More and more, TV manufacturers are pushing curved TVs as being the next big thing. The claim is 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. They’re also supposed to give a wider viewing angle.
While there’s an argument to be made for curved TVs on the basis of aesthetics – some people like the look of a curved TV – unfortunately, there’s no dramatic difference in viewing experience when you compare curved and flat TVs for everyday use.
Size and immersiveness
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. A 55” curved TV, therefore, would actually look bigger than a 55” flat screen. This is true, but only to a very, very small degree.
We calculated the difference by comparing two similar TVs: the Samsung UN55JU6500, and the Samsung UN55JU6700. Apart from the curved screen, the two share a similar design, and pretty much identical picture quality.
We measured the screens and calculated the field of view for both TVs, assuming a seated position eight feet away from the TVs. The larger the FOV, the more the screen fills your vision.
The result: The flat screen Samsung UN55JU6500 had a FOV of 28 deg, and the curved Samsung UN55JU6700 had a FOV of 28.42 deg. At that distance of eight feet, that means the JU6700’s curved 55” screen looks like a 55.8” screen – a very small difference, especially given how much more expensive a curved TV is.
The other major consideration is viewing angle. It is claimed that curved TVs afford a more generous viewing angle, and make it easier to see more of an image from off to the side. For this demonstration, we are using the same two TVs as above: the Samsung JU6500 (flat screen) and the Samsung JU6700 (curved screen).
Here are the TVs from directly in front. You might notice a slight pinch in the middle of the screen of the JU6700 – from straight on, the curve makes the edges of the screen appear taller relative to the center. That’s about the only difference you can see from this angle, and it’s not one that really adds to the viewing experience.
Here are the two TVs from a 20 degree angle, which is around the point at which they begin to lose color accuracy. The curved TV is actually a bit more uniform in the reduced quality. The left side of the screen is worse than the left side of the JU6500, but the right side is better. As a whole, it manages to look similar here, so there's indeed a minor argument to be made in favor of the curve. It's hardly a big difference, though.
At very wide angles, like 45 degrees, you can see a bit of added dimension on the right side of a curved screen. It looks a bit stretched, which makes it easier to see whatever objects happen to be there. The left side, on the other hand, appears a bit compressed. That said, this is well past the angle at which picture quality has begun to degrade. If you’re watching from this wide of an angle, your viewing experience is already subpar.
The biggest reason to get a curved TV would be because you enjoy the look of it. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that curved TVs are a bit bulkier in the back. Combined with the difference in shape, this can make mounting a TV to a wall a bit trickier.
It's also worth noting that reflections appear different on a curved TV than they do on an equivalent flat TV. Comparing the two images above, you can see that the curve of the Samsung JU6700 makes the reflections "stretch" across more of the screen.
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. If you like the aesthetics of a curved TV and don’t mind paying for the look, you should go ahead and get one. If you’re looking for an improvement over flatscreen TVs, though, you’ll likely be disappointed.