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Roku's New Brick-Sized Soundbar Is a Nifty 2-in-1 Streaming Box

Illustration for article titled Rokus New Brick-Sized Soundbar Is a Nifty 2-in-1 Streaming Box
Image: Roku

Roku today unveiled two new products to its streaming line: a revamped Roku Ultra streaming box and a neat little soundbar that works overtime as a streaming device. And true to form, Roku’s made both pretty affordable.

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Finding the perfect streaming option for cutting the cord can feel a bit like picking just one entree at a buffet of delicious offerings. Within a given line of products—whether it be from Apple, or Amazon, or Roku, or Google, or any other number of streaming gadget makers—you’ll likely have several options to choose from, all of which get pricier with each added goodie (such as 4K, Dolby Vision, voice-control, etc.). Roku is a titan in the streaming space, and for good reason: it makes easy-to-use streaming gadgets that are damn cheap for what you get.

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That’s certainly true of its new $100 Roku Ultra, which has a quad-core processor for a snappier experience and faster apps. It’s also Roku’s top-end streaming device, and you’ll get support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, support for Alexa or Google Assistant, a voice-command remote, and shortcut buttons for a more personalized experience. If you want premium streaming but aren’t interested in shelling out for a pricier device like an Apple TV or Nvidia Shield, this is definitely one to consider.

More exciting, though, if you’re in the market for both sound and streaming is the company’s new 4K HDR Roku Streambar, a $130 2-in-1 speaker with Roku built-in. The speaker—which is about the size of a brick—has four drivers that work to hopefully mimic the sound of a much larger soundbar by pointing two directly at the user and two others outward on either side. Roku said the Streambar is meant to be a kind of “gateway soundbar,” maybe for someone who’s relatively new to the space, doesn’t want to drop a lot of money on a traditional soundbar setup (which can get quite pricey), or wants an affordable option for even screens outside the living room.

Illustration for article titled Rokus New Brick-Sized Soundbar Is a Nifty 2-in-1 Streaming Box
Image: Roku

The thing about newer flatscreen TVs is that the on-unit audio seldom meets the visual quality, and most TVs can be vastly improved with a soundbar or decent sound system of some kind. The Streambar will be compatible with any HDMI-ready TV and like the larger soundbar can be boosted by separately sold Roku Wireless Subwoofer and Roku Wireless Speakers. By itself, though, the Streambar seems like it would be a good candidate for improving sound for a TV in, say, a bedroom. Plus, you’re getting a soundbar and a streaming device for the price of what you’d pay for a decent Bluetooth speaker—which, by the way, the Streambar can also double as for mobile devices.

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One downside: It won’t support Dolby Vision as the new Ultra will. You’ll still need to pay for the Ultra if you want the highest quality 4K signal.

Both the new Ultra and the Streambar are available for pre-order and will start shipping in October when they’re also expected to hit stores.

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Lastly, the Roku OS 9.4 update will begin arriving on Roku devices over the next few weeks with some noteworthy changes to the platform. For one, Roku says users can now find The Roku Channel’s Live TV Channel Guide on their device’s home screen. Roku TV users who have an antenna can also access a guide with live streaming and broadcast programming. And the update will also give Roku users more control of their multi-channel speaker systems by allowing them to adjust the volume of their rear speakers separately from their soundbar. Additionally, later this year, Roku’s 4K devices will finally get support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, which also makes them some of the first non-Apple settop devices to work with HomeKit.

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We’ll be checking out some of these software and hardware updates in the week ahead, so stay tuned.

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DISCUSSION

ImALeafOnTheWind
ImALeafOnTheWind

Sticking the streaming receiver in a soundbar is actually pretty diabolical “you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter” level genius. I’m surprised Google/Apple/Amazon hadn’t thought of this before.