My last Display Daily article selected itself, and so did today’s. Yesterday, 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 in Display Daily for a while.
The monitor is the Xeneon Flex 45WQHD240 – the name more or less defines it! The 45″ OLED monitor is a 21:9 format 3440 x 1440 unit that Corsair said was developed with LG Display. (LGD has talked about this concept for a while. (LG Display Introduces World’s First 48-inch Bendable Cinematic Sound OLED Display).
It has peak brightness of 1,000 cd/m² with support for 240Hz refresh and is both Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync Premium compatible. What’s unique about the unit, which was being previewed at Gamscom 2022 this week, is that it can be bent to a radius as tight as 800mm. There’s a brief video below. The monitor’s 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 give 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 centre 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 optimised for a single viewer.
The second reason is that with LCD displays in particular, the performance changed with the viewing angle. It’s not so bad as it used to be for IPS displays and is improving on 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 colour performance can shift visibly. Curving the display reduces the change in angle and can minimise 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 accomodation (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, an 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 that 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 sets. Samsung Reaches Curved Monitor Milestone) The difficulties are also why a lot of curved LCDs did not have a consistent smooth curve but have two relatively straight ‘wings’ with a curve in the centre. (Are Monitors Ahead of the Curve? for more on that topic).
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″ 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 watch the latest Netflix or Prime box set in ‘lean-back’ mode.
Over the years, I have seen multiple demonstrations of sets that were motorised and could be switched from curved to flat. (Last year Skyworth said it was the first to bring the concept to mass production Skyworth’s Flagship W82 TV Named as 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 have got rid of that cost and complexity and simply made it so that handles pop out of the side of the monitor and it can be pulled into shape. That’s a clever idea. When motorised 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 will launch its 800R 45″ 45GR95QE curved OLED monitor based on the same panel at IFA next week and we’ll be there to take a look. The monitor is said to cover 98.5% of DCI-P3.
There are likely to be more developments in this area. Last year, TCL showed an R800 miniLED LCD 49″ display in China (TCL Rolls Out Technology Demos in Shenzen – subscription required). (BR)