Amazon has upped its Fire TV game considerably with today’s announcement of the Omni QLED series 4K TVs. The new sets, which will be available in 65- and 75-inch screen sizes only, bring features typically found in higher-priced TVs such as Quantum Dot color and full-array local dimming, and also come with a new Fire TV Ambient Experience that allows for artwork and photos to be displayed when the set is not in use.
Quantum Dots on the Omni QLED sets will allow for an enhanced color range to be displayed with high dynamic range (HDR) sources, while the full-array local dimming backlight (up to 96 zones on the 75-inch model) should result in deeper, better detailed, and more uniform blacks – a shortcoming of the company’s previous Fire TV Omni series sets.
Amazon’s new TVs also support Dolby Vision IQ and HDR10+ Adaptive, both of which work to bring out greater detail in dark HDR images when viewed in regular lighting conditions – having support for both of the most advanced HDR formats is rare in TVs, let alone TVs as ridiculously cheap as these (see below).
The Fire TV Ambient experience appears to be Amazon’s variation on the “gallery” modes found on TVs like Samsung’s The Frame and models from other brands that let the set display art and personal photos when you're not watching video. A gallery of 1,500 images will be available, with collections from both The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and The Art Institute of Chicago.
In addition to art and photos, Alexa Widgets can be added to the screen that show news, weather, notes, calendars, sports scores, and more.
In accordance with the eco-friendly initiatives that Amazon announced at today's press event, the new Omni QLED TVs feature both presence and ambient light sensors that switch the Fire TV Ambient experience feature on and off based on whether someone is in the room.
Like the company’s earlier Omni Fire TVs and its Fire TV Cube, which also just got a serious revamp, hands-free Alexa voice control lets you direct many of the set’s functions including volume up or down and search, while a What Should I Watch feature gives personalized viewing suggestions. The Omni Fire TV QLED models can also be used as a smart home hub, with voice commands available to launch Alexa routines for home control.
Amazon’s Omni Fire TV QLED sets are available for preorder from the company today for $799 (65-inch) and $1,099 (75-inch).
Analysis: Amazon really wants Fire TV to be your smart home’s digital hearth
While the performance enhancements Amazon is bringing to its latest line of Fire TVs make them in some ways more competitive with the best 4K TVs (though adding a mini-LED backlight for increased brightness and finer shadow detail handling, such as budget competitors like TCL and Hisense offer in their latest sets would have been a plus), the company’s real end-game here is to install Alexa at the center of your home.
Echo speakers and Show devices (which, according to the company, are used as TVs, with up to 70% of owners tapping them for video-viewing) scattered around the home are one way to rope us into Alexa world, but big-screen TVs like the new Omni QLED models are where the real action is at, with features such as What Should I Watch allowing Amazon’s AI to forge a personal relationship with family members, and get to learn their preferences. Alexa Widgets with info such as calendars and notes add to Amazon’s data harvest, putting the company in a similar position to Apple and Google when it comes to being a go-to for personal communication and organization.
Beyond that, the new Fire TV Omni QLED 4K sets come as a pleasant surprise and show that Amazon is serious about improving the quality of its TVs, which up to now have been mainly cheap, entry-level offerings. With additional enhancements, Amazon could potentially own the budget TV space – something I’m sure it intends to do.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.