Choosing a sound bar largely comes down to sound quality and design, with features being far less important than when evaluating other products. That's what makes the Toshiba SBX4250 ($270 street) a bit of a hard sell: it sounds and looks just about average, but has a great feature set. There's built-in Bluetooth, for wireless audio streaming from most smartphones and tablets, plus it has a ton of inputs, with two HDMI, two optical, an analog, and a minijack. And although the sound bar itself is visually lackluster, the included remote is nicely designed.
The question is whether you need all that connectivity or if you'd be better served by using your TV as a switcher, which is a more elegant solution as long as your TV has enough inputs. Still, if you're buying a sound bar now, there's not much competition at the moment at this price. The Vizio SB4021M-A1 sounds and looks better, but it lacks Bluetooth; pedestal-style sound bars have a nicer design, but you need to spend twice as much to get a system that sounds great. We'd recommend waiting a few more months until new 2013 models start to hit store shelves and seeing how the Toshiba SBX4250 stacks up against the newcomers.
Design: Just another sound bar
If you're looking for style, you won't find it in the SBX4250. The design is about as generic as it gets, with an uninspired black plastic cabinet that feels a little cheap when you pull it out of the box. It's not ultrathin at 2.2 inches, but it will fit comfortably in front of your TV.
The front of the sound bar sports a display in the center of its glossy black panel, which is a nice convenience that's often missing on other models. It's not the brightest or biggest display, but it gives you some feedback as to how loud the volume is and what input you've selected.
The included subwoofer is wireless and has the same ho-hum design aesthetic as the sound bar. Toshiba decided to draw attention to the bass port with a bright silver ring, but it's the wrong kind of attention, at least to our taste.
The included remote is quite good. It's a sizable clicker, unlike the thin remotes that come with many sound bars, plus it has separate buttons for adjusting the bass, treble, and subwoofer volume. The directional pad handles volume adjustment and playback controls, which can be used to control a device connected via Bluetooth, such as a smartphone. A dedicated volume rocker would have been nice, but that's a nitpick on an otherwise solid remote. (Despite appearances, that's not a touch pad on the bottom half of the remote.)
Features: Bluetooth and plenty of ports
For the price, the SBX4250 has a surprisingly good range of features.
The big plus is built-in Bluetooth, which makes it easy to wirelessly stream music from most smartphones and tablets. Built-in Bluetooth is a feature worth looking for in a sound bar, since it adds a lot of convenience and can be cumbersome to add after the fact; dongles like the Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver or Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter work fine, but they add an extra cable and power cord to your setup.