Certainly, it is not uncommon nowadays to find something that is much smaller when you get it out than it looked in the photo, but in the case of the Roku Stream bar, we’re not even slightly cross. It’s something you need to know, of course, that this 4K streamer and TV audio combo is not so much a bar as a kind of angled brick; but if you’re happy to simply better your TVs sound rather than make it truly cinematic, it should still be on your list.
Roku Streambar review 2021: Design
But this is a Roku streamer built into a soundbar, rather than the other way round, so, it’s good to see at least equal focus has been bestowed upon that side of its functionality. Behind its grille, the Stream bar hides four 5 cm full-range drivers and combats its humble 35 cm width by angling two away from the head-on listening position. Though HDMI unlocks this product’s full potential, the Stream bar also has optical and USB inputs on its rear, while Bluetooth is also onboard for wireless streamings. All the cables and batteries are supplied, so, you can always play around with what works best for you. You can experiment with the sound settings, too, which can automatically quieten loud adverts as well as provide the usual voice and bass boosts.
As ever, using the most natural, direct settings offers up the best all-around audio performance, but the Stream bar is very much a tool and anything that helps make your TV sound more easily audible is a considerable bonus. Roku also boasts a super simple set-up procedure. It asks for payment details to make renting and buying content faster later on, but it is so straightforward even the most techno-phobic user will arrive at the home screen soon enough.
Roku Streambar review 2021: Features
The Streambar will work with any television with an HDMI input, outputting 4K HDR at up to 60fps for those with compatible sets. Everyone else will get 1080p Full Hd with lower resolution signals upscaled. It’s a fine way of turning a TV smart, but its impressive array of apps means it could also be used to combat any blind spots in your telly’s own arsenal. Services such as Now TV, and Apple TV, which aren’t yet universally built into sets, sit among the usual suspects such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and a full house of UK terrestrial catch-up apps. It’s a great place to start your search for something to watch, too, even if you end up watching on another more premium or dedicated device.
Simply tapping in or uttering the name of a show, actor, director, or genre using your voice compatible remote will show you where things are available to stream for free or at the lowest cost. The bundled in remote is useful — it has quick dial buttons for Netflix, Google Play, Rakuten TV, and Spotify — but you can make things even easier by using the Roku app, allowing you to search using your phone’s keyboard, view an entertainment guide and send video, music, and photos to your TV.
Roku Streambar review 2021: Performance
Regarding the on-screen action, it is a well-ordered and slick experience. The layout is basic, which here is very much a compliment, and the picture is decent irrespective of the resolution at which it’s being played. There’s a good level of detail — it’s easily recognizable, for example, what is 4K and what is only Full HD — and enough vibrancy to draw the eye. The crisp but bleak palette of His House on Netflix, for example, is well juxtaposed when traveling to BBC iPlayer for a round of House Of Games. Head back 30 years to Peck ham and Desmond’s barbershop is well upscaled, but the Roku also lets us value the huge step up in the native resolution when we cross the Atlantic for The Last Dance. Expected, it isn’t as subtle and doesn’t offer as much depth as a premium streamer might, or the native picture on a high-end TV, but the Stream bar does precisely what it promises and with few complaints.
Roku Streambar review 2021: Sound
In short, it’s functional. And that relates to the Streambar’s sonic performance, too. It isn’t hugely dynamic or spacious, on the way you might expect from dedicated soundbars twice or three times the price, but fundamentally it projects voices well and with a decent amount of detail for this money. There’s decent clarity, and a solid balance devoid of any rough, or sharp edges allows you to turn the Streambar right up without hurting your ears. Perfect, in that sense, if someone in the family needs things louder than others – at least you won’t all have a tinnitus by the end of the evening. Using the Streambar as a Bluetooth speaker backs this up. It isn’t incredibly sophisticated regarding timing or effusive dynamics, but it still delivers music direct to its audience and without much that would have you clamoring for a similarly priced wireless speaker.
Roku Streambar review 2021: Verdict
If you think of the Roku Stream bar as an upgrade on your TV, rather than an entry into a proper home cinema, then it ticks pretty much every box. It doesn’t quite make the five-star grade but does nail those aspects for which it is most commonly going to be used: projection and clarity. For an out-of-the-box boost to TV audio and older sets’ smart features, the Roku Stream bar is extremely low risk for this price. In that sense, it’s something we can wholeheartedly recommend.
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