JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant

Android TV is growing quickly, nevertheless it’s uncommon to see on a shopper gadget that’s not a full-size TV. After a protracted delay, the JBL Link Bar hit the market as the primary Android TV soundbar and I’ve spent the previous couple of weeks utilizing it rather than my Nvidia Shield. For $399, is it for you? Let’s have a look.

JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 6

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JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1
JBL Link Bar Review: A stable soundbar w/ Android TV and a irritating Assistant 1

In case you haven’t been following the product because it was first announced over a year ago, the JBL Link Bar is extra than simply your common soundbar. It’s additionally an Android TV field that may connect with the remainder of your leisure console. Beyond that, it’s additionally a Google Assistant speaker that works even with the TV off. For a product that’s first of its variety, it’s a fairly formidable undertaking.

Hardware & Sound Quality |

JBL is an organization recognized for its sound high quality, and the Link Bar really delivers properly right here. The sound is evident and the quantity is nice at 100W. The bass is the one half that actually lacks with the JBL Link Bar rattling greater than I’d prefer to see.

What simply solves that is JBL’s optional wireless subwoofer. I’ve been capable of take a look at this out since beforehand posting my first impressions, and it actually improves the expertise. This system will get so much more durable to advocate, nonetheless, if you add on a $299 subwoofer to an already-expensive $399 soundbar.

The $299 wireless subwoofer improves the audio expertise tremendously, nevertheless it’s in all probability not value the price

In the {hardware} division, it’s an identical story. The complete soundbar is produced from cheap-feeling plastic. The extraordinarily light-weight design doesn’t assist issues both because it virtually feels hole the place comparably-sized soundbars I’ve used have rather more weight to them.

That’s to not say the Link Bar goes to crumble days after you purchase it, although. The physique itself feels sturdy sufficient, particularly for a product that’s solely going to be sitting in your TV console or mounted to the wall. There’s included {hardware} for the latter too. To its credit score, JBL did handle to get the buttons alongside the highest of the bar proper. They are clicky and don’t really feel as low cost as the remainder of the soundbar.

Recessed at the back of the JBL Link Bar there are additionally 4 HDMI ports, a USB-C service port, a button for pairing a subwoofer, an Ethernet port, optical and AUX audio inputs, and the facility plug. There’s loads of room for many common cables again there, and the connections are agency. The first HDMI port is, after all, for ARC to manage the remainder of your TV and the whole lot labored properly there.

You’ll get loads of HDMI ports, however no USB

What you gained’t discover again there’s a USB port that you should use as the client. This means there’s no method to broaden the storage on the Link Bar previous the measly 4GB built-in. The common Joe may not discover that restrict too proscribing, however if you wish to watch native media or set up any video games, that whole goes to refill quick.

As for the included distant, it’s nothing all that particular. It’s manufactured from the identical low cost plastic because the Bar, and the buttons are clicky but additionally really feel low cost. Still, the connection for the distant is fairly dependable and the structure feels pure.

Software & Performance |

Since the JBL Link Bar is a shopper Android TV gadget, JBL can’t take the identical liberties we’ve seen from the platform’s operator tier. That means the expertise right here is essentially the identical as what you’d see on the Nvidia Shield or Xiaomi Mi Box S.

Android Pie is put in out of the field and also you’ll discover Android TV’s grid-layout on the homescreen with apps and content material options. That expertise is simply pretty much as good as it’s on different platforms when it comes to the structure, with some adjustments right here and there from JBL. For instance, there are much more pre-installed apps on the Link Bar than I’ve skilled on different units. Luckily, the overwhelming majority might be uninstalled. There’s additionally some music always taking part in in the course of the setup course of, which my spouse mentioned reminded her or the Wii’s iconic soundtrack (critically, it’s uncanny).

android tv link bar

Android TV is in its ordinary kind on the JBL Link Bar

As far because the software program is anxious, it’s fairly good for probably the most half on the JBL Link Bar. Performance is what takes away from {that a} bit. General navigation generally sees bits of lag and apps just like the updated Hulu app can see issues stutter occasionally. I wouldn’t name this a deal-breaker by any means, however it’s a bit annoying if you discover it.

The efficiency facet that’s way more annoying is Google Assistant. Whether it’s when the TV is on or when it’s turned off, the response to a “Hey Google” command could be very sluggish. Sometimes it takes a number of seconds for the Bar to react to the wake command, and even longer to course of a command so simple as controlling lights. If there’s one other speaker someplace in your house, odds are it’s going to reply and course of the command earlier than the Link Bar does, even when it’s in one other room.

I actually hope that that is one thing JBL can repair via a software program replace as a result of the thought of mixing all of those units into one makes life rather more easy. But proper now, the expertise is simply irritating.

Also value noting is that JBL has but to replace the Link Bar with assist for Amazon Prime Video. As we noted in a previous article, that’s one thing they’ll have to do to provide shoppers entry to the service.

google assistant android tv

Assistant is sluggish on the JBL Link Bar

Google Assistant dominates the leisure middle |

While the efficiency isn’t too sizzling, the JBL Link Bar is a really sturdy push for Google Assistant in the lounge. With this soundbar, the Assistant can contact each a part of your leisure middle and can be utilized principally it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

When the TV is off, the Link Bar acts like your typical Google Assistant speaker. It will hear and settle for instructions for controlling residence units and listening to music. Since the audio system related to your TV are normally the perfect within the residence anyway, this works out nice.

When you flip the TV again on, a visible part to the Assistant involves life as properly. Asking questions on climate, films/TV reveals, and different queries will see a few of that information on-screen. You may even management playback of some Android TV apps utilizing the Assistant. Regardless of the service, primary playback controls akin to play/pause will work with a voice command as properly.

google assistant link bar

The Assistant may make some duties simpler. If you’ve renamed inputs within the settings, you possibly can merely ask the JBL Link Bar to modify to “PlayStation 4” or “Nintendo Switch” and it’ll go to the suitable HDMI enter. This course of can generally be irritating with conventional soundbars, however because the Link Bar is actually taking the place of your TV’s inputs, it’s simpler and makes your complete setup a bit simpler too. If you’re utilizing one other a kind of inputs, a Nintendo Switch, for instance, you possibly can nonetheless entry the Assistant to ask questions and also you’ll nonetheless get these visible responses.

There are some quirks to the Google Assistant integration, although. The fundamental grievance I’ve seen from early adopters and had myself is that the Link Bar is handled as a TV by Assistant. This means you possibly can’t add the soundbar to a speaker group. Further, the Chromecast integration is sluggish and generally music apps will play via that (with the TV on) as an alternative of solely utilizing the soundbar. Loads of this could in all probability be labored out in future updates, although.

Final Thoughts |

The JBL Link Bar is a product that I’ve been excited to take a look at because it was first introduced. I used to be nervous via its delays that one thing was critically unsuitable with the product, however after utilizing it, I don’t suppose that’s the case. Google Assistant efficiency is the primary grievance for me, nevertheless it’s not essentially a deal-breaker.

It’s nonetheless not a product that’s going to be for everybody. Most TVs now have some form of sensible platform, some even with Android TV. The Link Bar is a product that’s actually solely going to make sense if you wish to exchange the OS in your TV or in case your TV doesn’t have one within the first place.

As a soundbar, this product is nice if a bit overpriced. As a Google Assistant speaker, I’d undoubtedly look elsewhere. As an Android TV, it’s a stable choice with no main flaws. Combining all of these collectively, I’d say the JBL Link Bar is a good choice at $399 if you wish to cowl all of those wants with one gadget. Until the Google Assistant portion is mounted, nonetheless, you is likely to be higher off getting an Nvidia Shield, a Google Home Mini, and a cheaper 2.1 soundbar in the interim. If future updates repair that downside, I might see the Link Bar being an incredible purchase.

jbl link bar

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