Amazon’s Fire TV 3 now lets you select the video Color Depth (8, 10, or 12 bit) and Color Format (RGB or YCbCr)

For the most part, Fire OS 6 on the new Amazon Fire TV 3 looks the same and has the same options as Fire OS 5 on previous Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models. One of the few differences is an expanded selection of Display settings. There is now an option to select the Color Depth, either 8-bit, 10-bit, or 12-bit, and the Color Format, either RGB or YCbCr.

The two new display settings give you more control of the video signal leaving the Fire TV. How you set them depends on the capabilities of your particular television, so you’ll need to research your TV model to determine which settings are best. Most people will be perfectly fine with the default settings, which are a color depth of 8-bits and the color format set to RGB.

Color depth refers to how many different colors are in the video signal. Having a larger color palate avoids color banding, which is when you can see distinct lines in an image that should be a smooth gradient transition. The unwanted lines are caused by simply not having the colors needed to blend from one color to another. Set the color depth value to the maximum color depth that your TV is capable of displaying. All Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models before the Fire TV 3 could only output an 8-bit maximum signal, so there was no need for this setting prior to the Fire TV 3.

The new color format setting is essentially now letting you decide if you want the Fire TV to handle the conversion to RGB, in which case you would leave the Fire TV’s color format set to RGB, or if you want your TV to handle the conversion to RGB, in which case you would set the Fire TV’s color format to YCbCr. Without getting into too many details, the YCbCr color space is used by the media industry to optimize a video signal by devoting more information to the parts that the human eye can better perceive. Before the optimised video signal can be displayed on the RGB pixels of a TV, it must be converted to an RGB color space.

Some TVs will produce a better picture if they receive a YCbCr video signal and convert it to RGB themselves. Other TVs do a poor job of converting the color space, so you’re better off feeding them an RGB video signal that they don’t need to convert. The setting you should select for the Fire TV’s video color will depend on which one looks better on your particular TV. If you notice flickering or artifacts while watching a particular video, that would be a good time to pause and switch the Fire TV color format setting to see if the picture improves.

For both the new color depth and color format settings, the Fire TV rightfully warns you that your screen may not display properly if you select a color depth higher than 8-bits or select the YCbCr color format when your TV does not support them. When you change either of these two new settings, the Fire TV will display a message asking you to confirm that you want to keep the change, along with a 20-second countdown that will revert the change if you wait too long. This means its safe to experiment with different options without fear that you’ll lose your video signal without a way to restore it.

It’s great to see that Amazon is now including settings like these for home theater enthusiast who care about getting the absolute best picture quality from their devices.

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12 comments
  1. Bruce says:

    Too bad they removed all the other features starting with the ports!
    Still a deal breaker AFAIC.

    • John says:

      I guess I am confused. The FireTV 3, and I have one here, is positioned as replacement to the fire stick. It had no ports. This one supports OTG and on Friday they are delivering a full ethernet port. So given that it is a replacement to the previous generation Firestick, they added ports, speed and functionality. I don’t get what you think was taken away.

  2. Rob says:

    I could care less about color depth. Give me the ability to pass TRUE DTS sound. Put an optical audio port on the next release.

  3. James says:

    This is great news, as I have an excellent Epson tw9300 projector that can do 4K HDR but unfortunately has a limited HDMI bandwidth (they had to save money somewhere).

    From memory I think it can do 4K HDR at 24fps at 10 and possibly 12 bit rate but cannot manage 4k 60p unless it is 8bit and no HDR.

    If there is going to be 4k 60p content whether games or menu or film, then I hope Amazon will be able to develop this setting to be more automatic or even better, provide an option to downscale 4K HDR to 1080p HDR. More realistically -given the niche situation – I will have to shell out for a converter box like the HD linker.

    Is 4k 60p hdr likely to crop up? Thanks, James

  4. Joe says:

    Surely the article doesn’t suggest the Original Fire TV can only display the 32 or so colors in that 8-bit chart? Clearly when I watch a movie it has far more colors. I’m very confused.

  5. Fergal says:

    What about refresh rate? I was under the impression Fire TV had the ability to support 24hz / 24p with Fire OS 5. I can only see 60hz and 50hz in the settings.

    And something like Netflix where the content is going to be 23.976 fps (24p) definitely didn’t which the box to 24hz.

    Very disappointing.

  6. rob says:

    i just tried this on my BenQ HT2050 projector and wow what a difference in color and clarity. The projector is a 1080P rec.709 projector and handles the 12bit YCbCr mode no problem.

    I have a question though..how is it outputting 12bit color from an Amazon video 1080p stream? Aren’t all bluray dics 8 bit color so I would assume a compressed video stream would be 8bit or less? Is the color being upscaled by the projector? The color of my amazon video streams look better than my bluray discs running on a BD-J6300 Samsung player…

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