A new software update, version 18.104.22.168, has started rolling out to the Amazon Fire TV 3 (Pendant) that adds a new feature that home theater enthusiasts have been wanting for years. As you can see from the update note above, and pointed out to me by German tech writer Carsten Knobloch, the Fire TV now has the ability to automatically match the output video frame rate to match that of the video content being played. This results in the best viewing experience by eliminating motion artifacts caused by displaying video at mismatched frame rates.
I first discovered references to this upcoming feature late last year, under the label “Cinema Mode”, in the source code of a Fire TV update. It has now arrived, but is simply listed as a frame rate matching setting in the Fire TV’s Display & Sound settings area.
By default, the Fire TV sets your TV to output video at 60 frames per second (or 50 frames per second, depending on where you live). This is great for scrolling through user interfaces because high frame rates result in smooth animations, but it causes issues when watching video content that is shot at a lower frame rate. Since most movies and TV shows are shot at 23.976 frames per second, you end up with an issue called 3:2 pulldown when you watch them on a TV set to 60 frames per second, since 23.976 does not divide evenly into 60.
Most people likely can’t tell there is an issue with unsynchronized video frame rates, but for some, it’s very important. By enabling the new frame rate matching feature, the Fire TV will adjust your TVs frame rate to match the content being played. This results in perfect 1-to-1 synchronization between the actual video frames and the frames being displayed.
In order for frame rate matching to work, the app being used must support the feature. Videos from Amazon, such as those included with Prime Video, will correctly sync frame rates with this new feature enabled. Third-party apps, such as Netflix, do not yet support this feature and will need to be updated.
Frame rate matching has actually been an undocumented feature of the Fire TV for third-party apps for some time. Apps like MrMC added support for the feature long ago, but that support was broken with the release of Fire OS 6 on newer Fire TV devices. It seems as though Amazon has decided to make the feature official with this latest update by adding the new system option to enable or disable the feature. MrMC once again correctly switches frame rates with this latest Fire TV 3 update.
For now, only the Fire TV 3 seems to be receiving this software update and the new feature. Other Fire OS 6 devices include the Fire TV Cube and the Toshiba Fire TV Edition television, but this new feature does not seem to be rolling out to those devices yet. It’s probably safe to say that the Fire TV Cube will eventually receive the ability to match video frame rates, since it shares most of the same internals as the Fire TV 3, but it’s unknown if or when other devices will receive a similar update. As always, the new software update is rolling out slowly over the coming weeks, so most devices likely do not have the update available yet.