The Popcorn Hour A-300’s Setup Wizard makes getting up and running a breeze. It guides you through language selection, internet connectivity, time zone and location and, once these are completed, it also automatically detects network drives (whether on a PC or NAS) and any physically connected media.
From here the first stop is the Apps Market, which at present contains just 62 apps, but these include media content from the likes of YouTube, TED and BBC iPlayer, social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter, access to Flickr and Picassa Web albums, some basic games, and podcast and RSS readers. In addition there are tools such as ‘CD ripper’, ‘Online TV Recorder’ and a broadband speed test. High profile omissions include Netflix and LoveFilm, but it is a decent list and each downloads and installs in under a minute.
While the apps are nice to have, the primary role of the A-300 is playing back downloaded media and here the player excels. Format support on most modern media players is excessive (the Apple TV excluded) and the Popcorn Hour A-300 is no different. MPEG1/2/4, AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, RMP4, XVID, JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, AAC, MP3, WAV, Flac and Ogg are amongst the compatible mainstays, but notably there is also support for 3D MKV and a raft of movie friendly audio including DTS, DTS-HD HR, DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby True HD.
Playback is superb, the Sigma Designs SMP8647 800Mhz CPU at the A-300’s heart able to cope easily with all formats, even full bitrate Blu-ray rips. And the player is fan-less so there is no noise to interrupt your viewing/listening pleasure. This is enhanced by the A-300’s automatic collection of metadata with all content (regardless of legality) given cover art, genre, cast and crew information and synopses. All this data is hyperlinked and can be used to search for similar titles in your collection such as titles sharing the same cast members or director. Happily the A-300 also detects foreign titles offering to download subtitles in any specified language (in association with opensubtitles.org) and separates films from TV.
Furthermore the Popcorn Hour A-300’s remote control is responsive, features more buttons than the one for your TV and even has a backlight to make its use easy in low light. All of which means the A-300 is just about perfect, right? Not quite…