While this system seems perfectly sensible, it is somewhat flawed. Essentially, when you enter one of the four options it filters the files you see dependent on your selection – just as you would expect. However, it doesn’t scan the folders for your selected media then display the files in some sort of library interface complete with thumbnails, or album artwork. Nor, indeed does it show them as a simple list. Moreover, it doesn’t even eliminate folders that don’t contain any of the media you’re looking for, instead just giving you the same selection of folders to work your way through no matter which media-type you choose.
Aside from this issue, the menus are intuitively laid out and, although rather basic they get you where you need to go pretty quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Setting up some of the advanced features like the FTP client and bittorent client requires a reasonable level of knowledge but that’s nearly always the case with such things and the process is no more difficult on here than any other system.
So the A110 has its fair share of quirks but once you begin to actually play some files, nearly all of these are forgotten because, quite simply, it plays everything. There’s no file conversion or resizing necessary, just throw any media file at this thing and it will play it. We’ve included the full list at the end of this review simply because it’s too big to fit sensibly in the middle of this text but essentially it’s very, very long and consists of every major and minor file format and codec available, including mkv, Xvid, mov, wmv, avi, flac, ogg, aac, mp3, png, jpg, and gif. The ONLY exception we found is rmvb files which are commonly used to store anime video.
Not only does the A110 support all these formats but it can also play them all flawlessly at up to 1080p resolutions. Playback quality is also decent and certainly is as good as any similar device, though there is an obvious lack of any particularly sophisticated enhancement processing going on so it won’t rival a dedicated Blu-ray player for instance.
We must admit to being dismissive of the web services aspect of the Popcorn Hour A110 at first, as our experience of such things in the past has been underwhelming. However, the YouTube service in particular is a welcome addition, making the A110 a true one-stop media source.
Comparing the Popcorn Hour A110 to other devices on the market, there really isn’t much else that offers the same level of functionality, compatibility, and ease of use that can be had for the same price. The only contender is the A100, which OCZ lists as being about $35 less than the A110. So if you’re not bothered about DTS decoding, HDMI 1.3, and the PATA hard drive, we’d suggest saving the money and getting one of those (if you can find one in the UK).
The Popcorn Hour A110 may not be the most attractive media player on the market and there are cheaper alternatives that support as many file formats and codecs but lack the internal storage and network connectivity. However, if you want the ultimate all-in-one multimedia player, and you’re not fussed about PVR capabilities, then there is no better solution on the market.