Skip to main content

The Roku Streambar is perfect for dorm-dwelling students

When you go off to college, you probably have a long checklist of things you’d like for your perfect dorm room. Right at the top: TV and sound system. Unfortunately, the average college dorm room isn’t exactly spacious. Most college students have to learn to be efficient with their space, often using their laptops or desktop computers as an all-in-one study/entertainment hub. This is where a multi-function device like the Roku Streambar can up your dorm game substantially.

Launched last year, the Roku Streambar is a capable, compact speaker that can provide the soundtrack for parties, but it’s also a 4K streamer, giving you access to all of your favorite streaming services. Cable was an ’80s baby thing; we’re in the cord-cutting revolution now, and if you’re a college student hitting the books this year, the Roku Streambar is a great investment.

The <entity>Roku</entity> Streambar on a media console with a TV.

It’s small

The Streambar isn’t Roku’s first speaker/player 2-in-1 — the Roku Smart Soundbar came first. But while being a 2-in-1 is a big reason the Streambar is so compelling (we’ll get to that shortly), to appeal to the audience of compact-living minimalists, it first has to pass the litmus test of being small.

If you’re living in a studio apartment or a tiny dorm room, a typical soundbar is not going to fit on your desk. The Streambar is not your typical soundbar, however. It’s only 14 inches long and 2.4 inches tall. That’s downright tiny, and will absolutely fit on even the smallest desks, nestled cleanly right below a computer monitor. Even if you upgrade to the Streambar Pro, that’s only 32.2 inches long and 2.8 inches tall.

A better viewing experience

If you’re using your PC to stream your favorite shows and movies, you know it’s only good if you’re sitting at your desk. If you decide to rotate your monitor to face the bed or sit down on a couch across the room, navigating the experience with a mouse becomes tedious.

There is no replacement for a good remote, and Roku’s remote and interface are among the best. Rather than settling for the subpar browser-based viewing experience that those who stream from their desktops often deal with, the Roku Streambar offers a compelling dual-function device option.

The Roku Streambar on a media console.

The Streambar isn’t going to give the highest level of viewing experience Roku has to offer, but for this application, that’s not necessary. The new Roku Streambar Pro added Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support, but that is a feature someone living in a dorm room might not even want. Their monitor won’t likely support Dolby Vision and it’s unlikely they have a sound system that supports Atmos — 4K stream quality and Roku’s interface is all they need (and they’ll save $50).

We’re not sure we could convince someone who has been streaming from their desktop that the Roku Streaming Stick would be a good use of their HDMI port, but the Streambar is more than a player. It’s a speaker.

Better than stock speakers

While there are a lot of good speaker options out there, audiophile-level audio isn’t at the top of everyone’s list — especially if you’re a student on a budget. For most, headphones and a Bluetooth speaker are all you’ll ever need. Bookshelf speakers like the Harman Soundsticks 4 are too large or cumbersome to deal with in a small space or on a small desk.

All the Roku Streambar has to do is be better than what comes stock with a device, and it achieves this goal, handily. It’s certainly better than what you get with most monitors or laptops and will take up considerably less space than a bookshelf or traditional computer speakers. If you’re going for that minimalist look and also improved sound quality, the Streambar fits the bill.

Better yet, it’s not just a TV speaker. It can be your computer speaker and music player, too. For some, it can even be a gaming soundbar.

A woman holding a Roku Streambar.


The Roku Streambar supports one HDMI out, one digital optical input, and Bluetooth (with Spotify Connect compatibility).

For most people going back to school, the HDMI input to their monitor and the connection to sound via Bluetooth to their computer would satisfy all needs. Most monitors come with at least two input options (either two HDMI or one HDMI and a DisplayPort), which is all you would need to connect to both your PC and the Streambar at the same time. For most college students, this is perfect.

While Bluetooth is plenty for music or YouTube videos, it will have far too much latency to be appealing for many videogames. If your computer happens to support a digital optical connection, though, you’re in business. The Streambar would work great for gaming.

It still remains to be seen how PC gamers respond to suddenly having the option to buy a soundbar specifically for gaming, but manufacturers seem to think the idea is going to take off. And while the Roku Streambar isn’t as suited for gaming as the Panasonic Soundslayer is (it comes with two HDMI ports so that you don’t have to worry about that Optical or Bluetooth connection choice), it still has its uses.

It’s cheap

I think the most compelling reason the Roku Streambar makes sense for small spaces like studio apartments or dorm rooms, other than its compact size, is that it’s cheap. You get both a four-driver speaker and a 4K Roku player for $99. The aforementioned Panasonic Soundslayer is only a soundbar and costs $300. Yamaha’s SR-C20A is a bit easier to swallow at $150 but is probably still too large for small spaces. From a value perspective, Roku has Panasonic and Yamaha beat even if the Soundslayer or the C20A produce better audio.

Roku has a real winner when it comes to a major value-add for folks who are living in small spaces.

Roku Streambar.

Roku is positioning the Streambar to be yet another choice for the many traditional living rooms that are out there, and that’s smart. But we believe it’s better positioned for those who live in an apartment or dorm room and never considered a streaming player before because they don’t own a TV. For them, the Streambar makes a lot more sense. If you’re a dorm-dwelling college student, it’s well worth a look.

Editors' Recommendations

Jaron Schneider
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jaron Schneider is a former award-winning commercial filmmaker and long-time digital imaging expert across the field of both…
Delivered for the holidays, the 65-inch LG C3 OLED TV is $500 off
The LG C3 Series OLED 4K TV in the living room.

If you're browsing the slew of OLED TV deals happening now, in desperate search of a home theater upgrade, but you want it delivered to your doorstep before the holiday gatherings start, you need to make your purchase now. We've looked around and there's probably no better option to give your living room an immediate wow factor than the 65-inch LG C3 Series OLED 4K TV, which is available from Best Buy at $500 off. It's still not cheap at $1,600 instead of $2,100, but we assure you that it's worth every single penny.

Why you should buy the 65-inch LG C3 Series OLED 4K TV
Take a look at our roundup of the best OLED TVs, and you'll see the LG C3 Series OLED 4K TV as our top pick. You'll enjoy amazing picture quality and impressive peak brightness levels on its 65-inch screen, and when it comes to HDR and SDR performance, its color and contrast capabilities are downright fantastic. This is possible because each pixel in an OLED TV is a self-contained organic light-emitting diode, eliminating the need for a backlight and enabling one of the biggest differences between OLED and QLED TVs -- the LG C3 Series OLED 4K TV can achieve perfect black levels. OLED TVs also offer superior response time, wider viewing angles, less power consumption, and better eye comfort.

Read more
This is your last chance to save $100 on the Bose Headphones 700
A man wearing Bose 700 headphones with a moody background.

The Bose Headphones 700 are amazing noise-canceling headphones that you can currently buy with a $100 discount from Best Buy. Instead of $379, you'll only have to pay $279 for them -- but not for long. The offer is close to expiring, and once it's gone, we're not sure if and when you'll get another chance at it. If you're looking for headphone deals, this is among the best ones in the market right now, but you need to hurry because there's not much time left.

Why you should buy the Bose Headphones 700
Bose pioneered the development of active noise cancellation technology, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the ANC in the Bose Headphones 700 is downright amazing. These noise-canceling headphones utilize microphones both inside and outside the earcups to monitor and block the sound from your surroundings. You have 11 levels of ANC to choose from, ranging from full noise cancelling to prevent all distractions to full transparency so that you can hear what's going on around you without having to take the wireless headphones off. With one click, you can activate Conversation Mode, which pauses your music and enables transparency so you can talk to people.

Read more
Hulu content is now available inside Disney+ as a ‘beta’
The Hulu icon in the Disney+ app.

If you've been waiting on pins and needles for the merger of Hulu with Disney+ (especially now that Disney effectively owns all of Hulu), well, that wait is over because you can now get Hulu shows and movies inside the Disney+ app.

And ... that's pretty much all there is to it. It's part of the previously announced "beta" test to bring everything under one roof. (The full, official rollout is said to be coming in March.) And we say "beta" in quotes there because, unlike a traditional beta test that actually requires you to opt into the beta test, this one sort of just happened. The reason for the beta moniker, CEO Bob Iger said in November, is that it's "giving parents time to set up profiles and parental controls that work best for their families."

Read more