Summary

Review Price £229.99

Key Features: Fan-less design; HDD tray; Dual-core 800MHz CPU; VXP video processing engine

Manufacturer: Popcorn Hour

Popcorn Hour A-400 Preview

Introduction

Popcorn Hour has come up with a new media box. It’s more advanced in many respects than last year’s flagship Popcorn Hour C-300, but at £269.99 costs significantly less. And as it lacks the ability to pack-in an optical drive, it’s a good deal smaller too.

Popcorn Hour A-400 - Design

The Popcorn Hour A-400 is one of the company’s dinkiest boxes yet. It’s designed to occupy as small a footprint as possible, giving you more room to spare under your TV. 

Popcorn Hour A-400 7

To add to its lounge-friendly cred, the Popcorn Hour A-400 is also completely fan-less. The underside of the box is corrugated to aid heat dispersal, and running should be entirely silent until you put a hard drive into the thing.

To get the most out of a Popcorn Hour, you’ll need to jam in a hard drive using the easy-access side tray, hook it up to your router via its Ethernet port or buy the optional Wi-Fi adapter. This is the same WN-160 adapter that has been available for years. There’s no integrated Wi-Fi here, as was the case in the A-400’s forebears.Popcorn Hour A-400 4

Popcorn Hour A-400 – Specs

With only a marginally altered design – similar volume, smaller footprint – you might be left asking exactly what the Popcorn Hour A-400 offers over its predecessors. It’s what’s inside that matters.

The Popcorn Hour A-400 has a faster processor, boasting a dual-core CPU instead of a single-core one. To be more specific, it’s a Sigma Designs 8911 processor, running at 800MHz. Popcorn Hour A-400

The main improvements that Popcorn Hour was keen to big-up about the A-400 were its support for 3D content and its improved upscaling.

Popcorn Hour A-400 – Connectivity

Conscious that it’s plying its wares to an ever-geekier, ever more niche crowd - as media player skills in TVs improve - Syabas has ensured it has packed a solid set on connections into the diminutive Popcorn Hour A-400. You get an HDMI 1.4 port as your main TV connection, alongside component video and optical/coaxial audio outputs. Popcorn Hour A-400 5

If installing a hard drive sounds like too much work, the A-400 also provides an SD memory card slot and a USB 3.0 port to let you attach an external hard drive.

Popcorn Hour A-400 – Software

Aside from the benefits of the extra processor grunt, the Popcorn Hour A-400 is similar in-use to its predecessors.  It uses the same remote control as the last wave of Popcorn Hour boxes, and has the same basic software layout.

It’s a slightly dated-looking affair these days, but has thankfully gained a few more services since we reviewed the last Popcorn Hour box. However, with TV streamer boxes available for a fraction of the cost of the A-400 and ever-more TVs equipped with decent media playback skills, it’s clear the main audience for boxes like this is the hardcore downloader crowd. Popcorn Hour A-400 6

For these kinds of users, the super-advanced codec support, the promise of frequent software updates and the ability to reliably slot the box into a wireless home network packed to the brim with terabytes of digital content are paramount.

It’s when under this load that the benefits of the dual-core processor will hopefully shine through, although in our demo the unit wasn’t put under quite that level of strain. Popcorn Hour A-400 2

At £270, the Popcorn Hour A-400 won’t make a lot of sense to most buyers, but it is a well-made little box that deserves a look if your old box has packed it in. What do you think? Are the days of these dedicated media players numbered?

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