Curved screen TVs expected to quickly flatten out

Curved TVs are mostly gimmicks that don't provide a better viewing experience, analysts say

Curved screen televisions are nothing more than a gimmick, and one that will quickly die off once users realize anyone watching from the periphery has a sub-par view, industry analysts said this week.

"You see a whole load of pseudo-scientific claims that get made for why curved TVs are a good thing. I think they're designed to bamboozle," said Paul Gray, director of European TV Research for DisplaySearch.

Gray and others see a saturated TV market that's not growing, so manufacturers are scrambling for the next gimmick to spur sales.

UHD-TV
LG's 105-in. curved screen UHD-LCD TV on display at CES in January.

Curved LCD displays emerged as a spoiler for new OLED models at the IFA 2013 trade show. With Samsung, LG Electronics and several Chinese brands showing curved screen LCD TV models at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), they are now more commonly seen in the market.

Samsung and LG claim that the curve provides a cinema-like experience.

Indeed, movie theaters, such as IMAX 3D, use curved screens to correct for the distortions caused by images projected to a large size and in wide formats like 23:9 Cinemascope. With a flat screen, light projecting from a lens would have to travel farther to the edges of a screen. But, the curve-screen benefits for a movie theater don't translate to a 65-in. television, Gray said.

What are the benefits?

Dan Schinasi, senior manager of TV Product Planning at Samsung, said curved-TV technology offers users a wider field of view. The design of Samsung's curved TVs creates a "panoramic effect... making the display seem even bigger than it is." The curved design, Schinasi said, also creates a balanced and uniform view.

Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, said in a blog post that there are advantages to a concave TV screen, first and foremost is that it cuts down on reflections from surrounding ambient light.

The slight curvature also reduces visual geometric distortion. When you watch a perfectly flat TV screen, Soneira explained, the corners of the screen are farther away than the center so they appear smaller.

"As a result, the eye doesn't see the screen as a perfect rectangle - it actually sees dual elongated trapezoids, which is keystone geometric distortion," Soneira wrote.

The slight curvature on a TV can reduce the subtle keystone geometric distortion by 50% at a typical 8-foot (2.4 meter) viewing distance, Soneira said. But that only applies to OLED TVs, which have a greater curvature. LCD screens can only have a radius of curvature of up to 16.4 feet, so the corners of the screen are only 1.4 inches forward of the center of the screen -- so it's not a large geometrical effect, he said.

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