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Amazon debuts Toshiba Fire TV Edition televisions with Dolby Vision HDR

The new smart TVs compete against TCL's Roku TVs and Vizio sets with Dolby Vision.

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The new sets add Dolby Vision HDR to the features of current Toshiba Fire TV edition sets (above).
Sarah Tew/CNET

There's a new horse in the stable of Amazon Fire TV edition televisions by Toshiba, one that adds support for the Dolby Vision high dynamic range format. Available today in a 55-inch size for $450, and coming soon in 50-inch ($380) and 43-inch ($330) sizes, the new Fire TV sets compete against other budget models from TCL and Vizio, many of which also support Dolby Vision.

High dynamic range promises improved picture quality, with better contrast and color. Dolby Vision is one of two major HDR formats along with HDR10, and in my experience the differences between them are subtle -- as are the effects of HDR on any budget TV, period. And of course you'll need to be watching Dolby Vision content to take advantage.

Just like on Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K, the main source of Dolby Vision TV shows and movies on the Toshiba TVs is Netflix. Amazon's own catalog of Dolby Vision titles is limited to just the original series Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan and Bosch (Season 2 only), as well as a handful of old Sony Pictures movies including The Smurfs 2 and After Earth. Amazon and Dolby representatives told me to expect more Dolby Vision content on Amazon soon, but didn't have any specific announcements. Meanwhile most of Amazon's originals are available in the HDR10 Plus format, which competes against Dolby Vision, and which Amazon's reps said they'll continue to support.

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Beyond Dolby Vision support, the new sets have all of the Fire TV extras, including scads of apps and a voice remote with Alexa. The new TVs don't have a far-field mic built-in, but Fire TV offers excellent integration with Amazon Echo speakers for hands-free control. Apps for YouTube and YouTube TV are still missing from Fire TV devices, but Amazon says they're coming sometime this year.


Fire TVs work well with Amazon Alexa speakers like this Echo Dot.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In my experience no matter which HDR format a TV supports, the main factor is the hardware capabilities of the TV itself. I haven't had the chance to test the new Fire TV sets with Dolby Vision, but judging from the specifications of the 55-incher at Amazon, I don't expect it to be a superior performer. It lacks full-array local dimming, a feature that really improves HDR (and standard) image quality. The specs also mention a 4,000:1 contrast ratio -- the current model's contrast spec is actually higher at 4,500:1 -- and a basic 60Hz refresh rate panel. I've asked Amazon for more details on the new TVs' hardware and will update this post when I know more.

The current Toshiba Fire TV sets didn't perform as well in my comparison tests as models from TCL and Vizio. In terms of pricing the new Toshiba Fire TVs with Dolby Vision line up against models like the TCL 5 series ($400 for 55-inch) and the new Vizio G-series ($450 for 55-inch) -- the former with the superior Roku TV system and the latter with full-array dimming. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Prime Day sale on the new Toshiba Fire TV models, however, when their value proposition could go up. We'll see.