Curved TVs: Just a gimmick or the future?
Curved TVs - a future-proof technology or a novelty fad? We investigate...
09 Apr 2014
Back in the day even the swankiest TVs were on an even level - by that we mean flat.
But a new generation of curved TVs, like the one we saw at Samsung's curved 4K launch at London's Gherkin office building, are redefining the TV screen.
However, are they any good? Are they the future, or a mere 3D-like fad?
Samsung's new curved 4K HU8500 TVs launch on April 14 in 55 and 65-inch models. So we thought it was a topical time to investigate the curved TV trend.
Samsung says curved TV is cinematic - but is it?
Samsung reckons its HU8500 UHD curved TVs offer a cinematic experience for the home.
Andy Griffiths, Samsung UK and Ireland president, told us at CES in Las Vegas: "With the curve screen you have this fantastically immersive experience, so it's the natural cinematic view. It's the natural way the human eye looks at visual pictures."
Some experts say curved TV is cinematic too
We spoke to a number of experts at the Gherkin event to see what they though to the curved screen concept.
Will Dunn at Stuff magazine said: "The curve is all about viewing angles. In a cinema you have a curved screen. A curved screen allows people to get much the same immersive experience even if they're sat at the side of the cinema - this TV creates a similar effect but for your sofa."
Meanwhile Hollywood cinematographer John Mathieson, who has worked on Gladiator, X-Men: First Class and many other movies, said the curved screen "pulls you into the picture" and likened it to a "condensed cinema".
He explained: "Your eyes aren't pointing to the edge - you're looking at the same grain. That's how you see the world. You don't see corners over towards south London (looking from the Gherkin window).
"Things are wrapped around you. It's coming at you from how you see the world - which is a better way undoubtedly to see it."
Andy Clough, Editor-in-Chief at What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, said: "Some like the effect, which is designed to give you a more 'wrap-around' view of what you're watching, while others are less convinced."
Curved screens for watching movies and sporting events?
Guy Kinnell, head of TV and AV for Samsung UK and Ireland, told us that people wanting to see the curved screen at its best should watch a movie or a live sporting event.
He said Samsung's curved UHD set has been designed with the idea "there are going to be many people watching event TV at the same time".
Mathieson agreed that film fans will love the technology.
He explained that because it's "more like the world you see" you "maybe feel like you actually are in ancient Rome or you are in the Coliseum".
He added: "If it's wrapped around you then you're in the picture - you go inside the movie and be with it."
Do you have to find the sweet spot?
When curved TVs appeared at CES many tech writers suggested you had to sit directly in front of it to get a good experience.
Tech Radar highlighted that the most common argument against the curve was that "it's so dependent on a viewing sweet spot that it's pointless in a typical home environment".
Indeed, TechRadar was originally sceptical itself, but in a recent opinion piece John Archer said the "curve definitely enhanced the viewing experience" in some ways.
TechRadar writer Archer said while a sweet spot does exist, viewers don't have to be directly in front of the screen to get the benefit of curve.
He wrote: "From anywhere within the sub-35-degree viewing angle range - which actually gives you a surprisingly big space for sitting multiple viewers in - there is a genuine case to be made that the curve enhances the viewing experience."
TV expert Steve May wrote in the Register: "As you view further back (3 to 4 metres), the curve begins to diminish to the point where it's barely noticeable. The image flattens and the sweet spot ceases to be a factor."
But the sweet spot makes it an even better experience
Although Samsung has been keen to stress the curved screen works from multiple seating positions, it'd be churlish to ignore the fact there is one best-in-the-house seat for the very best curved TV viewing experience.
Steve May wrote in the Register that with curved TVs there is a "clear sweet spot". He said when you sit in the sweet spot you're "definitely aware of a wraparound visual effect" which "creates an immersive intensity that you don't get with a flatscreen".
Is curved the next big thing?
Samsung certainly thinks so...
Samsung's Michael Zoeller told a recent conference: "I 100 per cent believe that curved is the next big thing."
He said that "the way House Of Cards and Breaking Bad have been filmed in 4K, they are for large 'cinema-like' screens."
He said TV companies and filmmakers want you "to see the detail" adding that "the logical step is to create the cinema experience in the home".
Do experts agree? Well although they have praised the technology, the jury is still out as to whether your next TV will be curved.
Will at Stuff said: "Personally I'd love to have one" but added that he was more excited by 4K Ultra HD than curved screens.
Andy at What Hi-Fi Sound and Vision concluded: "Curved screens certainly have a certain 'wow' factor in the showroom, but we wouldn't say it's essential for the best viewing experience on your TV."