Roku Streambar Review
The Roku Streambar is a cost effective way of boosting your TV's sound whilst simultaneously adding the best media streaming platform to your setup.
The compact unit looks nice, is well built and has a decent weight to it. It supports one HDMI ARC connection to handle media from other sources, including the TV itself and also has an optical input for those situations where ARC is either unsupported or not the best option.
Set up is dead easy - connect to your TV via HDMI, making sure you use the appropriate ARC supporting socket if there is one, plug it in and power on. The setup is reasonably straightforward but does require you to login or set up a Roku account via a mobile device or computer. You can connect via wifi to your home network and there is the option to connect via Ethernet but it requires a separate USB Ethernet adapter that isn't included in the box. It's a shame that full gigabit ethernet wasn't supported in the device itself as there isn't really a good reason to require an external peripheral - certainly space considerations aren't a factor here.
Once you're up and running you are presented with the familiar Roku user interface - it's not changed a lot over the years and is beginning to look a little tired, but thankfully the apps themselves are very much a more exciting affair. One of the biggest advantages of Roku's ecosystem is the breadth of services covered - while it isn't quite perfect any more, it still - for our money - gives access to the widest range of streaming platforms with just a few exceptions - in the UK, the most obvious exception is the BritBox service which is disappointing as our US friends get access to a Roku app for their localised version of the service.
Other than this it ticks all of the boxes we care about - iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Demand 5, UKTV Play, Now TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, Plex, YouTube and lots more - it's an impressive list given that most other platforms are lacking one or more of these options. We'd love to see BritBox added to the line-up and also maintain that YouTube and Google should be providing their Kids variant of that service on every platform that runs the standard YouTube experience. Restricted YouTube is just not enough to protected kids using the service.
The Roku Streambar is snappy and responsive and works well for 4K HDR video, even over wireless. Unfortunately there's no HDR10+ or Dolby Vision support but you can't win everything.
Obviously the factor that isn't common to other Roku devices is the fact that this one handles audio too - and it's pretty good offering clear sound. It certainly won't challenge the experience you'd get from a full surround system but it's leagues ahead of most TV inbuilt speakers. Unfortunately while it's clear and loud it does tend to lack bass and this makes the audio feel somewhat clinical and lacking in atmosphere. There's certainly a tendency to edge on vibrant rather warm.
The biggest problem we have is that here in the UK we don't have access to the add ons that can take the Streambar from an solid soundbar and turn it into a full 4.1 system with much improved bass. You see, over in the US the Streambar can be paired with a wireless subwoofer and two additional wireless bookshelf speakers but neither of them are available in the UK. And this is unlikely to change going on Roku's past history of only rolling out specific products to the UK market.
Regardless of this obvious limitation, the Roku Streambar is an effective and powerful upgrade to older home cinema setups that lack dedicated surround with the added benefit of turning any HDMI capable TV into a smart TV. Not only that the Roku OS continues to lead the way in the widest support of streaming services despite there now being a couple of holes that need filling.
- Nice design
- Well built
- The best streaming platform
- Better-than-TV audio
- No UK access to wireless sub or speakers
- Not enough bass
- Could do with more input options
- No inbuilt ethernet connection