Curve appeal in monitors

Some uses are not practical for a curved screen, but design ingenuity may overcome those obstacles.

Curves. Some people like them, some people don’t. Recently, Corsair, the specialist in memory and gaming hardware, revealed a new OLED monitor with a bit of a different take. It got me thinking about curved displays, a topic I haven’t covered for a while.

The monitor is the Xeneon Flex 45WQHD240—the name more or less defines it! The 45-inch OLED monitor is a 21:9 format 3440 × 1440 unit that Corsair said was developed with LG Display. (LG Display has talked about this concept for a while, and last year introduced the first 48-inch bendable OLED display with cinematic sound.)

The Corsair display has peak brightness of 1,000 cd/m² with support for 240 Hz refresh and is compatible with both Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync Premium. What’s unique about the unit, which was being previewed at Gamescom 2022 last week, is that it can be bent to a radius as tight as 800 mm. There’s a brief video about the monitor. Its price and availability will be announced later this year.

Why curve the display?

So, why would you curve the display? There are three main reasons.

The first is that a curved display gives a greater feeling of immersion, especially if you are playing a game. I’m not a gamer, but I have had enough time in front of curved gaming displays to believe that it can make a big difference. However, the effect really relies on the viewer being in the “sweet spot” close to the center of the bend, which is why I was never a fan of curved displays for TV, but have always liked curves for desktop monitors, which are optimized for a single viewer.

The second reason is that with LCD displays in particular, the performance changes with the viewing angle. It’s not as bad as it used to be for IPS displays and is improving on vertical alignment (VA) LCDs. But while the viewer looks at the display at right angles when looking at the middle, as the displays get wider, the angle from the viewer to the display gets more acute if the display is flat. That means that the contrast and color performance can shift visibly. Curving the display reduces the change in angle and can minimize the effect. Of course, OLEDs have better viewing angles than LCDs (although even they are not perfect), so this is less of an issue with OLEDs or with any of the prospective new flat display technologies.

The third reason is related to this geometry aspect. Just as the angle to the display changes, the distance from the eyes to the display changes, so the visual system has to modify the eye’s accommodation (focus) and the vergence of the two eyes. I don’t remember seeing research on this (but if you have, please let me know-BR), but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that this takes more effort in the visual system. Certainly, a SID paper in 2019 showed that curved displays generate less visual fatigue.

Supply is also a factor

This is the display industry, so the supply chain also plays a role in the interest by brands and panel makers in curved displays. In the early days of OLED, the developers liked to highlight that because the displays are much thinner, curving an OLED is relatively simple. On the other hand, an LCD is quite thick, which makes bending difficult. And, there are multiple layers that need to align all the time, which complicates things a lot. Those factors make engineering a curved LCD much, much harder and is one of the reasons why Samsung sold nearly all the curved LCD TVs when they were in fashion. Samsung Electronics did a great job of the engineering of putting the LCD cell, from Samsung Display, onto a curved backlight.

Others found this harder or too expensive. Samsung did well with curved monitors because of its engineering, and as long ago as 2016, it was claiming to have made a million. The difficulties are also why a lot of curved LCDs did not have a consistent, smooth curve, but rather two relatively straight “wings” with a curve in the center.

Curved monitors make sense—sometimes

So, a curved OLED monitor, especially such a big one, makes sense, but not everyone wants a curved display all the time. If you have a 45-inch Corsair monitor with a tight radius (and R800 is tighter than any I can remember seeing for the desktop), that could be great when you are in “lean-in” mood and fighting enemies in an FPS, but might not be what you want to use to watch the latest Netflix or Prime box set while in “lean-back” mode.

Over the years, I have seen multiple demonstrations of sets that were motorized and could be switched from curved to flat. (Last year, Skyworth said it was the first to bring the concept to mass production, and the company’s flagship W82 TV was named as a CES 2022 Innovation Awards honoree in gaming and video displays. It was a cool technology achievement, but the development was not simple and added a fair degree of cost for motors and mechanics. Corsair has eliminated that cost and complexity, and simply made it so handles, which pop out of the side of the monitor, can be pulled into shape. That’s a clever idea. When motorized curving was previously applied to TV, my guess was that after setting the curve (or lack thereof), the viewer probably rarely changed it, meaning all that complexity and cost was redundant.

LG Electronics has a solution if you do want the curve all the time. LG Electronics launched its 800R 45-inch 45GR95QE curved OLED monitor based on the same panel at IFA this week. The company says the monitor covers 98.5% of the DCI-P3 color space.

There are likely to be more developments in this area. Last year, TCL showed an R800 mini-LED LCD 49-inch display in China.

This story was reproduced with permission from Display Daily.

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