A trio of Toshiba-branded 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD televisions based on Amazon’s Fire TV platform was introduced late last week, through participating retailers Best Buy and Amazon.

The televisions, which were introduced through an announcement by the Amazon Fire TV team last week, will include the first Fire TV model (a 55-inch FireTV) to feature support for the Dolby Vision dynamic metadata-based high dynamic range (HDR) profile as well as baseline HDR10. All three models are being positioned at aggressive price points.

The 4K Ultra HD models are rolling out this month in the 43-($330 suggested retail), 50-($380 MSRP and $329.99 street price), and 55-inch ($450 suggested retail) screen sizes.

The Fire TV platform is Amazon’s answer to smart TVs like those running the Roku TV OS that are affordable, easy to use and carry a large selection of popular streaming app services. Fire TVs will, of course, access Amazon’s Prime TV streaming service as well as Netflix, HBO and others.

The Fire TVs also build in support for voice control via Amazon Alexa voice commands using button-activated microphones embedded in the supplied remote control, or via a connection to a Alexa-based smart speaker or device, like an Amazon Echo or Dot.

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Compal, which now collaborates with Best Buy on Toshiba TV brand strategy, will hold the North American license for Toshiba until 2022, at which point Hisense, which acquired the Toshiba television business from Toshiba Consumer Electroincs of Japan, under a 40-year agreement established in 2017, will garner 100% control of the production, sales and distribution.

Televisions based on the Fire TV OS have been introduced in the past under the Element, Westinghouse and other brands, but the current Toshiba-branded models are produced under license by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Compal for Best Buy, which sells the TVs in its stores and on its web site, as well as a Fire TV partner on Amazon. Best Buy also produces Fire TVs under its own Insignia house brand.

The new 55-inch Toshiba Fire TV is among the first to offer support for high dynamic range (HDR) with dynamic metadata in the form of Dolby Vision as well as HDR10 with static metadata.

Both HDR profiles bring out greater degrees of brightness and color in 4K Ultra HD images graded for either or both HDR profiles. This content is distributed on Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs and via 4K Ultra HD moving streaming on services including Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime TV and others.

Dolby Vision is generally recognized as a superior HDR profile to base-level HDR10 because it supports dynamic metadata that enables grading movies for peak HDR brightness and black level on a variable scene-by-scene basis. HDR10, on the other hand, has static metadata and requires grading at one set parameter level throughout a movie. In real-world viewing, the differences between Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 are subtle, and many 4K Ultra HDTVs in the budget-price class, like the Toshiba FireTVs, generally don’t have the brightness output to show off the specular highlights and black shadow detail of HDR played on more capable (and generally much more expensive) display products.

According to the retailers’ websites, all three models have 60 Hz native refresh rate panels, a quad-core CPU and multi-core GPU for responsive streaming and support of up to 4K/60fps content. They have 3 HDMI inputs, composite video input, optical digital output, and 1 USB input. Built-in sound support includes two 10-Watt Onkyo speakers, with DTS Studio Sound and Dolby audio.

Peak brightness levels and wide color gamut coverage information was not made available by the manufacturer or the retailers.

By Greg Tarr

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