The sense of ‘depth’ is enhanced One of the most common reactions from people watching a curved screen for the first time is that it looks like 3D, even when the source is only 2D. This is because curving the edges of the image towards the viewer enhances the visual perception of depth in what you’re watching.
Draw lines from your head position to the edges of, say, a 65-inch flat TV and then draw lines from your head position past the edges of a 65-inch curved TV to the same plane you’d have been watching the flat screen in, and the curved screen’s image appears to stretch further across the wall than the flat TV image, despite the screen sizes involved being ostensibly the same. However, it is certainly true that most of the curved screens we’ve seen to date have truly excelled in the contrast department.
Uniform viewing distance The argument goes that curved TVs track the rounded shape of our eyes better, and thus deliver a more focussed, comfortable image than flat screens. This argument is born out to some extent by the use of curved screens in commercial cinemas, where the curve helps the projected image retain even sharpness right into the corners of their vast screen sizes.
Samsung has taken this argument so seriously that it’s set its curvature level at that of a 4200 mm-radius circle, appropriate to the current average TV viewing distance of 3.2 m (based on studies conducted in America and Germany). However, we haven’t really seen much impact from this benefit on the relatively small curved TV screens we’ve had so far.
You get a wider effective viewing angle This doesn’t make much sense on paper. Logic dictates that curving the edges of the image forward should reduce viewing angle support, not increase it.
So if you buy a curved TV, you’ll probably find you need to introduce some extra light control elements to your viewing room. The thing is, while the curve prevents flat LCD’s usual reduction in contrast and color performance with off-axis viewing, inevitably the curved shape can negatively affect your image’s geometry when viewing from down the TV’s side.
Surprisingly this problem doesn’t really become uncomfortable to watch until you get to around 35 degrees either side of directly opposite the screen (an angle Samsung itself agrees with us on). Your brain tries to compensate for the distorted geometry it’s witnessing too, which means off-axis viewing can be fatiguing.
With the 65-inch models it’s easier to appreciate the picture benefits while feeling less aggrieved by the negatives (except for the reflections one). This might sound a bit dull, but neutrality is actually quite a step forward from the hostility we’d been feeling towards curved screens prior to us actually getting to live with a few.
John Archer has written about, and been immersed in the world of, home entertainment technology for over 20 years. When it comes to buying a new TV, it's not easy keeping track of the sometimes confusing terminology.
Editors Note: This article also appeared in the September 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions.
And with the LCD-based UHD and 1080p TVs, which use LED backlights, the curved shape actually makes it harder to spread light evenly across the panel, which could affect brightness uniformity. And for those viewing the TV at an angle, the curved screen can introduce some subtle geometric distortion of the image, which can result in eye fatigue as your brain tries to compensate for the effect.
If you find the curved shape appealing and don't mind paying a premium for a set that will admittedly stand out from most other models, by all means go for it. But if your goal is heightening the immersive viewing experience, our advice is to use that extra money to buy an even bigger flat-screen model, and spring for a sound bar or other outboard audio system that can sonically do it justice.
The main claim was that a curved screen is a more natural shape to take advantage of our round eyes’ peripheral vision, which should mean curved TVs allow for a more immersive experience, as the curve should make them fill more of our field of view. What it is: Newer style of TV that features a slightly curved panel to improve immersion.
When sitting very close, the flat TV will have its sides darken a little from the narrow viewing angle. Curved TVs won't have this issue, but it is pretty minor since it's a rare use case.
Here are the two TVs from a 20-degree angle, which is around the point at which they begin to lose color accuracy. As a whole, it manages to look similar here, so there's indeed a minor argument to be made in favor of the curve.
At very wide angles, like 45 degrees, you can see a bit of added dimension on the right side of a curved screen. While flat and curved TVs react differently to the angle they're viewed at, there is no clear advantage to either format.
Both curved and flat TVs see their picture quality deteriorate when viewed from an angle. The only real difference between the two is if they are viewed from very close, where the sides of the flat TV will darken compared to the center.
When curved TVs were first being released, one of the arguments made in their favor was that the curve increased the amount of perceptible screen real estate. Apart from the curved screen, the two share a similar design, and pretty much identical picture quality.
The larger the FOR (field of view), the more the screen fills your vision. Combined with the difference in shape, this can make mounting a TV to a wall a bit trickier.
Comparing the two images above, you can see that the curve of the Samsung MU8500 makes the reflections “stretch” across more of the screen. Samsung's models are often arbitrarily priced higher too, anywhere from a $100 to $1000 premium over the flat variant that performs exactly the same, making them a bad choice for most people.
While there is a bit of a difference to the picture you get with curved TVs compared to flat TVs, it’s not a big one, and it’s only really noticeable at extreme angles or if viewed from up close. If you like the aesthetics of a curved TV and don’t mind paying for the look, you should go ahead and get one.
They’ve agreed that a Samsung LED TV is what they’re going to buy, but they’re still figuring out what kind of screen they want. “There’s nothing quite like curling up with a bowl of popcorn and a good film on the weekend!” she tells Frank.
The flat screen on a traditional-style LED TV means he can see every point in the game well from nearly any pose he’s relaxing in. Well, Came favors unique, unusual pieces when she’s shopping for the home, and that’s why curved TV’s chic shape suits her style.
It’s eye-catching even when we’re not using it!” Surrounded by her favorite decorations, in Came’s eyes, the curved TV is an ideal centerpiece for the living room. On the other hand, Frank goes for a modern, minimalist vibe that the slim profile of flat TV fulfills.
He subscribes to the less-is-more philosophy and although he likes watching TV, he doesn’t necessarily want it to be noticeable when it’s not in use. “Plus it’s classic, and the sharp angles offer a really sleek profile.” So, both LED TV styles are stunning due to the boundless 360 design, meaning from the front of the TV to the back, it’s a striking piece that will look great in the home.
While Frank points out that the ultra-slim flat TV provides a subtle but sleek style. Curved or flat TVs can be mounted on the wall or placed on a stand for a display that suits the home’s interior best.
Additionally, both curved and flat TVs have the Invisible Connection, which tidies up the space around the TV by allowing you to put consoles and devices out of sight. As we see through Came and Frank’s discussion, both flat and curved LED TVs offer stunning, lifelike picture quality available in a variety of sizes.
† Measured from the rear end of the TV, the gap may differ based on the installation, LED model, and wall type. There are plenty of comparison websites out there on this very subject, and we have attempted here to condense the arguments in one short article.
Ultimately there are some differences, benefits, and disadvantages of curved screens over flat, but their price tag might be too uncomfortable for most consumers right now. Both have their pros and cons but ultimately any deciding factor will come down to cost and personal choice.
Despite this, the extra fraction of a degree and slightly larger screen will increase your viewing immersion by default. Some manufacturers, like Samsung, also include depth enhancement technology to improve the 3D effect of their curved TVs.
The curve narrows the quality viewing angle of these TVs considerably, particularly for smaller models which are less than 65 inches. Whilst this effect is not as pronounced as some might claim, it is very slightly improved on curved TVs.
Most reviews of curved TVs reveal that this is more to do with additional technology in the devices rather than the curved screen itself, per se. Unlike their flat contemporaries, curved TVs are inherently harder to hang on a wall by virtue of their shape.
Whilst this is merely a matter of taste, curved TVs are undoubtedly interesting things, in and of themselves, aesthetically. Most reviewers don't believe the premium price tag of a curved TV is really worth it.
For any real benefits of curved TVs, you either need to sit pretty close to the screen or view from extreme angles. Because of their shape, they also introduce some new issues you won't find with flat screen TVs.
Other commentators also point out that some of the best TV manufacturers are currently enamored with them, for consumers to benefit from 4K technology, they have little choice but to buy one at present. This has led to many believing that curved TVs are the way to go when in reality all they really need is a 4K quality flat screen TV.
At the end of the day, curved TVs tend to offer very little benefit over their equivalent flat screen competitors. This conclusion from rtings.com pretty much sums up the state of the technology in the eyes of consumers and tech experts.
“While there is a bit of a difference to the picture you get with curved TVs compared to flat TVs, it’s not a big one, and it’s only really noticeable at extreme angles or if viewed from up close.