The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series combines smarts and performance to deliver a capable 4K TV but it’s light on features
- Excellent picture accuracy
- Built-in Alexa
- Competitive pricing
- HDR performance is limited
- Smart platform is a bit slow
- Not ideal for gamers
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is the entry-level HDR TV from the retail monolith, combining a 4K panel with an LED backlight. There’s no local dimming, but you do get support for HDR10 and HLG, plus the Fire TV operating system with built-in Alexa.
There’s a decent sound system, a comprehensive choice of streamers and also a low input lag for gaming, so if the 4-Series performs well it might prove to be a sensible budget choice despite its rather basic features.
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||43in 434KN400U|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,940 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||HDR10, HLG|
|HDMI inputs:||HDMI 2.0 x 3, HDMI 2.1 x 1|
|Gaming features:||Game Mode|
|Smart platform:||Fire TV OS|
|Freeview Play compatibility:||Yes|
|Smart assistants:||Amazon Alexa built-in|
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: What you need to know
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart TV that uses an LED backlight and comes in 43in, 50in and 55in screen sizes. It runs the latest version of the Fire TV operating system and supports HDR10 and HLG. The smart platform includes built-in Alexa, and offers a comprehensive set of streaming apps, along with a full complement of TV catch-up services.
There’s a stereo sound system with 8W of power per channel, but audio is limited to Dolby Digital Plus, and while there are four HDMI inputs, only one is HDMI 2.1. Although it can handle eARC, there’s no support for ALLM and, since Amazon uses a 60Hz panel, the TV also can’t handle 4K/120Hz or VRR, so performance will need to be good to compensate for these limited features.
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Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Price and competition
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is available in three screen sizes: the 43in model reviewed here retails for £330; the 50in version costs £380; and the 55in screen size is priced at £430. While these are certainly great prices, this is a very competitive segment of the market.
If you’re looking for alternatives, the TCL 43C645K is going to be hard to beat because it not only costs less at £319, but it also supports every HDR format including Dolby Vision and it decodes Dolby Atmos audio. The Android TV operating system boasts a comprehensive choice of streaming apps and built-in Google Assistant, plus this 4K TV also works with Amazon Alexa.
If you’d prefer a more familiar brand, the Samsung 43CU7100 is another good choice that costs about the same at £349. It looks great and includes all of the Korean giant’s TV know-how, with excellent 4K HDR picture quality and image processing, Object Tracking Sound, a Gaming Hub and a Tizen-powered operating system with a comprehensive choice of video streamers.
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Design, connections and control
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is very ‘Amazon Basics’ in appearance, with a simple 10mm wide black bezel around the screen and black plastic construction. The build quality is fair but could be better, and the TV sits on a pair of black plastic feet. If you’d rather wall-mount it, you can do so using a standard 300 x 300mm VESA bracket.
The side-facing connections are located towards the rear of the panel, which means they’re far enough from the edge of the screen to hide any cables. There are four HDMI inputs, all of which support 4K/60Hz and HDR, but only one supports eARC. There’s also a terrestrial tuner, an AV input, an IR emitter, an optical digital output, an Ethernet port, two USB ports and built-in Wi-Fi.
The 4-Series comes with the standard Fire TV Voice Remote, which remains annoyingly small and fiddly, with a limited choice of control options and buttons identified primarily by icons. It’s not the most intuitive zapper I’ve used, and Amazon probably wants you to prioritise Alexa voice control, but at least there are direct keys for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Freeview Play.
Setting the 4-Series up is straightforward but time-consuming, and it took ages for all the firmware updates and apps to load when I first installed the TV. It’s a fairly standard smart TV experience, but as you frequently discover with operating systems where accessing apps and recommendations comes first, the normal TV settings feel tacked on and are difficult or laborious to access.
Additionally, the 4-Series seems to lack sufficient processing power to run the Fire TV OS effectively. The user interface is often very sluggish, and the smart platform feels unresponsive at times. Unfortunately, this is a common complaint with budget TVs where the operating system has basically been ported over from another device that has significantly more processing power.
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Image quality
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series uses a VA panel, which ensures decent black levels but does limit the optimal viewing angles, although as long as you’re sat directly in front of the screen you get a native contrast ratio of 3,300:1. This is pretty good for an LCD TV without local dimming, but as soon as you move off-centre the contrast and colour saturation will begin to drop off significantly.
The 4-Series ships in Energy Saving mode and, aside from a slight push to blue, the greyscale is fairly accurate, which is unusual for an out-of-the-box mode on any TV, regardless of price. However the gamma curve is being heavily manipulated, which results in an average Delta E (error) of 14. The colours are also a little oversaturated, but the average errors are only around seven.
These errors are amplified by the Smart HDR mode, which by default is on, but once turned off things improve considerably. The Dark Film mode delivers pleasingly accurate pictures for a budget TV, with the gamma closely tracking the target of 2.2, and equal amounts of red, green and blue in the greyscale delivering average errors well below the visible threshold of three.
Colour accuracy is also more impressive, with the primary and secondary colours all tracking their saturation targets precisely, resulting in an overall average error of only 1.3. This impressive accuracy is great news because although there are calibration controls available on the 4-Series, it’s unlikely that a TV at this price is going to be professionally calibrated.
Picture processing is also good, upscaling lower-resolution content clearly without adding unwanted artefacts, and cleaning up heavily compressed material. The same goes for motion handling, which is smooth and free of annoying judder. The Clarity settings are best left off with films, but when it comes to fast-paced sports action, a touch of smoothing can reap rewards.
Thanks to the accurate greyscale, gamma and colours, SDR images look very good, with decent blacks, nice shadow detail, precisely upscaled pictures and a natural look to skin tones. The lack of any local dimming means black levels are sometimes found wanting and the backlight uniformity could be better, but the 4-Series delivers SDR picture quality above its pay grade.
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: HDR performance
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series may deliver excellent SDR images, but it struggles when it comes to HDR. For a start, it only supports HDR10 and HLG, whereas competing TVs at the same price can also handle HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. At least in the Film Dark picture mode both HDR10 and HLG are very accurate in terms of the greyscale and colour tracking against the saturation targets.
Unfortunately, the 4-Series struggles in terms of brightness, with a peak luminance of around 300cd/m2 on both a 10% window and a full-field pattern. As a result, the HDR tone mapping suffers because it has very little to work with in terms of luminance, and although 1,000 nits content appears fine, there’s obvious clipping in the highlights with 4,000 and 10,000 nits material.
Colour performance is also severely restricted, with the TV’s gamut only able to cover 81% of the DCI-P3 colour space. As a result, the 4-Series is really an HDR TV in name only, capable of accepting an HDR signal but lacking the deep blacks, bright highlights and colour definition necessary to deliver the kind of punchy and impactful images one associates with the format.
To test the Amazon Fire TV 4-Series we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Gaming
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series isn’t a good choice for serious gamers, especially if you use a PC rig or next-generation console such as the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. The reason for this is the panel only supports frame rates up to 60Hz, which means no gaming at 4K/120Hz, plus the HDMI inputs don’t support features such as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) or ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode).
For less dedicated players who only want a quick session every now and then, the 4-Series has an excellent input lag of only 10ms in Game mode. The gameplay is very responsive, and once you add in smooth motion and some nicely detailed images, the result is an enjoyable and engaging experience for the more casual gamers out there.
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Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Sound quality
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series offers basic audio with passable sound quality thanks to a pair of speakers, each powered by 8W of amplification. It’s certainly sufficient for general TV watching, with clear dialogue and a degree of stereo separation. There’s probably a greater sense of width with the larger screen sizes, but if you want something with scale you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The 4-Series supports Dolby Digital Plus, but unlike some competing TVs, there’s no Dolby Atmos decoding using psychoacoustic processing. However, to be honest this approach struggles to produce a genuinely immersive sonic experience, especially from only two speakers. So perhaps Amazon is wise to omit Atmos – if it’s something you desperately want, you can always hook the 4-Series up to one of the best Atmos soundbars.
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series review: Verdict
The Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is a solid entry-level 4K effort from the retailer, and while its build quality is decidedly plastic and the sound quality fairly limited, that’s to be expected from a TV at this price. What’s surprising is how accurate the images are in the correct picture mode, resulting in an impressive SDR performance despite the lack of any local dimming.
Where the 4-Series struggles is with HDR, lacking the inherent brightness and wider colour gamut necessary to deliver the format correctly. The lack of HDR10+ and Dolby Vision doesn’t help, either, while the limited gaming features and absence of Dolby Atmos decoding puts the 4-Series at a disadvantage to the competition. Ultimately this is one Amazon product that’s a bit too basic.