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Amazon certainly got the tech world's attention at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January. Seiki, Westinghouse Electronics and Element Electronics paired up with the e-commerce giant to unveil 4K TVs that are fully equipped with Amazon Fire TV. That means no Fire stick (or streaming device of any kind, for that matter) is required.
The highly anticipated TVs, formally known as 4K Ultra HD Smart TVs - Amazon Fire TV Edition, will make their retail debut later this year. They'll also feature a voice remote to activate Alexa, the platform's famous virtual assistant.
The announcement marks an industry trend toward device-free streaming. For example, you can find Roku TVs manufactured by brands like TCL, Sharp and Insignia. But critics say that Roku's budget-friendly TVs come at a price -- the picture quality is adequate, but not fantastic. The remote also takes some getting used to, adds Consumer Reports.
Meanwhile, familiar brands like Vizio, Sony, Toshiba and Philips tout models with Chromecast built right in.
"The TCL Roku-fueled televisions are usually the top-selling televisions on Amazon," says Phillip Swann, publisher of TVPredictions.com. "What interests me the most is how Amazon will use this in its battle with Roku and Apple TV."
While both the release date and the price are still under wraps, the Amazon Fire TV platform will come with access to more than 7,000 apps, channels and Alexa skills. Prime members can expect unlimited (and free) Prime video with premium add-on options like HBO and Showtime.
In terms of storage, the Amazon-enabled TVs boast 3 GB of memory and 16 GB of internal storage. They'll debut in a number of sizes, ranging from 43 to 65 inches, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will come standard. As for picture quality, Seiki, Westinghouse and Element aren't known for putting out top of the line TVs, but we'll have to wait and see what Amazon brings to the table.
The Alexa capability is easily one of the most buzzworthy features -- speak into the remote and get instant access to everything from the latest weather report to Prime Music, all played through your TV. This includes voice-activated control of smart home devices, as well. Plus, the fact that Alexa will generate personalized TV and movie recommendations based on your viewing habits is also pretty cool.
The TVs will be sold through Amazon and other authorized retailers at some point in 2017. We're curious where the price points will land, but given the history of the brands producing the sets, they're likely to be competitive. Additionally, Swann suggests that holding out until the Amazon debut may be worth your while if you're in the market for a new TV with streaming capability baked in.
"If you're looking to stream Amazon, TCL and Roku may have some really good deals later this year, particularly when Amazon actually introduces their TVs," he says. "I'm sure TCL, Roku and the others will respond accordingly and make sure their prices are competitive."
If you're on the hunt for a 4K TV before then, here's a handy insider's guide.
Images courtesy of PRNewswire.com.
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