The latest Toshiba 4K Fire TV is an inexpensive and convenient smart TV
ByJohn R. Quain22 October 2020
A bargain-priced set, the Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition is a prime example of what you can get for a little money—as well as what you”ll miss—in an inexpensive 4K set.
Price: $329.99Model number: 50LF621U21Screen Size: 50 inchesResolution: 3840 x 2160HDR: HDR10 and Dolby VisionRefresh Rate: 60 HzPorts: 3 HDMI, 1 USBAudio: 10 watts per channel/2 channels; w/ Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual XSmart TV Software: Amazon Fire TVSize: 26 x 44.3 x 3.5 inches (without stand); 28.2 x 44.3 x 11.5 inches (with stand)Weight: 22.5 pounds (without stand); 23.1 pounds (with stand)
A conventional 4K LCD TV, the 50-inch Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition (50LF621U21) isn”t just another bargain-priced 4K TV. It”s also a smart TV for people who want the convenience of Alexa and streaming services in a single package.
For casual TV viewing, the Toshiba Fire TV holds up well enough, and the voice search afforded by Alexa and the remote control”s built-in mic make it an attractive package.
However, its picture performance is less than perfect. Color accuracy was found wanting in our tests and the panel”s 60 Hz (versus 120 Hz) refresh rate limits its ability to deliver a solid, realistic image.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Price and availability
Available in three sizes, from 43 to 55 inches, this 50-inch model is the middle child of what the company calls its LF621 series. The 43-inch version is $100 less and the 55-inch is just $50 more. The bigger screen model has the same feature set and similar specification to the 50-inch model we tested. So the relatively small price jump is worth it for the larger set, especially if all you”re looking for is a second set to put in the rec room.
Toshiba TVs have a limited distribution in the U.S. as of this writing. However, they are popular purchases that can be found at Best Buy and on Amazon.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Design
With bargain prices you get average looks and a functional approach to design. For example, the Toshiba set doesn”t have a razor-thin bezel like leading sets; the black frame or border around the screen is over half an inch wide. Whether you find that noticeable or not depends on your aesthetic.
(Image credit: Toshiba)
Light at just over 23 pounds including its stand, the 50-inch Toshiba is quite maneuverable. It can easily be lifted onto a tabletop, resting on a pair of V-shaped feet that attach at either end of the set.
(Image credit: Toshiba)
The design proved stable and solid on a credenza that could accommodate its 45-inch width and 11.5-inch deep feet. If you”d like to put it up on a wall, the Toshiba 50LF621U21 conforms to the VESA 200 mm x 300 mm standard mount brackets.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Ports
The Toshiba set makes connections easy. On the back left side there”s a panel of ports that includes an optical digital audio output and a 3 mm jack for analog audio output to headphones or an external speaker (making that connection automatically mutes the set”s own speakers).
(Image credit: Toshiba)
There is also a USB port and three HDMI ports. More expensive sets usually come with more connections, such as two or three USB slots and four HDMI connections. Toshiba doesn”t specify if the HDMI ports are version 2.1.
(Image credit: Toshiba)
On a downward facing rear panel, you”ll also find an Ethernet port, composite video and audio outputs (for older equipment) and a coaxial cable port for an antenna. There is also wireless Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi support.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Performance
The Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition is a relatively unadorned LCD set. So it doesn”t make use of quantum dot films to boost its color pallet or miniLED backlighting to improve contrast. It is a basic 60 Hz display (versus 120 Hz) with a standard LED backlight, rather than more advanced full-array local dimming. And those hardware facts are reflected in its picture performance.
Some of our favorite 4K YouTube videos of nature scenes and foreign language tutor looked satisfactory in the Toshiba set”s default standard picture mode. We also found that the standard mode didn”t completely oversaturate colors, which is surprising since most sets use it to drive colors to blindingly bright levels, particularly for in-store displays.
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However, we found the best preset picture mode for the Toshiba Fire TV Edition was the movie mode, where flesh tones looked more realistic and brightness and contrasts levels were set to more reasonable levels. Still, some lack of subtlety was apparent. The 4K HDR version of Knives Out, for example, looked bolder in terms of contrast and color compared to other 4K sets, eliminating shadows in the corners of some scenes. And while some colors, such as green vegetables in the house”s kitchen, looked faithfully reproduced, others tended to look preternaturally orange, such as in wood furniture and faces. This made the poor makeup on Chris Evans look almost clownish with bright red lips and exaggerated eyeliner. Such visual impressions underscore the fact that you won’t get all the picture potential out of the HDR and Dolby Vision support due to the lack of full-array backlight dimming.
(Image credit: Toshiba)
Nevertheless, details in the Toshiba Fire TV”s 4K picture were good. Wrinkled faces were natural and Daniel Craig”s houndstooth jacket was crisp and free of any picture noise.
While some viewers will notice the less than solid picture due to the lower refresh rate, we also found that the 60 Hz frequency gave movies like 4K Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a more cinematic or movie theater look. The picture was not as punchy as, say, that of a much more expensive OLED set, and the colorful alien market scene with its bright red and green costumes lacked some vibrancy. There was also some shading around the edges of the screen on some scenes, no doubt due in part to the lack of full-array dynamic local dimming.
On the other hand, there weren”t any egregious picture flaws. The was minimal banding, for example, in color transitions in sky and desert scenes. And black levels were good enough to prevent letterbox bars from becoming distracting.
Upscaled material looked a little flat, again lacking some contrast. However, In spite of its lower 60Hz refresh rate, we didn”t detect any obvious stutter or picture artifacts when dealing with lower HD material that was bumped up to 4K. And that”s a positive note given that even today a majority of content is not yet available in 4K.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Test results
Our test results confirmed that while the Toshiba 50LF621U21 is fine for casual viewing of streaming and broadcast programming, it will probably disappoint serious cinephiles. Most notably, it lacked the color fidelity movie buffs cherish.
As with the majority of sets we test, the Toshiba was able to reproduce most of the Rec. 709 color gamut, turning in 98.6 percent of the full spectrum. However, accurately rendering those colors was another matter. In that regard, using our X-Rite colorimeter and CalMan calibration software it turned in a Delta E measurement of 3.3; lower numbers are better with most sets expected to turn in a Delta E of around 2 or better. The Vizio V-Series V505-G9, for example, had a Delta E of 2.3 in our tests and it”s $50 less expensive than the Toshiba. If you want a more advanced and larger set, the $650 Hisense 55H9G turned in an impressively color accurate Delta E of 0.9.
While brightness issues tend to be less of an issue with big screens these days, we did notice that it was a slight weakness of the Toshiba Fire TV Edition. Under typical conditions, the picture is bright enough, but sun-soaked rooms will present a challenge. In our tests, maximum brightness with a 10 percent pattern size came out to 423.7 nits. That”s not terrible but certainly less than quantum dot LCDs we”ve tested recently, such as the Hisense 55H9G (668) and the Vizio M-Series (647.2).
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Gaming
In gaming, milliseconds count. Unfortunately, we found the Toshiba was a laggard when it came to fighting monsters and shooting bad guys. It turned in a relatively slow lag time of 30.1 ms in gaming mode using our Leo Bodnar signal lag tester.
While anecdotally we found it was good enough for a casual game or two, we”re not in the championship class of e-atheletes. In general, lag times of greater than 17 ms tend to be noticed by serious gamers, so those looking for a second set dedicated to Call of Duty competition should look elsewhere. We”ve found quicker reflexes in the Hisense 55H9G (16.1 ms), a larger set costing $650, for example, and even the $300 Vizio V-Series V505-G9 did better at 27.4 ms.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Audio
The built-in audio of the Toshiba uses a set of downward firing speakers on the back of the set. As with most TVs, the Toshiba offers several pre-set audio modes (Music, Movie, Clear Voice, and Enhanced Bass). The default setting is Standard mode, which we found a bit sonically cramped but capable enough to handle most content without drawing attention to itself.
Movie mode tries to expand the sound stage using DTS synthesized surround sound software. It manages to do an adequate job delivering a more cinematic sound, especially from a budget-priced set, without obscuring the dialogue. However, blasting a 4K video of Aha”s Take on Me revealed that the same mode tended to be very bass heavy to the detriment of the famous high flying vocals. Switching to Music mode brought the vocals back to life, boosting the high end and tightened up the bass (which sounded slushy in movie mode).
Interestingly, Toshiba does give you more options, allowing you to adjust bass, treble and balance within each mode. There”s also an advanced setting where you can adjust dialog clarity (with middling results), the DTS Virtual X level (medium) and a volume leveling feature. In terms of volume levels, turning it up the 10-watts a side audio to 50 percent on a music video was enough to fill a modest living room with sound, as well as disturb the next-door neighbor, which we learned the hard way.
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Smart TV features
The addition of Amazon”s Fire TV smartTV software and interface is certainly a benefit. It competes against Roku and Google”s Android TV for viewers affections and manages to hold its own against those two. Roku still holds the title for easiest to use and Android for most full-featured, Amazon TV has an ace in the hole: Alexa.