22 November 2020

REVIEW: Roku Streambar

Sound and vision upgrade

We've been happily reviewing all iterations of the famous Roku device since the site was born waaaay back in 2013. However, in the past those devices tended to be increasingly smaller units or sticks that plugged directly into your TV and gave you access to full-screen streaming services... until now. Upping their name (and the size of the product) we check out the company's latest gadget, the Roku Streambar.

For those not in the know, a Roku device turns any TV with a HDMI input into a smart TV. By connecting to the internet the Roku lets you sign into the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Now TV and watch your favourite shows on the big screen. We've been very happy customers of Roku for nearly a decade now, and even plug in a Roku Stick (this being our pervious favourite) to a TV that is already smart, as we love the Roku user interface so much.

But with the Roku Streambar, not only are you upgrading your TV's streaming service connectivity, you're also upgrading the sound quality. This is essentially a sound bar with a Roku player built into it, so you hook it up via the included HDMI cable, plug into the power, and you get the standard Roku experience, with far above standard sound.

Despite being Roku's largest streaming player to date, the Streambar is in no way a beefy device. It's definitely small as typical sound bars go, measuring only 35cm wide and only 6cm tall. You can mount it on a wall, if that's your desired set-up, but we think it looks great sitting directly below the TV on a table. It's black, pretty unassuming, and features only a single, subtle power light.

Other than the appearance, it's business as usual in terms of the functionality of a Roku device. Set up is always easy, requiring to you sign in with (or sign up for) a free Roku account, then log in to all your streaming services. The included remote is similar to the one bundled with the afore-linked Streaming Stick +, giving you power and volume controls over your actual TV, reducing the need for other remote controls. The remote also features voice controls, which allow you to search for specific shows and films, as well as commanding the player to open a desired channel. All expected, and all very good.

The real difference comes when you start watching something. The Roku Streambar's built-in speakers provide a hell of a kick, and throw out some rich, clear noise that will trump any TV, no matter which one you have it plugged into. Boasting four 1.9 inch full-range drivers, the Streambar positions two dead centre and two at diagonals, meaning you get a 'room filling' experience. 

It isn't just about volume or bass, however. The Roku Streambar can differentiate between different sound being streamed, so it can boost the clarity of human speech and up the 'oomph' of explosions and dramatic soundscapes. And it just does it, without any tweaking or tricky set up. Quite unlike most other sound bars, then.

Making the move from subtle little sticks that disappear behind your TV, to this very obvious, black slab of a speaker, does make a lot of sense for Roku. After all, they've already cracked the picture, streaming, and control games with their players, so why not go for sound enhancements? Sound bars will always make far better sounds than the average TV, smart or not, so combining the tech into one good looking, easy to use, and surprisingly inexpensive package does the job excellently.

Roku was already good, but by adding actual physical enhancements to your viewing experience they've upped their game, in our opinion. Check it out.


Visit www.roku.com

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