Until flat panel televisions arrived we Australians were highly predictable television buyers. We’d pay a premium price, maybe as much as $700, for a big 68 cm television for the lounge room and, later, a lot less for a smaller one in the bedroom. And we’d keep those televisions until they broke down irretrievably – 20 years was not uncommon.

curve 2Then plasma and LCD came along, and suddenly there was something new and sexy on the television market. When their prices dropped into viable territory those old cathode ray tube numbers started littering verges everywhere.

And a funny thing has happened since. Instead of waiting for our tellies to wear out we now ditch them for new ones even when they have many, many good years left. Samsung says the lifespan of a television in the average Australian home is now around five years.

It’s driven by marketing. As new and exciting technology renders our current models a tad boring we are sweet talked, encouraged, cajoled and brow beaten into an update. Updating is of course good for television manufacturers, all they have to do is come up with new and exciting features. That, however, is far from a walk in the park because we Australians are a stroppy lot; we may be early adopters, but only when the new tech offers us a genuine benefit.

LCD was supposed to persuade plasma owners to change, but they hung on to their superior colour balance and contrast tenaciously. It was only rationalisation by the big manufacturers that saw plasma off.

We embraced the slim lines of LEDs enthusiastically, but the industry misread us badly with 3D. Despite frantic promotion we stayed away in droves. We had two problems with 3D; a painful lack of software at launch and the fact that we don’t like using glasses to watch TV, especially expensive glasses that have to be recharged. Lots of 3D televisions are being sold but it’s only because the feature is standard in most good quality tellies.

curve 1OLED televisions appear to have failed comprehensively. LG released its curved screen 140 cm OLED about a year ago at $11,999. Then around the January sales it cut the price to $7999, and then again to $5999. Most of the major brands were forecasting big things for OLED, now they’re not mentioning it at all.

But while OLED may be benched the industry hasn’t lost its faith in curved screens. It’s just that they’re LEDs this time round. And if your screen isn’t ultra-high definition (UHD), well the industry wants to know why you’re waiting.

UHD picture quality is stunning, but there’s a repeat of the same mistake made with 3D – UHD software is so scant and hard to find that the in-store demo disc is likely the best thing you’ll see on a UHD screen for quite some time.

So why buy it? You’ll be told it will make you future-proof. When all that good UHD stuff comes along you’ll be ready. The point may be moot by then given that UHD is rapidly becoming the default format among premium televisions, just as high definition screens took over from standard definition.

Curved screens have far more potential to generate sales sizzle. They look sexy and different and although they can be hard to notice in a showroom, where the degree of curvature looks minimal, once against a wall the concavity of the screen is readily noticeable. So much so that some in the industry believe these tellies might bring back something that died with the old cathode ray tube televisions; placement of the television in a corner of the room, rather than mid-wall.

Salespeople will tell you the curved screen offers an ‘immersive’ experience and they’re saying this because there really is no other benefit. Even its immersiveness is highly debatable.

Samsung now offers three beautifully elegant curved screen LEDs, all UHD. We spotted the 140 cm for $3691 (more than $2000 less than LG’s 140 cm curved OLED, which is only HD) the 165 cm for $4697 and the 198 cm monster for $13,999.

All of these are breathtaking televisions, but you paying dearly for curvature. For example we found LG’s flat screen 200 cm UHD, slightly bigger than the biggest curved Samsung, for $9791. That’s $4208, or 30 per cent, cheaper. And it has better sound.

Published September 2014


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