Last year’s Roku Smart Soundbar was quite a rage and gave a distinct ability to the otherwise bland world of soundbars. In 2020, the company has followed it up with its toned-down version, the Streambar.
It follows the same compact exterior like that of its predecessor. The Smart Soundbar had some significant caveats, which made it a niche product instead of catering to the masses.
Even otherwise, there are a lot of other soundbars in its price range. As the name suggests, the Streambar is trying to deliver a streamlined, all-in-one solution you won’t get with most of its competitors.
Along with being a soundbar, it is also a Bluetooth speaker and 4K HDR streaming set-top box, making it an enticing prospect. Also, it is upgradable, and you can add wireless speakers and satellites separately.
But does it perform on par or better than its competition? Read on to know. This is our Roku Streambar review.
List of specifications
|Product Dimensions||13.9 x 2.4 x 4.2|
|Wireless Audio Protocol||BluetoothWi-Fi|
|Audio Decoding Codecs||DTS Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
|Subwoofer Type||Can be bought separately|
|Connectivity||1 x HDMI ARC
1 x HDMI Out (shared)
1 x Optical Audio In
1 x USB
- Compact and well-built design
- Doubles up as a Bluetooth speaker
- Excellent wireless compatibility
- Terrible surround sound performance
- Lacks thump and low-bass
What’s in the box?
- Roku Streambar
- Roku Remote
- HDMI Cable
- Optical Cable
- 2 x “AAA” Batteries
- Power Cable
- Power Adapter
- Quick Start Guide
Design and build
I admire Roku as they pack everything you may need as part of their package. The setup is easy and would barely require ten minutes for you to unpack it and power it on. The ergonomics of the Streambar are perfect for a soundbar, and the entire body is made of excellent quality polycarbonate.
The bar’s front and sides are fabric-wrapped (not prone to easily getting ripped like most other soundbars) and have an angled edge design. The bar stretches 13.9 x 2.4 x 4.2-inches and weighs a measly 2.3 kg. The length is half of that of the already small Smart Soundbar. The small footprint ensures that it unobtrusively fits below 55-inchers conveniently.
Most of the Roku Streambar is clean, and it doesn’t even have interface buttons on its chassis. The back of the bar has a cutting for input ports and power cord. Also present are the holes on its underside for wall-mounting the bar.
There are no subwoofers and satellite speakers as part of the package. But Roku lets you buy external ones and attach them for a better and more immersive experience.
The Roku Streambar has a top-notch build, and the plastic body feels excellent. Even the sides and the front covered by fabric (giving it a two-tone finish) is an outstanding addition to the overall aesthetic proposition. Plus, there are rubbers below the bar to ensure it gets a better grip if you decide to place it on the table.
Similar to how Bose produces its soundbars, Roku has opted for a minimalistic venture with its Streambar. There are no controls on the bar, with users only getting a Reset button placed awkwardly on its rear.
At the center of the bar, just about the Roku branding, you will find an LED. It is red when you turn it on. Once the bar is ready, the color changes to solid green. There are other color options, too, for indicating other functions of the bar.
Also part of the package is a small remote. It is barebones and has dedicated keys for all the functions it can perform. The buttons are matte and felt tactile in our time of use.
Even with the budget, the Roku Streambar comes with support for a companion app called “Roku”. It is available both on iOS and Android. It gives you access to the Private Listening mode not accessible via the physical remote. It lets you connect a personal listening device, such as a headphone, to your phone and tablet and lets you enjoy your TV’s output.
The Roku Streambar doesn’t turn itself off in any manner unless you remove the plug or switch it off from the mainboard. Even if you try to power it off via the remote or the app, it will switch off your TV instead. When you connect your TV via the HDMI ARC port, it lets you use your TV remote to manage its basic functionalities.
The Roku Streambar has a decent set of input options. Even though it misses out on a Full HDMI In, it compensates with an HDMI ARC and a shared HDMI Out. Other ports include an Optical In and a USB for Files.
As for wireless connectivity, you get Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It is a pleasant surprise to see both present together, but the soundbar misses out on Chromecast or AirPlay support. It means you can easily connect it with your PDA device and play your favorite content via it.
Talking of audio format support, the Roku Streambar, thanks to its ARC port, performs decently here. You get Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS, which means you can easily play content via streaming sites and those downloaded for offline use. Unfortunately, its Optical In can only play Dolby Digital content, which can be a bummer for some people.
The Roku soundbar doesn’t support 4K content, and it does not surprise us at all. Overall, the Streambar has everything a basic user would expect in it.
The Roku Streambar is a 2.0Ch configuration, trying to be more than merely a soundbar. With the Roku streaming player built-in, it offers a lot more than the traditional bars. It looks minimalistic, is well built, and provides a lot of bang for bucks in the other department. But does its performance suffice the regular user looking for a good soundbar for cheap? Let us delve deeper.
The Roku bar’s stereo frequency is below average. The missing subwoofer means that it doesn’t have the thumping bass. Also, the treble is not on point and sounds veiled out-of-the-box. The center channel performance is better than most of its other aspects. Even though it uses the side speakers for dialogue delivery, the output seems good with accurate separation and excellent clarity.
The stereo soundstage of the bar is okayish. It is wider than the bar itself, owing to the side-firing speakers. There is no software trickery to try to widen it further. The focus is on point, and we could figure out the accurate locations conveniently.
Like the soundstage, the loudness of the soundbar is okayish too. It can get decently loud but won’t suffice for large rooms or a gathering. On the brighter side, it handles higher volume levels well, and it keeps the sound quality intact even though there is some compression going on.
The Roku Streambar has a terrible surround sound performance. It downmixes content into the stereo to accommodate them. Being bass-heavy, we could only feel a heavy sound flowing towards us from the front. The bass also seeps down to other frequencies, resulting in a muffled object representation.
The sound enhancements on board the Roku bar are average at best. It has dialogue enhancement, bass adjustment, but you cannot manage the treble output individually. Thankfully, there are four EQ options to give users some leeway.
Overall, the Roku Streambar’s performance is average in all respects. It has limited channels, offers little tweaks, and so is the loudness. You can add wireless equipment to get more out of it.
As one would call it, a budget soundbar, but the Roku Streambar punches above it in the features department. But its performance is disappointing with its never-ending struggle with bass and loudness. Here is how it stands up against the competition –
The Sonos Beam is a 3.0Ch bar and offers significant upgrades in the performance department. A dedicated center channel means you get crisp dialogues with accurate positioning. It can get loud and provides more leeway for you to play with its output.
The Roku Streambar hits back with more input options. It can also act as a standalone speaker and supports more audio codecs compared to the Beam.
The Sonos Arc is a better soundbar for most situations in most conditions. It offers a more versatile 5.0.2Ch configuration. It also provides room correction and has better performance across the board.
The Roku Streambar gets some points for offering more input options. It can also stream music apps directly and can act as a Bluetooth speaker, offering more options.
Misses the mark where it matters
The Roku Streambar has a lot of features and can be used in a variety of scenarios. It supports voice control, is upgradable, and has streaming abilities. But the performance department brings its downfall, and it would disappoint most fans.
The set of input ports is acceptable, but the wireless support is impeccable. However, the competition is a few notches ahead in terms of sheer sound quality, and we have a tough time recommending it to our viewers unless versatility is their priority.
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