First Click: The fat lies behind thin TVs

October 14th, 2015


You know that incredibly thin TV from Sony? The one that CNET proclaimed is “thinner than your phone” earlier this year? It’s actually not. Oh sure, Sony trimmed the fat at the edges, but when you finally get around to seeing the $4,000 (starting price) TV in person you’ll find an ugly hump on the back that yields a five-fold increase in thickness when hung from the wall. The sad truth is that most TVs are hideous when viewed from the side or back, especially as they come down in price.

samsung tv back

Back of a typical Samsung

Granted, most people don’t care what a TV looks like from the back, or even the sides. But I do. For one thing, the side is what my family sees most of the time in my long narrow home (the entry is at the same level as the kitchen and living room). The other reason is more fundamental, and best related through a Steve Jobs parable from the gospel of Walter Isaacson:

"As a young boy, he had helped his father build a fence around their backyard, and he was told they had to use just as much care on the back of the fence as on the front. "Nobody will ever know," Steve said. His father replied, "But you will know." A true craftsman uses a good piece of wood even for the back of a cabinet against the wall, his father explained, and they should do the same for the back of the fence."

FMV-Deskpower EK30T

The Fujitsu All-in-One bait-and-switch from 2006

TV and All-in-one PC makers have a long history of using "cheap wood" on the back of their products. Manufacturers try to hide this by using photography taken at just the right angles — good luck finding photos of the backs and sides when shopping HP’s AIOs, for example.

Apple set the benchmark for AIO design long ago with the introduction of the unibody iMac G5 in 2004. A tapered look that’s been honed and ultimately copied across every price point. Even ASUS — the company that rose to fame with its low-cost Eee PC — makes a respectable looking all-in-one desktop that it proudly displays from all angles. Unfortunately, this democratization of design hasn’t trickled down to TVs.

Unless you’re willing to spend a fortune on an Yves Behar design or a ridiculous curved TV, the back of your new screen will be a hot steaming jumble of hacked together plastic.

How is it that TV manufacturers can't figure out what All-in-Ones solved years ago?

Five stories to start your day

  1. It's hard to believe these Star Wars Battlefront screenshots are real

    If you're one of the millions of people mourning the end of the Star Wars Battlefront beta earlier today, these screenshots from designer and artist Berdu might ease your pain. The game is...

  2. Jury says Apple could face $862 million penalty for using university's patent

    A US jury has ruled that Apple used technology patented by the University of Wisconsin - Madison in creating mobile chips used in its iPhone, iPad Mini, and iPad Air — a decision that means the...

  3. Aurous, the Popcorn Time of music, is already being sued

    Major music labels are suing the ad-free music streaming app Aurous just days after its launch, claiming that the software "blatantly infringes" copyright. The Recording Industry Association of...

  4. Eric Schmidt: Get Ready for 'a Lot' More Alphabet Companies

    "After 26, we’re going to probably transcendental numbers."

  5. HBO has ordered a Lena Dunham comedy pilot about 1960s feminism

    Lena Dunham and HBO are in business together, again. HBO has ordered a pilot for a half-hour comedy called Max, set in the magazine industry during the second wave of feminism. The pilot will be...

Blob of the day

The best of Verge Video