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JBL Link Bar review: Android TV in a soundbar is a fantastic idea that JBL very nearly nails

Adding a soundbar is one of the quickest, easiest, and potentially most impressive upgrades you can make to your television, supercharging your entertainment experience with rich, room-filling sound. And while there's no shortage of options out there, supporting tons of extra audio channels or external subwoofers, we’re only now starting to see really smart, connected solutions emerge.

The JBL Link Bar is just such a marriage, wedding Android TV smarts with a 100W soundbar. So instead of just upgrading your TV to sound a whole lot better, it offers a shot in the arm for aging legacy sets that lack built-in streaming or smart-home features of their own.

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JBL Link Bar, the soundbar with Google Assistant and Android TV, will ship this spring

It's been a long road for JBL's Link Bar. First announced in May of 2018, as the first soundbar with both Google Assistant and Android TV built in, it went up for pre-order in August with an expected availability of October, but shipments were delayed and we knew it wouldn't likely come to market before 2019. We have an updated date today, as JBL has announced the Link Bar will come this Spring.

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JBL Link Bar orders delayed, likely won't ship this year

Android TVs and Home units have become the hallmark of a smart home powered by Google. We’ve seen a fair share of Android TV boxes from a variety of manufacturers, including the Nvidia Shield. For the most part, they offered the same features in slightly-different packages. But when Google announced the JBL Link Bar, we witnessed a different product entirely. Sadly, pre-orders for the Android soundbar have now been hit with delays.

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Google hid the JBL Android TV sound bar's best feature: Assistant on all your HDMI inputs

In a private demo yesterday, Google showed us a prototype of JBL's upcoming Link Bar - a high-end sound bar with Android TV and Google Home capabilities baked right in. While they weren't sharing details like the amount of storage it comes with or the chipset it uses (or even if it supports 4K60, though we got the sense it does), they did demo an Android TV feature we'd never seen before.

You see, one of the drawbacks of Android TV has been its inability to provide a "native" control experience for your TV. You can't tell the Google Assistant to switch inputs or adjust the volume if you're not on the Android TV output.

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JBL LINK BAR is the first soundbar with Assistant and Android TV built in

I/O kicks off tomorrow, but Google isn't wasting time. Likely the first among many tantalizing announcements, both Google and JBL have partnered to create the first hybrid Assistant/Android TV device, the Link Bar. Not only is it a fully-featured Assistant speaker and soundbar, but it also gives users a complete Android TV experience.

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