Amazon and its manufacturer partners have been selling inexpensive 4K TVs with Fire TV software built in for a few years now. But tonight, Amazon announced the first model that includes support for Dolby Vision. The Toshiba-branded set will be sold exclusively by Amazon and Best Buy. A 55-inch model ($449.99) is on sale immediately today, and 43-inch ($329.99) and 50-inch ($379.99) models will be available later this month on June 30th.
Dolby Vision is an HDR format that offers a wider color palette and brighter highlights than TVs that lack HDR. It’s also seen as superior to HDR10 since adjustments to picture quality can be made scene by scene, whereas HDR10 applies one set of parameters to an entire show or movie. Dolby Vision and Atmos are widely available in premium-priced smart TVs, but are still trickling down to entry-level sets. Amazon isn’t disclosing peak brightness levels for the Toshiba sets, but you can bet it’s a significant step down compared to today’s $1,000 TVs.
“We worked closely with Best Buy and Dolby to build an amazing TV,” said Sandeep Gupta, Amazon’s VP of Fire TV development.
The Fire TV Edition with Dolby Vision was a necessary step for Amazon to better square off with the lineup of Roku TVs on the market like those from TCL, which already offer Dolby Vision output. Amazon says it has launched more than 20 models of Fire TV Edition smart TVs since last June. Best Buy plays a major role in this initiative since it’s the exclusive retailer in the US and Canada; even when you’re buying the TVs off of Amazon, it’s through Best Buy as a third-party seller.
Fire TV has over 34 million active monthly users, Amazon announced recently. “In launching our products over the last year, we’ve wanted to make sure they follow our philosophy: simpler and smarter,” Gupta said. The company currently offers the Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Fire TV Cube. The Fire TV Stick 4K supports Dolby Vision, while the Cube offers Dolby Atmos audio but not the visual side.
Amazon has continued to iterate on the Fire TV software to embrace Alexa voice controls — you can say “watch NBC” and Fire TV will automatically tune to either your OTA antenna tuner or an OTT service like PlayStation Vue, based on whatever you usually watch with. Fire TV Edition sets can be powered on and controlled with any Echo speaker in your home.
The news comes as Amazon prepares to open an installation at the Dolby experiential space in New York City’s Soho neighborhood, where the companies are showcasing the content and immersive, theater-like viewing experience you’ll get with Dolby’s audio and visual technologies on recent Fire TV hardware. That’s assuming you’ve got a TV capable of doing it justice, but as Amazon is trying to show today, that barrier of entry continues to drop lower and lower.