Flat vs Curved Screens, 1.2

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We’ve addressed this question in a prior chat and are updating to add curved projection screens.

The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show featured a number of curved screen panel TVs. This creates a whole new set of questions for consumers. 

Major manufacturers Samsung and LG produce curved screens and are strongly promoting them although the majority of their sales remain in flat screens and will continue to do so. 

If you are considering a screen upgrade, here are some things to consider when making your choice:

Manufacturers say the curved screen design produces a “wrap-around” effect that immerses the viewer more deeply, due to the sides of the image. This increases peripheral vision involvement. Placement and surroundings are more important with the curved screens, as any light source opposite or near the screen results in a larger and more obvious washout of the picture than you would see on a flat screen. If you do decide to add a curved screen, you would probably benefit from some more sophisticated and programmable lighting controls.

Something for our friends who like the 3D experience

Fans of the curve like the sense of depth, which they say resembles 3D without the glasses or format issues. Samsung ups the effect with depth-enhancing processing, by adjusting contrast in different parts of the image. The increased image depth, though, works best when viewed from directly in front of and at the correct distance. The smaller, 55″ curved models don’t produce as much of a sense of depth as the 65″ offers, so if you really love the idea, go for the largest size that will fit your installation and budget. Even though 65 inches is 65 inches, the brain will actually perceive a wider field of view on a curved screen. Especially for sports fans, the apparent increase in screen size is a welcome improvement. 

Although specifications can’t be directly compared, one claim is that the curve also gives the image higher contrast. Just the same, the images produced by high quality curved screens definitely do seem to have more “pop”. With the deeper sense of involvement given by a curved screen, a bit more picture intensity is a good thing.

Manufacturers state the curve mimics eye curvature to evenly enhance sharpness throughout the image, much as the giant theater screens do. Samsung’s curve is made as a section of a 4200mm-radius circle, which they say is best for our average viewing distance of approximately 10′. This hasn’t seemed to make much difference with current sizes, but probably will as larger screen sizes become available. For the added immersion and involvement, in this case bigger may indeed be better.

Some of us may remember the old curved-screen Advent and Kloss projection TVs, which were close to useless when viewed off-axis. This was caused by light being bounced off a curved surface not being reflected to the sides. This meant watching the Super Bowl was for people with very few friends and a small couch. Many LCD-based projection and panel screens have had similar problems caused by the way LCDs emit light. This reduces color intensity and contrast for viewers seated to the side of the screen. Those problems are now conquered as the new curved screens adjust the direction of the LCDs’ light output to keep the image’s color and contrast levels correct at oblique viewing angles.

While Samsung and others have figured out how to keep light and color even across a curve, viewing angles of more than 35 degrees left or right of straight-on may give a foreshortened or squeezed look to the side of the picture nearest the viewer. That being said, a 70-degree viewing area is still pretty wide. 

And the last but not least consideration is price. Curved models are definitely more expensive than flat models, just as any new equipment type is expensive until it is made in huge numbers. Even so, they are very reasonable in price, especially when compared to flat-screen prices of just a few years ago. Of course you will see these screen prices drop as sales increase.

NOW for front-throw projection curved screens.

Most of the comments about curved panels apply to projection screens as well. Here are some reminders:

Curved screens do deliver more light to the viewer but the seating for best viewing is somewhat more limited than that for flat screens as the light does not reflect as well peripherally. Therefore the prime seating area is smaller.

Curved screens do provide a more enveloping experience, with a “wrap-around” effect which can be more involving for viewers. Unfortunately this does not become very effective with moderate-sized screens. It works best with very large viewing areas.

Curved screen viewing is not always a good thing with some material such as news and other non-movie or non-sports presentations.

Curved screens are in general less sensitive to ambient light such as that from windows or lighting off to the side of the screen. This is the good side to the somewhat more limited best seating area. A curved surface does not reflect as much side light as a flat surface.

Curved screens in projection applications have a potential for image distortion unless the correct lens (usually anamorphic) is used or the projector can digitally correct for the change in geometry of the reflecting screen. Some projectors can be modified with a different lens, some can correct, but you should check specifications on your projector before purchasing a curved screen, especially the throw ratio. Ask your dealer for advice on room size as it relates to screen size and seating area.

Curved screens are not as decor-friendly as flat screens, as their sides jut out from the surroundings. This can be helped by some creative cabinet work or even theater-type side drapes or theater-style curtains. These solutions are impractical in many multi-purpose rooms, less so in dedicated theaters.

What does all of this information mean to you? Before deciding which type of screen to buy, you should consider where that screen will be placed in relation where you will be sitting, where the room light sources are and whether the larger sizes will fit comfortably in the location you choose. A final and obvious word: take a look for yourself at both types of screen, preferably in an environment that’s similar to your own viewing area. Unless your home lighting runs to huge banks of fluorescent lights and row after row of screens cheek-to-cheek, look for a competent dealer with a realistic demonstration room to make your choice easier. 

If you have heard about curved screens and are curious, would like to see one properly demonstrated or would like more information, visit or contact Watt Integration.