Samsung Introduces Curved Televisions At CES 2014

Samsung is known worldwide for its unique designs and advanced technology. Samsung dominates the world television market and enjoys a fairly large share of the profits that come to the TV industry. Some of the pioneering tasks that it has undertaken are introduction of thin LED LCDs, bringing hairline bezels into mainstream, voice and gesture control options and development of a TV app store.

At CES 2014, Samsung introduced curved TV with two variants; one with a resolution of 4K and the other with a resolution of standard 1080p. The first curved TV with a flat panel was introduced last year which included a pair of expensive OLEDs from Samsung and LG. LG also unveiled a few curved models at CES 2014 but they were OLEDs and highly unaffordable.

My CES 2014 TV recap amply reveals that I consider curved TVs just another gimmick. I am in a habit of making use of the latest technology before denouncing it to be as accurate in reviewing the product as possible. Such a close scrutiny of the TV has kept the curved television out of my good books.

If you are a videophile with ample money to spend on televisions, you would find the curve of the TV to be an irritant and nothing more. The corners of the TV appear to be wider than the centre giving a gentle trapezoid effect which is distracting at times. The horizontal edges also created a “U” along the upper edge and an inverted “U” at the lower edge.

Another bizarre thing is that the curve changed in roundness with the height of the viewer relative to the screen. Standard seating position on an office chair made the bottom of the screen appear more bent than the upper curve. I found the TV angled towards the back. When I asked the Samsung rep about default angling of the TV towards the back, I was told that it is to prevent the TV from falling over.

The curve has some issues with shots that have greater depth of the field. For instance, the cityscapes in the beginning of the movie “I Am Legend” made me feel that there was greater sense of depth in the middle of the screen than corners.

One benefit of the curve is that the reflections are less pronounced due to the anti-reflective screen and are caught less frequently in the OLED screen as compared to the plasma screen. The curve did impart an extra depth to the picture and helped to reduce reflections but the distortion greatly overwhelmed both these benefits.

The Sweet Spot:

A curved IMAX screen makes sense because it emits surround sound that engulfs you to give effect. This analogy was the justification that LG and Samsung used to give initially for production of curved TVs. However, experts believe that this argument falls flat with normal screen sizes and viewing distances.

Big screens allow you the liberty to focus light on the audience. Another aspect is of reducing optical distortions. The image has a natural touch to it when all parts of the image are equidistant from your eyes. When you sit in the right seat, the image can practically envelop you. Having said that, it goes without saying that you need to be sitting at the right place to enjoy the envelope created by the image. This sweet spot is quite large in case of big screens and allows a lot of people to sit in it while with a smaller screen, only a person or two can be accommodated in the sweet spot. If the viewer sits too close or too far from the television, the curve loses its charm.

Samsung has developed mainstream curved sets ranging from 48 to 78 inches. Samsung claims that all of its curved sets target the same viewing distance of 10 to 13 feet however, it is almost impossible to get surround vision from such distances.

What remains unanswered is how does the picture appear to people out of the sweet spot? The answer is not very encouraging. Viewers out of the sweet spot get an unequally distorted view. While distortions such as one edge appearing larger than the other do happen in flat TVs also, they get worse in case of a curved TV. This translates into the fact that should you choose to buy a curved TV, be ready to enjoy it only from a certain position that is best suited based on the viewing angle and elevation.

Another issue worth a mention is that the curved LED LCD technology that Samsung uses for its mainstream curved TV sets suffers worse off viewing angle issues than their flat counterparts. The color and brightness gets washed off at the edges. Such a phenomenon is more pronounced in curved TVs than flat ones which brings us to a conclusion that it is more difficult to maintain uniformity of brightness in curved TVs than in flat ones.

How much more will curved TV cost?

Samsung has not disclosed the price of its curved TVs but it shall be wise not to expect them to be cheap. One of the comparable sets is the Sony 65 inch 65S990A which costs $4,000. This is around 65 percent dearer than the flat 1080p variant which is available for $2,500.

If Samsung tries to keep the costs low to 30 to 40 percent more than the cost of its flat variant, its 1080p version will still be more expensive than the flat 4K one. This is because the prices of 4K models is expected to come down in 2014. That is probably one of the reasons why Samsung wants people to buy curved TVs. Since the cost of 4K models is sinking with the Vizio 50 inch P series expected to cost only $1,000, the curved TVs will provide an avenue to charge more and maintain profits. All television enthusiasts shall remain excited to know the price tag that Samsung decides to attach to its curved TV.

I believe if I spend more time in front of the TV I might get used to the curve and start appreciating the picture it produces. However, currently I find it quite difficult to imagine trading a flat TV for a curved one. One Naples real estate company is actually starting to give away these tv’s with the purchase of every home. Some people must see the merit in the technology presented by Samsung.