Amazon’s Fire 4K TV box can’t reproduce HDR ultra HD content

by on September 30, 2015

Stephan Jukic – September 30, 2015

The recently released Amazon Fire TV box, according to a report from the website, comes with one seriously major flaw. Despite being introduced as a home entertainment tool with some excellent killer specs like a powerful new processor, support for streaming 4K content and even an Alexa personal assistant software inclusion, the Fire TV apparently won’t support high dynamic range! Even worse, the box doesn’t even support transfer of 4K ultra HD at 60Hz.

The reason for both of these major holes in the design of the Fire TV is a simple one: a more detailed look at the boxes specs reveals that Amazon decided to give their new device HDMI ports with the old 1.4 standard instead of the new 2.0 version or the 2.0a standard necessary for 4K UHD + HDR encoding.

The most ironic thing about all of this is the obvious fact that even Amazon Prime Instant Video itself is one of only a couple of streaming services which actually offers HDR-encoded 4K movies and shows for the few HDR-capable 4K TVs on the market so far. Examples of such programming include “Mozart in the Jungle” and the new Amazon Original Series “Transparent”. Owners of 4K HDR TVs like the Samsung JS9500 and the Sony X940C who also have an Amazon subscription can thus watch these shows and soon-to-arrive other titles in not only native 4K resolution but also with the expanded, much more impressive contrast levels of high dynamic range.

But owners of the Amazon Fire TV box who use it to deliver 4K content to their 4K HDR TVs can’t enjoy the same feature! Thus Amazon has strangely put itself in a situation where customers who want to enjoy one of their cool new home entertainment technologies will have to forsake another even cooler and newer technology from the same brand.

HDR means a greatly enhanced new level of contrast detail in the latest 4K content

HDR means a greatly enhanced new level of contrast detail in the latest 4K content

And if even Amazon’s own HDR ultra HD video can’t be enjoyed through the Amazon Fire, the exclusion of a growing selection of HDR 4K offerings from alternative services like Netflix and Vudu or even M-Go goes without saying.

In fact, the Netflix streaming app, with its own expanding selection of HDR UHD content for compatible 4K TVs is also available through the Fire TV box, but again, users who want Netflix and HDR will have to cut out Amazon’s new entertainment toy to get it.

Basically, some of the better reasons for buying the Fire TV are currently out the Window unless Amazon fixes this odd choice of HDMI spec soon.

Furthermore, let’s not forget the simple fact that HDMI 1.4 is only good for 30 frames per second of 4K UHD video transfer, at a rate that really doesn’t translate into maximal picture smoothness for more fast-paced content.

So far, Amazon Prime has kept quiet about why they took such an odd and clumsy Fire TV design step, in an age where their own 4K content and most 4K TVs are already way ahead of the capabilities of HDMI 1.4.

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  • Reallynotnick
    October 1, 2015 at 7:33 am

    That’s a shame, would have been a killer box if it had HDMI 2.0a though I suppose most TVs that have HDR support have good enough built in apps for the time being until a few years later when everything has seemed to slow to a crawl and faster boxes are out there.


  • DaMacFunkin
    October 4, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Are we sure the Amazon Fire 4k TV isn’t HDMI 2? Web sites are confirming that the device requires HDCP 2.2 for ultraHD streaming from prime, is HDCP 2.2 not only available on HDMI 2?
    As for HDR this will only be available on HDMI 2.0a but seeing as there are currently no TVs on the market that have received the upgrade (Samsung have been promising the update for weeks but it hasn’t yet happened) to the new 2.0a standard maybe Amazon intend to release that upgrade at a further date.


    • Stephen
      October 6, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      From what we’ve seen of the specs, the Amazon Fire indeed does only come with HDMI 1.4. we’re working on getting a review of the box up soon and we can then do a much better confirmation for you. However, HDCP 2.2 can be integrated with ports such as DVI, DisplayPort, USB etc to our knowledge, so possibly they’ve made it work with HDMI 1.4.

      However, from the fine details of Amazon’s own specs for their Fire TV:”Compatible with (1) 4K ultra high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60Hz and HDCP 2.2″

      Yet on the other hand, right above that, we clearly see this: “Output Resolution Supported: 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps”

      This is a matter that bears further investigation. We will be contacting Amazon for further details.


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