Over a year after first announcing it, Samsung subsidiary Harman is finally releasing its JBL Link Bar, a smart sound bar that comes with Android TV built-in. The new device effectively doubles as a smart speaker, and does away with the need for any additional streaming devices.
Google and Harman / JBL first announced the JBL Link Bar back in May of 2018, with plans to release the device later that year. The companies didn’t go into details on what caused the delay, but the Link Bar does come with some added complexity, as it effectively functions as 3 devices in 1.
First, the Link Bar is an ordinary sound bar, with the option to attach an external subwoofer for added bass. It also turns any TV into a smart TV, capable of streaming Netflix, YouTube, HBO and more, thanks to the built-in Android TV smarts. And finally, it works even when the TV is turned off, thanks to build-in far-field microphones that effectively turn it into a Google Home-like smart speaker.
The Link Bar comes with 3 HDMI input ports to attach game consoles, Blu-ray players and other external devices, adding some level of voice control to these as well. What’s more, video input from these external devices is combined with Google Assistant functionality, making it possible to access your calendar or check the weather without having to leave that Blu-ray movie you’re watching.
A Harman news release does mention 2 other features worth pointing out: Just like other Android TV devices, the Link Bar will have Chromecast built-in, making it possible to beam videos to the TV from your phone. Also, the sound bar comes with something JBL calls “PrivacySwitch for far-field microphones,” which apparently is a fancy name for a physical mute button.
The Link Bar sells for $399.95, and an optional subwoofer costs another $299.95.