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Popcorn Hour A110 review



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The quest to find the perfect solution for playing your multimedia files on your TV has been a long and hard one and has seen its heroes take all manner of different paths; some include storage, some stream over a network, others include PVR capabilities, while some just play files from USB devices. There's no answer to which is the best solution as that will depend upon how you prefer to store and organise your files but what we can say is which devices are the best at doing certain combinations of those tasks.

Today, then, we're looking at the Popcorn Hour A110, a device that combines three out of four of the above capabilities. Namely you can pop a hard drive in it to store all your multimedia locally, you can also stream media from network locations and it has a couple of USB sockets for reading media from USB storage devices. All in all that's quite a bit of functionality but what really sets the A110 apart from the competition is its format support. This device supports just about every audio, video, and image format under the sun. In other words, it has some serious potential. Let's see if it lives up to it.

Well, if design is a key consideration for your AV equipment you'll be sorely disappointed by the Popcorn Hour A110. Its utilitarian metal case is more reminiscent of a cheap external hard drive than something that would look at home under a TV. That said, if you have a smoked TV cabinet or can in some other way keep the A110 reasonably hidden then the front panel looks suitably sleek and minimalist with just a single USB slot, tiny reset button, the product name, and a few status LEDs breaking the otherwise plain glossy black surface.

It's here that the A110 shows its first differences to the original, but still available, A100. The latter having two USB ports on the front, no reset button, and an extra status LED in the form of a network activity indicator. The status LEDs have also been improved with less light bleed, from one logo to the next, and clearer logos. From left to right, the indicators are for standby, power, and USB activity.

At the back along with a sturdy on/off switch and power socket there is an impressive array of clearly labelled connections. Again, from left to right there are Component, S-Video, and Composite (CVBS) video outputs, then stereo analogue and optical digital audio outputs, HDMI, a B-type USB connector, an A-type USB, and an Ethernet port.

The optical digital audio is another change from the A100, which used a coaxial connector. We're none too fussed as to which is used as they both have their plusses and minuses - optical is a bit more common but coaxial is less fragile. The HDMI has also been upgraded to the 1.3 standard so brings support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio output, as well as Deep Color and automatic audio syncing. Incidentally, the A110 also now decodes DTS audio, something that the A100 couldn't do. None of these changes from the A100 to A110 are things we count as hugely important upgrades but if you're after the best quality signal to be passed to your AV setup then you know which to choose.

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Moogle Stiltzkin

June 16, 2009, 9:51 am

I have owned the Popcorn A100 for roughly a year. This is my setup:

Desktop PC >> Dlink Dir-655 Router >> Aztech Ethernet Homeplug >> another Aztech Ethernet Homeplug located in the living room >> Popcorn Hour >> A/V Receiver >> HDTV

So why do i use the popcorn when i already have a pc ? Well i want to watch the videos avi and mkv videos i download online on my 42'' HDTV hooked to my 5.1 Hifi speaker system in the living room. This is a better experience then watching on a 24'' LCD monitor and using crappy pc speakers or headphones. Not only that, but the popcorn doubles up at a network storage device. The value for popcorn should be a 9/10 i would say.

Looks to me that the A110 is basically a polished up A100 with most of the little problems fixed.

Some pointers i noted:

1. Still no fan inside :{ But you can easily mod it to add one !

2. RMVB support isn't that big a deal. My preference is mostly avi and MKV anyway. But if you really need RMVB support, i believe the new Asus Media device that is similar to the Popcorn does have support. But imho most people including myself won't be that iffed about the lack on the popcorn :p Worse case scenario you could re-encode i suppose which you try your best to avoid.

3. Still no Gigabyte ethernet port :{

4. Edward mentioned about navigating the files. Imho it's not that bad. And for files that won't display when navigating through the screen. So yes if you select video, you still need to browse to the correct folder to find the video files rather then popcorn filter it out for you. Not too big a deal. They probably did it this way because if they filtered all the media to one spot, you cannot find stuff sorted in folders on the drive. All this filter thing does, is if you select video, it won't show any other non video files which is perfectly fine with me.

To show non video files, you either select to show music files, or you go to your Desktop PC and browse there. You can easily use this as a network storage device for your PC as well :}

5. Not many people realise that you don't need a very long ethernet cable laying across your living room space. There are ethernet homeplug devices that can network your popcorn to your Desktop PC through the house electrical wiring and utilize the full speed your popcorn supports. The one i am using is a pair of Aztech Homeplugs. I can stream 1080p mkv videos just fine without any stuttering.

I believe it was Netgear who recently released a homeplug device that has many ethernet ports sort of like a router. This could be a step up from the single ethernet port homeplugs incase you needed additional ethernet ports.

Imho wireless is over rated as the homeplug ethernet port solution is far superior :}

In summary, the Popcorn offers more then the competition and firmware has very good support. So why invest in buying another device when Popcorn is already known for having good support and you can easily update the firmware.


June 16, 2009, 4:12 pm

Digitek's HDX1000 is a solid alternative to the Popcorn - pretty much the same features, and you can sometimes get it cheaper. (IBOOD.com offered it a couple of times for about £160 inclusive). NMT comparison chart at - http://www.networkedmediatank....


June 16, 2009, 5:08 pm

@Moogle: Imho wireless is over rated as the homeplug ethernet port solution is far superior :}

Homeplugs are certainly a good idea, but not much use for using your laptop without wires / IPhone etc. Also Wireless has come a long way, streaming HD from my loft to XBox360 works 100%.


June 16, 2009, 5:24 pm

Hmm. I know it's a bit of a stretch, but the price is dangerously close to that of a PS3, which includes a hard disk and wireless networking in the box as well as being a decent Blu-Ray player.

Oh, and it plays the odd game too ;)

Chris Beach

June 16, 2009, 5:50 pm

The biggest plus for A110 is the ability to play HD sound (DTS-MA and TrueHD) from files (ie bluray and hd-dvd rips) AFAIK there are 2 devices that can do this. The only format it wont play is Dolby Digital+, but its easy to convert that to a full bit rate (1.5mbps) DTS stream and you won't have lost much.

It's interface is a bit clunky but it's somewhat customizable, if your prepared to the put the effort in.


June 16, 2009, 6:36 pm

I have had the Popcorn Hour A110 for a few months now. I have found several issues with it. The main one being I find it freezes when downloading torrents. At first I thought it was an incompatible HD or a broken one but I tried an alternative and had the same issues. It maybe just a fault with the unit itself.

As Moogle said the lack of gigabit Ethernet is a bit of a nightmare but if I remember correctly the hardware support for Network Media Tank is limited and I think all the NMTs use the same CPU and it is just not powerful enough to handle gigabit Ethernet. In fact it doesn’t max out 100Mb Ethernet.

However as mentioned when it comes down to playing your content you can’t fault it. It plays everything you throw at it and once set up an idiot can happily use it.

While I was happy to fork out the £200 for a device that can play anything I do think it has somewhat of a limited lifespan due to things like Intel Atom + Nvidia Ion and Tegra. We have already seen the Acer Revo Nettop that can handle 1080p thanks to the Ion GPU and is competitively priced compared to the NMTs. Granted the CPU is a bit puny but it is only a matter of time before other products start coming out that tick all the right boxes for a HTPC/Media Player


June 16, 2009, 9:01 pm

I have had a A-100 for a year or more and I love it :-) You can create a fancy HTML UI using free tools like YAMJ if you want. Lots of info on the NMT wiki on that stuff. My setup is very similar to Moogle's - using powerline to ship files from a server upstairs to the local hard drive. That said I have happily watched an SD TV file located on the server over the network. Haven't tried it with HD nor have i tried the streaming option from the myIHome server. I have streamed MP3's from upstairs and listened to internet radio (go Triple J!) with no probs at all.

It does the job, it's quiet, it's unobtrusive. What more do you want :-)


June 16, 2009, 9:11 pm

Although I see the appeal of a 'one box to rule them all' HTPC, the advantage the Popcorn Hour has is that it'll play 99% of the stuff you throw at it. You don't need to mess about with codecs or settings etc. as the picture quality is excellent.

However, the new Popcorn Hour is on the way (specs just announced) and this'll have the ability to add a Blu Ray drive to it and play retail DVDs. Might be worth holding out for:



June 17, 2009, 4:12 am

Reviewing this product now is rather outdated and kind of pointless. Its a "geek" product, so to speak, aimed at early adopters. 99% of people who would buy one have already done so and a generation of NMT are on the way to launch right now, which they will all focus on next.

Joe Q Public - this product is too left field for most. And they too have many other products old and upcoming that they will buy before this eg the WD media extender. if they would buy an NMT, there are many others that are prettier and this product wont be interesting to them.

So who is this review aimed at then? A couple who geeks who have been in a coma for the past year and for some bizarre reason down want to buy Popcorn Hour's newer and better successor product? :-)

Seriosuly this review is just so outdated it not even funny. Where were you when the product was launched?


June 17, 2009, 4:40 am

@Kanu: Who made you the overlord of what is and isn't relavent?

We've reviewed the Popcorn A110 because a number of readers asked us to and because a number of more recent products that we have reviewed are direct rivals of it. We're not here to be first, we're here to help the buying public make an informed decision.

Beside which, you're wrong. We never reviewed the A100 because it wasn't available over here - or at least not officially launched - and the A110 that we're looking at here is only a few months old. Just because it's being superceded, doesn't make it any less relevant a product.


June 17, 2009, 1:04 pm

Well it appears my comment about it not being likely to get gigabit ethernet was wrong as davef said the new C-200 has been announced and includes gigabit,a beefier chipset and more RAM.


June 17, 2009, 5:47 pm

@Kanu (A.K.A. Overlord of Relevance)

About this new generation of NMT's that you speak of coming our way....................... are they teenagers?


June 17, 2009, 9:38 pm

"Relevance"? Well Apple can release a pointless hunk of metal with no screen and no way of playing music unless you buy their proprietary headphones - yet the pacesetter of media players gets shelved and is not reviewed until so late that the model is being supplanted with a new one.

Yes, absolutley - its all about "relevance" and "helping the buying public make an informed decision". And I am a Chinaman.....



June 17, 2009, 9:51 pm

Seriously, stop assuming there's some grand conspiracy to everything we do. Apple is a huge company that every member of the buying public is aware of. For us not to be timely in reviewing its products costs us a huge number of page views, which costs us money. We also can't help but be aware of Apple's new products because they have good marketing.

Popcorn Hour, on the other hand, I'd never heard of until someone mentioned its products in the comments for a review I did a few months ago. I've since followed up on this and finely got a product out of them and reviewed it. In turn, you have the audacity to moan.

Now that we're aware of the company and we have a dialogue with them we can look to get hold of its latest product in a more timely manner.

Paul 18

June 18, 2009, 6:25 am

Very keen to see a review of the Xtreamer (http://www.xtreamer.net/) if you can get your hands on one. May take the plunge and order one anyway just based on the spec...

Moogle Stiltzkin

June 19, 2009, 3:56 pm

@Chris: Chris makes a point. I for example had a PS3 already and i did try the streaming option. But there was a few reasons why i got the popcorn hour anyway.

1. More support such as h264, MKV, Flac, OGG, and better subtitle support. PS3 is stable but lacking in format support compared to the cheap but rich in featured popcorn hour.

2. Very good support. Every 1-2 months theres always some fix :}

@dolphin: Seems there is a new up coming Popcorn Hour called the C200. It has gigabyte ethernet ports and more features.

PopcornHour's has upped the ante with their latest C-200 media box which is Blu-ray (& anything else) ready.

{quote}The followup to the popular PopcornHour media streamer series has finally been announced, and the list of features makes it look worth the wait. Revealed in a post on the Networked Media Tank forums {u}{b}the C-200 contains an upgraded Sigma SMP8643 667 Mhz processor, HDMI 1.3 out, two SATA slots, a drive bay for mounting your own HDD, DVD or even Blu-ray drive (requires internal HDD or 1GB USB stick) and supports a list of networking standards, codecs and containers far too long to recount here.{/b}{/u} At first glance, only DivX jumps out as missing from the list, have a look at the forum posting and let us know if you spot. Of course, there's already a video unboxing available, seen after the break (along with the copied list of specs) or check out the full Google translated early hands on impressions from HomeTheater.co.il. The most pressing questions of when will these be available and for how much, will have to be answered at another time.{/quote}






Windows Media Connect

Windows Media Player NSS



Media servers: myiHome, myiHomeLite, myiHomeMS (UPnP), MSP Portal

Third party media servers: WizD, SwissCenter, Llink, GB-PVR

BitTorrent P2P

Usenet downloader

NAS access: SMB, NFS, FTP

Web services

Video: YouTube, Vuze, Revision 3, Videocast, CNET TV, Mediafly, Veoh, Mevio, Bliptv, Break Podcast, CBS Evening News, CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Daily, CNN The Larry King Podcast, NBC Today Show, The CNN Daily, CNN In Case You Missed It, NBC Nightly News, NBC Meet The Press, CBS Face the Nation, Podfinder UK

Audio: Jamendo, iPodcast, BBC Podcast, Indiefeed, CNN News, ABC News

Photo: Flickr Photo, Picasaweb Photo, Pikeo, 23

RSS feed: Yahoo! Weather, NMT Forum, Bloglines, Cinecast, MSNBC News, Traffice Condition, Yahoo! Traffic Alerts, Yahoo! News, Weather Bug

Peer-to-peer TV: SayaTV

Internet Radio: Radio box, Live365 Radio

Media files supported

Video containers:

MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V)


MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS)


Matroska (MKV)

MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4

Video decoder:




MPEG-4.2 ASP@L5, 720p, 1-point GMC

MPEG-4.10 (H.264)







SMPTE 421M (VC-1)



Audio containers:


MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA)





Audio decoder:

Dolby Digital



MPEG-1 Layer 1, 2, 3







Audio pass-through:


Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD

Other formats:

ISO, IFO navigation

Rich Object Based Interactive Graphics

AVCHD navigation

Blu-ray ready (requires addition of compatible BD-ROM and at least 1GB USB stick or internal HDD)

Photo formats:


Subtitle formats:






Sigma Designs SMP8643, 667MHz CPU with floating point coprocessor.


512MB DDR2 DRAM, 256MB NAND Flash

Audio/Video outputs

HDMI v1.3a with CEC, 36bpp deep color, 12-bit xvYCC processing and HDCP 1.2 content protection

Component Video


Composite Video

Stereo Analog Audio

S/PDIF Optical and Coaxial Digital Audio

Other Interface

192x64 dots white text on blue background LCD display, with software adjustable brightness and power off

Power button with standby, reset and full power down

2x USB 2.0 host at the front

2x USB 2.0 host at the back

1x USB 2.0 internal

2x SATA (one occupied by HDD tray)

3.5" HDD tray

Internal mounting for 2.5" HDD

2.4GHz RF Remote Control

Infra-Red Remote Control port (Infra-Red Remote Control optional)


Ethernet 10/100/1000

miniPCI MII interface for 11n WiFi card (optional)


100~240V AC, 50~60 Hz, max 2.5A

typical: 13 W (no additional device installed/attached)

maximum: 70 W


Width x Depth x Height : 425mm x 290mm x 80mm (16.73" x 11.42" x 3.14")


3.7kg (8.3 lbs)

Package Content

Popcorn Hour C-200 (HDD not included)

IEC 60320 C13 power cord

1.5M length HDMI cable

RF Remote Control with 2 "AAA" batteries

Quick start guide{/quote}

{quote}Syabas Announces Next-Generation Internet Media Streaming Settop Box

Versatile Popcorn C-200 now features Blu-ray playback support, a front panel LCD and removable drive bay for either a hard disk drive or Blu-ray player

FREMONT, Calif., June 17, 2009 - Syabas, a leading provider of over-the-top settop software and hardware and makers of the award winning Popcorn Hour A-110, today announced the Popcorn C-200, a next-generation Internet settop box that streams digital content from the Internet or its internal hard drive to your television set and home stereo.¹ Unlike competing Internet settop boxes that support a limited number of Internet audio and video file types, the C-200 supports more than 30, including MPEG 1, 2, 4, AVI, H.264, Xvid, MKV, Windows Media and others.

“In today’s tough economic times, there are people facing the decision to either cancel their cable subscription or their Internet connection to make ends meet,” said Syabas COO, Alex Limberis. “With a C-200, people can experience the best of both worlds, as a lot of compelling content is freely available on the Internet. Today, consumers want to watch programs when they want them, not when a network or cable company tells them it’s okay.”

Like its predecessor, the Popcorn Hour A-110, the C-200 streams news and entertainment content from a number video partner sites such as YouTube, Vuze, Revision 3, CNET TV, Veoh, Blip.tv, NBC, CBS, CNN and BBC and Internet radio sites, such as Radio box and Live365 Radio. Additionally, the C-200 can stream still image content from Flickr, Pikeo and Picasa.

Additional new features of the C-200 include:

A redesigned external shell, which helps the unit better integrate into existing entertainment component stacks

Wireless RF remote control

An LCD display for quickly searching, streaming and/or downloading content, which is useful when listening to music without having the TV on

A gigabit Ethernet connection for lightning-fast file transfers

A front-loading drive bay that can be used to install a hard drive for storing and playing back downloaded content

The ability to add a Blu-ray drive with full support for Blu-ray navigation and Blu-ray Live

AVCHD format and navigation for displaying home video content from AVC format HD cameras

The C-200 includes component and HDMI out for high definition playback on today’s HDTVs. And for audio purists, the device features an optical line out, for playing back content that’s been encoded in Dolby Digital or DTS. The box also plays Wave, AAC and MP3 audio files, among others.

“Unlike competing new media streamers that have been around for less than a year and can require someone to hack a product’s operating system to get them to work, Syabas has been happily shipping media streaming products to satisfied customers around the world for several years,” said Alex Limberis, chief operating officer of Syabas.”


The Popcorn C-200 is expected to be available in July for $299 from http://www.popcornhour.com. The package includes the C-200, an HDMI cable, RF remote control, quick start guide and installation software. Complete product specifications can be found at: http://www.popcornhour.com .

About Syabas

Syabas, headquartered in Fremont, California and with facilities in China and Malaysia, is a leading software developer for inexpensive wired/wireless digital home entertainment products. Syabas products enable users to access content such as high- and standard-definition video, music, photos and services, such as YouTube, Veoh and Vuze, over a local network and the Internet.

¹= Hard drive not included



Moogle Stiltzkin

June 19, 2009, 4:00 pm

So with C-200 seemingly the best dedicated media streamer in terms of pricing and feature set, it still has an archiles heel.

SSA support could be better. This is especially important for the anime community which rely heavily on fansub group SSA subs which is popular.

{quote}The big question for a lot of users will be, is the SSA support actually working this time around? PopcornHour's previous products claimed to support SSA (the subtitle format used by virtually everyone in the Anime fansub community). In fact, it was a hack that just parsed out the timecodes and text from the file, ignoring any styles, effects, animations, or even multiple lines of text at the same time. So typesetting and placement was messed up (translation under a sign? Forget about it.) and it couldn't display two lines at the same time (translator's notes? Two people talking at the same time? Transcriptions of background dialogue? Forget about it).

In other words, it didn't really work for anything but the most basic text.

Let's hope they fixed that this time around.{/quote}

Moogle Stiltzkin

June 19, 2009, 4:08 pm

I just want to disagree on one thing in the review.

When you mentioned that RMVB is used commonly for anime.

Yes some anime distro web sites do re-encode the media to host on their websites for downloads, but this is not what the fansub groups use to encode their videos.

The norm is using avi xvid encodes, not RMVB. The latest trend for the quality fansub groups is h264 MKV which elitist groups like KAA, Thora and Big Guy Fansubs are famous for.

It is less common to find an anime in RMVB compared to AVI which is the main stream online. And people these days are favouring h264 MKV which is gaining ground especially with better pcs making their way into peoples home.

Doc. Caliban

June 29, 2009, 2:52 am

I don't have a PC at home because I do all my gaming and Internet stuff in my office in the evenings and on weekends. I'd like to start watching movies at home though, and all of my content is the typical 700MB - 1.5GB ripped copies of my old DVD collection.

I thought the A110 would be a good option, but I have a friend who is pushing me toward the PS3. The C200 looks very interesting, but not if it's going to be months before it becomes available. Is there anything else I should consider?

Moogle Stiltzkin

July 17, 2009, 10:20 am

If you don't have a pc, how exactly are you going to stream your videos ? These files are digital files you store on a hard drive space which is streamed through a few of these available options:

(A) PC

(B) NAS ( Network attached storage )

(C) An internal hard drive installed into the Popcorn Hour

So somehow your going to have to get the digital media into either of these 3 options before you can view the content on the popcorn hour. The easiest being popping your movie dvd into your pc dvd rom and ripping it into a virtual copy, then either stream it from your pc, or move the file to your NAS to stream from there, or to move the file to an internal drive installed on the popcorn hour.

If you play ps3 games then yeah it would be good to get it, but just to warn you that the media support for PS3 media streaming is much more limited compared to the popcorn hour. So make sure the PS3 supports whatever content your going to be ok with before you get it.

The are alternatives to the popcorn hour which are using the same Sigma Designs chip. Try and google up for Hi Jack's review for network media players as he mentions some alternatives there.


August 28, 2009, 1:30 pm

FYI C-200 now onsale at the Popcornhour site in the US. They will ship to UK. :-)


March 18, 2010, 3:37 am

i see the updated a200 is now out, any chance of a review of this?


January 13, 2013, 4:47 pm

verry good

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