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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Four internal speakers
Airplay and Bluetooth
Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri
TV needs HDMI ARC or Optical Port
No Ethernet port
The Roku Streambar is an exceptional value, providing a four-speaker Bluetooth-enabled soundbar and a streaming player in one small, feature-rich device.
We purchased the Roku Streambar so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The best soundbars serve as an alternative to a full surround sound system, while also offering additional features that enhance your entertainment experience. Surround sound systems provide optimal sound, but they take up a great deal of space, they require expensive equipment (think A/V receiver, speakers, streaming player), and it can be a real pain to run speaker wires all throughout your TV room.
Roku’s Streambar attempts to relieve some of the added cost and setup hassles by being the only A/V device you need, providing a four-speaker soundbar and a streaming player in one. Plus, unlike Roku’s previous Smart Soundbar, the new Streambar is a small device that will fit in just about any space. I tested the Streambar for two weeks to find out, taking its design, setup process, audio quality, video quality, and features into consideration.
At only 14 inches wide, the Streambar can fit anywhere. Place it on an entertainment center, on a fireplace mantle, sit it on a desk, or mount it on a wall. It even includes two threaded mounting sockets for easy wall mounting, as well as an HDMI cable, optical cable, power adapter, and voice remote with batteries.
I placed the Streambar on the fireplace mantle in my living room— a sitting room where my family only watches TV occasionally, so we don’t need an entire surround sound system. Plus, I don’t think bulky speakers would really match my mid-century modern living room decor, so I’ve shied away from installing shelf speakers or any sort of large audio system. Fortunately, I barely notice the Roku on the mantle, as the small monotone device doesn’t stand out among the candles, trinkets, and other decor.
At only 14 inches wide, the Streambar can fit anywhere. Place it on an entertainment center, on a fireplace mantle, sit it on a desk, or mount it on a wall.
The front of the Streambar is all grille, with minimal branding to draw your eye. All of the ports—an HDMI 2.0a ARC port, power supply port, optical input, and USB 2.0—are on the back side of the Roku. This makes it relatively easy to hide the wires for a cleaner look.
The Streambar is not all that difficult to set up, but I did experience some frustration with the process. It requires an HDMI ARC port to function with an HDMI cable alone. Otherwise, you have to connect both an HDMI cable and an (included) optical cable. My 70-inch TV is closely mounted to the wall, and it’s difficult to access the back ports.
Usually, I just leave a loosely connected HDMI cable in the back of the TV in case I want to connect an HDMI device, so I won’t have to maneuver around behind the TVor remove it from the mount. Unfortunately, the cable I had connected wasn’t connected to my TV’s HDMI ARC port, so I had to feel around behind my TV and keep trying different HDMI slots until I finally found the right (ARC) HDMI.
The HDMI ARC port is labeled, but if you can’t see behind the TV, it’s tough to find. If you have an older TV, it’s best to make sure you even have an HDMI ARC port or both an HDMI and optical port before deciding to go with the Streambar. Check your TV to see if it has HDMI ARC and CEC. You may also need to enable these features in your TV’s settings.
The Roku Streambar doesn’t have booming bass, but it’s a huge upgrade compared to basic TV speakers.
Another frustration I experienced was with the network connection. The menu showed an option for wired connectivity, but the Streambar doesn’t have an Ethernet port. It turns out you need to purchase a separate USB adapter to get wired connectivity. I wasn’t a fan of the fact that the Streambar lacked an Ethernet port, nor did I like that the interface wasn’t smart enough to remove or include the wired connectivity option based on my current hardware situation. However, Roku can auto-detect your TV’s best picture and check to ensure it meets the requirements. This wasn’t the most seamless process either, and I had to run though it a few times, but I ended up with a beautiful 4K picture in the end.
Other than those few minor annoyances, the setup process was pretty straightforward. The screen walks you through the process with prompts, and you can get everything up and running in less than 30 minutes. The slowest part of the process involves waiting for Roku to add your channels, waiting for any updates, and signing into all of your streaming accounts.
The Roku Streambar doesn’t have booming bass, but it’s a huge upgrade compared to basic TV speakers. The Streambar has four 1.9-inch full-range drivers, with support for PCM and Dolby Audio. The Streambar sounds rich, loud, and full. You can hear vocals very clearly, there’s even a speech clarity feature to enhance dialogue clarity, and you can change between different volume modes for nighttime or leveling. You can also enable Bass Boost to turn up the low tones, but this only moderately improves the bass quality. It really just makes the bass louder, as opposed to making it punchier.
I played a few action movies on the Streambar: “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” and the old X-Men trilogy. I could hear all the action when Obi Wan and Anakin were fighting in the lava, and I could also hear the background music and vocals clearly. The sound was surprisingly immersive, and it didn’t sound too concentrated or as though it was coming from a central point.
The Roku Streambar will likely be an upgrade on its own, but you can pair it with Roku Wireless Speakers or a Roku Wireless Subwoofer for even more powerful sound.
You won’t get all of the premium video features like Dolby Vision or 3D, but the Roku Streambar does support HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) on 4K HDR TVs. It also boasts 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second on compatible 4K TVs, as well as upscaling from 720p to 1080p. Of course, the picture will depend on your TV, but the 3480x2160 picture on my budget Hisense 4K TV looked absolutely incredible.
The biggest benefit to the Roku is its dual purpose as both a streaming player and a fully-functional soundbar—all in a device that’s not much bigger than your forearm. In addition to its streaming and sound perks, the Streambar has Bluetooth for pairing with phones and other Bluetooth devices, and it works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
You can say things like, “Alexa, launch Hulu on Roku” or “Alexa, pause on Roku,” so you can control the device hands-free when you’re not near the remote. Speaking of the remote, there’s a mobile remote on the Roku app, and the main remote has voice control too, so you can navigate menus, adjust the volume, and search with your voice.
The biggest benefit to the Roku is its dual purpose as both a streaming player and a fully-functional soundbar.
This is an incredibly convenient, smart, and versatile device. With Airplay and Bluetooth support, I can use it as a speaker for my phone’s playlist or cast a YouTube video onto my TV screen. Roku has a pretty healthy library of channels, from Hulu to Netflix to Sling to Spectrum. Of course, it might not have every channel, but I’ve yet to encounter a situation where I couldn’t find a show or movie I wanted to watch.
For $130, the Roku Streambar is one of the best soundbars I’ve come across in terms of the value it provides for its price. You get a lot out of this little device—streaming, sound, music, smarts, and more. Plus, it sounds better than most budget soundbars, and it costs about the same as some of the costlier streaming players like the latest Amazon FireTV Cube. If you want a combination soundbar and streaming player for a small space or second TV room, you’ll probably be happy with the Roku Streambar.
You get a lot out of this little device—streaming, sound, music, smarts, and more.
Another compact soundbar, the Sonos Beam, is larger than the Roku Streambar at 2.7 by 25.6 by 3.9 inches (HWD). The Beam retails for $399–about three times the price of the Roku. However, the Beam has much better hardware under its hood, with five class D amplifiers, four full-range woofers, one tweeter, and three passive radiators. The Beam also boasts a five far-field mic array, as well as Alexa built right in, and support for Google Assistant. The Roku Streambar supports Alexa and other assistants, but it doesn’t have an Assistant built-in. One other advantage the Beam has over the Roku is the presence of an Ethernet port, which the Roku lacks.
The Beam doesn’t beat the Roku in every category though. You need to connect a FireTV product to the Beam to get the most out of the device, unlike the Roku which has a complete streaming player built right in. The Roku also has a separate optical port for those TVs that don’t have HDMI ARC, while the Beam requires an adapter. Overall, the Sonos Beam is a higher-end speaker in terms of its audio, but the Roku is much more user-friendly and well-rounded. If you want an all-inclusive device, you’ll like the Roku. If you want a smart speaker for your TV that sounds better, you’ll like the Sonos Beam.
Take a peek at some of the other best soundbars you can buy.
Big features in a small package.
The Roku Streambar is a cost-effective solution for small spaces, living rooms, or secondary TV rooms—anywhere where you don’t want to place a larger or more expensive audio system. It provides great audio and image quality that’ll suit most people’s needs.
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