Curved TVs Are Cool, but Only If You Get the Best Seat

A man shows his parents his neat new curved TV. They seem proud.
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Curved TVs are said to bring a more immersive experience to your living room, and they’re getting pretty cheap. The thing is, only the best seat in the house gets to enjoy that “extra immersion,” and it’s not that special anyway.

Curved TVs Have Limited Viewing Angles

A curved TV from three different angles.
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A curved TV can look great when it’s three feet away from your face on a showroom floor. But what happens when you take it home and place it against the wall? You end up with a TV that has extremely limited viewing angles.

Okay, let’s not beat around the bush. You end up with one viewing angle—directly across from the TV. If you want to sit in a different part of your living room, watch your curved TV from the kitchen, or lean over to claw at some popcorn, then you’re going to end up with a crappy viewing angle.

There are a few ways to fix this issue. For one, you could sit further away from your TV, as your viewing angle technically becomes broader with distance. You could also use a swivel mount for your curved TV and turn it whenever you want to use a different chair or couch.

Or, you could just use a flat-screen TV. But on the off-chance that you’re okay with these issues, curved TVs have one more big problem: they’re bad for your friendships.

Where Do Your Friends or Family Sit?

A woman upset because she can't see the whole TV screen.
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Alright, so enough about you. What about your friends? Curved TVs make any group-TV sessions nearly impossible. You know, because you can’t really cram more than two people at a tolerable viewing angle.

Most curved TVs are about 65 inches, so they’re large enough to be the TV that’s in your home or living room (they’re sort of expensive too). That changes your living room from a social space into a self-indulgent TV space. It may not seem like a big problem if you live alone, but on the off chance that you do have friends over (yeah, me neither), you’ll run into problems.

Of course, you could always push your TV and your furniture further away from each other. But that kind of defeats the purpose of a curved display, doesn’t it? Curved screens don’t really look curved when you’re six or seven feet away. And that’s where curved TVs get kind of weird. They’re only special in particular circumstances.

Even With a Great Seat, Curved TVs Aren’t That Special

A curved Samsung TV on the showroom floor.
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TV manufacturers like to advertise curved TVs as a “super immersive” experience. And it’s pretty easy to get caught up in that idea—mostly because curved TVs look really cool on the showroom floor at Best Buy. They’re big, they’re usually arranged on the floor (much closer to you than your TV at home), and they typically have some fantastic 4K UHD screens.

In that controlled environment, the curved screens do seem immersive and novel (and this year’s $550 price tags seem pretty nice too). But when you take one of these TVs home, you aren’t really in that controlled showroom environment, and some issues can arise.

For one, there’s the issue of distance. The “immersive” factor of curved TVs comes from the fact that, when standing three feet away from one, the screen wraps around your vision. But from the “correct” viewing angle and normal distance (six feet or more), a curved display just kind of looks like a flat display. After a while, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a curved TV at all (unless you’re stuck with a bad seat, of course).

And then there are the tiny, weird problems. Curved displays have a slight “pincushion” effect where the stuff in the corner of the screen looks bigger than the stuff in the center of the screen. (This pincushion effect happens at movie theaters too, but  it’s less evident because the screen is ginormous). These small problems come with some small benefits (curved displays have less glare than flat TVs), but all in all, curved TVs really aren’t that much better than regular TVs.

Many of these problems are owed to the fact that TVs are large, and they’re used in all sorts of social situations. If you’re interested in a more immersive viewing experience (but you don’t want a curved TV to dominate the living room), it may be worth throwing a 4K curved display on your desk. They’re designed specifically for self-indulgent use, and you’re supposed to sit really close to them anyway. Plus, you don’t have to worry about sharing.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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