Most modern TVs focus on stunning, eye-popping visual fidelity but often have lacklustre sound from small built-in speakers with a limited range – so soundbars are a great way to increase the audio quality and make it feel closer to a cinema experience.
American company Roku pioneered streaming back with the first Roku model, developed in collaboration with Netflix back in 2008, and since then have continued to innovate with products like the Roku Streambar.
The Streambar combines a streaming stick including a plethora of streaming services, with high-quality soundbar speakers to offer a nice enhancement to most TVs. The Streambar offers not only up to 4k, crisp visuals but also brilliant Dolby surround sound.
It measures 14” wide, 2.4” tall and has a depth of only 4.2”, making it look a little strange under some of the larger 50” plus TVs. The gadget sits snuggly under your TV and won’t stick out too much, even in a cluttered TV area.
Weighing only 1088.6 grams, it is easy to mount to the wall, adjust or move to another TV.
The ports included on the back are:
HDMI 2.0 (ARC), Optical Input (S/PDIF Digital Audio) which is needed if your television lacks a compatible ARC HDMI port, one USB port which allows you to watch films from USB provided, they are in a compatible format.
The noticeable omission here is the lack of an ethernet port, which could be an issue if you have difficulty with Wi-Fi signals at home. However, a USB to Fast Ethernet adapter option is available.
The ARC is also great if you want the benefit of the enhanced sound even when you’re not using the Roku, so you can run the pumped-up sound with devices like your regular TV apps or a games console.
The Roku user interface looks a little basic, but it is simple, quick, and responsive. It does a good job of collecting all your apps and channels, the tiled screen in one place while also featuring recommendations.
Set up is easy; you can connect any TV with an HDMI port, following the on-screen setup instructions. Once you create a Roku Login and input your payment details, you can then add channels and your various streaming accounts.
When searching for shows, the Streambar does its best to find for free, or at least the cheapest versions, and gives you a list of the various purchasable options.
For TVs that support it, you can benefit from sharp 4k visuals at 60 frames per second and it also features HDR 10 support, so you’ll have excellent image quality, sharpness, and vibrant colours.
The remote control is simple and slim; it includes 4 shortcut buttons for Netflix, Google Play, Rakuten and Spotify which is a good idea in theory, but as I only really use one of them I would have preferred four customisable buttons that I could assign to my streaming services of choice.
It also took me a while to get used to the side-mounted volume buttons which seem a little odd on a remote, resulting in me inadvertently changing volume when just holding it.
Voice searching works relatively well with you being able to explore a huge library to find films and TV shows quickly and effectively.
Featuring all the big streaming services like Netflix, Prime, Disney Plus as well as free streaming services like 4OD, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, it also provides its own content with the Roku Channel.
It even includes some harder to find ones like Now TV and Apple TV, although I was saddened to see there was currently no Twitch support.
Through apps like Tune-in and Spotify, I also use my TV as a radio during the day.
The Roku channel itself is somewhat of a mixed bag with some classics, but most films and TV shows were quite older.
The Streambar works with voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant if you don’t even want the demanding task of using your finger on the remote, but I’m not sure why you would use it other than to mess with people in the next room.
It is also compatible with the Roku app which helps you find additional channels and can also be used as a remote control, if yours, like mine, often hides somewhere.
The Roku mobile app can even allow private listening once you connect earphones which is a handy feature for watching TV without disturbing others. You can also cast videos and music on your TV with the app.
The Streambar is also equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 and is compatible with the following formats H.264/AVC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV), H.265/HEVC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); VP9 (.MKV) so you can watch your own downloaded content via USB.
The four 1.9″ full-range drivers can really pack a punch. Featuring two side facing speakers and two at the front, it gives a surround sound feel and really makes you feel like there are more speakers in there.
The Streambar can be very loud, and the bass was powerful for its compact size to add even more epicness to your favourite movies and video games. So with the increased volume and depth of sound meant Call of Duty nearly gave me and my neighbour’s a heart attack.
The voice clarity feature was also especially useful for films that went incredibly quiet on the voices but incredibly loud with explosions, so I can now understand Michael Bay films.
The current £99.99 pricing makes the Roku Streambar very affordable, providing additional functionality to most TVs and a marked improvement on sound quality.
The Roku Streambar offers a solid enhancement to most TVs and features a comprehensive range of streaming apps to add to your arsenal, offering an impressive enhancement.
It is also a brilliant upgrade option to those with an older TV who don’t yet want to spend a huge amount of cash on a shiny new cutting-edge set but want the benefits of some of the best streaming channels.
It also does a great job of balancing loud actions scenes making them feel epic and weighted without losing dialogue and smaller more intricate sounds that are usually lost.
The sound quality really breathes new life into your favourite films, music and games giving you clear, crisp well-defined sound.
The Roku Streambar is available now for £99.99