Home / Computing / Peripheral / Popcorn Hour A-300

Popcorn Hour A-300 review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

1 of 8

Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300
  • Popcorn Hour A-300

Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Extensive format support
  • Widespread connectivity & internal HDD support
  • Excellent media playback
  • Completely silent in operation

Cons

  • Expensive, especially with add-ons
  • UI & remote unintuitive at times
  • Only local content displayed dynamically

Key Features

  • Sigma Designs 8647 CPU
  • Comprehensive codec support
  • Houses 3.5in or 2.5in internal HDD
  • Backlit remote control
  • Manufacturer: Popcorn Hour
  • Review Price: £180.00

Does the world really need another media player? With the market flooded with models of all shapes, sizes and prices it would seem not, but no technology sector is ever content to rest on its laurels. More to the point, Syabas, creator of the hugely successful Popcorn Hour range of media players, is convinced there are a few more tricks left in the old dog yet.

3

The Popcorn Hour A-300 is among the company's latest range of flagship players (we shall be reviewing the cream of the crop, the C-300, shortly) and as such it comes full to bursting with features. Out of the box perhaps the biggest surprise is the A-300's size. In an era of sweet-tin proportioned players, the A-300 is a more hefty 265 x 135 x 45mm and weighs in at 1kg. Part of the heft is the switch from the plastic casing of its predecessors to a more substantial aluminium enclosure. The rest is down to the A-300's ability to house a 2.5in or 3.5in internal hard drive (more of later).

Being as long as a netbook means the A-300 can pack a raft of connectivity. To the casual observer the rear of the player may look like something from the space shuttle or a sound studio's mix desk, with component video, composite video, audio out, SPDIF (coaxial and optical), S-video, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet it may not be embarrassed by such company.

In contrast, the front of the player is far simpler with just a single USB 2.0 port and indicators for disk access, power and response to the remote control. One notable omission is integrated Wi-Fi and while a separate connector (the 'WN-160') is available for £25, to charge extra we feel is a bit mean spirited - and wireless performance for Full HD content can be patchy.

Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300

More to the point, build materials aside, none of this is any different from its predecessor the A-200. Thankfully where the real differences start is the most important place in any media player: the software. With the 300 series Syabas has completely overhauled the Popcorn Hour user interface making navigation simpler yet adding more functionality. Now upon switching on the A-300 you are presented with just five icons: 'Apps Market', 'Settings', 'Setup Wizard', 'Network Browser', and 'USB Attached Drives'.

@Bostons

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?

Chris

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.

accident

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?

Gordon394

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.

Gordon394

May 11, 2012, 5:25 pm

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

evanlewis

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.

Gordon394

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.

@Bostons

May 16, 2012, 3:40 pm

@evanlewis
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

teflonmonky

June 5, 2012, 9:56 pm

hi,

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.

Thanks,

mediadummy2012

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?

Guest

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!!!

Taster'sChoice

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!!!

Taster'sChoice

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.

comments powered by Disqus