The pandemic has further increased the demand for in-home content streaming. It has not only bludgeoned up sales of Netflix and other content providing services, but has also re-emphasized the need for an excellent audio setup in your home.
For all those who lack ample space to accommodate a full-fledged audio setup, adding a soundbar in the mix is the way to go.
We are today reviewing another budget offering, this time from Roku, the Smart soundbar.
Buy Roku – 2.0-Channel Smart Soundbar from Bestbuy.com
Well, it is a hybrid model which also doubles up as an audio streamer. The soundbar itself is pretty bare bones but offers two optional equipment – a wireless subwoofer and wireless rear speakers. But we are not concerned with the extras today. Is the standalone Roku Smart Soundbar good enough in itself and worth recommending? Let us find out.
This is the Roku 2.0 Smart soundbar review.
List of specifications
|Product Dimensions||32.20 x 2.80 x 3.90 inches|
|Wireless Audio Protocol||Bluetooth 4.2 |
|Audio Decoding Codecs||Dolby Digital |
Dolby Digital Plus
|Subwoofer Type||Not a part of the package. Users can purchase it separately.|
|Connectivity||1 x Optical TOSLINK – Audio |
1 x HDMI Out
1 x USB 2.0
- The dual functionality of a 4K streamer and a soundbar in an affordable package is cool
- Gets loud for a standalone bar
- Voice assistant support
- Lacks sub-bass
- Lacks physical buttons on the bar which is a bummer
What’s in the box?
- Optical cable
- Premium HDMI cable
- Power cable
- 2 x “AAA” batteries
- Roku 2.0Ch Smart soundbar
- Universal voice remote
- Quick start guide
Design and build
The Roku Smart Soundbar costs a shade under $200, but its build will not give you that impression. The bar comes with round ends and is elegantly simple. The construction is mostly black plastic with a thin fabric covering the front and the sides. At 32.20 x 2.80 x 3.90-inches and 2.5 kg, it is slick and unobtrusive. Users will barely have any issues accommodating it under their 55-inches.
The front of the bar houses 2.5-inch drivers. The back of the bar is a clean affair, and there is only a single opening for the power cable and the inputs. Also present are universal holes for wall mounting purposes. The package is devoid of any external subwoofer or satellites.
For a sub-$200 device, the Roku Smart Soundbar performs adequately in the design department. It is not trying to overshadow everything else in the room but follows the other way of keeping it subtly elegant.
The Roku Smart Soundbar goes the traditional way and skips the display. It, instead, has a red light on the bar just below the branding, which flashes when you change any settings. One odd design choice made by the company is getting rid of the physical buttons on the bar.
It means that the users have to switch on their TV to check the settings. In our experience, we found it a nagging issue and would have preferred the bar shipping with some buttons on it.
The soundbar ships with a mid-sized remote that houses all the bar’s features and users get one-tap access to Netflix, Disney, and other content providers, and control all the functionalities too. Like on smartphones, the volume rocker is on the right side.
All the buttons offer tactile feedback, and the plastic housing ensures lightweight.
The Roku Smart Soundbar has support for a companion app called ‘Roku’. It is available on both iOS and Google app store, and the button placement is similar to that of the remote.
It also has all the options to toggle the settings of the bar and an extra – a Private Listening mode. You can use it to listen to the TV via the headphone or earphone connected to the smartphone/tablet that you pair the soundbar with and it works like a charm.
A budget offering will have corners cut, and it is evident here too. There is no Power Saving mode here, but you get HDMI CEC ensuring that you can toggle some features via your TV remote.
For the cost it demands, the Roku Smart Soundbar offers a decent set of inputs. It has an optical and an HDMI Out but misses out on an HDMI In port. It also has a USB 2.0 port for adding your flash drive and playing content from it. Still, it doesn’t have the regular AUX port, which means you will have to resort to wireless connectivity to stream content via your smartphone or other similar peripherals.
As for wireless connectivity, it gets Wi-Fi (a rarity in the segment) and Bluetooth 4.2 support. The soundbar doesn’t support Chromecast and AirPlay, but it has a voice assistant on board if that helps.
For audio format support, there is Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS, and PCM support. There is no Atmos here, as is the case with most budget offerings, but the compatible codecs are adequate to accommodate content from streaming services and Blu-Ray players. There is no HDMI In here, so you can only use its Optical port for connecting it to a source.
The Roku Smart Soundbar doesn’t support 4K playback. Overall, we would have loved to see an HDMI In here to make the package more interesting, but it is a decent one even without it.
The Roku Smart Soundbar 2.0Ch is a budget offering and performs amicably for its price. It is a streamer-cum-soundbar and gives users access to Roku’s streaming media player too. Peeking into its audio abilities, the first thing that we notice is the lack of a dedicated subwoofer. The lack of buttons on the bar means you will have to connect to your TV or manage its settings via the accompanying app.
The bar is a decent upgrade over your measly TV speakers and is an adequate companion for your varied needs. The audio is neutral out-of-the-box and gets decently loud, thanks to the 2.5-inch full-fledged drivers outputting up to 250W of power.
The package doesn’t come with a dedicated center speaker, but the bar replicates dialogues well. Thanks to the well-balanced output, we could make out the origin of the sound, making dialogue-based content lively and crisp.
The lack of a subwoofer means that it struggles to reproduce the thumping bass adequately making it a not-so-great choice for gamers and action movie lovers. The soundbar gets loud enough to accommodate large rooms, but we could feel some compression happening at higher volume levels.
For surround sound impact, there is nothing on board to help the bar, and that shows in real-life performance. You cannot call its performance immersive by any stretch, and all its audio from the side speakers come from the front. Also, it tends to lean towards bass occasionally, which worsens the case. There are no height channels or rear speakers to help you visualize the sound.
For sound enhancements, there are limited options, and we expected more from it. Let’s clear the elephant in the room first – this is a budget option, and there is no room correction here. There are four EQ presets (Normal, Reduce Bass, Bass Off, and Bass Boost), and a Dialogue Enhancement feature with three levels (Off, Low, and High). You can also adjust the bass level and set up night mode.
Overall, it has a decent sound output but lacks enough enhancement options. The lack of a subwoofer means that you will have to sacrifice on bass or attach an optional one. It has a mid-focussed output which caters to mixed usage, and the above-average loudness ensures that it fits large rooms conveniently.
It isn’t easy to pit Roku Smart Soundbar directly against any other offering, as most of them do not come with streaming capabilities. It gives the former an edge over them. If we talk of sound, features, and build, let’s see how it competes with others:
JBL Link bar
As far as sound and versatility go, the JBL Link Bar is a far better option when compared to Roku Smart Soundbar. Both are 2.0Ch setup, but the JBL one is far more balanced and offers more control. It also supports 4K Passthrough and has HDMI In port too.
The Roku bar steers ahead in terms of build and overall volume levels. Its ability of auto volume management is also missing from JBL Link Bar. So the choice comes down to your needs and both offer improvement over each other in some departments.
The Bose Solo 5 is a very similar 2.0Ch offering when compared to the Roku Smart Soundbar. The Bose bar is a bland option when you look into its sound enhancement options, but offers excellent control over the sound and follows a neutral sound profile.
The Roku bar steers ahead by offering Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It also comes with decent sound enhancement options such as four EQ presets, Bass modulation, and others. It also has an HDMI Out port, giving it an edge over the Bose Solo 5.
An entry-level option will always feel incomplete in multiple aspects, making it difficult for us to judge its viability. But the Roku Smart Soundbar does a lot of things well. It can be used as a streamer, has excellent wireless connectivity options for its price, and comes with a companion app to strengthen its case. Unless you are someone who misplaces remotes and has no idea where your smartphone is, the Roku Smart Soundbar is a good upgrade.
Here is the link to the Roku Smart Soundbar on the Bestbuy.com page for you to know more.