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LG, Samsung, and Sony throw TV buyers a curve

At IFA, companies show OLED, Ultra HD, and LED sets with curved screens

Published: September 10, 2013 10:15 AM
Sony throws a curve at an LCD TV
The S990A model is a $4,000 1080p LED-backlit LCD with a curved screen. Photo: Sony
Photo: Sony

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Is the future of TV curved? At the IFA European trade show last week, curved screens of all types were on display from manufacturers including LG Electronics, Samsung, and Sony. These newer models join the first curved TV screens we'd seen, on current 55-inch OLED TVs from LG and Samsung.

While manufacturers claim a curved screen creates an impression of watching a TV larger than its actual screen size, with a more immersive viewing experience, our initial impression is that it's more of an aesthetic touch that helps to differentiate these newer, higher-priced TVs from conventional flat-panel sets. We hope to be able to test more TVs with curved screens to see if our opinion changes.

At IFA, LG went bigger, earning bragging rights to having the biggest OLED TV to date, a 77-inch behemoth that also has Ultra HD TV resolution. (Samsung also showed an OLED/Ultra HD TV hybrid.) LG's set, which the company said could arrive in the U.S. sometime next year, doesn't yet have a price, but it's bound to be expensive—the company's current 55-inch 1080p OLED is selling for $15,000. [Note: LG has now dropped the price of this set to $10,000.]

One of the big issues facing OLED TV production is being able to make the sets in larger screen sizes. LG also showed a 55-inch OLED with a flat screen, which it billed as the world's first wall-mountable OLED set.

Samsung—which debuted a curved screen in the 55-inch OLED TV we recently reviewed—threw a curve at a few LCD-based Ultra HD TVs, in the 55-and 65-inch sizes.  Pricing and availability weren't announced, but the company says it's actually more difficult to manufacture curved LCD TVs than OLED TVs because of the panel structure. Samsung currently sells flat Ultra HD TVs in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes.

Shopping for a new television? Check our TV buying guide and Ratings for tips and advice.

Sony, which also unveiled a new Ultra HD video download service for its Ultra HD TVs, took a different tack with what it called the world's first LED-backlight LCD TV with a curved screen. The 65-inch 1080p set, in the S990A series, has many of the company's latest TV features, including Triluminos color technology, Sony's smart TV Internet platform, one-touch NFC pairing via the TV's remote control, and an eight-speaker sound system. You can pre-order the S990A set, which costs $4,000, for delivery sometime in October.

It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers follow suit, or if curved screens are just another passing fad, like Smell-O-Vision in theaters.

—James K. Willcox   

   

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