At a Glance
- Compact size
- Well balanced audio
- Easy to set-up
- Limited connectivity options
- Cinema/sports presets sound tinny
- Uninspiring build
If you’re looking for an entry-level soundbar that produces great audio, then the Panasonic SC-HTB490 is a contender – but it does make compromises with a basic build and limited connectivity options.
The Panasonic SC-HTB490 is an affordable soundbar and subwoofer combo, with ARC, optical and Bluetooth connections. It sits on the smaller side, making it a decent option if you live in a flat, or if you want something that will not take over your TV setup.
It won’t deliver the same sort of performance that you’ll find on more expensive soundbars, and it’s lacking on some connection options like Chromecast – but it does have a few perks for the price.
Design & Build
The design of the Panasonic SC-HTB490 is underwhelming. It looks basic, and a quick glance at the Panasonic website shows that it is not distinguishable from other products from the brand. A style icon for your living room, this is certainly not.
Both the soundbar and subwoofer come in a matte black finish. The soundbar features a fabric-covered front, with LED lights to indicate the volume and settings, a standard set-up on many soundbars. The feet on the soundbar feel a bit cheap and aren’t massively sturdy.
Whilst the overall aesthetic isn’t anything to shout about, the size is nice and compact and will fit in with slightly smaller TVs. The soundbar measures 800 x 56 x 101mm and weighs 1.9kg. The subwoofer isn’t quite as dainty, measuring 171 x 382 x 363mm and weighing approximately 5.7kg.
The small dimensions mean the soundbar is easily mountable, and all the necessary screws and wall fittings you need are included in the box.
On the top of the SC-HTB490, there are manual controls for the power, volume, and input/Bluetooth pairing. Ports-wise, you get an HDMI-ARC slot, an HDMI CEC port, a USB port for external devices and an optical input (useful for anyone with an older TV).
With the soundbar, you get an accompanying remote control. On this, you can adjust the power, change the presets, turn the volume and bass up and down and switch the input device. There are also media buttons (play, pause, forward and rewind) but, rather frustratingly, I could not use these with streaming services or YouTube.
Like the soundbar, it is not the prettiest remote I have seen, with a small and flimsy build – but it gets the job done.
Connectivity & Setup
Setting up the Panasonic SC-HTB490 is quite easy. You can connect it either via HDMI ARC, optical or Bluetooth. I opted for the HDMI ARC option – though annoyingly HDMI cables are not provided in the box for this, so I used a spare one I had lying around the house. Once everything is plugged in, simply turn it on and you should be ready to go.
The soundbar includes an extra HDMI port and a USB port, so you have the option to run a few external devices through it. The power cable also attaches from the back. The extension lead for the plug is not the longest, so keep this in mind if cable management is important to you.
The soundbar is quick and responsive to actions, and I did not have any issues with connectivity, even when switching between consoles and streaming sticks.
You can connect the TV and other devices to the soundbar via Bluetooth. However, there is no aptX support, so you will notice a drop in quality if you play anything via this method compared to a physical connection.
One of the biggest let-downs of the Panasonic SC-HTB490 is the lack of support for home ecosystems such as Google Home, Amazon or Apple Home, especially when you consider that numerous cheaper alternatives offer this.
The Panasonic SC-HTB490 features a 2.1 setup, with two full-range, front-firing speakers. The soundbar alone produces 160W output. The wireless subwoofer matches this number, making for a total output of 320W.
This soundbar is a great all-rounder. I used it for action TV shows such as Hawkeye, games like Pokémon Legends: Arceus and various Twitch streams and YouTube videos, and it provides solid sound for all of them, with clear audio and numerous details shining through.
I mainly use the music and news presets on the Panasonic SC-HTB490. The bass on these modes is solid via the subwoofer, which is paired with a great mix of mids and highs – with music, sound effects and dialogue balanced very well without sounding too sharp or muddled.
Sadly, the other presets were nowhere near as impressive. Both the cinema and sports modes apply virtual audio processing, which makes the sound tinny and blown out. The only enhanced element I found was crowd noise in content like football matches. Meanwhile, the standard mode does not provide the same rich mix as the music preset, with the bass non-existent.
The combo is capable of a loud output, especially for this writer who lives in a flat and likes to adjust the audio depending on how late I am watching something – no need to annoy the neighbours, after all. The same goes for the subwoofer, which I never needed to whack all the way up to get good bass.
You will not get the same sort of 3D, immersive audio that you can find on more expensive soundbars, so do not be expecting any cinema-level style sound here.
Price & Availability
The Panasonic SC-HTB490 retails for £349, putting it in the affordable to mid-range bracket of what you would pay for this type of product. You can currently buy it from Panasonic, Currys and Hughes. The soundbar is not available in the US at the time of writing.
Despite the RRP of £349, many stores are selling it for around £100 less than that at the time of writing, and the soundbar went for under £200 when it first went on sale – so make sure you shop around for the best price.
There are some tough competitors that you can get for a similar price to the RRP, or even cheaper, including the Denon DHT-S416 and the Samsung S60T, which have better connectivity options and more premium designs.
If you want to see more options, you can look at our chart of the best soundbars, including those that come with a subwoofer.
The Panasonic SC-HTB490 is not the best-looking soundbar on the market, but its smaller size, decent volume, prominent bass levels and simple setup makes it a great entry-level model – especially for those who live in smaller homes and do not have a massive TV unit. The inclusion of a subwoofer at a soundbar of this price is also a big plus.
That said, the lack of smart connectivity may be a letdown if you wish to use Chromecast or AirPlay to play music. In addition, only a handful of the presets are worth using, leaving those who like to customise the sound disappointed.
Panasonic SC-HTB490: Specs
- Soundbar dimensions: 800x56x101mm
- Soundbar weight: 1.9kg
- Subwoofer dimensions: 171x382x363mm
- Subwoofer weight: 5.7kg
- Wall-mount: Yes
- 320W speaker and subwoofer output
- Multi-colour LED lights
- 2.1 channel system
- HDMI ARC
- HDMI CED
- Optical input