JBL Link Bar reviews: Android TV is expensive but sounds great

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This might surprise many people, but the speakers that reach the television are generally not very good. This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer (and at a safe price), but the simple fact is that modern TVs are not designed for powerful audio.

It's also a simple fact that not everyone wants to deal with surround sound speakers, although decent wireless setups are now possible for just a few hundred dollars.

  

That's where the sound bars come in. And sound bars not only give you better sound quality, but also add a full operating system so you don't have to also deal with some kind of stick or gearbox.

In mid-2019, JBL Link Bar is an Android TV offering. (We will also see Roku sound bars and Amazon Fire TV this year.) From a multi-level audio company like JBL, you certainly expect the sound quality to be exceptional. (That's right). And Android TV is well known today.

So what happens when the two of you get married together into a $ 399 product? You get a great sound bar with the added benefit of a powerful smart TV platform.

The good

  • Android TV is still a very good option (if it is utilitarian)
  • Audio sounds much better than television alone
  • The remote control is decent.

The bad

  • This is an expensive device
  • Some apps are missing and the operating system may lag a bit
  • You may need an additional remote control

Smarter sound bar

JBL link bar What I like

I always demand decent audio from my home entertainment setup. It doesn't have to be bloody, but I've had surround sound for as long as I can remember. I already have the Traditional 5.1 setting in the past. But in recent years I have used the Vizio soundbar, which is relatively inexpensive and paired with a wireless rear speaker and subwoofer. (I started with the system for under $ 300 but since then I have used an upgraded Vizio model that includes Dolby Atmos and is now available less than $ 400.)

That is the context I used when approaching the JBL link bar. I am not an audiophile, but I know when something sounds wrong. And from the beginning, prices have played a big role in how I think about link bars. (Just like the sound bars that will come from Roku Y Amazon.)

JBL Link Bar is a decent experience for Android TV, but it's hard to justify the price.

JBL's immediate setup and experience is almost as good as possible. And that is the point. You have one thing to connect to. If you use HDMI-ARC connection, You have closed audio and video. Your configuration may be different, of course. But the simplest, you just plug it in and you're done.

After that, just add your Google credentials and sit for a few minutes while the app loads and updates. A mandatory download occurred, so JBL worked on various deals with various companies. It happened

I have set up the part of my Android TV so it might be a little bit faster than most. But a good half hour really is all that is needed, at least initially. Enter the application as YouTube and Spotify will add time, it's more a matter of whether you use it initially.

After that, the Android TV experience is pretty standard. The home screen is still not the easiest to use – it still looks like it was designed by engineers, and there are many things on the screen.

I came to this to be prepared to be beautiful on audio. Not because it's bad, JBL is not known to have bad audio, it's just a lonely soundbar, no subwoofer, not the same thing I used before. (Again, it's a soundbar with rear and secondary speakers.)

But there is a surprising amount of bass coming out of the link bar, kicked out of the ports on both sides. And enough to be completely satisfied with it in my living room, which is very susceptible to echoes. This is whether I listen to music or watch a movie. This is not the same as having springs and sub, but still very good and quite filling. (And while there is definitely no Dolby Atmos, I don't miss it either.)

There is also a lot of channel spacing. Listen to the latest notes in Tools, for example, and you'll hear the movement.

The remote control included with the link bar is decent. It's a matte plastic (except for a round glossy D-pad), so fingerprints aren't a problem. And it's thick enough and heavy enough to feel big. The "OK" button in the center of the D-pad is where the thumb rests, which is good. Below you will find a button to go back, Google Assistant y Casas – I prefer Casas en el medio, because I use them much more than I do Google Assistant. And there is a volume control on the bottom. Overall, this is a good remote control, powered by two AAA batteries.

Google Assistant working properly.You can bark hands-free and are welcomed by the same four LEDs hidden in the same way found on Google Home speakers, which is a nice touch. Or you can use Google Assistant buttons on the remote control to activate things. If you don't want the Link Bar microphone to hear you, there is a physical switch to turn it off.

Expensive headache

JBL link bar What I do not like

One of the most annoying things about Android is that you don't have to get away from the hard knock to discover that things don't always work as you expect.

It may be a little beep you hear when you move from one icon to another on the home screen. At first they just interfere, but then you notice that the tone starts to change a bit if you start moving too fast. It's weird, and you can disable it in settings, but still.

You can buy a better Android TV box and surround sound system for the same price.

Or maybe the delay you see when you bounce. That is something that most people might not notice. But if you have used NVIDIA Shield until now, you will see.

But perhaps the biggest headache is when you load apps like Amazon Main video. I mean, you can't. This is not yet available for JBL Link Bar. Naturally, you can Chromecast videos from mobile to link bar from Amazon Prime Video application, but it is not entirely ideal. And in my case, I ended up with a pretty difficult latency, almost a second. (And unlike Shield, the link bar has no way to adjust it.)

Thus, it has an unreliable $ 399 smart soundbar with one of the largest video libraries. Brilliant

Much love, but …

Should you buy it? It depends …

One thing that has been spinning in my brain with all these sound bars is this: What, exactly, do you get from that money? If what you need is a very good soundbar, here it is.

But it is a sound bar without subwoofer. If you want deep bass and shaking the room, you'll want a subwoofer. And if you really want a surround sound experience, you'll want rear speakers. And nothing comes in this $ 399 package.

4 out of 5

If JBL Link Bar is in a vacuum, nothing matters. But it does not live in a vacuum. He lives in a world where you can get NVIDIA Shield (with the best Android TV experience) and pair it with basic soundbar / rear / sub settings for about the same price. You just have to be willing to go in a little more.

And that's where products like JBL Link Bar become more difficult to sell. This is good. Pretty good even. But that's not the best Android TV experience out there. And the audio, which is great considering it's a soundbar, still has physical limitations on the soundbar. And pairing the submarine is close to doubling the price.

Would you recommend JBL Link Bar? Of course. But I'll also show you how you can get more at the same cost.

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