Should you buy a Toshiba Fire TV? Since the range was announced last year, many a shopper has had the opportunity to buy into Amazon’s Fire TV platform through an affordable Toshiba TV – and as with anything that seems like a bargain, it’s worth asking whether its specific trade-offs and compromises are worth accepting at that price.
With Prime Day 2020 and Black Friday coming around, you may well be tempted by some of the discounts and offers you see on the Toshiba Fire TV or other televisions like it.
It’s worth noting that Toshiba stopped selling its own TVs in the US in 2015 – meaning anything you’re buying with the ‘Toshiba’ name is actually named by Hisense. (Should you buy a Hisense TV? See our in-depth guide.)
The good news is that Hisense is actually a decent TV manufacturer – or, at least, it’s not as bad as you were once led to believe and has made a few really good sets over the years. The Toshiba Fire TV, the latest in Amazon’s collaboration with TV manufacturers to embed its Fire TV platform into third-party TV sets, is one such screen.
Should I buy a Toshiba Fire TV?
The short answer is yes: Toshiba (and Hisense) makes perfectly capable low-spec televisions, and the Amazon Fire TV platform will be several times better than the kind of proprietary smart TV operating system you’d usually get on TVs of this price.
And what price is that? You can get a 55-inch Toshiba Fire TV for just $299 at the time of writing, with various sizes being even cheaper than that – with some costing as little as $119.
It’s been reviewed quite favorably, too, given the competence of the Fire TV OS and the relatively detailed images the TV is capable of.
However, if it’s the Fire TV OS you’re after, the cheapest way into the ecosystem is just the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Stick 4K: plug into an HDMI port on a dumb (or smart) television and you’re ready to go. The new Fire TV Stick Lite is the cheapest of the lot, at just $29.99, offering HD streaming without TV / volume controls on its Alexa remote.
The Toshiba Fire TV’s strong suits are its 4K resolutions (at larger sizes, at least), decent viewing angles of up to around 30 degrees off-axis, and its Fire TV OS integration. That last point means you’ll see Amazon Prime Video content front and center, but you’ll also be able to access Netflix, YouTube, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, Spotify, Twitch and many more services besides what Amazon has on offer.
The Fire TV UI is getting an overhaul in late 2020 too, which adds user profiles and a picture-in-picture mode for loading multiple apps at one time.
The 55-inch Toshiba Fire TV has a surprising amount of ports for a budget set – three HDMI inputs, a USB port and an optical audio output, as well as an Ethernet port, antenna/cable connector and an RCA composite video input. This should be enough places to plug in for all but the most avid of AV enthusiasts and a decently built remote helps keep control of the action. The remote has a mic built-in which allows you to search for shows and movies, as well as access Alexa, the Fire TV’s built-in assistant.
Alexa support is, in itself, a major highlight as it will allow your TV to act like a conduit to the rest of your smart home. You can control your lights, locks and other smart devices using the remote on your TV, plus you can use Alexa to manage day-to-day tasks like managing your shopping list or editing your calendar. It’s all pretty nifty.
Overall, while it’s certainly a good budget TV – maybe even one of the best at its sub-$500 price point – it’s not exactly the best budget TV this year. For around $150 more, you can get the TCL 6-Series Roku TV, which not only offers a slightly more robust operating system, but supports Dolby Vision in addition to the standard HDR10 format and gets a lot brighter.
You won’t be disappointed with the Toshiba’s performance – especially if you plan on sticking to HD SDR content – but, if you plan on watching anything in 4K, you may want to upgrade to the TCL instead.