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Polk MagniFi Mini review:Mighty mini sound bar

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The Good The affordable Polk MagniFi Mini is capable of a much bigger sound than its minuscule size suggests. The package is compact and will fit easily into most living room setups. The ability to Cast directly from your phone simplifies music streaming.

The Bad The Wi-Fi connection on my test unit was unreliable, and the ARC-only HDMI input limits connectivity somewhat.

The Bottom Line The Polk MagniFi Mini's mix of features, performance and compact size makes it one of the best sound bars for the money.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 9

If the prospect of a traditional home-theater setup with a half-dozen speakers and a bulky receiver doesn't thrill you, you may want to a consider a sound bar. These small speakers are discreet, easy to set up, and sound much better than your TV's speakers. And they don't come smaller or better-sounding for the money than the Polk MagniFi Mini.

Flexible and affordable, it sounds adept with both movies and music and includes some must-have features. The best is Google Cast, which enables easy streaming from your phone, works with numerous music apps, and even make the MagniFi Mini part of a whole-house music setup. While I found the Mini's connectivity a bit quirky, it's nonetheless an excellent buy.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Everything small is big again. While some gadgets have grown in size, like TVs and cell phones, the prevailing trend in the AV world is toward smaller devices. It applies to everything from Blu-ray players to receivers to sound bars .

The Polk MagniFi Mini is tiny compared to most other sound bars, just 13 inches wide and three inches high. Although constructed of plastic and cloth it's pleasing enough to the eye. Its small size means also means it's less likely than many bars to block your TV's infrared remote control sensor.

A set of lights on the front of the unit are designed to inform you of volume and input selection, although they're mostly incomprehensible for the latter. At least there's a limited number of inputs, and so switching until you find what you want is easy.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlike some other sound bars, the Mini needs to sit upright and can't be wall-mounted, though you could put it on a small shelf. The included wireless subwoofer is minimalist and constructed of hollow-sounding plastic, although it's attractive for the breed.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Usually inexpensive sound bars come with dinky credit card remotes, but not the Polk. Some thought has obviously gone into the Mini's clicker, with its ergonomic design and clearly marked buttons.

Features

The MagniFi Mini is a 2.1-channel sound bar with a wireless subwoofer. The main unit includes two 12mm tweeters and four 2.25-inch drivers, two of which are angled to the side for what Polk calls "SDA sound." The subwoofer features a downward-facing 6.5-inch driver and port.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity is a little better than what you'd expect for a $300 sound bar, with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, optical, a 3.5mm input and HDMI. The HDMI port is a bit strange, though. In my testing I found that its Audio Return Channel (ARC) functionality will only work with a TV -- specifically for listening to onboard sound from smart TV or an OTA tuner. If you have a Blu-ray player or other device, you'll need to use one of the other connections, say optical, or connect it to the TV directly (provided that the TV supports ARC). If your TV doesn't support ARC, you'll have to use another connection.

polk-magnifi-mini-06.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Polk has a long-standing relationship with DTS' Play-Fi wireless technology, so I found it a bit surprising that MagniFi ditches it in favor of Google Cast. Given the potential of products such as the Google Home and the Chromecast Audio, however, Cast has the potential to actually challenge Sonos in the messy multiroom music race. So it's definitely a welcome alternative.

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