Streaming and Setup
If you’re a planning on using a hard drive or flash storage, the setup process of the Popcorn Hour C-300 is very easy – if a little nerve-wracking for those who haven’t taken a computer apart before. The front 3.5in bay is extremely easy to use, but the other is hidden under the casing. Aware that many will want to use every drive slot possible, Syabas has made it easy to get under the hood. There’s just a single screw holding on the metal lid. Adding a hard drive can be done in under five minutes.
Getting streaming setup is – as usual – much more likely to be fraught. The C-300 supports a wide array of streaming standards including Samba, UPnP and Windows Media Connect, but its approach to setup is relatively hands-off. There is a setup wizard within the box, but it only extends as far as the basics of getting online and setting the region/time info. Once again, Popcorn Hour C-300 is reasonably well-matched to the techy, Bit-torrent/Newsgroup crowd, but less "online 24/7" folk may find setup frustrating and confusing.
On that point, the Popcorn Hour C-300 also supports Bit-torrent and Usenet downloads, plus NAS over SMB, NFS and FTP. Load the box up with a 2TB hard drive and it's a piracy powerhouse - or a lovely home for all those - err - perfectly legal bit-torrents of… your cousin's wedding perhaps.
The Popcorn Hour C-300 comes with its own "app store", which features portals to other online content, as well as the usual social networking gubbins and a couple of extremely basic games. It sounds de rigeur, but these portals are nothing new to media players, and were available in previous Popcorn Hour boxes.
The YouTube app in action
App selection is downright poor. With 60-odd to choose from, the numbers may sound good enough, but all the most important picks are missing. You have Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but Netflix, LoveFilm, iPlayer, 4OD, iTV Player, Blinkbox, Spotify and - well let's just stop there because this is getting depressing - are all missing. Other channels are bitty portals to web channels only small numbers of people will be interested in.
Missing out on every single staple streaming service means the Popcorn Hour C-300 is of very little interest to anyone willing to pay to download or pay to stream content. If you want to consume a mixture of downloaded and streamed content, it just doesn't have the app support. And when the front display is a basic execution of a concept that itself feels a little dated, most hardcore downloaders will be happy with one of Popcorn Hour's cheaper models.
The Popcorn Hour C-300 media box can play just about any video or audio file you have. From this perspective at least, it's a success. However, when it lacks every video streaming service popular in the UK aside from YouTube, is extremely expensive compared with its rivals and still has an interface that feels a little bolted together, it doesn't warrant the price.