Before Google I/O 2018 actually kicked off, Google and JBL had announced a new Android TV device, the JBL LINK BAR. This is part of the Google Assistant-powered lineup from JBL, and it is essentially an Android TV-powered sound bar. That’s new for the Android TV team, as its current products consist of set-top boxes and actual TV models. So this is a new form-factor, and that was evident with the demo we got for the LINK BAR here at Google I/O. This device had a very early version of Android TV and the Google Assistant, so there were plenty of crashes, but it does look very promising. It won’t be launching until the fall, so there is plenty of time to get things working before launch.
With Google Assistant being inside the soundbar, the entire TV essentially becomes powered by Google Assistant. This means you can do things like switching HDMI ports, turning on/off the TV and much more. You can even ask Google Assistant questions while playing a game on a gaming console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. This is what really makes the JBL LINK BAR stand out from the pack. Of course, there is still Android TV here, so you can play your favorite music, movies and TV shows with the Google Assistant here.
JBL has included an actual microphone switch on the LINK BAR, so you can turn off the microphone if you don’t want it to always be listening to you. This, according to Google, is a hardware thing. So that you can’t hack it through software. That’s actually a pretty smart thing on Google’s part, as there will be people looking to hack this so that it can be changed. There is also going to be a Google Assistant button on the remote, so you can press the button and start talking to it, without saying “Hey Google” or “Okay Google”. Which makes it easier for those that just want to start talking to Google. JBL will be adding in noise cancellation, so it won’t pick up background noise, but that was not available in the unit here at Google I/O. There are also plenty of other features not available here, since these are the only three models in existence right now – otherwise known as, very early hardware and software.
According to Google, JBL will be selling this as a soundbar and also with a wireless subwoofer. The soundbar is a 100-watt soundbar which is going to give you some great audio quality, which was our experience in our short demo here at Google I/O. JBL is known for its bass, so that isn’t much of a surprise. But if you do want more bass, there will be a wireless subwoofer available. This is going to be available later this fall, and will be another great option in the Android TV lineup. Currently, there is really only one set-top box available with Android TV, which is the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. But with Android TV venturing out into some different form-factors, we may see others like this soundbar here, launch in the near future.