Description: Curved TVs were introduced with a number of supposed advantages. However, were they able to actually provide added value or benefits?

Curved TVs didn’t exactly introduce something revolutionary. They came with a bit of hype but it was clear on their debut that they were not going to become the next big thing in television. It even seemed that curved TVs were only created because manufacturers didn’t have anything practical to do with their newly invented flexible displays back then.

Still, curved TVs were marketed with a number of advantages in comparison to traditional flat panels. These TVs are touted with a new kind of viewing experience. Years after they were made commercially available, what’s the verdict? Do they live up to the claims they were introduced with? It’s interesting to note that curved TVs tend to be ranked separately when it comes to reviews, and they rarely figure in overall TV rankings or “best” lists. In this TVs review, for example, curved TVs have their own category. Does this mean it’s because they can’t hold up against traditional flat panels when it comes to overall assessments? Does this mean their supposed advantages are not enough to make them better than flat TVs?

The Advantages of Curved TVs

Curved TVs are said to offer a number of advantages. If you do a search with the keywords “advantages of curved TVs,” you can easily find various pages that list several of these advantages. However, only a few of these appear sensible or probable. Presented below is a summary of these “probable” advantages.

  • More Immersive Viewing Experience. This is arguably the highlight feature of curved television. Because of its shape, it allows a viewer to become more caught up in the viewing experience. This is said to be due to the ability of curved screens to fill up some of a viewer’s peripheral vision. As compared to traditional flat panels, curved TV seems to be wrapping itself around the viewer. As such, it appears to show more than the usual amount of images to the viewer and takes out the potential distractions that might be caught by a viewer’s peripheral vision.
  • Wider Field of View. Curved TVs are said to extend the field of view or, to be more accurate, the viewable screen of the TV. The human field of view is of course fixed but when viewing a curved TV, there’s the perception of a greater field of view as far as the TV is concerned because the TV is able to present additional images to the peripheral line of sight.
  • Better Contrast. Some manufacturers claim better contrast (as compared to flat panels) as another advantage of curved TVs. Accordingly, this is possible the screen is more directly directed at the viewing eyes. Hence, there are supposedly no parts of the screen that suffer color and contrast shifts.
  • Uniform Viewing Distance. Theoretically, curved screens create a uniform viewing distance. The claim of certain manufacturers is that curved TVs are more compatible with the rounded shape of the eyes. It’s the same idea behind the use of curved screens in cinemas. Samsung’s curved TVs, in particular, are said that have their curvature based on the curvature of a circle with a 4,200-mm radius. This is deemed to be the appropriate curvature for a typical viewing distance of 3.2 meters.
  • Reduced Reflections. Curved TVs usually reduce glare and reflections. As compared to flat TVs, curved ones tend to pick up fewer sources of light or glare in their surroundings. The reduced reflections advantage, however, does not hold true in all situations.

Arguments against the Supposed Advantages

The advantages mentioned above are far from being totally convincing. In fact, there are counter-arguments against them. One CNet review on curved TVs concluded that the curve is merely cosmetic. It does not offer conspicuous or sensible benefits.

  • Hardly Conspicuous Improvement in Viewing Experience. The claim that curved TVs create more immersive viewing experiences is difficult to prove. Rarely will you find review sites or blogs that support this supposed advantage. Perhaps those who say there is indeed greater immersiveness are only being mesmerized by the novelty of the curved screen.
  • Flawed Field of View and Viewing Distance Uniformity Advantages. Two of the advantages mentioned above are quickly vitiated by one important factor: the position of the viewer. To experience the field of view and distance uniformity advantages, you have to face the curved TV at or near the center. If you are towards the left or right side, you will no longer see the wider field of view (as far as picture shown on the TV is concerned). The overall image will look distorted. This is particularly true for smaller screens. You may also notice color and contrast shifts, depending on the quality of the display.
  • Difficult to Prove Contrast Improvement. Contrast in TVs is something improved by using better technology or hardware. The claim of better contrast in curved TVs is more of seeing “optimum contrast” when you are at the optimum watching position.
  • Limited Extent of Reduced Reflections. The advantage of having less reflection on the TV screen is also easily affected by the location of the light source. You can see reduced reflections as far as light sources on the sides are concerned. It does not eliminate reflections from light sources near the center. The curved display can even enlarge the apparent size of reflected objects.

Most tech sites tend to agree that the advantages of curved TVs are not that compelling or convincing. You can find cheaper and better TV options by looking at the reviews on tech sites, on my blog Techi Signals for example. The general consensus is that curved TVs look great but their price tag easily offset whatever minimal advantage they are perceived to offer.

Other Drawbacks

In addition to the counter-arguments on the claimed advantages of curved TVs, the following drawbacks are also worth noting:

  • Bowtie Shaped Picture and Other Image Distortions. With curved TV’s the picture you see is not a perfect rectangle but a rectangle with edges that seem larger than the center. This is not a major issue but there are certain instances that make this more noticeable. Also, images can get slightly distorted especially around the edges.
  • Not as Easy and Seamless to Install on the Wall. The curve looks nice but it creates a little problem if you want your TV mounted on the wall. You can have a custom wooden frame made to address this problem, though.
  • The Need to Be at the Optimum Position. With curved TVs, you have to watch what’s on screen at the perfect location and angle. You can’t enjoy the supposed advantages and you may even see distortions with off-axis viewing.

Have Curved TVs Really Delivered?

It’s safe to say that most of the touted advantages of curved TVs have largely been gimmicks. They don’t offer significant pluses over traditional flat TVs. Perhaps the only indisputable benefit that can be offered by curved displays is the “cool factor.” You will surely gain some praises for the atypical TV you have in your living room. However, the supposed advantages are hardly palpable. At best, these advantages can be enjoyed by being at the perfect viewing position, which is at the center.

If you were to choose to upgrade your old flat LCD TV to a curved TV or to upgrade your TV service, you will most likely prefer getting the latter. Again, it’s difficult to appreciate the claimed advantages of curved TVs when you can hardly notice them. You need larger screens to somehow see the improved viewing experience with a curved panel.