A display is easily one of the most significant upgrades to any desktop computer, no matter what you use it for. This makes the curved vs. flat monitor consideration crucial before parting with your money. Both have come a long way over the past few years, and it’s trickier than ever to decide the flat vs. curved monitor debate. But it’s possible to make the right choice when you consider your use case and which aspects of a display matter to you the most.
All the high-end goodness inside your computer is meaningless if you can’t see it in all its glory. When building a gaming PC, you need a monitor that goes toe-to-toe with your high-end GPU and helps you realize its full potential. In other words, you need a monitor that is more immersive.
Curved monitors are far more immersive than their flat counterparts, especially at higher screen sizes.
How you view your screen will significantly impact how you perceive your overall experience on a computer. A curved monitor essentially bends the image on the screen to occupy a larger percentage of your field of view. This provides enhanced immersion, especially for users who are playing games. This effect is more pronounced on displays measuring over 27 inches.
This is not to say that flat-screen monitors are lackluster. In fact, most high-end displays today are flat. But flat monitors generally suffer from a little image distortion at the edges, as your eyes are almost always focused on the middle of the screen. In contrast, every part of a curved monitor’s screen is equidistant from your eyes, producing an effect not possible at all on a flat screen.
Tip: your monitor’s refresh rate can impact performance. However, a 360 Hz monitor may not be worth the investment.
A Look at Ergonomics
When buying a monitor, you must consider ergonomics, i.e., size and adjustability. Your monitor will occupy a large portion of your desk, which is why the physical footprint of the monitor becomes essential.
While contemporary large-screen monitors, both flat and curved, have become quite beefy these days, curved screens will typically be larger and heavier at every screen size, as they need a broader stand to support the curved panel, while a flat display can make do with a comparatively shorter stand.
Size is not a benefit with curved monitors for another reason. To appreciate the benefits of the curve, you’ll need to increase the screen size. Curved monitors at the 24″ and 27″ sizes have a less noticeable curve that won’t make much of a difference in your viewing experience. Only when you buy 32″ or larger displays can you begin to adequately perceive the curve. Almost all modern ultrawide displays you find will be curved to avoid image distortion at the edges.
Another aspect of ergonomics is the adjustability of the display. While curved monitors will allow you some level of tilt and swivel, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that allows you to pivot the screen to a vertical position. If you’re interested in editing vertical videos or working on your screen in a vertical orientation, you’ll find flat monitors much more flexible. Moreover, flat displays lend themselves easily to multi-monitor gaming and productivity, something curved screens have trouble achieving.
Lastly, curved monitors are more prone to glare due to their structure, as they catch and reflect light at multiple angles. It’s much more difficult to find an excellent glare-free position for a curved monitor than for a flat one.
A monitor isn’t all you’ll need to set up an ergonomic workspace. You will also want an ergonomic chair, keyboard, and more.
Based on your intended use case, you may be ready to take the plunge on a particular monitor model. But before you shell out the big bucks, you may want to rethink how versatile your dream display is or, conversely, if versatility matters to you or not.
Curved monitors are mostly targeted at gamers due to the added immersion they bring, while flat monitors are widely agreed to be a do-it-all category. Hence, if you’re a gamer, using a large, curved display to enhance your gaming sessions makes more sense. But, if your gaming sessions are rare, and you mostly use your computer for work – such as writing, programming, or video editing – a curved monitor won’t add much value to your setup, despite the additional real estate it offers.
Productivity and professional use cases need spatial accuracy and image realism. Curved monitors aren’t the best at representing straight lines and, as a result, aren’t ideal for use cases like architectural design and 3D modeling.
Another possible disadvantage of curved monitors is incompatibility with some games. As most displays in the wild are flat, games are designed with them in mind. This can cause resolution incompatibility on curved monitors, at least with some games. A flat monitor is a safe choice if you don’t want black bars tarnishing your gaming experience.
Read more: if you’re a gamer, you’ll probably want a gaming headset in addition to a new monitor.
Once a novelty, curved monitors have now entered the mainstream. The prices have consistently become more and more affordable, to a point that some curved displays in the budget segment cost less than a comparable flat-screen monitor. But when you consider the most popular screen sizes (i.e., 27″, 32″, and larger ultrawide displays), curved monitors still cost considerably more than flat monitors.
Paying a premium for a more immersive curved display may seem worth it to some users but not all. If you’re not entirely sold on the potential of a curved monitor, you can wait and watch as prices continue to even out. You can then decide whether the higher price tag for a curved model is within your budget.
When Should You Buy a Curved Monitor?
It all comes down to what your heart wants and what you can live with. The hype of a curved display is certainly not unfounded. A curved monitor can offer real, tangible benefits for some use cases like gaming and media consumption.
If you want to try a curved monitor, get one, provided you spend a decent portion of your week using it for gaming or watching television and movies. Remember, though, that you must sit directly in the center of a curved monitor to avoid image distortion and glare.
Even if you’re a non-gamer and don’t typically consume media on your computer, a curved monitor could work for you, simply because its ultrawide resolution offers you more than enough space to multitask. But you’ll need enough free desk space to accommodate the large display.
Tip: if you still aren’t sure which monitor to buy, check out this definitive guide to buying a monitor.
When Should You Buy a Flat Monitor?
Flat monitors don’t suddenly become obsolete simply due to their curved counterparts becoming more affordable. There are still quite a few benefits of opting for a flat-screen display. The most significant benefit is the cost savings when buying a large gaming or non-gaming flat monitor. Flat displays still offer the best bang for your buck.
Another important advantage of flat monitors is their relatively smaller footprint compared to curved monitors, especially if you don’t really care for extra immersion. Flat monitors also generally offer “more” screen corner to corner, as curved displays tend to be longer than they’re wide.
Lastly, flat monitors are more versatile and easily fit in any setup. If you like to dabble in gaming on the occasional weekend and spend the bulk of your time working on your computer, a flat display won’t disappoint you. Even flat ultrawide monitors can work great for professionals and gamers alike, as edge distortion only becomes an issue on giant screens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do curved monitors reduce eye strain?
Yes. While this benefit may be more pronounced for some users, curved monitors allow your eyes to view a larger portion of the screen without the need to move them as much. By enabling you to see everything on the screen from the same focal distance, curved monitors can allow your eyes to relax more. While some users report increased eye strain on curved monitors, that may be because of additional glare from the screen.
Do curved monitors break easily?
No, there’s nothing that makes curved monitors inherently more fragile than flat monitors. Flat vs. curved, a modern monitor has fragile electronics and must be handled carefully. Some studies even claim that curved monitors are more durable than their flat counterparts.
What is the ideal size for a curved monitor?
Generally speaking, the minimum size you should go for when buying a curved monitor is 30 inches. The curve is almost invisible at 27″ and lower after the initial novelty wears off. Ideally, the wider the curved display, the better. The most popular size among curved monitors is 34 inches, with 38 inches quickly gaining popularity.
Why do professional gamers use flat monitors?
Although several curved monitors now offer ultra-high refresh rates and low response times, many professional eSports players still swear by flat monitors for optimum performance. There are several reasons for this: lower frames per second (FPS) due to more graphical power needed on a higher-resolution curved display and on-screen elements like mini-maps getting pushed outward and becoming distorted.
Image credit: Unsplash
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