Toshiba Amazon Fire TV C350 series review: Alexa, what’s on?

Toshiba’s C350 series offers large-screen fitness to by Amazon Fire TV streaming system. From fonts to colors, if you’ve interacted with someone Fire TV stick or other Amazon TV device, you will know this TV perfectly. As you’d expect, it leans hard on Alexa and has full Amazon Prime Video integration, but it also has other streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max and more.

Like it

  • Alexa powers superior voice capabilities
  • Voice remote control included

I do not like

  • Smart TV menus lag behind Roku
  • Clear focus on Amazon services

The picture quality on the C350 was fine for a budget TV, albeit a little worse than the competition. In my side-by-side comparisons, its color and contrast couldn’t quite match that TCL Series 4 is Vizio V Series, but at this price point the differences in image quality probably don’t matter that much. Arguably more important is the smart TV, and while Alexa beats Roku and Vizio for voice control, we like Roku’s simpler and more agnostic smart TV approach more. It is also annoying that some non-Amazon services, such as Vudu, have little attention, while others, namely Peacock, are not available at all.

Right now the C350 also costs more than both TCL and Vizio’s competitors, but with First day approaching quickly, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a big drop in prices. Until that happens, however, we can only truly recommend it to someone who fully embraces Bezos’ bonanza and wants his TV to be a part of it.

Read more: Prime Day TV Deals: Save on Insignia, LG, TCL, Toshiba and Vizio models

The Toshiba C350 series is available in 43, 50 and 55-inch versions, with larger 65 and 75-inch sizes coming soon. I reviewed the 50-inch model.

Main features and connections

Like other TVs at this price point, the C530 is a basic 4K HDR model – no fancy extras like next-gen gaming perks, local dimming, wide color gamut, or tons of light here. Its Fire TV functionality is the main feature here, and the menus have what Amazon calls a content design – lots of thumbnails for TV shows and movies compared to tiles like Roku. Many focus on Amazon’s Prime Video library, but you can download apps for other major streaming services, which unzip their thumbnail rows.

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Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

I liked the Toshiba remote more than the TCL because it has Alexa voice and Bluetooth, so you don’t have to point it at the TV. The button layout is simple and clean, if not as sparse as Roku, and includes prominent white shortcut keys for various services.

The C350 basically plugs the Roku into most user-friendly setup screens. It has the added benefit that if you’re an Amazon Prime member (and I assume you are if you’re considering this TV), once you’ve done the initial setup, you’re already signed in and ready to watch shows and movies.

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The Fire TV setup menus are simple and straightforward.

Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

A frustrating design decision is that the image settings menu covers a third of the screen and the shadows about half. This menu also does not disappear or shrink when you make changes. Now, you’d think this would only be a problem if you’re a TV reviewer like me using test patterns (don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is), but it also makes it more difficult if you’re trying to watch the correct setup at home. This is because most of the screen is not how the screen will look after exiting the menus. That’s probably not a big deal for most buyers, to be honest, but it’s a shame if you like a TV to look the best it can be.

Read more: Stop Watching Bad TV Picture Settings: 9 Ways to Optimize Your Big Screen

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Those big picture adjustment menus can mess up your edits.

Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The Energy Star rating for the 50-inch model is $ 21 per year, which is half the package for this range of TVs.

Some TVs in this price range have three HDMI inputs and it’s hardly a bad thing that the C350 has four. It also has analog video and audio inputs. So if you have an old game console or any retro A / V gear, you’re in luck.

If you decide you want to go your own streaming path and avoid the Fire TV, you won’t be able to power most streaming sticks from your TV’s USB connections. Not a big deal – it just means you’ll need to power the stick separately.

  • HDMI inputs: four
  • Composite analog input
  • USB ports: two (0.5A power supply)
  • Internet: Wi-Fi, wired
  • Antenna input
  • Analog audio output (3.5mm)
  • Optical digital audio output
  • Speakers: Two facing down
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Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Alexa, what is Vudu?

Voice search works fine. In most cases it directs you to Amazon, but offers you some alternative options. For example, if you say “Thor Ragnarok” you will see a screen with that and some related content, and if you select the movie from those choices you have the option to buy or rent it on Amazon or watch it on Disney Plus. Another click brings up other places to look at. However, it is not seen all options like Roku or Vizio would do. It doesn’t show you Vudu, for example.

It is actually worth dwelling on Vudu as an example of the limitations imposed on this Toshiba, presumably by Amazon. There is, technically, a Vudu app. So at first glance, in a store or checklist, it seems to have more options to buy or rent content than just Amazon. The truth, however, is that this is an ancient version of the Vudu app that has an archaic interface and only allows you to watch SD content. You read that right: not even HD and forget 4K.

And this is for the content you I already own. You cannot purchase anything in the Vudu app. You have to go to the Vudu website to purchase it. With TCL / Roku, Vizio and Samsung, you can buy directly in the app. So you should definitely consider this TV not just “primarily” an Amazon device, but an Amazon device that could lock you out of non-Amazon stuff.

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Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

It’s also worth repeating that Fire TV, and by extension this TV, is the only large streaming platform without a Peacock app. Subscribers can try sideloading if they’re adventurous, but our advice is to buy a different TV if Peacock is important to you.

Image quality comparisons

The TCL 4 series and Vizio V series are direct competitors of the Toshiba C530, with similar features and prices, so they are ideal comparison models. I connected them via a 1×4 Monoprice distribution amplifier and saw them side by side watching a mix of HD, 4K and 4K HDR content.

The Vizio and the TCL look very similar. The Toshiba is in a better way and in most other ways slightly worse. It is significantly brighter than both, approaching the much more expensive Samsung Q60A with non-HDR content (although with HDR content the Samsung is much brighter). None of these TVs are dim, of course, but if you have an extremely bright room and need all the light you can get from your TV, the Toshiba has an advantage.

That said, with the test models it was immediately apparent that the C350 only reached its maximum brightness for a few seconds, so it immediately dimmed. With the actual content, this wasn’t immediately apparent. It did this regardless of settings, so it’s possible that it still did this with the actual content, but not as much or noticeably as with the test models.

In other aspects of image quality, the C350 isn’t as good as the other two. Not significantly, but when you view them all at once, enough that you can see it. The color is a little less accurate, a little less realistic. The contrast is a little less punchy. It wasn’t bad, but when I slid across the couch to see the TCL or the Vizio (all have mediocre off-axis image quality), those two looked a little better.

Top-notch real estate?

Anyone looking for a cheap TV has some excellent options for little money. The TCL 4 series is probably the best choice for most people, especially those who are unfamiliar with the contrast from their composite. It is easy to use thanks to its Roku interface and has access to all major streaming services. The Vizio V-Series is almost as good, with more image setting options and a livelier interface.

That leaves the C350. If you buy everything through Amazon, including renting movies and buying TV shows, that’s probably fine. But the limitations imposed by the Fire TV could be frustrating in the long run. A cheaper TV, like the TCL / Roku or the Vizio, allows you to get content the way you want (mostly), without channeling or limiting yourself to the Amazon ecosystem. It’s a bit like a car that only drives on certain roads. If you only drive on those roads, that’s fine. But if you want to take a new shortcut to work, you’re out of luck.

If someone isn’t very tech-savvy and has gotten used to the Fire TV in particular, or Alexa in general, then this might be a good choice because it’s very much an Amazon product, despite the name below. For everyone else, however, I would recommend TCL or Vizio first.

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