Because the forthcoming 105-inch curved Ultra-HD OLED TVs from Samsung and LG can’t possibly fit any reasonable definition of “affordable.” But then, CES — the “global stage for innovation” — is no stranger to expensive toys that no one can afford (check out last year’s 110-inch 4K monstrosity from Samsung). This year, the two South Korean entertainment conglomerates outdid themselves....
Curved displays are nothing new — Samsung and LG both unveiled 55-inch curved OLED TVs last year, and e-paper revolutionized the concept as far back as the 1970s. But to see it conceptualized in such gargantuan proportions — really, the entire point of this lavish PR stunt — is extraordinary. It also makes me wish that money wasn’t an object for this humble editor, but I digress.
Gorgeous, stunning, and breathtaking – and I’m talking about the TV.
Are curved displays the next “big thing”? Possibly. The winds — and massive corporate ad dollars — are certainly shifting that way. The big dogs of the consumer market — Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Sharp — are praying that something, anything imbues the public with a sense of grandeur (and empties their pockets).
3D violates one of the sacred rules of consumer behavior – no one likes wearing goofy glasses (especially at home). It never stood a chance.3D was a total bust. For the last 6-7 years — really, the last decade — the consumer industry has tried to convince a skeptical public to abandon their “obsolete” LED TVs for a tech gimmick that no one asked for and no one wants. 3D violates the one sacrosanct rule of consumer behavior — no one likes to wear dorky accessories on their head. And autostereoscopic displays — i.e., glasses-free 3D — sport limited viewing angles. Consumers are universally dismissing 3D as a fad — except in theaters, and even that appears to be passing like a large kidney stone.
Curved displays present a tangible difference over “normal” LCDs — far more so than an optical gimmick like 3D. And if the rumors prove true — an iPhone with a curved display — the tech world and millions of Apple fanboys (and girls) will flock behind it. Samsung has already announced the Galaxy Round, a lavish $1K toy with a 5.7-inch curved OLED display. Experts say these initial forays are the first step toward truly flexible displays that can be “folded like a map.”
And the specs are sexy for the 105-inch badboys — 11 million pixels (5,120 wide and 2,160 high), a cinematically proportioned 21:9 CinemaScope screen, and wide viewing angles. Last year’s batch of curved OLED TVs sported a curvature of five or six degrees (with a similar effect to an IMAX screen), and the immersive capabilities will be a top selling point.
4K received a mixed reaction — your average consumer probably can’t differentiate between “normal” HD and Ultra-HD — but curved displays present a concrete, palpable improvement over flat LCDs (notwithstanding the resolution or stereoscopic gimmicks). But will it entice the early adopters enough to drive down costs to the point where you don’t need to forgo your kids’ tuition (and heat and electricity) to afford one?
No 105-inch TV will ever be affordable for anyone who doesn’t own a private jet — not till the tech is long past its prime, anyway. And these gargantuan show-stoppers were never really intended for (general) public consumption. CES is all about the glitz and glam, after all, and a 105-inch toy makes for great PR. But if consumers don’t climb aboard the curved-display bandwagon, the tech will forever remain the province of the ultra-rich.