Remember tube TVs? They were kinda bland-looking and they had these bulbous curves to them. Then flat-screen TVs became the new hot thing and if you’re TV wasn’t flat, it sucked. Now curved TVs are the new hot thing again, but wait! It’s not a convex curve, it’s a concave curve! Quick, everyone, to the closest gadget retailer!
Excuse me. What I meant to say is that today Samsung is introducing a line of curved Ultra High Definition TVs, and they are very good.
Samsung’s U9000 SeriesCurved UHD TVs will be available in 78-inch, 65-inch, and 55-inch sizes. They are all super sharp with 4K resolution, and details were incredibly clear. The screen is framed by a thin, black bezel (about half an inch on the top and sides, and one in on the bottom), and it has a gentle 4200R curve to it, which Samsung claims is the optimal curve “from a normal watching distance of 3-4 meters.” Indeed, the curve really does create a sort of subtle 3D effect. It’s subtle, but it does appear that there’s a bit more depth.
The U9000 series will all be as “smart connected” as you’d expect, and feature a “quad core plus” processor. This enables you to split the screen in up to four ways, if you so desire, so you can be watching the game in one window, while reading stats in another two, and watching YouTube in a fourth. The TVs also feature a four-step upscaling process, which should make stuff played off an old DVD look at least closer to UHD. Theoretically.
Oh, and if that 78-incher isn’t big enough for you, they’ve also got a 105-inch curved UHD. This one has an aspect ratio of 21:9, meaning it’s very, very wide, and watching standard HD content will leave black bars on either side of the picture. OR, you could shove the picture over to one side, keep it 16:9, and use the empty real estate on the other side to do some picture-in-picture without blocking your main picture.
While the TVs looked good and we’d certainly be happy to have any of them in our living rooms, it’s not all good news here. When the picture went dark there were some spots that still had a lot of residual light from the LED backlighting. In other words, the blacks weren’t that perfect black you see on OLED TVs (which don’t require additional backlights), but rather a dark grey, and it looked patchy as well. For a TV as expensive as we’re betting these will be, that’s a major strike.
Also, while the curved screens look great head-on, it must be said that claims about better viewing angles are a bit overblown. As you come around to one side, yes, you can see the far side of the screen better than you would with a flat screen, but you see the near side much worse, so it’s a bit of a wash. Also, you only really get the immersive benefits from the curvature when it’s a really big TV and/or you’re sitting really close. But for these small benefits you end up paying more, and you’re much more limited in your mounting options, because a curved screen on a flat wall really looks kinda awkward.
But wait! If you have all of the money, Samsung has a solution! Samsung was also showing off this gigantic, bendable UHD TV. Samsung has been playing with bendable screens for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve seen it on such a large scale, and it’s really impressive. It will sit flat against your wall, then at the press of a button, it will bend in at the edges until it’s got that lovely curve. It was mesmerising to watch it go back and forth, nonchalantly playing UHD content all the while.
Prices haven’t yet been announced for any of these, but suffice to say that they will start at “very expensive” and the 105-incher and the bendy one will necessitate the sale of some important organs for the majority of us. The smaller models in the U9000 series are schedule to become available in March (though we were told that was “pending”), and the big boys won’t be available until H2, depending on demand.
Curved UHD TVs are going to be a big trend this year. We’ve already an extremely promising one come out of LG’s camp (and it’s OLED, too!). Unlike 4k resolutions and OLED technology which are clear advantages, the jury is still out on the curve. The benefits are less quantifiable, and are far less obvious. Plus, you’re increasing the footprint and making it less mountable. All that is to say that the curve is a trend which may or may not end up being just a passing fad, which means ultimately, you may or may not want to pay a premium for it.