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Curved TV vs. Flat Screen TV: To Curve or Not to Curve Debate – Samsung, LG, Sony 4k TVs

As the 4K ultra HD TV market grows, new standards and new design trends are starting to take firm root. One of these, at least so far, has been a tendency towards TVs with a gentle concave curvature to their screens. The big questions, which have also spawned some debate among consumers, tech watchers like us at 4k.com and manufacturers as well are whether curved TV designs are superior to their flat screen counterparts, if they’re worth buying and in case they’re worse or better, than by how much and in which ways?

Well, for those of you who have also been wondering about these issues, you need not look any further. We’re about to cover all of the essential arguments, issues, factors and technical aspects of curved TVs and their flat cousins to see which of the two types really is the better option and in which ways.

We’ll weigh the pros, cons and other assorted but important details for you so that you can come out of this guide knowing without much doubt what the deal is, all fluff and sales shtick aside.

Let’s get started.

Aesthetics & Wall Hanging

The first and most basic question to consider when it comes to buying either a curved 4K TV or a flat model is one of aesthetics, ie: which do you think looks nicer. While how something physically looks isn’t always exactly the best measure of whether you should buy it (functionality is always more important we think), when it comes to products in which the difference in quality between one look and another is debatable to some extent, looks have a fair place in your assessment.

With that said, we personally believe that curved TVs do look wonderful. Maybe they’ll be considered strange fads in a few years if most home TV designs go back to their tried and true flat look but at least right now, some of the most elegant looking 4K UHD models on the market are indeed curved. Take for example LG’s OLED 4K TVs, the original 2014 models and almost all of the new 2016 models of these beautiful curved TVs, such as the highly acclaimed LG G6 are wonderfully thin and it’s hard to argue against how elegantly sleek they look.

Curved TVs are on the clumsy looking side when it comes to mounting them on a flat wall

To summarize this, while we can’t objectively argue whether curved or flat looks lovelier in the home from an aesthetic point of view, two very crucial points should be kept in mind:

First, that curvature usually means a slightly bulkier 4K TV screen overall, due to a slightly thicker screen profile. This usually won’t be a problem but it can cause some issues for those who want a truly unobtrusive television profile in their home.

Second, that hanging curved 4K TVs on a wall is downright awkward. Flat screen 4K UHD TVs are far more amenable to be hanged along any vertical space, almost as if they were paintings or large photo frames and when not in use, they do little to draw attention. This doesn’t apply to curved models. Many of the older 2014 curved TVs lack even the VESA setup for being mounted to a wall and while newer model do now have wall-mounting capacity, they simply look strange when hanged up, and stick out quite a bit.

Is the “Immersiveness” real? (Why size does matter)

This is perhaps the single most contentious and debatable argument being used in favor of curved 4K televisions today, mainly because immersiveness is the supposed characteristic of these TVs which has been most used to justify their design and ultimately their price as well.

The basic argument states that due to their gently inward curving screen, 4K models with this design offer a greater level of immersiveness to the viewers sitting in front of them by slightly expanding the perceptible quantity of screen space for their diagonal size. Combined with their beautiful 4K UHD resolution and high contrast, this is supposed to create the effect of greater depth and immersion in general.

Unfortunately, while this is ever so slightly true in the very basic sense that, for example, a 60 inch curved TV offers slightly more actual screen space (if flattened out) than an already flat 60 inch TV, the difference is very slight. We’re talking here about maybe .8 to 1 inch of extra display real estate.

As a result of this small additional space, the field of view for a curved 4K UHD TV vs. a flat screen TV is also only slightly smaller. Field of view is the viewing degree for a person seated an average distance of about 8 feet from the screen. In a curved 60 inch TV, the FOV is only a fraction of a degree larger than that of a flat screen 60 inch TV at the same distance. We’re talking here about 29 degrees vs. 29.48 degrees, in other words, something you’d barely notice given the extra price tag that a curved model sells for (more on that shortly).

FOV in curved 4K TVs is actually slightly more restricted

In overall practical terms, the immersiveness which has been so heavily vaunted about curved TVs is really not at all notable at the sorts of screen sizes most normal home televisions come in. It’s that simple. Yes, commercial theaters have been using curved screen spaces for years to create greater depth and immersion for their audiences but these are after all screens with sizes in the dozens of feet. For any 4K TV in the average 40 to 65 inch range, that same slight curvature does basically nothing and a curved 55, 60 inch or 65 inch TV screen looks no more immersive than its flat counterpart if the two are compared side by side at any normal viewing distance.

Even for larger 70 to 85 inch 4K UHD TVs like LG’s 77 inch EG9900, a curved screen creates a very small degree of immersion that doesn’t at all compare to what you might be hoping for.

In very essential terms, curve only creates perceptible immersiveness at sizes which go way beyond the bounds of normal home theater 4K TVs.

Viewing Angle

LG’s OLED 4K TVs offer the best possible viewing angles, but not because of their curve

Now, while curve doesn’t measurably create greater immersion as we’ve seen above, it can ruin viewing angles in certain ways. Unlike a curved commercial theater screen, in which the entire audience easily fits inside the ideal viewing angles of the screen’s gigantic curve, the normal household 4K TV with curvature in the 55 to 70 inch range effectively reduces the ideal viewing area in front of it to just 35 degrees off from center to either side.

In other words, the actual ideal viewing space and angles of a curved TV can be smaller than what they would be for a flat TV! Anybody who isn’t lucky enough to be sitting within less than 35 degrees to either side of the front of the screen will actually end up being stuck with observing slight foreshortening of the on-screen image. This can be downright annoying and cause eye strain as the brain tries to compensate for the distortion.

On the other hand, the bigger the curved 4K UHD TV, the larger its ideal viewing area and in this category, the size of larger 4K TVs does matter, with a 70 inch 4K UHD TV being the minimum you’d need to avoid the potential eye strain caused by watching the TV even just a little bit from off-center. Again though, even a 70 to 85 inch TV with curvature won’t create anything remotely resembling the immersiveness that some claim for these televisions.

We should note that at slight off-center viewing angles, curved 4K TVs can indeed create a slightly better dimensionality effect in the picture they’re displaying but this is offset by the problems we have described above. Furthermore, the one type of curved 4K TV in which curve least affects off-angle viewing would be LG’s OLED models. In these TVs, off-angle viewing doesn’t lead to the sort of color washout and contrast reduction found in LCD TVs. This is thanks to the nature of their OLED display technology and it might be why curvature on OLED 4K TVs tends to look somewhat nicer than it does on LCD TVs. However even in these models, the curve doesn’t add any real benefit, and it’s the OLED display which creates the real added value in their display.

Distortion and Reflection

Reflection in either a curved or flat screen TV will be much more of an effect created by the level of gloss in the screen instead of its curvature. Glossier screens will normally reflect quite a bit in brightly lit spaces while more matte TV screens wont. Furthermore, 4K TVs with particularly good brightness, contrast and color vibrancy won’t be affected by reflection as much as models in which these display technologies are duller, regardless of whether they’re flat or curved. A very good example of this is the picture quality on the flat screened but absolutely superb Sony X940C and X930C 4K TVs. That said, for whatever reflection there is in a curved TV, it will be more stretched out than it would be in a flat screen TV due to distortion from the curve. In other words, it will take up more of the display space and block out slightly more of your view.

The best solutions for reflection in either flat or curved TVs lies in positioning them as ideally as possible so there aren’t any bright sources of light opposite the screen and to generally try watching your TV under darker lighting conditions if possible, whether the model in question is curved or not.

The distortion of light reflection on a curved 4K TV display is worse than that of a flat screen version

As for distortions other than those produced with light reflection, there are viewers who report a sort of “bow-tie” effect when watching certain types of content on a curved screen. In other words, the top vertical bar of something like letterboxed content can look like it’s stretching upwards along the edges of the TV, though this effect depends largely on viewing angle. Viewing a curved 4K UHD TV from dead ahead normally doesn’t produce any notable distortion.

Pros and Cons

To simplify your process of selecting a curved or flat 4K TV as much as possible, we’re going to use this section to give you an overall bullet-point breakdown of pros and cons, so you can quickly weigh in favor of one or the other display design:

PROs

  • Slight (very slight) improvement in immersion: You won’t get anything like theater quality immersion with a curved 4K TV but that extra fraction of a degree and extra inch of screen real estate we described above do technically add to the overall viewing experience
  • Depth is enhanced: On this front we definitely have to give curved 4K TVs their due. The depth created by the curve and particularly in larger 65 inch+ models with additional picture quality technologies like OLED can indeed create something closer than normal to a 3D viewing experience. Some brands like Samsung, which makes most of the market’s curved 4K TVs, even add depth enhancement technology to augment this 3D effect further by playing with contrast levels across the screen.
  • Wider field of view: As we’d already mentioned, yes, the field of view is wider. The extra dimension is very slight but it is indeed there.
  • Superior contrast: Since most of the best 4K UHD TVs like LG’s OLED models and the top shelf Samsung SUHD TVs come with curvature, the correlation is that curved TVs come with excellent contrast, but this isn’t because of the curve, it’s because of the other technologies most curved models also have in them.
  • They simply look cool: This is the point in favor of curved TVs which we definitely won’t argue against. They may have their flaws and be obtrusive if hung from a wall (for those which can be mounted up at all) but these TVs undoubtedly do look cool. They’re striking, they’re elegant and they’re sleek as hell.

LG’s OLED 4K TV the EG9700 just looks damn cool in any living room

CONs

The cons against curved TVs unfortunately outweigh their pros.

  • Reflections are exaggerated: The curve on these TVs definitely creates a sort of funhouse mirror effect when it comes to reflections on the screen. This means that light shining off the display covers even more of your content.
  • Viewing angle limitations: The curve narrows the quality viewing angle of these TVs considerably, particularly for smaller models which are less than 65 inches
  • Ideal picture quality only comes from dead center: Viewing any 4K TV at off-center angles starts to spoil picture quality but with curved TVs, this is a far sharper rule, with the “sweet spot” for viewing being narrower.
  • Terrible for hanging: Unlike an unobtrusive flat screen 4K TV, even mountable curved models look awkward when hanging from your living room wall.
  • Size matters too much: To get any of the marginal benefit that curved TVs offer, you need to really invest in maximum size. Considering that these models are already pricier than their flat counterparts, going for a 75 inch model is not going to hit your pocketbook lightly.
  • They’re all expensive: We have yet to see a curved 4K TV that didn’t cost a hefty bit more than an equally sized flat screen model with the same specs. The manufacturers are selling their curvature dearly and it’s annoying because they know it’s mostly a gimmick.

Immersion is mostly just a marketing gimmick in any normal-sized curved 4K TV

Cost/Benefit and our Final Word

As should be obvious right now, we’re not absolute fans of curvature in 4K UHD TVs. For the most part the technology creates more problems than benefits and what few positives it imparts to a 4K TV are offset by the defects and weaknesses of curvature. Furthermore, curved models, even if they have the exact same visual and connectivity specs as their flat counterparts, are often more expensive. Given the dubious value of the curve in these TVs, we don’t think this added price is justified at all.

On the other hand, because some of the best manufacturers of 4K ultra HD TVs are in love with curved screens for now, anyone who is a fan of LG, Panasonic or Samsung and wants one of their flagship 4K TV models, pretty much has no choice but to go for a curved TV.

This is also what partly create the impression of quality in many viewers eyes when it comes to curved design. They are looking at the curve on what are otherwise some of the best TVs on the market and as a result, a lot of consumers probably connect curve with picture quality, even though it’s the other specs in a TV like Samsung’s SUHD JS9500 or LG’s EG9600 which are really delivering these models’ superb picture quality.

With all this said, our Final Word is that curved TV design does very little for most 4K UHD TVs and if it improves viewing at all, it only does so in small ways and with very large screens. If you like the look of a curved TV, go ahead but don’t expect amazing results from the curve alone.

View Comments

  • Lol... I don't think the writer intended for this to transform into an English Language bout...... If for anything, I'll just have it as 'poetic license'...lol...Thank you for the article.... Nevertheless, I still love the said curved 'gimmick', even if only for it's prestige,aesthetics and upscale perception.

  • Well, I was torn whether to get the Samsung 65" 6300/6500 series Curved or Flat panel. This article cleared that up as I have too many relatives that visit and friends who watch football with me in season. I was buying a curve because it looks so cool, but that was it. So flat panel it is. So thanks for helping me make up my mind.. BTW the nitpicking on Hanged or Hung was a bit silly. Everyone knew what he meant and both can be used.

    • Hey there Jack, thanks for the compliment and the defense of my back and forth with hanged and hung. hah. I'm glad the article could be of help and I repeat, the flat display versions of that TV in particular definitely reflect light better. Curve is essentially for users who'd like their TV to resemble a piece of art. While that's fine for those who want it, I'd argue that practical performance is more important.

  • I bought the lg 55in curved and couldn't be happier. I have owned a lot of tv's and consider myself a moderate techie... I think a curved screen gives a much better viewing experience. Even from the side its hands down better than my flat screen. I don't think it's a gimmick and if you are on the fence i encourage you to go to a tv store where you can sit in a room and view side by side with a flat screen, you will be leaving with the curved....

    • Hi Irina, the JS9500 is a great 4K HDR TV from the 2015 lineup though I'd recommend the JS9000 more. it's specs are identical but without the curved display, which for the reasons we described in this article is pointless and even maybe detrimental. If you can get the JS9000 for a lower price, I really recommend you go for it. Its specs and internal performance are basically identical to those of the JS9500.

  • We just bought a Samsung 4k curved 65" and love it! We don't have any problems with viewing angles or a bunch of us watching TV in the living room. I bought a curved monitor about a year ago, and love using it for work. Personally, I haven't had any glare problems or viewing issues. I viewed this TV at Costco next to us flat counterpart. My family liked the curved picture better. Ultimately, I think it comes down to preference.

    • Hi Kaitlin, I'm glad you found a TV that you and your family are happy with, and of course you're fundamentally right that preference is king for consumers. Furthermore, most larger curved TVs built recently have a gentle enough curve for it to not matter much either way, but that's where the fundamental point I was making lies: Namely that while curve isn't going to ruin your TV, it also offers no objective benefit, so spending more for it if you think it will offer something it doesn't is, in our view, a mistake.

      • I can see an objective benefit if the curved panel screen is situated in a corner. Takes up less area space as it makes a better 'fit' (as opposed to on a flat wall). In this case would the downside (dependent on one's angle of viewing) still apply? i.e. no one's view would appear to be at a disadvantage if the curvature is in a corner. I am having a hard time deciding which is better in this situation.

  • Great Article Stephen thank you so much. I was planning on getting a Sony KD-49X7000e that I found for under US$ 900. I will have it hung up not 6.5 feet away from my bed. Is that a good TV? and a good size? I keep reading 55" is the sweet spot so I am a bit hesitant.

  • Hung or hanged is one just like my English professor uncle taught us: Chickens lay, people lie. I need to lie down, not lay down!

  • After moving to my new place, I put my two Vizio HDTVs in the Master and Guest bedrooms with the intention of getting a 65" for the new living room. I did all the research, and read many articles like yours. As a result, I was totally against getting a curved TV. My first choice was an OLED, but I wasn't prepared to spend nearly $3,000 on a 65 incher. The second choice was a QLED and I decided on the Vizio equivalent (P-series). However, when I went to pick it up I happened across a 2015/2016 Samsung 65" Curved UHD TV and the form factor (even hung) blew me away. What I didn't expect, was for the picture to blow me away as well (it looked better than the pictures of everything else in the showroom - including the OLEDs). I figured this was just showroom stuff and went with the TV strictly for the 'cool' factor of how elegant the thin curved TV would hang on the wall. So, I picked it up for $1,699. When I got it home, I discovered that everything Samsung claims about curved TVs is true, and everything the naysayers say is false. 1. Wall Hanging. While the curves do bend out away from the wall on all sides, the very fact that the curved TVs are so much thinner still makes them look tons more aesthetically pleasing (like a piece of art) when compared to my flat screen. 2. Glare: The television is mounted on a wall that is adjacent to a large main window. The Vizio flat screen always showed glare and was barely viewable at mid-day. The Curved TV, actually cut down on the glare from the window (because there wasn't a flat surface for the glare to reflect off of). If dealing with a window to the side, then I found that curved TVs don't have more glare, they eliminate it practically altogether. 3. Immersive experience; I thought this was just a buzz word until I got the TV. Yes, it does immerse the viewer - regardless of angle. 4. Sweet spot: There isn't any. I have a huge living room and the TV image looks just as good from close to 20 feet away (the end of my living room) and every angle.

  • It's interesting to learn about curved TV's here. I've always wondered what the point of those is, and now I know that the immersiveness really isn't a thing. It sounds like we just need to keep buying flat screens for our home.

  • I have a Samsung 40 inch UHD 4K tv and I find not only is there a degrading of picture quality when sat at an angle but if the picture is dark then I experience a lot of ghosting on the screen. That is the only way I can describe it. It is so poor I am going back to an LG flat screen.