- Review Price: £269.99
- Fan-less design
- HDD tray
- Dual-core 800MHz CPU
- VXP video processing engine
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.
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 – 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.
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
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.
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.
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
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.