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Why Curved TVs Will Leave You Flat Broke

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 27 comments
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A curved TV will leave your budget in ruins.A curved TV will leave your budget in ruins.

To the TV buzzwords "OLED," "4K" and "Ultra HD," you can now add the humble word "curve." All of these options will be available to TV buyers this spring and summer. Manufacturers like Samsung are betting that you'll pay a lot more for a slightly curving TV screen. But there are other ways to spend that money that may get you more entertainment.

"Some of the most valuable works of furniture produced for the art market are based on the curve," said James Zemaitis, new head of Sotheby's 20th Century Design Department, reading from a teleprompter at an event this week unveiling Samsung's new curved HD and 4K UHD TVs. "Curved designs not only catch the eye, but they have a sensory appeal," he added in a reception held at the famously curvy Guggenheim Museum in New York's tony Upper East Side.

MORE: Best TVs 2014

But will curved TVs sell downtown or out in the suburbs? The one factor that keeps most people coming back to buy TVs is size, and the ability to spend less money to get a bigger screen. (Average TV prices nearly halved between 2008 and 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, even though average screen size has gone up a bit.)

The upgrade from a 40-inch to 50-inch TV is worthwhile for families with a big enough TV room. And they can get a 50-inch TV for as little as $500 on Amazon. Even premium-brand Samsung sells a 50-inch, flat HDTV (its new H6400 Smart LED TV) for $1,200. But if you want a slight curve to the screen, the prices start at $2,000 for the new 48-inch H8000 model that Samsung showed today and will start selling in April. That's the price for a 1080p HDTV, not one with the four-times-greater 4K Ultra HD resolution.   

Looked at another way, you could spend that same $2,000 not on Samsung's curved, 48-inch model but on the company's flat-screen HDTV measuring 65 inches — close to the upper limit of what people who don't live on Central Park could consider buying.

Flat 4K is Where It's At

Technology moves on, and what seems extravagant one day becomes commonplace and affordable a few years later. If the curved screen does have the appeal that Samsung and Sotheby's believe it does, the curvy TVs may be the technology of the future.

But there's another TV technology of the future: 4K or Ultra HD TVs. Samsung's entry-level model the 50-inch HU8550 (flat, not curved) sells for $2,500 — a bit more than the curved HDTV, but with a lot more capabilities for now and the future. Samsung is offering four lines of TVs that are both curved and 4K, but the curve once again adds a premium. The entry-level curved model is Samsung's $4,000 U9000 55-inch TV.

MORE: What Is 4K TV?

Alternately called "4K" and "Ultra HD," these sets have four times the resolution of 1080p HDTVs, displaying images that are frighteningly close to real life. Of course, that's for the limited amount of true 4K content now available. Most of that is nature, documentary-style footage on YouTube.

But later this year, Netflix will begin streaming 4K versions of its original shows. And Samsung announced today that it is working not only with Netflix but also with Amazon and on-demand streaming service M-GO on 4K content, though the TV maker didn't provide details. Samsung also offers a smattering of 4K content, with the promise of more via download, on its $300 UHD Video Pack, a one-terabyte hard drive that works with the company's TVs. (Sony has a similar, $700 system that offers more content, or Sony TVs)

It's not certain what the ultimate system or systems for delivering 4K content will be, and future 4K may require technologies that aren't yet deployed. But Samsung has thought of that. It will soon sell its $400 UHD Evolution Kit to bring the latest tech (such a new HDMI and copy-protection standards) to its older 4K TVs. Samsung seems committed to offering future evolution kits for today's TVs if other technologies emerge.

Furthermore, a good 4K TV can "upscale" regular HD content, of which there's no shortage, to something between HD and 4K quality. It's not the real 4K deal, but it's better than HD, if done right.

MORE: Where Can You Get 4K Video?

Finally, who says that you have to watch just one show on a 4K TV? With four times the resolution of HD, one screen can literally show four 1080p videos. Watching a quartet of shows at once may be overwhelming, but what about a show, and Twitter, and the Web and maybe a silly game? That's what Samsung envisions with its new Multi-Link, which can divide the screen into four segments.

Samsung's Multi-Link gives you four HD video windows.Samsung's Multi-Link gives you four HD video windows.Samsung isn't the first company to think of this. The new Xbox One's Snap feature allows you to display an app such as Skype on the right side of the screen while you play your game. That still leaves more than enough pixels to show a game or video in full HD. The Xbox One doesn't currently support 4K, but Microsoft told Tom's Guide that the Xbox One "will support 4K games and entertainment" via a software upgrade.

If you are itching for a new TV, the safest bet may be to get a nice, cheap HDTV that's bigger than what you currently have, and then replace it in a few years when 4K and curved TVs get cheaper. But if you want to be an early adopter, and you don't attend Sotheby's auctions, a 4K TV will offer you more value than a merely curved TV.

Follow Sean Captain @seancaptain and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Add your comment Display 27 Comments.
  • 8 Hide
    InvalidError , March 20, 2014 4:30 PM
    The most annoying thing about curved screens is that you need to sit near the focal point for the best result, which effectively dictates exactly where you must sit. Sitting anywhere else will make perceived deformation worse than a flat screen.
  • 7 Hide
    FFH , March 20, 2014 4:39 PM
    This sounds like a fad. Kind of like the 3DTVs.
  • 5 Hide
    Bondfc11 , March 20, 2014 5:16 PM
    @FFH Exactly my thoughts. Although they are pushing 4k down our throats just because the market all saw 3D tvs as a stupid thing and didn't drink the 3d koolaide.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_wizzie , March 20, 2014 5:32 PM
    Quote:
    The most annoying thing about curved screens is that you need to sit near the focal point for the best result, which effectively dictates exactly where you must sit. Sitting anywhere else will make perceived deformation worse than a flat screen.
    True but would this work for desktop gaming? I sit at the same exact place every time I game so my head is never moving.
  • 2 Hide
    captaincharisma , March 20, 2014 6:33 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The most annoying thing about curved screens is that you need to sit near the focal point for the best result, which effectively dictates exactly where you must sit. Sitting anywhere else will make perceived deformation worse than a flat screen.
    True but would this work for desktop gaming? I sit at the same exact place every time I game so my head is never moving.
    why would you waste the money when you could just pick up 2-3 cheap monitors for the same experience?
  • 2 Hide
    XGrabMyY , March 20, 2014 6:44 PM
    4K isn't where it is at. Television broadcasts are at best 720p, a few exceptions are sporting events broadcast at 1080i.There is no studio offering 4K content yet, Sony has a subscription based service right now - but not all of it is native 4K content, most of it is upscaled.4K doesn't have a place in your livingroom, but on your desk I could argue that it does.
  • 2 Hide
    bimbam360 , March 20, 2014 6:45 PM
    Meh, curve,4k,3d, smart, all a crock to refresh and thus charge more for technology that has provided fundamentally the same service for years.Google 'does 4k resolution matter' and you'll see why it is a complete waste of money on anything sub ~80' in a standard lounge. Combine that with a lack of content (or even better, content that is claimed to be 4k but you won't know any better for the reason stated above) and the huge premiums you pay, it makes more sense to spend your money on a huge flat 1080 screen, or buy a DLP projector (room permitting).I had a ~100", 720 screen (which still looked fantastic) for 500 notes. Just sucks my new house is too bright.
  • 3 Hide
    velocityg4 , March 20, 2014 8:07 PM
    There was a big push to move away from curved screens in the 90's because the sucked. Why would I want to go back?
  • 2 Hide
    bystander , March 20, 2014 11:29 PM
    Quote:
    There was a big push to move away from curved screens in the 90's because the sucked. Why would I want to go back?
    The old CRT's were curved the other way. There was no optimal viewing on them. With the new curved TV's, if you are centered, it makes every pixel on the screen the same distance to your eyes as the next, but as mentioned, if you are not centered, then it may not be as good as flat. I'll pass, but it is not the same as those back in the CRT days.
  • -2 Hide
    Geef , March 20, 2014 11:57 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The most annoying thing about curved screens is that you need to sit near the focal point for the best result, which effectively dictates exactly where you must sit. Sitting anywhere else will make perceived deformation worse than a flat screen.
    True but would this work for desktop gaming? I sit at the same exact place every time I game so my head is never moving.
    why would you waste the money when you could just pick up 2-3 cheap monitors for the same experience?
    So to resolve both of the problems you guys mentioned I'd say once they make a 4K Curved screen then it will be great for people using computers. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Innocent_Bystander , March 21, 2014 4:09 AM
    Quote:
    This sounds like a fad. Kind of like the 3DTVs.
    I don't think so... there was at least some usefulness to 3D....
  • 0 Hide
    Shin-san , March 21, 2014 5:04 AM
    It's amusing to me that the highest res video content mostly is available only online.
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The most annoying thing about curved screens is that you need to sit near the focal point for the best result, which effectively dictates exactly where you must sit. Sitting anywhere else will make perceived deformation worse than a flat screen.
    True but would this work for desktop gaming? I sit at the same exact place every time I game so my head is never moving.
    A monitor version of this would work. Computers are mostly used by a single person at a time
  • 0 Hide
    reactive , March 21, 2014 5:57 AM
    Just more of the same marketing crap. 3D was a stop-gap con to keep sales going until they could get 4K yield / prices down, and now we have 4K to do the same. A curved screen is just another case of "because we can". I sat in front of one in a department store, and it is so unnatural to look at that it rapidly becomes unpleasant to watch.
  • -1 Hide
    burkhartmj , March 21, 2014 7:11 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The most annoying thing about curved screens is that you need to sit near the focal point for the best result, which effectively dictates exactly where you must sit. Sitting anywhere else will make perceived deformation worse than a flat screen.
    True but would this work for desktop gaming? I sit at the same exact place every time I game so my head is never moving.
    I'm not sure if the technology is at a point where this would work. When sitting 10 feet from a TV, a screen needs less of a curve to achieve what Samsung is touting as the benefit of curved screens. The curve for sitting 10-12 INCHES would have to be notable more extreme, and I don't know if current manufacturing process can create such a curve. Besides, PC gaming is quickly moving the VR route, which would make a curved screen largely irrelevant, and using a PC for anything else would make curve a hindrance.
  • 0 Hide
    Samy421 , March 21, 2014 8:18 AM
    What about 200 inches screen in 1080p for only.... 750 USD ? Impossible I hear you say...That would be the best bang for the buck, we all agree ?Try googling Benq W1070 ...VIDEOPROJECTORS ! Videoprojectors are now mature products and my guess is that they will conquer more and more market share in the future. They now offer fantastic picture quality. The only down with videoprojector is that you have to forecast to buy a new lamp every 5000 hours or so.
  • 1 Hide
    burkhartmj , March 21, 2014 9:08 AM
    Quote:
    What about 200 inches screen in 1080p for only.... 750 USD ? Impossible I hear you say...That would be the best bang for the buck, we all agree ?Try googling Benq W1070 ...VIDEOPROJECTORS ! Videoprojectors are now mature products and my guess is that they will conquer more and more market share in the future. They now offer fantastic picture quality. The only down with videoprojector is that you have to forecast to buy a new lamp every 5000 hours or so.
    Nothing will make a projector bright enough for your average living room with windows and lights. They're by far the best choice for home theatres, but a LOT of planning or a basement is required to get a particularly good picture. Normal TV's have insane backlighting that can overpower other light sources and are closer to the actual pictures, so it isn't as likely to get washed out as projectors.
  • -1 Hide
    11796pcs , March 21, 2014 9:17 AM
    "The Xbox One doesn't currently support 4K, but Microsoft told Tom's Guide that the Xbox One "will support 4K games and entertainment" via a software upgrade."I find it annoying that Microsoft consistently gets away with lying. You won't be playing games at 4K on the Xbox One, you can't even play Titanfall at 720p!
  • 0 Hide
    ethanolson , March 21, 2014 9:33 AM
    You're more likely to get a glare band reflection on a curved TV.
  • 0 Hide
    Samy421 , March 21, 2014 10:34 AM
    What about 200 inches screen in 1080p for only.... 750 USD ? Impossible I hear you say...That would be the best bang for the buck, we all agree ?Try googling Benq W1070 ...VIDEOPROJECTORS ! Videoprojectors are now mature products and my guess is that they will conquer more and more market share in the future. They now offer fantastic picture quality. The only down with videoprojector is that you have to forecast to buy a new lamp every 5000 hours or so.
  • 0 Hide
    Cali Dude , March 21, 2014 12:41 PM
    Not worth it. Eventually everybody will have 2 or 3 VR headsets with headphones for sound.I would imagine that the VR headsets will eventually have screens with no solid backing so that when you wanna reach for popcorn you just tap a button and the displays switch to 50% opacity.That way it doesn't matter where the hell you sit for optimal viewing/listening. Hell, you could lay back and relax on your Tempurpedic bought with former TV money
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