Curved vs Flat TVs
Is the curve worth it?
Curved TVs are now mostly a thing of the past. There was a strong push for them a few years ago, with a strong implication that they were revolutionary, and they were almost always sold at a premium because of this. 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. They’re also supposed to give a wider viewing angle.
What it is: Traditional style TV with a flat panel.
What it is: Newer style of TV that features a slightly curved panel to improve immersion.
|Cost||Every price range||Mostly Premium models|
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 – there’s no dramatic difference in the viewing experience when you compare curved and flat TVs for everyday use.
- Effects of the viewing angle on picture quality are almost linear
- Side of the TV opposite to you will have less picture quality degradation, but the side closer to you will degrade faster.
Another 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 MU8000 (flat screen) and the Samsung MU8500 (curved screen).
The pictures above show the TVs when viewed directly in front. You might notice a slight pinch in the middle of the screen of the MU8500 – the curve makes the edges of the screen appear taller relative to the center. When sitting very close, the flat TV will have its sides darken a little bit 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. 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 MU8000, 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.
Winner: Curved. 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.
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. Therefore, a 55” curved TV 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 UN55MU8000, and the Samsung UN55MU8500. 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 (field of view), the more the screen fills your vision.
The result: The flat screen Samsung UN55MU8000 had a FOV of 28 degrees, and the curved Samsung UN55MU8500 had a FOV of 28.42 degrees. At that distance of eight feet, that means the MU8500’s curved 55” screen looks like a 55.8” screen – a very small difference, especially given how much more expensive a curved TV is.
Winner: Curved. The difference is very minor though, so it's not worth the extra cost.
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.
Winner: Draw. As aesthetics are mostly subjective, there is no real winner here.
- Standard reflections
- Reflections are stretched and distorted
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 MU8500 makes the reflections "stretch" across more of the screen. It covers a little more of the screen as well, but the reflections are less opaque and harsh. It's quite a minor difference between the two though, and neither really is better than the other.
|Flat TVs||Curved TVs|
Curved TVs are mostly a thing of the past nowadays. In 2017, only Samsung released new curved models. All the other manufacturers, including LG and Sony, have completely abandoned them. 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. If you’re looking for an improvement over flatscreen TVs, though, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Questions & Answers
The LC-70UE30U had newer features like wireless AC, Android TV and Google Cast over the older UD27U. It's also going for around $2k, which is a steal for a 70". There's also the higher end LC-70UH30U which has "Aquamotion" 960 (compared to 480 for the UE30U) and is THX certified. I was hoping to see a review for either of those new Sharps.
BTW - you guys do an awesome job and have helped me get very educated on TVs today. I'm looking to upgrade my "early adopter" TCL 50" 4K TV, as it has no smart features, 3D, or even HDMI 2.0 ports.
Update Our review of the Sharp LC-70UH30U is up.
All TVs we have reviewed are listed with their screen finish and maximum brightness here.
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