HDR format war —
New Toshiba models offer a cheap choice for HDR on Fire TV displays.
Things are looking a lot brighter for Amazon’s collection of Fire TV Edition sets. The company is introducing three new smart televisions made by Toshiba that bring HDR support to the product line for the first time. The displays are also going up for sale at an appealing price point.
The Toshiba 4K UHD Smart TV HDR is an LCD panel that promises a typical contrast ratio of 4,000:1, plus HDR in the Dolby Vision standard. The Amazon product listing doesn’t give any specifics on the maximum brightness for this hardware. As the product name implies, it has a 4K resolution as well as a 60Hz refresh rate.
The largest model is 55 inches, and it is on sale now for $449.99. The other options are 50 inches for $379.99 and 43 inches for $329.99; those will be available starting June 30. All three of the new Fire TVs are exclusively available through Amazon or Best Buy thanks to the unusual alliance those sellers entered earlier this year.
These models use the Dolby Vision format to provide the HDR, or high dynamic range. The technology offers a bigger range of brightness and contrast than standard displays, which translates to a more nuanced and realistic-looking image. Dolby’s option offers a few theoretical benefits over rival formats like HDR-10.
Most notably, content creators can include metadata to make adjustments to brightness, color, and contrast settings over the course of a video for what the creator has set as the ideal performance on a scene-by-scene basis. HDR-10, on the other hand, has static metadata that is one-size-fits-all for a video. Any video content that is mastered to leverage that flexibility will require the proprietary Dolby Vision format to take full advantage of those upgrades.
One note for big Prime users: Dolby Vision appears to be the only HDR format supported by the Toshiba TVs. Amazon’s Prime Video has been favoring HDR-10+, which is a more advanced version of HDR-10 with a feature set closer to Dolby Vision’s. Meanwhile, the television models don’t seem to support it at this time.
In typical Amazon fashion, the Toshiba TVs can be controlled by voice command thanks to a remote control enabled with Amazon’s Alexa AI. Or you can use the traditional controller options to watch streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and (of course) Prime Video, thanks to the built-in Fire TV software. Live television platforms like DirectTV Now, Sling TV, or PlayStation Vue are also supported.
Companies on both the hardware and software sides have been committing seriously to HDR visuals over the past year. But having capable displays at a range of prices is going to be critical to getting consumers onboard. Toshiba’s models with Fire TV are some of the lowest price tags you’ll see now for 4K HDR televisions; other makes can run you more than $2,000.
Even though HDR is getting more buzz, it’s still more effective to show than to tell someone about the impact HDR makes. Bringing down the cost might come with some sacrifices in HDR performance, but an inexpensive way to experience the changes at home could help more people to understand why the video creators in movies, television, and video games are getting into the tech. Models like the Roku TVs from TCL have been catering to that audience for a while. Although Amazon isn’t carving out new territory, the Toshiba collaboration is a first for Fire TV-enabled hardware, and it should catch the eye of households dedicated to the Amazon ecosystem.