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3 Real Reasons Why There Aren’t Round TV Screens (2022)

Why Are TVs Not Round

Television manufacturers seem to be in a race…

Towards the largest and thinnest TV set.

Or whichever can cover the most wall.

But have you ever wondered about the screen design?

“Have TVs always been rectangles?

And why are TV screens never round?”

Well, I’ve got answers for you.

Read on to find out:

  • If TVs have always been rectangles.
  • 3 fascinating reasons why you don’t see round TVs.
  • The future trends that TV manufacturers are headed towards.
  • And so much more…

3 reasons why TVs aren’t round


#1: Manufacturers stopped making them

Round TVs were discontinued.

Yes, you read that right.

Before OLEDs, LCDs, and Plasma technology, the world had CRTs.

That stands for cathode ray tubes are specialized vacuum tubes where images are produced.

They’re the picture tubes of those old, heavy, and humongous TVs.

Now, this may sound odd, but CRTs in those early TV sets were actually round.

When I say “early,” I mean the 1940s.

And there were a few reasons why manufacturers used the shape:

  • A round envelope was the strongest form to hold the vacuum inside.
  • Glassblowing technology wasn’t advanced yet, and circular tubes were the easiest to make.

However, despite its roundness…

The images scanned on the tubes have always been rectangular…

Originally with a 4:3 aspect ratio. 

So imagine a circle with a square or rectangle at the center.

“But there’d be unused portions along the sides?”

Exactly.

To hide this, manufacturers shaped a mask on the frame of the TV set…

So you can only see the rectangular part.

Porthole TVs

In the late 1940s, Zenith Electronics entered the television market.

They produced TV sets that overscanned the images…

Overscanning means zooming and cropping the images so that they would fit the screen.

Of course, this cut out parts at the edges.

But this method allowed Zenith to design a TV with the whole round screen exposed.

This appearance was called the “porthole.”

In those days, Zenith marketed round screen TV sets as having bigger displays than others.

And that they were easily viewable from any angle.

At that time, portholes were expensive and considered trendy.

Consumers didn’t seem to mind the overscanning of images…

Despite it not allowing them to have a full visual experience.

Also, it helped that some of Zenith’s models included multiple functions.

Like radio and record player…

So you have three appliances housed in one large, stylish console.

Despite the size, these designs were considered cutting-edge technology.

Therefore, many other electronic companies released TV sets with similar screens.

The late 40s and early 50s saw a range of hip designs

Because many manufacturers cashed in on the trend. 

However, it wouldn’t last long.

The Decline

As mentioned, the earliest CRTs had a round shape.

But, it wasn’t because someone wanted the display areas to be circular.

They were cheaper and more convenient to make, that’s all.

After a few years, glassblowing technology became quite advanced.

CRTs slowly became squares…

And then rectangles.

As can be expected, the trend changed.

Consumers took a quick liking to the new rectangular TV screens.

So round TV screens were soon phased out.

Zenith, the leading brand at its prime, stopped production of their porthole line in 1951.

At present, rare porthole TV sets are highly collectible.

But they were never produced again.

And if you want to see how Superman fared on a round screen, check out this video: 

#2: Producing them would cost a lot

Cutting rectangular shapes through tempered glass has a lot of advantages:

  • Straight cuts can go across a thin sheet.
  • There’s no need to cut deeply or thoroughly.
  • Cutting is quick with minimal risk of breaking.

On the other hand, making a curve or a round shape is so much more complicated.

The glass would likely break.

And even if you could cut perfectly, there’d be a lot of leftover glass.

Therefore, it’s going to waste so much raw material.

Have you ever cut cookies from cookie dough?

There’s a lot of waste, right?

Producing round TV screens will have similar results.

The difference is that LCD glass is much harder to recycle than cookie dough.

As it goes, the method for cutting rectangular LCD screens won’t be effective for the mass production of round ones.

Moreover, to mass-produce round TV screens, manufacturers would need:

  • New technology.
  • A much larger investment.
  • A lot more time for production.

And all for what?

Pre-existing demands and trends all point towards rectangular TV screens.

So, while manufacturers could’ve developed the round screen…

None of them found it profitable.

Further Reading: 3 Easy Ways To Make Your TV Screen Bigger

#3: They’re not compatible with filmmaking technology

Round TV Screens Are Not Compatible With Filmmaking Technology

To enjoy a round TV screen, you’d need media in the same format.

But present-day filmmaking has no technology compatible with a round TV screen.

Now, think about your favorite TV shows.

Try to consider if you’d enjoy watching them on a circular TV set.

Would you? I wouldn’t if it were me. 

That’s because a person’s visual attention is wide rather than tall.

And nobody sees the world in a circle.

Also, screen development is affected by media consumption.

If nobody would watch it, it would be difficult to find investors for new technology. 

And due to the fact that current equipment uses square and rectangular formats…

The low demand for a round TV screen becomes clearer.

You might also like: What’s The Best TV Screen For Your Eyes

Will there ever be a round TV?

A round TV will never be produced. I’ll tell you why.

But first, let’s take a concise look at the history of TV.

The reign of CRT TVs lasted 65 years, says MIT. And it peaked in mid-2000. 

By 2014, news broke that the market was over for CRT TVs. 

Who picked up the pieces? It was Plasma TV. 

But the production of Plasma was over just as quickly as it began. 

Manufacturers like Samsung ended their Plasma line after a few short years.

In fact, Plasma’s decline started the same year that CRTs were taken off the shelves.

After this, LCD became Plasma’s replacement.

But it looks like the end is near for LCD, too, as news would tell us. 

At present, OLED is the one that’s on the rise.

See, for flat-screen display technology, the trend has always been about:

  • Evolving towards the highest resolution.
  • Developing the biggest increase in size.
  • Advancement in using the thinnest material.

So, TV manufacturers are more likely to improve on the rectangular designs that exist now.

And they won’t be interested in changing shape.

That’s because doing so would take a very large investment. And it’s something that they might never profit from.

Sure, there might be a place for round LCD screens. 

But they’ll only ever be suitable as:

  • Smartwatches.
  • Storefront displays.
  • Tools to present static images.
  • Business applications for specialty stores.
  • Interactive menus, order forms, and maps.

The mainstream media won’t use them anytime soon.

All screen display technologies have their life cycles. 

And round TV screens had come at the end of theirs.