen TV trend? If you want to buy a TV for the whole family, it is probably a good idea to stick with a flat screen. Likewise, if you need to mount your TV on the wall, you probably don’t have space for curved TVs, which are not yet designed to be hooked up to a wall.

However, if you are looking for a good TV option for a den, gaming room, or other place where only one or at most two people are going to be watching, a curved screen can offer a few extra benefits, once you get used to it. Of course, you also have to get used to the prices. Because the curved trend has just begun, prices are high across the board. You will probably have some trouble finding a curved screen for less than $3,000, unless you locate a special promotion or discount.

On a similar note: A few smartphones have also cropped up with curved screens, warning that this might become a trend for smaller devices, as well. Of course, you are always at the center of your mobile device, but the benefit for such a small screen is minimal and a curved phone feels a lot weirder in your pocket than the flat version.