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.