Both a regular flat TV and a cursed curved TV, LG’s OLED Flex transforms.
Curved TVs are probably the worst marketing ploy in the industry, outside of 3D. They produced a twisted image, sharp reflections, and a generally awful viewing experience for almost little advantage, unless you sat at a very particular location in front of them. They were very bad. Curved televisions appeared to have come about more so because manufacturers could produce them than because they ought to.
It took me a little while to realise it, but LG’s new 42-inch OLED Flex effectively heralds the return of curved TVs. LG announced the device this week at IFA and plans to release it this fall. LG may have caused some confusion by positioning the OLED Flex on top of a desk like a monitor in its demo area, despite the fact that it has a monitor-style stand with RGB lighting reminiscent of gamer equipment. Although it has four HDMI 2.1 inputs, runs WebOS, and includes a built-in TV tuner, this TV is an absolute badass. A TV, then.
It’s a TV, after all, with a pretty cool trick: it changes. At the push of a button, the device’s internal motors start to turn, transforming it from a flat TV into a curved TV. Or a curved TV that resembles a curved monitor (you can also control the bending process with the navigation button on the display’s underside). It’s not always curved, which helps it escape the curved TV curse. It’s an intriguing strategy because it says you shouldn’t have to deal with the issues the curve generates if you’re not going to gain from them.
LG had the racing game Forza Horizon 5 connected to the display to demonstrate when you would want a curved TV and advised viewers to sit about three to four feet away to reap the most from a curved screen’s vision-enveloping features. The screen can curve to a maximum of 900R, which is impressive, but it can also be adjusted on a percentage slider in 5 percent steps for a total of 20 different curvatures. The whirring sound was audible despite the IFA show floor’s din, and it goes without saying that you probably wouldn’t want to hear it in the middle of a game.
The LG OLED Flex is almost identical to LG’s current 42-inch C2 TV, with the exception of its curved mechanism and bulky stand. It has the same LG Display OLED Evo panel and supports both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos (it can create a virtualized 7.1.2 surround sound). It boasts a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a 4K resolution. That obviously implies that in use, it seems just as excellent as LG’s well-known OLED line.
Unlikely to be inexpensive is the LG OLED Flex. When the TV goes on sale later this year, LG spokespeople declined to say how much it will cost, but considering that it essentially comprises a single $1,399 LG C2 and a number of other likely highly complicated systems to enable autonomous bending, I predict it will cost at least $2,000. Is a 42-inch display worth it?
The OLED Flex is basically two items in one, according to one viewpoint. It combines a curved gaming monitor with a conventional flat OLED TV in one device. However, I’m unsure of how a hybrid screen like this would fit in the homes of the majority of people. Is LG anticipating that users would have it set up on their desks like a curved monitor, ready to be converted into a TV for viewing movies? Or is it intended to be set up on a cabinet like a regular TV, with the option for you to bring your chair right up close and switch to curved mode for some immersive gaming action? I’m not really certain.
We appear to be entering a new age of curved screens between this and Corsair’s own take on the flexible form-factor, which still uses an LG Display OLED panel but features a larger 21:9 aspect ratio and a bending technique that requires manual effort. Curved TVs never really took off, but curved monitors have become rather commonplace since then. LG’s OLED Flex seems to be an attempt to close that gap.