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Curved vs Flat TVs: Is the curve worth it?

More and more, TV manufacturers are pushing curved TVs as being the next big thing. The claim is that a curved screen is a more natural shape to take advantage of our round eyes’ peripheral vision, which should mean curved TVs allow for a more immersive experience, as the curve should make them fill more of our field of view. They’re also supposed to give a wider viewing angle.

While there’s an argument to be made for curved TVs on the basis of aesthetics – some people like the look of a curved TV – unfortunately, there’s no dramatic difference in viewing experience when you compare curved and flat TVs for everyday use.

Size and immersiveness

Curved vs Flat TV math

Curved vs Flat TV math 2

When curved TVs were first being released, one of the arguments made in their favor was that the curve increased the amount of perceptible screen real estate. A 55” curved TV, therefore, would actually look bigger than a 55” flat screen. This is true, but only to a very, very small degree.

We calculated the difference by comparing two similar TVs: the Samsung UN55JU6500, and the Samsung UN55JU6700. Apart from the curved screen, the two share a similar design, and pretty much identical picture quality.

We measured the screens and calculated the field of view for both TVs, assuming a seated position eight feet away from the TVs. The larger the FOV, the more the screen fills your vision.

The result: The flat screen Samsung UN55JU6500 had a FOV of 28 deg, and the curved Samsung UN55JU6700 had a FOV of 28.42 deg. At that distance of eight feet, that means the JU6700’s curved 55” screen looks like a 55.8” screen – a very small difference, especially given how much more expensive a curved TV is.

Viewing angle

The other major consideration is viewing angle. It is claimed that curved TVs afford a more generous viewing angle, and make it easier to see more of an image from off to the side. For this demonstration, we are using the same two TVs as above: the Samsung JU6500 (flat screen) and the Samsung JU6700 (curved screen).

Flat TV 0 degree

Samsung UN55JU6500 - Front View

Curved TV 0 degree

Samsung UN55JU6700 - Front View

Here are the TVs from directly in front. You might notice a slight pinch in the middle of the screen of the JU6700 – from straight on, the curve makes the edges of the screen appear taller relative to the center. That’s about the only difference you can see from this angle, and it’s not one that really adds to the viewing experience.

Flat TV 20 degree

Samsung UN55JU6500 – 20 DEG

Curved TV 20 degree

Here are the two TVs from a 20 degree angle, which is around the point at which they begin to lose color accuracy. The curved TV is actually a bit more uniform in the reduced quality. The left side of the screen is worse than the left side of the JU6500, but the right side is better. As a whole, it manages to look similar here, so there's indeed a minor argument to be made in favor of the curve. It's hardly a big difference, though.

Flat TV 45 degree

Samsung UN55JU6500 – 45 DEG

Curved TV 45 degree

At very wide angles, like 45 degrees, you can see a bit of added dimension on the right side of a curved screen. It looks a bit stretched, which makes it easier to see whatever objects happen to be there. The left side, on the other hand, appears a bit compressed. That said, this is well past the angle at which picture quality has begun to degrade. If you’re watching from this wide of an angle, your viewing experience is already subpar.

Aesthetics

The biggest reason to get a curved TV would be because you enjoy the look of it. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that curved TVs are a bit bulkier in the back. Combined with the difference in shape, this can make mounting a TV to a wall a bit trickier.

Reflections

Flat reflections

Samsung UN55JU6500 - Bright Room Reflections

Curved reflections

Samsung UN55JU6700 - Bright Room Reflections

It's also worth noting that reflections appear different on a curved TV than they do on an equivalent flat TV. Comparing the two images above, you can see that the curve of the Samsung JU6700 makes the reflections "stretch" across more of the screen. 

Conclusion

While there is a bit of a difference to the picture you get with curved TVs compared to flat TVs, it’s not a big one, and it’s only really noticeable at extreme angles. If you like the aesthetics of a curved TV and don’t mind paying for the look, you should go ahead and get one. If you’re looking for an improvement over flatscreen TVs, though, you’ll likely be disappointed.

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Questions & Answers

11 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
145
I'm looking to upgrade, but only to 55" max, due to a smaller TV room. What do you guys recommend as the best buys? (I've decided against curved).
It depends on your budget. Take a look at our list of the best 55" TVs and pick something that fits your price range.
59
Do curved TVs have better black uniformity, or are they the same as regular flat TVs?
They're within the same range as flat TVs.
58
I have two options a 65" Samsung Curved for about $100-$200 less than a 65" flat since they're on sale. So price isn't really the issue, I can't decide which to go with among hearing all the cons of the curved. Help, Recommendation?
It really doesn't matter much. The difference of the curve is very minimal. So it depends on the model number. Check if we have a review of them on our website, and if so, pick the one with the higher score.
25
Advantage of Samsung 78" curved TV or the 85" flat. The room has a picture window on the left viewing side of the TV. Which TV will give me less glare?
If they both have a glossy screen, you shouldn't have to worry much about the glare, but glare does tend to stretch on a curved screen. A flat TV is a safer choice.
23
I am looking for a 45 or 46" curved TV, but it seems that no manufacturer makes curved TVs that size. Almost all the curved TVs are larger sizes. Do you think some will be coming out ?
Probably not. Curved TVs are generally higher-end models, and typically are only available in larger sizes. There are 48" curved TVs, though, so if you really want a curved screen, you could always size up just a couple of inches.
20
I am in the need of buying a new tv. My current tv is a Sony back projection monster of 60 inch and considering to upgrade to a 65-70 inch of new technology. Do you suggest it to be 1080p or 2160p, curved or flat. It is not a money issue, it is best bang for the buck. Thank you for your response.
There is not much 70" released this year so if it's as big as you can go, then the 70" Vizio M would be the best bang for the bucks you can get this year. It is a flat 4k TV that has good picture quality. Curved TVs cost more and doesn't add anything to the picture quality so they aren't worth it in your case.
12
Can you please comment on flat vs curved when viewing distance is only 2-3ft? (When used as PC monitor). Does curved screen make left/right edges easier to observe with peripheral vision? Does it cause less eye strain? With editing apps my eyes do travel left and right to different edges of the screen (menus, toolboxes, etc.). So I'm hopping that curved TV would have substantial benefits in this regard.
The closer you are, the more the curve is apparent/useful. Unlike TVs, you will always be sitting at the best position (right in front) where the benefit of the curve is at it's best. All part of the screen (center and menu bars on the side) will be at a more even distance to your eyes and there will be less color saturation loss than on a VA monitor/screen. Your eyes will travel less and may result (theoretically) in less eyestrain. So the curve is more useful up-close. As a result, we saw a lot of PC monitor manufacturers this year with new curved display offerings.
11
Do you have a comparison between curved and flat TVs for some 65" or bigger sizes? Because I am looking for 60"/65" TVs, and I thought for bigger screens, flat TVs might "fade out" at the corners. And curved screens might fix this feeling.
Size alone does not matter. It all depends on the size to distance ratio. We took the pictures on these 55" at 8 feet. The equivalent for a 65" would be about 10 feet. Curved screens barely helps with the fade out issue of the corners, even if you are sitting closer.
10
Are there any plans to review the Sharp 2015 4K line? After getting back from a store I was rather impressed by the picture, features and value of the LC-70UE30U which looks like an updated LC-70UD27U from last year (got decent reviews but apparently people had a lot of issues with these after firmware updates).
The LC-70UE30U had newer features like wireless AC, Android TV and Google Cast over the older UD27U. It's also going for around $2k, which is a steal for a 70". There's also the higher end LC-70UH30U which has "Aquamotion" 960 (compared to 480 for the UE30U) and is THX certified. I was hoping to see a review for either of those new Sharps.
BTW - you guys do an awesome job and have helped me get very educated on TVs today. I'm looking to upgrade my "early adopter" TCL 50" 4K TV, as it has no smart features, 3D, or even HDMI 2.0 ports.
We have started reviewing Sharp TVs, and will have a proper brand listing up soon. We haven't gotten to the UE30U, but our impression so far is that Sharp TVs are solid budget options (though they haven't beaten Vizio in our overall scoring).
Update Our review of the Sharp LC-70UH30U is up.
10
Will buying a curved TV today reek of a laser disc look when someone walks in the room in 5 years? Do you think curved will still be around in 10 years?
Good question but we really can't say. For now, it is mostly seen as stylish since the curve doesn't really add to the TV experience and you usually pay more just for the look.
6
Our living room has many windows causing glare and reflections on our current 40" Panasonic plasma. I have been considering the Samsung curved screen, as it seems to distort the reflections. Do you think the curved screen will help reduce glare? Are there other brands that have better anti-reflective properties?
In our testing, curved screens tend to stretch the reflections, so they're actually a bit worse. For light sources directly opposite the TV, any model with a semi-gloss finish and a bright backlight will work well. For light sources that are off to the side, a bright backlight and a glossy finish will be best.
All TVs we have reviewed are listed with their screen finish and maximum brightness here.
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