Perhaps it felt like an inevitable step since Amazon partnered with South Carolina-based Element Electronics to bring the world a 43-inch Amazon Fire TV Edition in 2017. The company also partnered with several third-party TV makers to build its popular voice assistant, but Amazon is taking things to the next level with the arrival of two new smart TVs, the Fire TV Omni Series and Series 4.
The company calls them the “first smart TVs made by Amazon,” implying that they were purpose-built, from the ground up, rather than incorporating its voice technology into a set built and branded by another company.
“Smart TVs have been around for decades, but we don’t think they’re really smart,” said Amazon vice president Daniel Rausch. “They’re really not that capable compared to what customers would love to get from them. Most of the time, TVs present a passive experience. It can be complex and difficult to interact with. There are a lot of heterogeneous devices and content experiences in our living rooms. And I think coordinating all of that will probably only increase in complexity for customers. We think with ambient and voice computing, TVs really have the potential to do a lot more and be a lot smarter for customers.”
The company is entering a space with stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and LG. Naturally, it is looking to distinguish itself with Alexa integration. The Omni device features far-field technology to use voice for a variety of activities, from watching TV to music to gaming.
The system features new integration with the recently launched Alexa conversations, offering a more natural way to ask the assistant questions like “Alexa, what should I watch?” , “Alexa, play something from Netflix” and the same feature for TikTok. The wildly popular social network launched on Fire TV in the UK, Germany and France and is coming to North America soon. Short videos can now be watched on up to a 75-inch screen.
The Omni is available in 43-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch models, all with 4K resolution. There is built-in support for HDR10, HLG and Dolby Digital Plus, while the two larger models have Dolby Vision support. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the Omni and the cheaper Series 4. The latter comes in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch sizes, again all in 4K. The biggest difference between the two lines seems to be that the Series 4 has near-field Alexa capabilities built into its remote control, while the Omni has far-field directly built into the set. The new TVs will arrive next month.
Joining the TVs is the new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. The streaming device offers several of the above voice features, along with a 1.8GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, promising better performance. The device supports WiFi 6 and, naturally, Amazon’s gaming service, Luna.
Probably the most surprising thing about all of this is the appearance of the Pioneer name. Years after abandoning its beloved plasma line due to low margins, the company is returning to the TV space with a new 4K set bundled with an Alexa remote. The 43-inch version is scheduled to arrive through Amazon and Best Buy in September, while a 50-inch version will arrive two months later.
Meanwhile, Toshiba’s next device has far-field technology built in. It will be available in 55-, 65- and 75-inch models and is scheduled to debut in fall 2022.