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Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition (2020 model) review

The latest Toshiba 4K Fire TV is an inexpensive and convenient smart TV

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition (2020 model) review
(Image: © Toshiba)

Our Verdict

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.

For

  • Rock bottom price
  • Amazon Fire TV with Alexa smarts

Against

  • Less than accurate colors
  • Lack of brightness
Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition (2020 model): Key Specs

Price: $329.99
Model number: 50LF621U21
Screen Size: 50 inches
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
HDR: HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Ports: 3 HDMI, 1 USB
Audio: 10 watts per channel/2 channels; w/ Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual X
Smart TV Software: Amazon Fire TV
Size: 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.

  • 43-inch (43LF621U21) - $229
  • 50-inch (50LF621U21) - $329
  • 55-inch (55LF621U21) - $379

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.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(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.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(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).

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(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.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(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.

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.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(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.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(Image credit: Toshiba)

Setting up the set is relatively straightforward. Toshiba automatically first updated the remote and then presented me with options across the top of the screen: Home, Live, Your Videos, Free, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, and Settings. To set up the Wi-Fi connection, you skip back to the opening screen. If the set needs it, you can also update the software when setting up the TV.

The main screen on Fire TV shows 8 tiles of programming options with a mix of shows, channels and apps. You can skip around or pick a category. However, we did find the categories confusing. “Live,” for example isn't just live broadcast TV but rather a mix of local stations (assuming you've hooked up an antenna) and streaming services like Pluto.

Cord cutters will find the Toshiba set performs well. We found 46 stations after scanning our metropolitan area in New York City. Hitting the options button on the remote when watching live TV will invoke a handy electronic program guide, and you can pause live TV for up to 2 minutes. That's not up to typical DVR standards, but it's long enough to get a snack from the fridge without missing anything.

The competition for completeness—who has what streaming services—is a moving target. Amazon's Fire TV is comparable to Roku and Android, although it does not have as many apps but still manages to cover all the majors like Netflix, Showtime, and biggies like CBS and ESPN. There are two notable exceptions, however: there's no HBO Max or Peacock TV. Amazon has also joined the sets offering a “Free TV” section. It's still a little sparse compared to Roku, and draws primarily on IMDB TV, but it's bound to grow in the future and you can download the likes of Tubi, Pluto, and Crackle to supplement it.

Of course, the major draw for the Toshiba Fire TV is Alexa. Just press the remote's microphone button and you can use all the standard Alexa skills: ask about the weather, how far the moon is from the Earth, or the latest sports scores. Better still, you can do programming searches using Alexa and generally it works very well. Press the mic button and say, “Play Toto Africa video” and the YouTube video will kick in. Not all the TV apps are Alexa enabled, but the primary ones are and you can see which ones are covered under the Apps tab.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition review: Remote control

Often the little things, like remote controls, go unnoticed and that's a good thing. It means they are unobtrusive. Unfortunately, we never got that comfortable with the Toshiba Fire TV's remote.

Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition

(Image credit: Toshiba)

It is the essence of simplicity. There are no numeric or alphabetic buttons. A four-way directional circle with a center enter button, handles most tasks, along with a mic button, controls for pausing or rewinding/fast forwarding and dedicated buttons for invoking Prime Video, Netflix, HBO, and Hulu. Mute, home, back, menu and settings buttons complete the controls.

We had no complaints with the array of controls, and they are typical for smart TVs that use other software, such as Roku. However, we never felt at home with the remote. Its combination of smaller size and even weighting (about 50/50 front to back) made it feel awkward and irritating. And like a scratchy wool sweater, it was a feeling we couldn't shake.

Toshiba 50-Inch 4K Fire TV Edition review: Verdict

It would be too flip to say, you get what you pay for. While it is true that the 2020 Toshiba 4K Fire TV Edition (50LF621U21) is not a top performer, even in the category of bargain-priced sets, it is still an attractive option for casual viewing situations. That's primarily due to its easy-to-use smartTV features and the inclusion of Amazon's Alexa.

Gamers and movie buffs will want to look for better performers, however. We've found quicker gaming performance in the Hisense 55H9G (16.1 ms), a larger set costing $650, or even the $300 Vizio V-Series V505-G9. Those looking for a brighter more accurate picture are advised to spend more money for the aforementioned Hisense model or one of the Vizio M-Series sets.