Video and Audio Center Blog

Monday, April 07, 2014

Why Curved TVs and Why Now?

One of the things that you can count on with consumer electronics is that there's always going to be something "new" if you wait another year:  2014 TVs are available, but now the 2015 models are making their presence known.  But one thing that seems a constant now as you look from one flat-panel to the next is that the shape of the "box" holding the electronics and upon which the picture displays stays the same. Which is to say it's a "flat" display— hence flat-panel in the name — and has been since the first Plasma or LCD model became available for the home. But now we're going curved. As in curved TVs.

So why a  "curved" TV? Before we get to that, let's look at where else a curved screen can be found: the movie theater. Some movie screens are, despite what the eye suggests, actually slightly curved at their edges. The reason for this is to avoid the pincushion effect (i.e., a distortion) of the image due to the difference in the light as it impacts various parts of the screen. This can make the images at the edges appear larger than those closer to center, so by curving the screen's ends towards the projector, this becomes neutralized.
But a curved TV screen doesn't have a projector in front of it, so there must be an even stronger reason for doing this with a TV intended for home use. Actually there are three:

1. The More People, The Merrier

The best spot for watching a TV is dead center, but that's not going to happen when there's more than one watching.  So instead of sitting at the optimal distance, the normal reaction for most is to scoot farther back — which makes the picture being watched "smaller." This happens despite the size of the screen, be it any flat-panel TV. But by having the sides of the flat-panel gently curving in, you can have the people sitting close, but not too close, and still take advantage of the "sweet spot" look and hence enjoy the "big" picture. The TV's slight curvature not only improves on the effective viewing angle but also helps to mitigate video degradation that occurs once looking from off-center (and if looking for an attractive chassis, look no farther than LG's Curved THX Cinema OLED TV).

2. More Immersive Experience

The human eye doesn't see just straight ahead, there's also peripheral vision that's built-in. The TV screen creates a psychological effect where the image becomes more enveloping — as the curved edges cause the image to "invite" the viewer to look more towards the center. This can be a subtle effect, and while each person "sees" a bit different, one way that most are able to see this in action is to watch a golf game, on a Sony curved TV like The 65" LED HDTV for example.

3.  Say Bye-Bye to Ambient Light

In a perfect world, the room we're watching TV in would be absolutely dark so that there'd be no reflections on the screen. That not being possible in most cases, having a curved screen will cut down on side reflections better than a flat panel for obvious reasons. The less ambient light on the screen, the richer the colors will look and the blacker the blacks.
Don't expect for curved TVs to give up on other features just to highlight their physical speciality either: Samsung's 55" S9C Series OLED 3D TV, for example, uses a panel consisting of thousands of organic LED pixels that independently work together to create richer and brighter images (i.e. a wider color range that's more realistic looking) compared to an LED TV. The difference can be seen just by looking, and it's startling. Also added is a multi-view convenience; use the 3D glasses and two people can each watch a separate program at the same time — in full high-def with stereo sound.


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