Amazon’s latest 4K TVs improve picture quality and borrow ideas from The Frame

Amazon’s first self-branded TV sets were aimed squarely at budget shoppers and prioritized value and good software over sheer picture quality. The Fire TV Omni lineup runs the same software as the company’s popular streaming device — offering access to endless entertainment apps — and the built-in microphones allow for hands-free Alexa voice commands. Today, Amazon is announcing the latest edition to its TV series, the Fire TV Omni QLED, and this time, it’s stepping up the display specs with the inclusion of full-array local dimming.

Starting at $799.99 and coming in 65- and 75-inch ($1,099.99) sizes, the Fire TV Omni QLED includes “up to” 96 individual dimming zones behind the panel, which should result in noticeably better contrast and black levels when compared to the original Omni sets. The new TVs have presence and ambient light sensors, letting them save power and automatically turn off the screen when no one is nearby. The light sensor has also led Amazon to add support for Dolby Vision IQ and HDR10 Plus Adaptive, picture modes that will automatically adjust the brightness of your content based on ambient conditions.

As its branding indicates, the Fire TV Omni QLED Series features quantum dot color for a wider HDR palette. The display is still limited to 60Hz, so this TV might not be the best choice for an Xbox Series or PS5 console. That said, it still includes a few gaming features like variable refresh rate (up to 60Hz), auto low latency mode, and HDMI 2.1 connectivity.

Amazon has clearly taken cues from Samsung’s popular Frame TVs, which are designed to resemble wall art when you’re not watching anything and the screen is idle. The Fire TV Omni QLED TVs include what Amazon calls the Ambient Experience. When in this mode, the TVs can be set to display artwork — the company notes its collection of over 1,500 “gallery-quality” art selections is totally free, unlike Samsung’s — or a collection of onscreen Alexa widgets for things like news, your calendar, reminders, sticky notes, the weather, and so on.

If the artwork mode is running, you can ask Alexa for more details on whatever image is currently being showcased. Widgets can be customized, collapsed, or expanded depending on your own preference. There’s also a “What Should I Watch” widget that, according to Amazon, “provides you with entertainment recommendations based on the day’s top-trending video titles on Fire TV.”

The Fire TV Omni QLED retains the built-in far-field microphones for Alexa interactions, but Amazon is quick to note that you can disable those mics with the flip of a switch. You can have the TV play music even when the display is off.

It didn’t take much sleuthing to conclude that TCL was the manufacturer of the first Omni TVs, and based on the hardware design, I get the impression that nothing has changed for this QLED series. But it’s good to see Amazon making what should amount to substantial upgrades to picture quality. TCL, Hisense, and Vizio are constantly raising the bar for what people can expect from TVs that cost under $1,000. And the new Fire TVs are at least a better showing in that regard — now with the ambient tricks as a bonus.