Popcorn Hour A-300 - Performance

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


User Score:

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.

Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300 5

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.

Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300 7

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…


May 9, 2012, 5:35 pm

Just a couple of comments: The Syabas remote apps are free
Android: https://play.google.com/store/...
IPhone: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app...

You can use NMJ over the network (on networked drives) and it will store the information for later use.

You complain that "to charge extra we feel is a bit mean spirited, especially as wireless performance for Full HD content can be patchy"
So why would they provide a wireless function (inbuilt or external) if the wireless performance is "patchy"

No player is going to perform well over wireless as the bandwidth is too high for standard wireless to cope with (even "n" will struggle)

Hamish Campbell

May 9, 2012, 6:30 pm

So it's ok they charge extra for a wifi dongle as it's not going to perform very well?


May 9, 2012, 9:33 pm

I think his point is that no wireless solution will perform flawlessly when streaming HD video (not just this particular dongle), therefore PH shouldn't be criticised for omitting a feature that many users will never use.

Hans Gruber

May 9, 2012, 9:57 pm

Hey Gordon, bearing in mind the limitations of this device what would you suggest might be a more worthy purchase for those of us (like me) who'd like to have a device like this that can play pretty much anything and also interface with the likes of BBC iPlayer but who prefer a more usable & intuitive interface?

I didn't find the AppleTV a suitable alternative and know very little about all these IPTV type smart tv box things... did this popcorn thing really fall so heavily on usability/internet viewing? Cheers for your informative review btw.

Hamish Campbell

May 10, 2012, 1:23 pm

Just as some extra info, Apple TV of course misses a fair bit of extra functionality, but I've seen you can fork out 30 US for aTV http://firecore.com/atvflash-b...
And this adds a fair bit of 'standard' media player functionality. It has the ability to install the xmbc iplayer plugin, though I'm not sure how simple that is.

Don't know if that helps, or is an option, but is likely to have a decent UI.

I just use miniDLNA from a cheap NAS and play via a bluray/hdd recorder, not all that fancy and not pulling anything off the net, so I'm not the best to answer this.


May 10, 2012, 1:34 pm

I'm extremely confused by this review. You missed a lot of what is built into the unit. You should take a few moments to look over the manual because all the features you reviewed is all the popbox v8 can do and you missed all of the additional features the A300 adds to that budget unit.

I would link to a more rounded reviewer to get an idea how much you missed but I don't want this comment to look like spam and be dismissed..

I'm also very confused by "add-ons raise the already premium pricing a little too high for our liking". What raised the pricing higher for you?


May 11, 2012, 5:23 pm

If you could go into more detail that would be helpful. You state we missed "all of the additional features" but don't give any examples.

This is a strange perspective as we were contacted yesterday by Syabas to thank us for such a well rounded review. As we state the A300 is a powerful system which does many things well, but we feel it could be more intuitive and the price is high.


May 11, 2012, 5:25 pm

I would take a look at the Boxee Box which is more intuitive (though similarly priced)
Or Western Digital's comprehensive range of WDTV media players which cross all budgets.


May 12, 2012, 6:38 am

Hi Gordon - I am looking into purchasing a Media Player and really require the ability to adjust audio sync on the device. I view a lot of downloaded content which every so often suffers from audio sync issues. For the reason I have stuck using a laptop connected to the TV via HDMI and used VLC to playback all content as it offers the ability to adjust the audio in + or - 100 milliseconds increments.

Is this an option on the Popcorn Hour, D-Link Boxee Box or other Media Player you are aware of and is it available for all file types including DVD ISO's?

I understand that it is an option on the WDTV Live but even then a owner and ex sound professional has commented that he would prefer greater control (http://community.wdc.com/t5/WD....

Thanks for a solid article and your response to my query.


May 15, 2012, 5:07 am

Hi Evan, I would argue for your situation you arguably have the best solution. A slightly more elegant one would be a laptop supporting WiDi (http://www.intel.com/content/w... as that connects automatically and wirelessly. Media players offer great convenience and user friendliness, but I have yet to find one which offers the same level of control as a PC. Apologies for the late reply.


May 16, 2012, 3:40 pm

All the popcorn hours can adjust the audio sync +/- 5 seconds is 500ms increments.

I have mine set at -0.25s because of the delay through the amp and only rarely change it


June 5, 2012, 9:56 pm


Can you confirm for me if the A300 will tag and catalogue movies held on my Linux based NAS (QNAP 412)? Or is it only possible on the internal drive as suggested.



June 14, 2012, 12:55 pm

I have been trawling through various products for a while now and don't know if I am looking in the right direction. I need to digitise about 400 DVDs and 50 blu-rays as I have no more space to keep them. I have a Sony Bravia SMART TV and a Sony 5.1 home cinema with integrated blu-ray player. Should I be looking to the likes of WD TV Live Hub/WD Elements/Popcorn A-300/D-Link Boxee Box or is there a simpler solution if I simply want to have simple retrieval and viewing of these films? Is it a case of copying the DVDs onto my laptop and then transferring them to a media device? If I am going to throw the physical copies away, should I actually copy them to an external hard drive (as a back-up) and then batch them over to one of these three. And final (silly) questions: what storage size will I need to fit all of this?


March 23, 2015, 6:56 pm

I'd like to know if I can run Yet Another Movie Jukebox (YAMJ) on this, like I have done for years on (4) A110's I need to replace. Better still, what do I want to replace it with if you have a suggestion? A-410, VTEN, this? There seems to be options a plenty and all I really want to do is play my YAMJ + Aeon library reliably. The files keep growing and the processor and 10/100 jack are both weak links at this juncture. Thanks!!!


March 24, 2015, 6:14 pm

I'd like to know if I can run Yet Another Movie Jukebox (YAMJ) on this, like I have done for years on (4) A110's I need to replace that stream from my NAS. Better still, what do I want to replace it with if you have a suggestion? A-410, VTEN, A-300, A-200? There seems to be options a plenty and all I really want to do is play my YAMJ + Aeon library reliably. The files keep growing and the processor and 10/100 jack are both weak links at this juncture. Thanks!!!


April 9, 2015, 3:45 pm

I answered my own question.. The A200 and A300 can run the Eversion skin from dentedboxes.com - Which, once you get that working, this is an incredible device.

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