One of Amazon’s Fire TV partners just announced a new model that might outshine the tech giant’s own self-branded TVs that launched only weeks ago. Today Toshiba is introducing the first Fire TV 4K TVs to feature local dimming, a backlight technology that produces improved contrast and black levels compared to the direct LED method used by cheaper sets and Amazon’s new Fire TV Omni series.
Toshiba says the new M-Series contains “up to 48” dimming zones. The TV comes in 55, 65, and 75-inch screen sizes. So assuming that 48 number applies to the biggest model, it’s not exactly going to compete with high-end Vizios or TCLs, which pack more dimming zones into their backlighting systems, but it should still make for a significant improvement to overall picture quality. Despite including features like Dolby Vision on its largest-size Omni sets, Amazon didn’t built full-array local dimming into the devices. As the name suggests, local dimming allows the backlight to illuminate and dim at different areas of the display based on the content, so dark scenes appear the way they should without everything looking gray.
The new M-Series Fire TVs from Toshiba also have a “120Hz native panel,” so I’ve asked whether this means they’ll indeed support more fluid gaming from the Xbox Series X, S, and PS5. The TVs will go on sale this month at Best Buy retail stores for $799.99 (55-inch), $999.99 (65-inch), or $1,199.99 (75-inch). One thing Toshiba’s sets share in common with the Omni line is that both have embedded microphones for hands-free Alexa voice commands.
Compared to Amazon’s aggressively-priced Omni line, you’re definitely paying more for the “flagship” local dimming feature; a 65-inch Omni TV usually goes for $829.99, for example. Still, it’s good to see these improvements coming for TVs with Amazon’s software built in. As more sets with local dimming (and eventually maybe even Mini LED) are released, TCL’s higher-end Roku and Google TV sets might finally start to get some real competition from the other side.
There’s obviously more to a TV than its backlighting, so I look forward to seeing a Toshiba M550KU TV in person to gauge where the overall viewing experience ranks for the price.