Should you’ve bought the room for a fully-loaded AV rack go, for it – there’s nothing fairly like having an enormous 4K TV hooked as much as a real encompass sound system relating to film evening. However, realistically, area in most of our properties comes at a premium, and the less bins and cables we are able to have laying round, the higher.
The Netgem Soundbox HD desires to minimise the fuss round your TV viewing area by being an Alexa-powered soundbar, set-top field and streaming system multi function. It does its job nicely, however like a real Jack of all trades, it’s a grasp of none. Nevertheless, relying on the place you’re planning on inserting it, that will not be a difficulty.
Value and availability
The Netgem Soundbox HD is on the market now with two pricing choices – one at £179, and one at £249 that throws in an Amazon Prime membership. That’s a saving of £9 over shopping for the Soundbox HD and an annual Prime membership individually.
Although the field itself wants some refinement, that’s nonetheless an important deal given every part that’s crammed into the Soundbox HD.
So far as soundbars go, the Netgem Soundbox HD is positively dinky – you can maintain it in a single hand with none problem, which is doubly spectacular contemplating it’s serving a number of functions.
By way of seems nevertheless, it’s about as generic because it will get. The Soundbox HD is a black, material lined rectangular with a plastic strip throughout its entrance edge the place the IR sensor and energy button reside, with matte plastic ends (one with a gap for a bass port). 4 plastic toes increase it barely off the floor it sits on and cease the soundbar from sliding about, or rattling when its bass kicks in.
Flip it round, and on the rear you’ll discover a utilitarian number of ports. There’s a port for connecting the facility brick, a three.5mm AUX In jack, an Ethernet port, an aerial-in port, a USB 2.zero port, and a single HDMI 1.4a reference to ARC. Except you’re making savvy use of your TV’s ARC performance then, you’re not going to have a lot pleasure getting the Soundbox to hook as much as audio from units like video games consoles. For wi-fi connections, dual-band AC Wi-Fi is onboard, as is Bluetooth.
Word that this isn’t a DVR unit – there are not any onboard recording choices, so don’t anticipate to be storing up recordings of your reveals both. It’s as an alternative all about reside TV, catch-up and streaming companies.
A dual-tweeter / woofer combo gives the sound, whereas the Soundbox HD additionally ships with a light-weight battery powered distant management, full with Freeview Play and Amazon Prime Video shortcut buttons. With Amazon Alexa inbuilt, you could not end up wanting to make use of the distant as a lot as barking voice instructions on the soundbar – although that comes with some reservations we’ll talk about in a second.
With a small footprint and unassuming design, the Soundbox HD ought to make a pleasant aesthetic match for screens across the 32-inch measurement.
Options, interface and efficiency
As talked about earlier, the Netgem Soundbox HD desires to be many issues directly – set-top field, streamer, soundbar and sensible system.
Let’s begin with its set prime field credentials. The Netgem Soundbox HD makes use of the Freeview Play terrestrial TV platform, which has an interface that we’ve bought loads of time for. Freeview Play provides a viewer entry to 70 reside TV channels (15 of which broadcast in HD), and 25-odd radio stations.
Presenting content material with massive visible tiles and loads of present data, Freeview Play well gives picture-in-picture preview when scrolling by its menus, and built-in catch-up companies as a part of its 7-day programming information. Stay TV sits alongside bingeable boxsets from BBC iPlayer, ITV Participant, All four, My 5 and UKTV Play, in addition to providing you with shortcuts to the complete catch-up apps themselves. You’ll by no means be in need of methods of discovering one thing to look at for those who’ve missed the reside reveals, that’s for certain.
Alongside the Freeview Play interface is the bespoke Netgem TV interface. This collates content material from numerous totally different streaming companies, together with the partnered Amazon Prime to indie film hub Mubi, and on to actuality TV focussed Hayu and blockbuster rental service Rakuten TV, and even music-orientated streaming companies like Deezer. It’s a tidy hub for all these suppliers, whose apps work simply as you’d anticipate them to for those who’re already making use of their companies elsewhere.
However there are some large title omissions. The place’s Netflix? The place’s Spotify? The place’s the ever-present YouTube? We’ve heard that Netgem is bringing these companies to the desk at a later date, however for now they’re notable of their absence.
It’s price noting too that, whether or not you’re watching reside TV, a catch-up service or a streaming present, the Netgem Soundbox HD is a strictly Full HD affair. There’s no assist for 4K output of any form, so for those who’re trying to pair it with a 4K TV, that’s a black mark in opposition to its title.
Arrange of the Soundbox HD is comparatively painless, although if you wish to make use of the Alexa-enabled options of the soundbar, that’s slightly extra sophisticated. You’ll must pair the speaker together with your Amazon account, however an onscreen tutorial provides you easy-to-follow step-by-step directions to take action.
The Alexa integration itself although will not be fairly what you’re anticipating. The soundbar doesn’t have a microphone inbuilt, as with the Echo Dot-aping Polk Command Bar. So what you’re truly doing is routing requests by an Echo system (or different Alexa voice command unit), which is then decoding your request and sending that information again to the soundbar earlier than it then responds.
Because of this there’s a noticeable delay between making your request, and it being fulfilled by the Soundbox HD – not a crippling one, however one the place you could discover it simpler to only attain for the distant as an alternative. There are many helpful phrases the Soundbox HD understands, however a few of them could be unnaturally convoluted to ensure that Alexa to grasp what you’re on the lookout for – except you’ve managed to lose that distant, you could really feel slightly foolish saying “Alexa, ask Netgem TV to play ‘The Man within the Excessive Fort’”, as an example.
In the case of audio, the Soundbox HD will definitely be an enchancment over most flatscreen TVs’ inbuilt audio, particularly for those who measure your expectations in opposition to its measurement. It will not be appropriate for these used to a premium house cinema expertise, nevertheless it’ll add some oomph to your bass stage, cranks up loudly with out overly distorting, and has a nifty audio possibility for pushing dialogue to the fore. Including yet one more arrow to its quiver, the Soundbox HD additionally acts as a Bluetooth speaker – simply in case it wasn’t already trying to put each gadget in your home out of enterprise.
There’s loads to love concerning the Netgem Soundbox HD in precept – an all-in-one resolution that fulfils all of your AV wants apart from offering a display shall be engaging to many. It appears completely suited to a scholar’s flat or child’s bed room – we spent loads of time testing it with a totally speakerless laptop monitor in a house workplace, and will think about loads of different unorthodox use instances for it too.
But it surely’s a bit tough across the edges when it comes to execution, and presently missing a number of too many core streaming purposes to wholeheartedly advocate.