The TV as a complete package tough
Following a less-than-stellar début for Amazon’s own smart TVs through brands Westinghouse and Element, the Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition (55LF621U19) gives the operating system a more respectable showing, with improved displays, HDR support and a more refined user experience.
However, the bottom line is that Amazon’s more-than-capable software is still hampered by the decision to place it in really cheap hardware. While the sub-$500 price point is a popular one with consumers, it brings with it several undeniable weaknesses that make the TV as a complete package tough to recommend.
Amazon’s Fire TV operating system works with Alexa so you can use your voice to control your TV, search for TV shows, manage other smart devices in your home, find out information from the web, and so on. You can also stream video from many of the most popular streaming apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Sling TV, and HBO.
As you’d probably expect at this price, the 55LF621U19’s design is on the basic side, with a pretty chunky plastic cabinet and glossy black bezels. They are joined by a pair of glossy black plastic crescent-shaped feet, which sit towards the center of the screen — stable but a little inelegant. We’d much prefer wider separate feet or a single central stand.
The top there’s a remote
For example, we notice shadowing in the corners of the screen when displaying solid colors, indistinct edges to bright objects and deficiencies in both light blooming and back light consistency that are hard to ignore. Connections for this TV aren’t too bad for a budget set.
On the left-hand side you’ll find the main set — three HDMI ports (one with ARC), one USB port, an optical digital port and a headphone out. They’re a little far from the edge to make them super easy to use, but they are still visible and accessible. The TV is available in 50-inch and 55-inch sizes too, but you won’t save quite as much cash on those models.
We don’t know how long this deal will last, so if you’re interested, you may want to act quickly. Along the bottom are four app-specific buttons, for Prime Video, Netflix, HBO and PlayStation Vue, and at the top there’s a remote button for accessing Alexa.
This is especially handy when searching for content and apps, because it eliminates the need to mess around with the sluggish keyboard. The unwanted blooming is unstable in scenes from Blade Runner 2049, for example, with a halo of unwanted light surrounding a brightly lit doorway at the end of a dark hallway.
Amazon Prime shows
The Toshiba uses direct LED backlighting with no local dimming, which results in some expected downfalls that considerably effect picture performance. That’s not quite the same story for the additional ports — namely the RCA composite video inputs, an Ethernet port and a screw-on coaxial connector for antenna and cable — which are all inset and face downwards.
Thankfully, you’re likely to connect most of these ounces and leave them there, so it’s not too much of an inconvenience. Plus there’s built-in 802.11ac WiFi. This ranges from the obvious, such as movies and home theater gear, to the interest-specific, such as sports equipment and recommendations personalized to one’s Amazon history.
Sometimes, it can be a little weird, such as the time we turned on the Toshiba Amazon TV to be served an ad for the Samsung Q7F television. One of the biggest talking points about this TV is Amazon’s Fire TV OS, but despite a potentially promising experience, it is overly aggressive in its content recommendations and heavy-handed with its advertising banners for Amazon Prime shows.
While many smart TV platforms include some form of advertising, usually of recommended content from preferred apps and services, Amazon’s Fire TV also includes ads for Amazon merchandise. It’s similarly noticeable in Spider-Man: Homecoming when a gang armed with alien weapons holds up a bank branch, their glowing, purple energy beams punctuating the action.
The TV and control any Alexa
While these beams should be well-defined and impactful, a faint glow surrounds them instead, the result of the Toshiba’s less precise backlighting. The app selection here is pretty good, including popular apps such as Netflix and HBO Go.
These are often promoted on the home screen, so easy to find and download, but anything else you’ll have to go looking for. It wouldnt’t really be a Fire TV without Alexa built in, so of course the popular voice assistant is here, helping you to search for content, adjust settings on the TV and control any Alexa-compatible smart home devices.
Quality control is’t the best either — there are a lot of nonsense apps here that we can’t see appealing to anyone, and that you wouldnt’t get on a properly curated app store. Unsurprisingly enough, it’s not dissimilar to Amazon’s Fire TV remotes.
There’s a glossy ring in the center that functions as a four-way directional pad, and it’s surrounded with dedicated buttons for home, back, menu and media playback controls. Apps are spread across 27 different categories, such as Movies & TV, News and Sports.
There are literally thousands in total, but browsing them is hard due to slow load times and poor categorization. You’re better off searching by name, though that’s also rather sluggish. The Toshiba remote that comes with this TV is pretty minimal and fairly lightweight, but not something that’s abnormally poor for the price point.