The Toshiba 49LF421U19, aka Toshiba Fire TV 49″ Best Buy edition, seems like a great deal. On sale it can be had for well under $300 delivered. For an Alexa-enabled Smart TV with 1080p that is not a bad deal. It should be perfect for the PS4 in the game room and double as the “kids TV” — especially during the upcoming Super Bowl party.
However things aren’t all great with this techno-TV.
After getting the TV booted the first time, listening to the annoying “bing” every few minutes until batteries are put in the remote, waiting or an update to download for 5 minutes, then having to sit through a 3-minute infomercial it was time to use the TV. First step — connect to Amazon.
Except You Cannot Connect To Amazon
Despite retyping my password and email address at least 8 different times using the on-screen keyboard … or about 3,978 remote clicks later — I realized there was a problem talking to Amazon. Despite the video having been downloaded and the software update; meaning the network was fine.
Next step — try creating a new account — my advice don’t even try this from the TV; it is literally a 23-step process asking for credit card, and email. Instead create the account with a mobile or laptop browser at Amazon. Sadly you cannot use a phone number already attached to you “real” account. Turns out I never received my email from Amazon for my @lance.bio email address — so I couldn’t try that second account. I give up and decide…
This TV has two modes to choose from when it boots. “Full Mode” which is the mode they REALLY want you to use — it connects to your Amazon account so Amazon can make money back over time for subsidizing these TVs and their technology. The other mode is “Basic Mode” which basically has nothing all-that-smart about it… but it is SUPPOSED TO allow you to at least tune into over-the-air HDTV as well as access your other HDMI inputs. In other words, use that Playstation 4 connected to the HDMI-1 port.
Except — it won’t work. Every time you try to connect to Basic Mode you get a “Sorry, Something is wrong.” error.
No HDMI Inputs Without Software
Something about these new “Smart Fire TVs” is that HDMI access. The TV is completely useless as a standard “Monitor”. NO connecting your DVD players, game consoles, or digital cable boxes if the software isn’t working. With this TV it seems that if you cannot get it to connect to Amazon to get the Amazon Fire TV software fully booted you are screwed.
No FireTV Software = Big Paperweight
Without that software you have a big TV that cannot do anything besides ask you to connect to Amazon or loop continually through “Sorry, Dave – I cannot do that.” messages.
But it CAN be hacked.
Hacking Your Toshiba FireTV
Before starting this process it may help to plug your Toshiba Fire TV into a power strip. You’ll end up power it off-and-on more than once. It must be a HARD power-off… meaning unplugging the TV from the wall. Like most modern appliances and electronics it is never FULLY OFF as long as it is plugged in. For this to work you’ll need to HARD BOOT it, which means killing the power. So unplug it and plug it into a power strip with an on/off switch.
Power the TV off for a few minutes. This lets any capacitors in the TV drain their power reserve. It only takes a little power to keep the memory in the TV to hold onto remnants of the previous Android firmware soft settings.
Getting The Android Boot Menu
This is not the official process to get to the boot menu. It is what worked by trial-and-error and is not foolproof. If you discover the foolproof method, leave comments and let others know. What worked —
1. Power off the TV (hard power off with the power strip)
2. Power-on from the power strip while holding the power button on the right-side of the tv for 5 seconds.
3. When the Toshiba | Fire TV logo appears press the power button right twice (the power button feels like a 4-way toggle but does not seem to have a lot of options).
The Android boot menu should appear. It looks like the same Android boot menu you see on most phones, if you are familiar with that.
Clearing The Firmware
NOTE: Before doing this you are going to need a USB keyboard. Otherwise you’ll quickly learn the remote gets unpaired from the TV and you’ll never be able to select the language menu which is required to pair the remote.
Talk about a horrid user experience design. A hard factory reset now requires a piece of equipment (a keyboard) that does not ship with the TV. Essentially “bricking” the TV. If the software (firmware) engineers put the PAIR REMOTE as the very first item on the boot-up sequence instead of “Select Language” you’d be able to restart the TV without a keyboard. Lame and lazy design.
Back to clearing the firmware
On the menu you scroll by pressing the power on the side of the TV one time. It will highlight the menu options.
To select and item hold in the power until it turns green. When you release the power it will select the menu item.
Select the clear the firmware clear the cache (factory reset does this too, but do it just to be sure).
Select the “reset to factory” option as well.
Do not boot to “boot loader” — this won’t help and will leave you on the initial Toshiba | Fire TV screen forever.
DO reboot / restart the TV.
Having problems with the selection?
NOTE: if the power button long-press trick does NOT select an item — you’ll know because as soon as you press the power the selection moves to the next item even if you hold in the button — you’ll need to do another HARD boot. Power off from the power strip for a few minutes, boot up, and try to get the right power button sequence to get the Android boot menu.
Setup your Toshiba Fire TV
Now that you have done the factory reset, plug in your USB keyboard to the USB port on the side of the TV.
Power on the TV and wait for the firmware to be copied over from the slower NVRAM to the boot memory stack. It will take about 5 minutes. Starting with a Toshiba Fire TV logo then a simple FireTV logo and eventual a FireTV Amazon logo.
You will then be asked to select the language for the interface. This is where the keyboard comes in. Press enter to select English or use the arrow keys if you speak “Canadian English” or “French Canadian”.
Next you will be prompted to hold down the HOME icon on the remote to pair it back to the TV. You can now use the remote to do a standard TV setup. Though I recommend keeping the keyboard connected — turns out it is a great way to type in your password and email address instead of the 3,000-click on-screen keyboard.
And this time the password and email should work to connect you to Amazon. Oh — and basic mode now works too. Which also means you can now select the HDMI-1 input and bring up those Playstation 4 games.
The Software Update
Eventually the FireTV software will update itself again. Apparently the update coming online AFTER you’ve done a factory reset isn’t as destructive as when it happens when you power on the first time.
It is good to get the TV working — but next time it is going to be a TCL or Samsung instead of a Toshiba.