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New Fire TV Omni QLED: Amazon Gets A Creepy Detection Feature

The new 65- and 75-inch TVs turn on automatically to display art, photos and widgets, plus promise better picture quality.

The Amazon Fire TV Omni in bright and dark lighting.
The Fire TV Omni QLED has ambient light and presence sensors to automatically react to its environment.
Amazon

Amazon is getting serious about its televisions. The new Fire TV Omni QLED series promises better picture quality and features than the company's existing TVs, and includes a new "ambient" experience that uses sensors to detect your presence in the room.

All that comes at a price aimed squarely at midrange models from established brands like SamsungTCL and Vizio. The new models were announced as part of Amazon's device event on Wednesday. The Fire TV Omni QLED series comes in two sizes -- a 65-inch model for $800 and a 75-inch one for $1,100 -- and is available for preorder now.

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Your TV knows you're here

Just like the existing Omni Fire TV, the new models respond to Alexa voice commands hand-free, but they also take it a step further. "When not streaming, the Omni QLED Series uses its built-in presence sensors to detect when a person enters the room and switches to the beautiful and informative Ambient Experience," says Amazon's press release. If it sounds creepy to you, you're not alone.

When the sensors detect you're in the room, the screen fires up to show artwork, widgets or other content. Art is drawn from a collection of 1,500 photos and fine art and it includes collections from The National Gallery of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago. And unlike Samsung's The Frame TVs, all the the art is free on the Omni QLED. If you don't want it to show art the TV can also display your own photo collection.

An Amazon Fire TV Omni with showing its ambient widgets.

On-screen widgets can appear as part of the ambient experience.

Amazon

The TV can also show a series of widgets, for example calendars, reminders, sticky notes or news headlines, and they can control smart home devices like thermostats and Ring doorbells. You can also ask the TV to play music, with or without the screen on. 

The system can understand the context of the environment. It'll automatically turn on during the day, for example, but not at night. You can use a physical switch on the TV to disconnect the microphones. There's also a "do not disturb" function that disables the ambient experience during certain hours, and a setting in the menu to completely turn off presence detection. Amazon says there's no identity detection of data transferred about the use of the feature.

Fire TV Omni QLED's Ambient experience seems similar to modes on Samsung and LG TVs, both of which put art and widgets on the screen when the TV is turned off, but with the added automation of presence sensors. The idea of a TV that detects your presence is likewise nothing new -- Sony did it way back in 2009 as a way to save power, for example -- but none of those TV manufacturers have the same kind of artificial intelligence and data background as Amazon Alexa.

An omnibus of picture enhancements

Even if you chose to disable all the "ambient" features, the Omni QLED could be compelling from a picture quality standpoint. They feature full-array local dimming, a feature that typically improves contrast and HDR by independently controlling brightness in various areas of the screen. The number of zones controls how precise the dimming can be, and while more zones doesn't necessarily mean better picture quality, in my experience as a TV reviewer it usually helps. The Omni QLED has 80 zones on the 65-inch model and 96 on the 75-incher, which is more than the Vizio MQX for example, but less than the TCL 6-Series.

The "QLED" denotes quantum dots, which enable the TV to achieve better color and brightness compared to other TVs, although Amazon doesn't quote a brightness spec in nits. The Omni QLED supports most types of HDR including Dolby Vision IQ, which uses an ambient light sensor to adjust the image to different lighting conditions.

Gaming features include support for Auto Low Latency mode and Variable Refresh Rate. Unlike some midrange TVs, it has a 60Hz refresh rate, not 120Hz, so it can't take take advantage of the highest-quality 4K/120Hz output from Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.

The Omni QLED has Amazon's Fire TV streaming system built-in. It comes with a standard voice remote, not the company's new Voice Remote Pro. Amazon is also not making any changes to its existing Fire TV Omni and 4-Series TVs, which remain on sale.

Separately, Amazon also announced a new Alexa Voice Remote Pro, an updated Fire TV Cube and a feature that adds Fire TV streaming menus, as well the option to use a Fire TV remote, to the Echo Show 15.

The Fire TV Omni QLED series ships in October.

Price: 65-inch, $900; 75-inch, $1,100
Release Date: October 2022

The Omni QLED versions of the Fire TV Omni not only upgrade to QLED screens over the current Omni, they have sensors to detect when you're in the room to trigger showing artwork, widgets or other content.