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Roku Streambar review

The Roku Streambar is a great 4K streaming device and decent speaker in one small, well-designed package

Roku Streambar review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The Roku Streambar is an attractive option if you want 4K streaming and a good (but not great) speaker to enhance your TV’s audio.

For

  • 4K streaming
  • Clear, loud sound
  • Compact design

Against

  • Relatively weak bass
  • No Ethernet port
Roku Streambar specs

Size: 14.0 x 4.2 x 2.4 inches
Ports: HDMI, USB, optical audio
Max video resolution: 4K at 60 fps
Supported HDR formats: HDR, HDR 10, HLG, 1080p HD
Supported audio formats: Dolby Audio

All-in-one devices sometimes add up to less than the sum of their parts, but the Roku Streambar really does deliver both a great 4K streaming device and a good speaker in one small, affordable package. 

And when we say small, we mean it. The Streambar isn’t much bigger than a loaf of bread, yet its four drivers produce clear, room-filling sound. As you’ll see in my Roku Streambar review, it’s not as powerful as the premium options on our best soundbars list, but it is an attractive option for anyone looking to improve their television set’s (probably dismal) audio, while also getting high-quality, ultra high-definition 4K video. 

Roku has impressed us over the years with their top-notch streaming devices. They already packed one into the same space as a very decent speaker with the Smart Soundbar; now, they’ve made one even tinier. If you’re a fan of reducing electronic clutter, the Streambar is one of the best streaming devices and may be a dream come true.

Roku Streambar review: Price and availability

The Roku Streambar costs $129.99 and is available at Amazon and other major retailers, as well as Roku.com.

The device costs $50 less than the Roku Smart Soundbar, which is larger and has more powerful audio drivers.

Roku Streambar review: Design

The Streambar measures 14.0 by 4.2 by 2.4 inches inches, making it half the length of the Roku Smart Soundbar. This thing is small. That plus a sleek design and all-black exterior make it extremely unobtrusive, sitting underneath your television or attached to the wall. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are no interface buttons on the chassis, just ports in the back for HDMI, USB power and an optical cable. If you want to hook up the Streambar to Ethernet, you’ll need an adapter, which I personally didn’t mind, but might bother you, if you prefer hardwired connections.

The Streambar comes with the Roku Voice Remote, which is black and rectangular. It features a directional pad and buttons for power, home, voice control and playback, as well as shortcuts for Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and Sling. I use all of those services, but it would be nice if they were programmable instead. The remote is comparable to the voice-enabled remote that comes with the Fire TV Stick and new Chromecast with Google TV.

Roku Streambar review: Interface

[Update Nov. 13: The Streambar now operates on Roku OS 9.4, which supports Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. ]

Setting up the Roku Streambar took a little longer than I expected, due to some necessary software updates and restarts. Overall, though, it’s a smooth, simple process. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The interface should be familiar to anyone who’s used another Roku device. And for anyone who hasn’t, it’s easy to learn and use, if not particularly slick or beautiful. It is customizable, though. You can download various themes with coordinated wallpapers, sounds and screensavers. 

The menus on the Roku Streambar are fairly streamlined. The Roku home screen houses your entertainment apps, like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify. You can reorder these, too, just like on Apple TV and Fire TV. There’s much less focus on Roku-exclusive titles. Yes, the interface highlights the Roku Channel: a repository of free movies and TV shows, which you can peruse on the Featured Free section. But it’s less in-your-face than the trumpeting of Amazon content on Fire TV.

The My Feed tab is a personalization area where you can follow various movies and TV shows. The Movie and TV Stores let you rent and purchase movies via Fandango, while Streaming Channels is an app store. The last navigation items are Search and Settings, which do exactly what you think they do.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It would be nice if Roku’s interface aggregated your content from the different apps in one view, much like Apple TV or the Chromecast with Google TV does, but I don’t mind the simplicity of the design. I’d much rather look at a repository of apps than a giant, scrolling promotion for Prime Video.

Roku Streambar review: Streaming services

The Roku is compatible with almost every streaming app you can think of, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Sling, Peacock,  ESPN, Spotify, Peloton, Pluto, CBS All Access, Fubo, Showtime, Tubi and more.

HBO Max is the most notable exception from the list. Roku and WarnerMedia are still at an impasse on a deal, so if you want your Friends fix on HBO Max, you won’t get it on any Roku device.

Roku Streambar review: Streaming performance

Since the Streambar has most of the same features as a Roku Ultra, it performed wonderfully — steady, clear 4K streaming and fast navigation with little to no lag. I plugged it into a TCL Roku TV through the HDMI Arc port, and the two worked seamlessly together. The Streambar goes up to 4K (at 60 fps) and HDR formats, though not Dolby Vision.Apps opened within seconds, and most movies and TV shows resolved to HD in the same amount of time.

That performance is on a par with most of Roku’s competitors’ products, including Fire TV Stick and Chromecast with Google TV.

Roku Streambar review: Audio performance

The Streambar is also a speaker, and a pretty good one for the price and size. This is not a premium speaker. It’s powerful enough for a small living room, but without a subwoofer, the bass is fairly weak. Roku seemingly intends the Streambar to be a gateway speaker for users to enhance the audio on television sets (most of which have terrible built-in sound). The company is also encouraging customers who want deeper bass to match the Streambar with the Roku TV Wireless Speakers and Roku Wireless Subwoofer.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Streambar has four 1.9-inch drivers, two of which face forward and two of which point to the side, creating a bit of a surround sound effect. It was certainly capable of filling my small living room with sound, even at low volume levels.

Roku’s OS offers several sound modes, volume modes and speech clarity options. Even using the normal preset, the sound was clear and louder than I expected from such a diminutive speaker. Adjusting the various modes helped make TV show dialogue even crisper and background soundtracks even richer. I also appreciated night mode, since I live in an apartment with neighbors nearby. 

Without a subwoofer, though, even the bass boost mode didn’t produce the kind of house-shaking rumbles that audio enthusiasts may want. I watched Inception as a test and the dialogue and action noises came through clearly. But the low notes of the soundtrack didn’t boom as deeply as they did even in my older Yamaha soundbar (with built-in subwoofers).

Roku’s search is sub-par when compared to competitors like Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast. All three of those come with full-featured voice assistants that deliver robust results. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Using Roku’s search, I requested apps, and they either opened, or the result directed me to the app store. But when I asked for movie and TV show titles and people, the results varied wildly. Saying “Avengers” brought me to a Roku Zone that housed Marvel titles available on different apps.

I queried “Reese Witherspoon” and got results for several of her recent TV shows and movies. But when I said “Taylor Swift,” Roku wanted me to download and then open the iHeartRadio app instead of taking me to the already-available Spotify. Not to mention, Taylor Swift is featured in other streaming content besides music. Where were those results?

Roku Streambar review: Features

Now that the Streambar is on Roku OS 9.4, you can use Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. The Streambar also works as a Bluetooth speaker, so you can pair it to your mobile device and play music. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Streambar does sync with Google Assistant and Alexa, so you can use your existing smart home devices to control it. 

Roku Streambar review: Verdict

Our Roku Streambar review discussed how the gadget is a good option just for streaming and it’s a fair option just for the speaker; that both exist in one tiny package is impressive. 

No, the Roku Streambar is not for those who want to blast bass-thumping music throughout a cavernous space. But it is an excellent choice for anybody who’s still relying on their TV set’s built-in speakers. You can enhance your TV sound without dropping a ton of money on a big sound system. On top of that, you get 4K UHD streaming and the reliable Roku OS. 

And fewer devices cluttering up the furniture or wall? That's a big bonus in our book.

  • gm57
    Bought the Roku Streambar but found out that you need to have a HDMI ARC port on your TV but I dont have one only a HDMI ,so really it work for me also the Streambar doesnt have a port for an Optical cable.Very disappointed it has now been returned to the supplier
    Reply
  • jpotucek
    Similar issue, I thought I could connect the Roku Streambar to my existing system (multiple speakers running through a Sony STR DH590 receiver) and pipe the sound through the receiver and the speakers. Nothing doing. I also have a Roku Ultra, which I borrowed and used to test the setup and it worked like a charm. There's something different between the HDMI outputs on the Roku Ultra and the Roku Streambar. I've checked all the menu options and nothing stands out as being "turned off". Still planning on calling Roku, but don't hold much hope there, just want to be able to say I covered all the bases. Anyone have any insight into why the Streambar will not port the audio signal into my receiver? And I'm using the highest end cables known to man.
    Reply