Whether setting up your home office or work space, you will need to consider the pros and cons of a number of new technologies. Some innovations, like a standing desk or an ergonomic chair, provide real health and productivity benefits. Other office trends, like cheesy motivational posters, we may be better off without.
One of your first decisions when customizing your work space will be selecting a computer monitor, if you do not work from a laptop. Curved monitor screens have become a huge tech trend since they were first introduced in 2014, replacing the once-cutting edge flat screen monitors. In 2018, Samsung alone sold seven million curved computer monitors, and Statista estimates that global shipments of curved monitors was approximately 10.4 million in 2019 and will be around 12.9 million in 2020.
Despite the spike in sales, curved screens are undoubtedly more expensive than their flat counterparts, costing 40%-65% more for relatively equal specs. So, are these curved screens worth the investment, or are they just a gimmick?
There are a number of benefits to curved monitors, but they may not apply to every person. There’s no wrong answer, but doing your homework will help you make the right decision for your needs.
Pro: Curved monitors are more immersive.
In all likelihood, the biggest reason you may even be interested in these large curved monitors is they deliver a more immersive experience than flat screens. The screens fill up more of your peripheral vision, allowing you to focus more on your work, movie, or game rather than the distractions of the real world around you.
The curved screen technology utilizes concepts of “ocular perception” to create this immersive experience, blending more seamlessly into your peripheral vision. Particularly for gaming, entertainment, or creative work, this can be a seductive experience.
Con: Curved monitors may have more glare, causing eye strain.
A downside to curved monitors is that the larger, arched display can catch light from more angles. This makes glare a bigger issue for curved screens than flat screens, since glare can block or obscure sections of the screen. Not to mention, glare is a cause of eye strain, potentially causing headaches or blurred vision.
Of course, flat screen monitors can still cause glare if positioned at the wrong angle, but they are easier to move and set up in an area with less light. For either type of monitor, place the screen away from as many light sources as possible and use low, ambient light around your computer to reduce glare.
Pro: Curved monitors have less distortion.
Everyone has had that annoying experience when you try to enlarge a picture, PDF, or video, and the quality ends up grainy and distorted, especially around the edges. Curved monitors have a slight advantage in reducing distortion, especially for wide/large images.
Put simply, the difference between curved and flat screen distortion comes down to the physics of light projection. With flat monitors, the image is projected at you in a straight line, such that for a large image some elements will project past your head. With a curved monitor, the entire image is directed at your eyes, ultimately leading to a less distorted picture even as you zoom in.
Con: You may lose most of your wall space to a curved monitor.
Curved monitors typically have a 21:9 aspect ratio, compared to a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio for flat screens, which means curved screens are significantly wider than they are tall. While there are obvious benefits to seeing more information spread out across more horizontal space, this also means the screen may end up taking up the entire length of your desk.
It is worth mentioning that the curve of the screen results in a bigger depth of the screen; that is, the screen will take up more space in front of your wall. Most curved monitors are about 40 millimeters greater than flat screens, and can make your office space feel slightly more cramped.
Speaking of wall space, another consideration is that due to their signature shape, curved screens are more difficult to mount on a wall or desk stand. While flat screens can rest flush against the wall, curved screens require specific positioning and mounts to rest against the wall. Brackets and adjustable mounts—such as the Autonomous Arm Mount—may be useful options to tilt, swivel, and adjust the screen as needed.
Pro: Curved monitors may be more comfortable.
Although curved screens are more popular for immersive and aesthetic reasons, manufacturers also like to boast about how their screens can reduce eye strain. Naturally, the shape of a curved monitor more closely resembles the curvature of the eyeball, giving your content a more natural feel.
Essentially, the curvature of the screen allows the eye to view everything on screen without strain. This can result in a more organic and comfortable viewing experience.
Con: Slower performance for gaming and streaming.
Since curved screens are a relatively newer technology, they have not yet caught up to flat screens in terms of high-speed performance. In general, gaming reviewers have found that flat monitors tend to have faster refresh rates, response times, and color accuracy.
Flat monitors tend to be more widely available for high-speed performance at a reasonable price, while curved screens with similar high-speed specifications will come with a massive price tag. For avid gamers and video editors, a flat screen monitor will offer the highest level of refresh rate with a low input lag and response time.
Pro: Curved panels tend to be lighter.
An unexpected benefit of curved panels is the difference in weight. As a newer technology, curved screens tend to be around 3 kilograms lighter than flat monitors.
While you may not notice the weight difference in your day-to-day usage, this can be a substantial difference depending on the accessories you want to use. If you plan to tilt and swivel your screen—such as with a VESA-compatible mount—or use a glass-top desk, the lighter screens might save you a headache.
Con: Curved panels may cause neck strain.
The benefits of an ergonomic office setup are well-documented, and can result in higher productivity, better health, and more focus. Although the curvature of a curved screen results in a more comfortable viewing experience, it is also possible that the wider horizonal space will result in shifting your head back and forth more often.
Turning your neck more frequently to focus on different parts of the screen can result in neck strain, leading to headaches and soreness. This can be overcome by sitting further away from a curved monitor, but that is not always possible with a small desk or office space. Since flat panels are easier to set up on a flexible monitor arm, they may also provide more ergonomic viewing options while working, although this is also possible with a curved screen depending on your specific work setup.
Pro: Multitasking made easy.
For those who currently use two connected screens for work or gaming, the wider curved screens may be your answer. If you tend to work across multiple documents, tabs, or programs, increasing the real estate of your physical screen space can be a lifesaver.
Due to the 21:9 aspect ratio of most curved screens, they tend to be widescreen and are even available in ultrawide monitors, making workflows and multi-tasking much easier. The alternative would be a dual-monitor setup or a large flat widescreen, but both do not fall short of the smooth experience of an ultrawide curved monitor.
Con: Limited variety of accessories available.
Since the curved screens are relatively new and are not as widely dominant in the market as flat screens, office accessories can be less varied or more expensive. Certainly, many curved monitors come with high-quality stands and mounts.
However, curved monitor accessories simply don’t have the range of price, weight, customization, design, and color options for arms offering tilt, swivel, height, and rotational adjustments.
While there are many differences, both curved and flat monitors are available with high resolution, beautiful imaging, and compatibility with your other computer elements.
If you have a large enough room, customizable lighting conditions, and spend a lot of time editing horizontal video or playing games, it is likely worth the investment to add a curved computer monitor to your work space. If you have a small space, little control over the room’s lighting, and use your computer for general tasks like writing, web browsing, and normal streaming, a flat screen display may be more than enough.
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