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CNET First Look
Vizio's sound bar is a solid pick -- for nowThe Vizio SB4021M-A1 hits a nice blend of features, design, and performance for its price, but better sound bars are coming in a few months.
-Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak at CNET and we're taking a look at the Vizio SB4021M-A1. This is a budget sound bar that came out at the end of 2012 and is currently selling for $270. If you've seen the Vizio sound bar over the last year or so, you're gonna be pretty familiar with this design. It's a relatively sleek look with a glossy black finish with silver accents and angled feet at the bottom. It's not quite as slim as some other sound bars I've seen, but it's still gonna fit comfortably on a TV stand. There's a front-panel display, which is handy, so you can see what level of volume is that, plus some basic controls on the top of the sound bar for when the remote goes missing. The included subwoofer is wireless which is nice because you can place it almost anywhere in your living room, although you'll get the best sound quality if you keep it within 8 feet of the sound bar. It also does need to be powered so you wanna keep it close to some kind of power outlet. The included remote is a cut above the typical sound bar remote. It's got a nice sizeable design plus the button layout is very straightforward. It doesn't have the neat slide-out panel that Vizio's older VHT215 had, but it's still, overall, a good clicker. There's an optical, coaxial, and mini-jack input on the back which should be enough for all your devices as long as you use your TV as a switcher. There's also a USB port which can be used to play MP3s, although it's a clunky solution since you need to navigate your music using the small front-panel display. The big missing feature is built-in bluetooth which is still relatively uncommon on sound bars, but will be much more prevalent in 2013 based on what we saw at CES. Built-in bluetooth is quickly becoming a must-have feature for sound bars since it works with nearly any smartphone or tablet for wireless audio streaming and it's not an easy feature to add to a sound bar with an adapter. Sound quality is good for the price and the Vizio lets you adjust bass and treble to dial in the sound exactly how you like. Movies are its strong suit and they can get plenty loud without distorting even on dynamic action sequences. As you'd expect, it's not as good with music and heavy rock can really reveal its limitations. Vizio's big weakness is that the blend between the subwoofer and the sound bar isn't perfect. And when we compared it to our reference Haier SBEV40-Slim, the Haier really shined in that regard. However, that Haier sound bar is currently discontinued, which puts the Vizio's performance in a better light since it's one of the better performing options that's still available on the market. And that's really the main story with the Vizio. If you need a sound bar right now, this is a solid all-around choice with the good blend of design features and sound quality, but if you can wait a few more months, you'll have a lot more options and most of them will include built-in bluetooth. So, it's worth the wait if you can. I'm Matthew Moskovciak and this is the Vizio SB4021M-A1.