Amazon has long worked with other brands like Toshiba and Insignia to producesets equipped with its own smart TV system. Now the giant online retailer is getting into the TV hardware game itself. The Amazon Fire TV Omni and Fire TV 4-Series are the first Amazon-built TVs, according to the company. Preorders start today; they’re slated to arrive in October.
The Fire TV Omni’s claim to fame is a built-in far-field mic array that responds to the “” wake word, much like an . That feature allows you to talk to the TV hands-free — no remote required — to search for TV shows and movies, navigate menus and have a conversation with Alexa to help you figure out what to watch.
If you don’t want the TV’s mic active, a physical switch on the front lets you turn it off. As with other Fire TVs, you can also use the included voice remote, with its push-to-talk mic button, to talk to Alexa. By default the TV won’t respond to “Alexa” commands hands-free when turned off, including a command like “Alexa, turn on the TV,” unless the user activates the Alexa Always feature in the settings menu.
The ability to speak directly into thin air to control a TV isn’t new. Alexa always-listening voice functionality is available in myriad devices such asand the , many of which . Alexa hands-free is already built into a handful of other TVs, including models from and , while the competing Google Assistant is available hands-free on TVs like the , and . The idea in every case is to make voice commands for TV, in particular smart TV functions like , easier to use than a traditional remote control.
To that end Amazon touts a few new Alexa features. Asking, “Alexa, what should I watch?” launches a voice-powered recommendation engine where Alexa tailors suggestions across apps, asks questions and helps you narrow down choices by actor, genre and more (the feature arrives in beta this year). Exclusive to Fire TV, saying “Alexa, play something from Netflix” will work the same as hitting thebutton on the Netflix app, essentially picking a show for you. Fire TV will also play videos if you say — wait for it — “Alexa, play TikTok.”
In a nod toward the ubiquity of video chat, the(the second-generation Fire TV Cube also supports Zoom). To use it you’ll need to connect an optional USB webcam to the TV. Zoom launches on the Omni TV “later this year,” according to Amazon.
Amazon is also integrating other hardware with the Fire TV. You can wirelessly connect Echo speakers to improve the TV’s sound quality, and later this year a new smart home dashboard will be available, showing status of connected devices like smart plugs, lights and cameras.
It’s worth noting that most of the software features above will be available on other Fire TVs, not just those made by Amazon.
Amazon-branded Fire TV features, sizes and pricing
Beyond its fancy voice and smarts, the Omni’s TV specs are relatively basic. It hasand supports HDR video in , and the 65- and 75-inch models have slimmer bezels and support Dolby Vision too.
Unlike the TCL 5-Series Roku TV or the, which have similar initial pricing, the Fire TV Omni lacks , and the , so I don’t expect its image quality to be in the same league as those models.
Amazon will also put its name on a less-expensive TV, called the 4-Series. The main difference between it and the Omni is that the 4-Series lacks a far-field mic — to use Alexa, you’ll have to talk into the remote.
Here’s how the new TVs stack up.
Amazon-branded Fire TVs
|Series||Size (inches)||Far-field mic||Price|
|Fire TV 4-Series||43||No||$370|
|Fire TV 4-Series||50||No||$470|
|Fire TV 4-Series||55||No||$520|
|Fire TV Omni||43||Yes||$410|
|Fire TV Omni||50||Yes||$510|
|Fire TV Omni||55||Yes||$560|
|Fire TV Omni||65||Yes||$830|
|Fire TV Omni||75||Yes||$1,100|
The Fire TV Omni and Fire TV 4-Series will be sold exclusively at Amazon and Best Buy. For a limited time, people who order a 50-inch version of either series can save $110.
In an interview with HDOT, Amazon’s representatives did not specify which TV manufacturer makes its TVs. “They’re fully Amazon-built TVs, period,” said Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon entertainment devices and services. “Just like any consumer electronics company we have a global supply chain that includes many partners.”
A report from Business Insider says that, a China-based TV maker that also sells a TV called the .
Meanwhile, new Fire TVs will also be available from other brands. Today Amazon announced that Pioneer-branded Fire TVs will be available in 43- and 50-inch sizes for “ultra-affordable” prices. Once known for expensive, high-performance models like the, Pioneer’s name hasn’t .
Amazon also says that a new series of Fire TVs from Toshiba will also offer Alexa-powered far-field mics, similar to the Omni.
Amazon has also announced a new stand-alone streamer, the, for $55.
Update Sept. 10: Clarified functionality of far-field microphone to specify that by default it won’t respond to voice commands when TV is off.