Flat-panel televisions? Those are so 2012. At least that’s the impression some major manufacturers are giving off as a raft of new curved screens make their way into electronics stores.
Sony, LG and Samsung are all now pushing TVs with slightly curved screens that supposedly provide a better picture and are more immersive, similar to their larger movie theatre cousins.
Skepticism that this is just another marketing gimmick is high, though, with the jury out on whether curves actually do anything to improve the television-watching experience.
Samsung was showing off its curved TV lineup at an event in Toronto this week, so I talked to Jeff Ingram, training manager for the company, about some of those doubts. Here’s that conversation:
What’s the value proposition on the curved TV?
What consumers are getting with curved is palpable. Back in the days when you bought 1080p, you needed a Blu-ray disc, broadcasting was limited. At least with curve, when you’re lifting the TV out of the box there’s something there. There’s an excitement and a sense of luxury from something that’s very unique. Design is a big part of it. It’s an investment that you want to show your friends, relatives and neighbours.
When you’re watching a curved television, you can’t help but be really into the image. The curve aspect creates the effect that the TV is larger than it actually is because of your perspective. It’s almost like a goaltender, who comes out of his net to make himself seem larger.
By curving the TV, we can also have contrast enhancement by 180 per cent. You start to lose contrast on a flat screen – the center of your viewing, or your sweet spot, is fine, but as you look at the edge of the screen it starts to go. By curving it and having the same distance as your eyes to the center of the screen as to the edge, the contrast is even throughout the surface of the panel.
We also have two technologies in the screen, the first of which is called Pure Colour, which is a smoother gradation of colour. So think of red: Instead of 72 crayon colours, we have a hundred. A smoother gradation just gives you a better overall picture when it comes to colour. The second technology is an auto-depth enhancer, which really works well with curve. It analyzes contrast in the foreground and background and, by making small adjustments to overall picture quality, we can create a more in-depth experience, almost like watching 3-D without 3-D glasses.
Theatre screens need to be curved because the picture is being projected onto them from a distance, but that’s not the case with TV. Is the curve necessary for a TV?
We do sometimes compare it with an IMAX screen, but they are very different as you say in terms of producing an image. It’s about perception, how big the screen is and maintaining contrast. The end result is going to be slightly different. With curved television we want to create that same contrast across the entire surface and provide that immersive experience that you may get in an IMAX theatre.
You also have a sweet spot in the centre and a good view from one side, but you also have a reduced view of the other part if you’re off to one side.
Keep in mind when you’re off-axis [on the right] you’re gaining critical viewing area on the left side of the screen. If you look on the side over here, you’ll see the picture is still great regardless of where you’re sitting in the living room. The best viewing experience is always going to be in the sweet spot regardless of whether the screen is curved or flat. What we want to ask consumers is, “Look for yourself.” There are going to be a few instances where there will be some seating [issues] in the living room, but generally during your prime-time viewing your audience is going to be directly in front of the television.
The biggest issue for me would be wall mounting, because if you do that it looks – for lack of a better word – ugly.
If that’s a critical point for the consumer, they want to have that framed look on their walls, we still offer a flat-panel ultra high-definition television. But again, it’s about “seeing is believing.” When we talk about curved televisions people start to think that the curve is this huge radius and it really isn’t. In many ways it’s very subtle. The depth or how far the TV sticks out from the wall is minimal, about two inches. If you think of the original flat TVs that were mounted, this is still thinner. This TV, since it’s much thinner, may end up being the same depth from the wall.
And what is the price premium on, say, a 65-inch curved UHD TV versus the same size flat UHD TV?
I believe it’s around $700. Like any new, ground-breaking technology there is a premium attached.