- Amazon's new Fire TV Omni QLED Series 4K TV is $120 cheaper than last year's model while offering noticeable improvements.
- It's a great buy if you have lots of Amazon gadgets in your home and like using Alexa, which comes built-in to the TV.
- New ambient display features turn the TV into artwork or a whiteboard, making use of the wall space.
I've been testing Amazon's new 65-inch Fire TV Omni QLED Series 4K UHD smart TV. If you're a casual TV watcher like me, the new Fire TV is easy to use and has great picture quality for the price.
And speaking of price, at the time of publication it's on sale for $550, about $250 off its launch price, making it cheaper than last year's model that Amazon still sells. There's also a more expensive 75-inch model that costs $1,100.
The company made its foray into Amazon-branded TVs last year with a model that was fine, but not great. This year's version has a lot of updates that make it a better buy. Most noticeably, the picture has improved, there's new ambient display artwork and the speakers are an improvement.
But Amazon doesn't make a lot of money from hardware. It's a cloud company and an online retailer. Instead, its hardware serves as a portal into its services, like Prime Video and even the Amazon store. You can talk to Alexa, which is built-in. It's one big window into Amazon you can hang on your wall. And people who use a lot of Amazon services might like that.
Here's what you need to know about it.
The new Fire TV will fit right into your smart home ecosystem if you already use the company's Alexa voice assistant through other products like the Amazon Echo. The TV features hands-free voice commands, so when you can't find your remote, you can simply shout, "Alexa, shut off the TV." More complex commands are possible too. I was able to tell the TV to "play the next episode," of "The Devil's Hour" on Prime, so I didn't have to sit through the end credits.
This feature isn't new. Last year's TV also featured hand-free Alexa, but it's still a nice feature and I was able to use it easily. You can turn off the microphone if you don't want to use the Alexa function.
My current TVs are hard to view in my living room, which gets lots of natural light. But this Fire TV was plenty bright so I was still able to clearly watch TV even with lots of sunlight shining in.
There's a new "ambient" experience on this year's model that uses sensors to detect your presence in the room. It's a little creepy in theory, but I now see the value in having the biggest screen in my living room serve as décor, or even a space for displaying important information like calendar events and digital sticky notes.
There are a few cool ambient mode features. One turns your TV into a piece of art. Art is pulled from a collection of 1,500 photos and fine art, including from the National Gallery of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago. Samsung's "The Frame TVs" have this feature, too, but you have to pay to display the art, whereas Amazon's TV art gallery is free.
You can display your own photos on the TV which is a nice but common feature found on other sets. You can customize widgets on your screen with news, reminders, sticky notes and calendars, and you can add control centers for your smart home devices. I used the sticky note option to leave my husband a reminder to pick up oat milk from the grocery store.
You can also play music from the TV even when the screen isn't on. I didn't expect to use this feature since I have a pretty robust stereo system, but I was impressed by the sound quality and volume of the TV's built-in speakers. I have sound bar speakers for my other two TVs at home because the speakers are so bad, but I didn't feel the need for one here. The new Fire TV gets loud and the sound is crisp. Still, sound bars provide deeper bass and richer sound.
Alexa couldn't always hear my commands when the TV volume was loud, which makes sense but can still be a little frustrating. You'll have to use the remote to pause in order to speak to Alexa.
Also, this TV isn't the best option for people who aren't really into Alexa or who don't subscribe to Amazon Prime. All Fire TVs prominently feature Prime content on the main user interface. You'll see suggestions for shows to watch, like Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power."
As you can see from the image below, there are a lot of ads for Prime Video shows, there's a row of sponsored movies from Tubi, and I frequently saw other ads. It can get annoying if you're not interested in them.
While the brightness and picture will suffice for casual TV viewers, there are other TVs in the same price range that are able to get brighter. And others might provide smoother better gaming experiences. The Hisense 65-inch Class ULED Premium U7H QLED Series Quantum Dot Google 4K offers a 120Hz refresh rate, for example, while the Omni QLED only offers 60Hz. The U7H is similarly priced at $700 and the picture has deeper blacks and more realistic tones, too.
You'll like it if you're deep into Amazon's ecosystem of products and services. I appreciate that it makes the biggest screen in your house useful with its "ambient" experience. It's very easy to set up and using Alexa to navigate is a breeze. The new Amazon Fire TV Omni is a big improvement compared with last year's model, particularly when it comes to the screen, and its current price cut makes it an even better bargain for its capabilities and size.