Great for Alexa users
Dependably decent picture quality
Too dim for bright rooms
Poor off-angle viewing
The Fire TV 4-Series isn’t the best option for most people shopping for a TV under $500, however; it’s too dim for bright rooms or folks expecting some oomph during HDR content. The smart platform is also a bit quirky and the picture looks much worse during off-angle viewing.
But if you’re upgrading to 4K for the first time (or if you simply don’t care about new advancements in TV mumbo-jumbo), the 4-Series is a dependable TV that will look good whether you’re streaming movies, watching cable TV, or doing some casual gaming.
About the Amazon Fire TV 4-Series
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is available in just three sizes. Our review unit is the 50-inch model, which we purchased directly from Amazon. Here’s how the series shakes out:
- 43-inch (4K43N400A), MSRP $369.99
- 50-inch (4K50N400A), MSRP $469.99
- 55-inch (4K55N400A), MSRP $519.99
These are the listing prices for each model in the series, but keep in mind that Amazon is almost always offering these TVs for less. With sizing and pricing out of the way, let’s take a look at the specs shared by each size in the series:
- Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160)
- Display type: Direct LED (VA-style panel)
- HDR support: HDR10, HLG
- Dolby Atmos: Yes, via HDMI eARC in Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus (no native decoding)
- eARC support: Yes
- Native refresh rate: 60Hz
- Smart platform: Fire TV OS
- Color: DCI-P3 color space/10-bit chroma resolution
- Variable Refresh Rate (VRR): No
- Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM): Yes
- Other features: Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2
Each 4-Series arrives with Amazon’s Fire TV Alexa Voice Remote. It’s a slender, simplified remote control with dedicated app buttons for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. As the name suggests, there’s a built-in microphone for Alexa voice commands at the top of the remote.
Before testing each TV, we make sure the panel is on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, allowing the pixels plenty of time to warm up. Our 50-inch 4-Series received this standard warm-up time before any readings were taken. In addition, the TV received the latest firmware updates at the time of testing.
For both SDR and HDR tests, we used the 4-Series’ “Movie” picture mode. We’ve chosen this setting because of its accuracy, but performance may vary depending on which picture mode is enabled. For example, you’re likely to experience a brighter picture with different settings enabled, but it may interfere with color temperature and overall color accuracy.
To get a sense for the TV’s average performance, we use a standard ANSI checkerboard pattern for most of our basic contrast tests. We also use white and black windows ranging from 2% to 90% to test how well the contrast holds up while displaying varying degrees of brightness.
Our peak brightness measurements are taken with sustained windows to represent the TV’s peak brightness over a sustained period of time. Specular highlights (like brief flashes of reflected light) might reach higher brightness levels, but not for sustained periods of time.
All of our tests are created with a Murideo Seven 8K signal generator and tabulated via Portrait Displays’ Calman Ultimate color calibration software. I'll expand on our test results throughout the review, but for now, here are some key takeaways:
• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 237.8 nits/0.042 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 230.6 nits/0.039 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• HDR peak brightness (sustained): 240.7 nits (50% white window)
• HDR color gamut coverage (DCI-P3/10-bit): 73%
• SDR color gamut coverage (Rec.709): 95%
Our SDR tests were carried out with the 4-Series’ “Backlight” setting at 100 and motion enhancements disabled.
Unsurprisingly, this budget-friendly TV isn’t outfitted with the sort of cutting-edge hardware you’re likely to find on higher-end TVs, so A/V enthusiasts and serious gamers should pay close attention to the 4-Series’ hardware limitations.
The TV’s HDMI 2.1 input also supports eARC, which allows users to pass Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus audio signals directly to a receiver or soundbar, so long as your chosen device also supports eARC. Note, however, that the TV itself does not decode Atmos natively.
Here’s what you’ll find on the back of the 4-Series panel:
- 3x HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60Hz)
- 1x HDMI 2.1 (4K @ 60Hz) with ARC/eARC)
- 1x USB 2.0
- RF connection (cable/antenna)
- Ethernet (LAN) input
- Digital audio output (optical)
- 3.5mm headphone jack
What we like
Decent color and an all-around dependable picture
Before breaking out my lab equipment and testing the 4-Series, I spent a fair amount of time hopping from one TV show to the next. My initial assessment? “Hey… not bad!”
Like most TVs in this price range, there are some significant performance issues that are very much worth taking into account—something I’ll get into further on in the review. That said, I’m pleased to report that the 4-Series passes the all-important preliminary eye-check; I turned it on, I watched some stuff, and the picture didn’t immediately raise any red flags. So far, so good!
Despite the 4-Series’ limited hardware, which includes a lack of local dimming of any kind, the picture quality remains mostly fine for casual viewing, be it streaming, broadcast TV, or Blu-rays. I saw very few hardware-related issues commonly found on affordable TVs—flashlighting or shadowing at the corners of the screen, for instance—which tells me that the 4-Series has been engineered with a certain level of care. When shopping for a TV in a lower price bracket, that sort of assurance goes a long way.
That’s certainly not to say that the 4-Series is picture-perfect; lacking some key tech, its performance is permanently fixed to the lower end of the market spectrum. But in order to secure yourself some of the finer advancements in TV tech—quantum dots, mini-LEDs, or even full-array local dimming—you’ll have to jump up a price bracket.
For what it costs, the 4-Series looks fine. Colors are mostly well-tuned right out of the box (especially if you opt for the TV’s “Movie” picture preset while watching filmic content), and the impressively deep black levels anchor a detail-rich picture. If you’re making the jump to 4K resolution for the first time, the 4-Series isn’t a bad option at all.
Amazon users will feel right at home
The Fire TV 4-Series doesn’t genuflect at the altar of Alexa quite like its bigger sibling, the Amazon Fire TV Omni, but there’s certainly enough reverence here to satisfy Alexa acolytes who’ve already incorporated Amazon’s personal assistant into their daily routine.
While the Omni’s onboard, far-field microphone offers users the option of accessing Alexa in a hands-free manner, the 4-Series keeps Alexa access limited to the remote control’s built-in microphone. That said, hooking up an Amazon Echo speaker will open up the 4-Series to a secondary point of access. Two-way video calling—something that wasn’t yet available on the Omni when we tested it—is also not supported on the 4-Series. If you want that, you’ll have to spend up for the Omni.
Beyond that, the Omni and 4-Series user experiences are mostly the same. And for folks who love to use Alexa everyday, the option to slot the 4-Series into an armada of interconnected Amazon devices might be an attractive one. The 4-Series puts a decent amount of control into the hands of someone who’s home is already outfitted with Amazon products—from Ring Doorbells to select smart bulbs.
I encountered my fair share of hang-ups with Fire TV software that I’ll expand upon shortly, but if you’re looking for a truly Alexa-centric TV experience, the Fire TV 4-Series is an excellent candidate. In fact, the only better candidate is the Fire TV Omni.
What we don’t like
Too dim for bright rooms or HDR
The 4-Series’ lack of premium display tech might be good news for your wallet, but it’s bad news for cinephiles or anyone with a sunny living space. The 4-Series just doesn’t have enough under the hood to get very bright, and without even a modest amount of punch, the picture will look dull—especially in well-lit environments. In dark settings, there’s plenty of illumination for content to shine. In the harsh light of day, you might find otherwise.
The 4-Series supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), a popularVpicture format designed to take advantage of contemporary TV hardware by showcasing content in high-contrast, extra-colorful fashion. Unfortunately, the 4-Series doesn’t get brighter or more colorful in HDR, which means anything mastered for that format—whether it’s piped in from Netflix, YouTube, or a UHD Blu-ray—won’t look appreciably different, even if the TV is telling you that it’s receiving an HDR signal.
If you don’t have a sunny room and you’re making the jump to 4K for the first time (or if you simply don’t care about recent advancements in display capabilities), the lack of HDR pizzazz is probably not on your radar. If this sounds like you, just refer back to what I said earlier in the review: The 4-Series looks good enough for most situations, and you’ll probably be satisfied with what you see.
If you got excited when you saw “HDR10” on the TV’s box or online listing, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Sprinkling a little HDR magic dust on your movie night—even a modest amount of dust—will require jumping up a price bracket.
Fire TV software isn’t as streamlined as the competition
While the 4-Series is a better Alexa TV than just about everything else out there, it’s not close to the best smart TV you can get—even in its own price bracket.
Although I had admittedly only used Fire TV OS a handful of times prior, I did find myself stumbling through the home screen in order to find the software I was looking for. Fortunately, downloading apps is pretty simple, and most of the apps I was looking for were available on the Fire TV platform.
My biggest issue with Fire TV OS is its abundance of sponsored and recommended content, most of which cannot be disabled. I eventually learned how to quickly hopscotch my way to the content I was interested in checking out—and Alexa voice commands are remarkably easy to deploy—but be prepared to swim in some sponsored content if you venture too far into some of the submenus.
If you’re looking for an ultra-affordable 4K TV with smart features that are as easy as the TV’s asking price, look no further than the other 4-Series on the block: the TCL 4-Series Roku TV. From the standpoint of picture quality, the TCL 4-Series is roughly the same as Amazon’s 4-Series. It doesn’t come with the same Alexa-based benefits, but it’s a Roku TV, which means it comes with the fully-fledged Roku experience pre-installed. It’s our favorite smart platform on account of its easy-to-use interface and extensive app support.
For the people that enjoy tinkering with settings, it’s also worth noting that the Amazon 4-Series doesn’t offer much in the way of calibration options. You’ve got various picture modes at your disposal, as well as some basic contrast- and motion-related settings, but that’s about it. That said, I imagine most people considering a TV in this price range probably won’t miss these options.
Poor off-angle viewing
Like most TVs in its class, the 4-Series uses a VA-style panel. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, this means that the 4-Series’ display excels at producing deep black levels but struggles to maintain picture quality when viewed away from the center of the screen.
Viewing angle flexibility is an aspect of performance I typically stress when talking with shoppers who are looking to buy bigger TVs—65, 70, 75 inches (and above). This is, in part, because you’re more likely to notice poor off-angle viewing on bigger sets that are entertaining a room full of people. That said, our 50-inch 4-Series demonstrated some gnarly picture degradation when my viewing angle shifted horizontally and vertically.
A lack of black screen uniformity in the center of our panel exacerbated this issue during testing, as opening title sequences with white-on-black text created lumpy, dim-but-noticeable clouds of pale blue light in the center of the screen.
Should you buy it?
Unless you’re an avid Alexa-user on a budget, probably not
If you love the idea of incorporating an affordable, Alexa-friendly TV into your smart home setup, the 4-Series is a good choice. If you’re just looking for an affordable 4K TV and don’t see yourself leaning on Alexa very often, there are more user-friendly options in this price bracket, like the TCL 4-Series.
When it comes to picture quality, the Amazon 4-Series isn’t noticeably better or worse than the TCL 4-Series—they’re both hampered by a lack of brightness and sub par viewing angles. But the TCL 4-Series is available with Roku built right into the software, and if you’re not trying to fold Alexa into your TV-viewing habits, Roku is the better option due to its streamlined interface and minimal amount of sponsored content. (Roku also incorporates Alexa support, but not to the same degree as Amazon’s models.)
So how does the Amazon 4-Series compare to Amazon’s higher-end, Alexa-enhanced TV? The Fire TV Omni is a good choice for Alexa aficionados on a budget, but the 4-Series offers roughly the same experience at a cheaper price. From a performance standpoint, the TV’s are basically the same—even in HDR. It’s true that the 65- and 75-inch versions of the Omni offer support for the Dolby Vision HDR format, but given the limitations of the Omni’s HDR performance, it’s not worth the price hike. In fact, the only reason I’d recommend someone buy the Omni over the 4-Series is if they wanted a 65- or 75-inch model, since the 4-Series tops out at 55 inches.
Like the Omni, the Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is an enticing pick for a very specific niche. It’s a decent TV for folks on a budget, but it’s the people with an Amazon-connected home who’ll get the most out of it.
Meet the tester
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
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