Amazon Launching Own Brand of TVs
Clearly not content with the level of global domination it's already managed to achieve, Amazon has now revealed that it's about to move into the TV market with not one but two new ranges of Amazon-branded television sets.
Initially confirmed for a US launch in October, the Amazon Fire TVs will likely roll out to other territories. Amazon has, after all, enjoyed global success with its Fire TV sticks and boxes. The Amazon Fire TV 4 and Amazon Fire TV Omni series will range from US$370 to US$1,100 for sizes from 43- to 75-inches.
This sort of pricing puts the new Amazon TVs in seriously affordable territory. Nonetheless, the new sets will all come sporting Amazon's Fire TV interface and app-rich smart TV environment, as well as built-in Amazon Alexa voice control support. Some models will even include a built-in far-field mic so that you can chat to your Amazon TV from anywhere in the room, as you can with Amazon Alexa speakers without needing a remote control.
Amazon's Fire TV operating system has been built into TVs before - most notably from the Toshiba and Insignia brands. However, the Omni and Fire TV 4 sets represent the first time that Amazon has branded the hardware and the software.
According to a briefing Amazon gave to CNBC, the idea behind the move is that having full control over both the hardware and the software allows better integration of Fire TV software with Alexa voice controls. Of course, though, having authority over all aspects of the TVs also gives Amazon more control over the pricing.
Going 'all in' on the TV experience should additionally make Amazon TVs significantly easier to use than the usual 'other-brand TV plus Amazon Fire TV stick' combination. Just powering up an Amazon TV will take you straight to the distinctive Fire TV operating system. Additionally, Amazon says that if you already have another Amazon device connected to your network, the new TVs can use those devices to automatically log on to your network. This saves you the hassle of having to input your Wi-Fi password manually via an onscreen keyboard (a welcome or worrying thing depending on how you look at it - ED).
Both of Amazon's new TV ranges can automatically detect Echo Smart speakers and let you use them as external stereo or even surround sound speakers.
Furthermore, Amazon promises more 'smart' features via software updates later in 2021, enabling you to control other networkable devices around your house - smart lights, thermostats, security cameras and so on - via an onscreen dashboard of the sort provided by the past couple of generation of LG and Samsung TVs.
The new Amazon TVs are LCD rather than OLED models, as you might expect from their price, and sport native 4K resolutions.
The Omni models are being pitched as the most premium of Amazon's new sets. Available in 43 (US$410), 50 (US$510), 55 (US$560), 65 (US$830) and 75 inch (US$1,100) versions, the Omni sets carry the built-in far-field mics. They also enjoy sleeker designs than the Fire TV 4 models and can have an optional webcam added for video calling - which includes support for Zoom calling.
There's Dolby Digital Plus audio support in the Omni models, too. Amazon states that the 65-inch and 75-inch Omni models will offer a premium picture performance thanks to their support for the premium Dolby Vision HDR format.
While it's unusual to find only specific sizes in TV ranges supporting Dolby Vision, we guess Amazon is keen to push us all towards the big screen experience with its latest TVs. And who are we to argue with that?!
The Amazon 4 series TVs lose far-field mic support (though they can be connected wirelessly to other Amazon listening devices you may own) and boast wider frames around their 43, 50, and 55-inch screens. Unfortunately, they cannot connect optional webcams or support Dolby Vision at any screen size. They do, however, support the live stream-friendly HLG HDR format alongside the industry-standard HDR10.
Like the Omnis, the Fire TV 4 series will be available from Best Buy, as well as direct from Amazon, priced at US$370 for the 43-inch model, US$470 for the 50-inch model, and US$520 for the 55-inch model.
With their aggressive pricing and instantly recognisable branding, Amazon's new TVs certainly give the more established TV brands cause for concern. Exactly how worried they should be, though, will depend on how good the new Amazon TVs' picture quality is. With this in mind, we await more information on the exact configurations and specifications of their LCD screens with interest. Watch this space.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.