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Popcorn Hour A210: Rolls Royce of a Media Device (1 Viewer)

mattCR

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Hardware: Popcorn Hour A210

URL: http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/index.php?pluginoption=catalog&mainItemId=24


Manufacturer Description:



MKV3D Support


Start to enjoy 3D movies on your Popcorn Hour A-210 today, with the industry first true MKV3D support in a media player! This support is built into the firmware so you do not need to reach for the TV remote and manual switch to 3D mode. In fact we busted the myth that to enjoy 3D movies you need HDMI 1.4 equipment, while our players are HDMI 1.3a, so no need to upgrade your Audio Video Receiver (AVR) afterall.
*firmware upgrade necessary and 3D enable TV needed


All new aluminum box


Enjoy fanless silent operation, while keeping your player cool and reliable. All thanks to our new aluminum chasis design, which is effective at dissipating heat from the CPU.


Video Quality


With better than blu-ray quality video playback and support for more than 100Mbps bitrate support, and 24P frame rate. Start to amaze your friends and family today, and unleash your TV.


BluRay ISO Support
Enjoy your blu-ray backup ISO files with no loss of movie quality and interactive menu support. You will never notice that you are actually watching a ISO file.


Multiple codec and file container support
One of the major benefit of a media player compared to HTPC is you never have to keep track of software or codec updates. Right now, the Popcorn Hour A-210 supports virtually every known file codec or container in the market. We are not resting on our laurels, our software engineers work tirelessly to keep the A-210 up to date.

Language and Subtitle Support

As we are a global company, we recognize the need for localization. The Popcorn Hour A-210 supports more than 20 language and subtitle support. This further enhance your experience with the A-210.


NMT Apps
Turn your Popcorn Hour A-210 to a SMB, NFS or UPNP Server with the NMT Apps. Share your harddrive content in the A-210 to other compatible devices. It work like a NAS and no complicated setup needed. Just hook up a HDD and install the NMT Apps.

I wanted to throw that out right off the bat because the Popcorn Hour NMJ (Net Media Jukebox) represents an entirely different level of hardware. The cost is identical to the Boxee ($199) but the way it performs is as different as night and day.





The Popcorn Hour starts off with a bang. Professional looking menu system and a professional looking box. Contained in brushed black aluminum, the Popcorn Hour starts out very differently then it's counterparts. A few notes right off the bat:


Because of the larger box, it supports a single 3.5" (standard desktop) SATA HDD. This is a great benefit because it's far cheaper to get a large size HDD for a desktop then a laptop; 2TB was easily found locally for under $70, which would be more then enough for most. The Popcorn Hour is also the only box I have so far reviewed that supports Component Output, which allows for connection with older non-HDMI HDTVs, giving those 720P projection sets something to do. The Popcorn Hour also gives you composite and S-Video connectors. There is no connection type you're likely to use that isn't an option on the Popcorn Hour, giving it the broadest support of any of the storage to network devices.


The Popcorn Hour has it's own inbuilt SAMBA server (along with quite a bit of server software) allowing you to easily connect to it over your local network, add and titles. Running it's own Net Media Tank software, it will index the items on your network and give you a video wall experience that is very, very good. I had complained about the slow response times of the Boxee? While the Popcorn Hour took a few hours to index my network, once it was done it moves around as fast as I want, and it sorts through media quickly.

The Popcorn Hour doesn't provide some of the "signature" apps - Netflix or Vudu. But the Popcorn Hour does provide a creative and deep Linux software library that can all be operated from your remote control.








Apps like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and even games, the White House, and a large series of video streams are available. The nice bit for me is that you can pick and chose which applications you actually want installed.


How's playback?


Like the Patriot Box Office, the Popcorn Hour responded quickly to the connection of an external DVDROM drive via USB, and it functioned flawlessly. Discs were readable and easy to use. The Popcorn Hour also prompted me when an audio CD was input, asking me to rip it to different fromats and bit depths. I was able to quickly chose using the remote and away it went.


Support for video formats is fantastic- playback looks great, really great, and the remote interface is easy to use. No matter what video format I through at it, no matter how heavy the content streamed or local, the popcorn hour managed to get through it. A step ahead of the Patriot Box Office and far ahead of Boxee in this regard.


The Popcorn Hour also offers full HD bitstreaming; so it supports DTS-HD/TrueHD and LPCM output. The Popcorn Hour is one of the first units certified for MKV3D container; I have just connected a 3D TV in my office, and I gave it a go, using only sample media, and I can confirm it does work, exactly as promised.

But the part that will get the attention of archivers is the ISO mount utility. For many, storing favorite titles is easiest in MKV. As a container format, it's a good way to "just get to the good stuff" that being the main movie with the audio we want and that's it. But there are some titles that storing an ISO comes in handy. In Media Center, this often means turning to Arcsoft TMT5 inside of the Media Center Shell. But the Popcorn Hour mounted, played, and functioned right off the bat with ISOs, from Bluray to DVD, and it moves through them quickly - very quickly. The menus load super fast, the performance is solid.


To give you an idea, loading the Bluray "Back to the Future" disc one on my Oppo BD-83 took three times longer to get to the menu then the Popcorn Hour was able to get there using a mounted ISO. Menus functioned flawlessly. Popups, branching, and other functions worked within discs I tried.


To put it frankly, the Popcorn Hour A210 could best be summed up as : a WHOLE lot of polish.





Hit the INFO button and all the details pop up. Media type. Frame rate, bit rate, how you it's being displayed, format, options. (The "Actual Clip" is not from the Popcorn Hour, that's me so I could mark the frames that come out to make sure I'm looking at a clip with none of the enhancements turned on)


The Popcorn Hour's functionality real success is how it looks. None of the other units can hold a candle to the Popcorn Hour in visual Display. ISO's looked as good as it gets. DVD presentation is phenomenal. ISOs, folder levels, MKVs.. no matter how you have your DVDs stored, they run exactly as you expect them. The Popcorn Hour's remote DVD navigation is great. I tested a few DVDs with known "Easter Eggs" and getting to them worked just fine, so the way that the Popcorn Hour handles them is fantastic.


MKV management? Controlling chapter stops in MKV is a snap:






The setup menu structure is simple, intuitive and functional





(Please note: I have it set to 720P here just because my HDMI Video Capture Card locks in, and I don't want to capture huge pictures for a review, 1080P is of course supported and native on my screen :)


It's hard to say anything really negative about hte Popcorn Hour. I can just comment on what it won't do. It won't do Netflix. It won't do Hulu. It's not doing video from iTunes. But what it does do, it does fantastically well. Even the Facebook and Twitter interfaces were easy to navigate and use from 10'. But the playback from the Popcorn Hour really stands out.

I was very impressed with the Patriot Box Office at about $90, because for what it was, it was great. The Boxee, while offering Hulu, Vudu, Netflix felt somewhat clunky and didn't offer enough file support. The Popcorn Hour is at the same price level as a Boxee, but it's network support and performance just can't be matched. It handles everything, and it does it fantastically well. This is the only non-HTPC unit I know of that handles MKV3D. It's one of the only that mounts BD ISOs without blinking an eye and gets menu structures correct. Inbuilt SAMBA? You know it.

There are other features on this unit that I won't review, but you can bet they work with the same level of polish as the rest of this unit.


The Popcorn Hour is not an HTPC. It won't do live TV or many of the streaming types. But it is a HIGH QUALITY network streamer. Out of everything I have tested, nothing looks as good as the Popcorn Hour. From the moment you open the box to actually using it, the Popcorn Hour is the kind of unit that screams: "I was BUILT with quality in mind".


Worth a Look


I have a real mixed feeling about many of the network tank devices. Because they don't do live TV, and many don't do Hulu, Vudu, or Netflix, they fall into their own category. At $199, and you'll want to add an optional HDD, you're likely looking at about $250 in a Popcorn Hour. That's more expensive then a Media Center Extender like an XBOX, but then again, you get some nice functionality too. HD Audio that works, MKV3D, a nice interface, a better then average remote, and a Jukebox Platform that is very functional.

At this price point, it isn't the kind of item you'd blind buy. But there is no denying that this unit is full of flat out polish. It is a great performer, fast, with a fantastically well built interface, great output options and incredible format compatibility. Stand Alone Multi-Channel FLAC? No problem. High Bitrate MKV? No problem. ISOs? Video_TS folder structure? MPG? XVID? FLV? Nothing I could throw at it even caused the Popcorn Hour to blink. Performance was fast. Some performance was far beyond expectations. Subtitle Support? Perfect. Angle options? Fine. BD Popup Menus? Work. Multiple Audio tracks in MKV? No problem. MKV chapters? Not an issue.

This isn't the kind of product that gets a major media push and happens at all the distributors. But it reminds me of some of the best audiophile devices of the past, a core concept that is refined, polished, refined again, more polish, tweaked here, tweaked there and upgraded to the point where you can't think of what might be missing.

If you just want a network media tank, I definitely haven't seen anything even in the same league as Popcorn Hour. 4.5/5
 

mattCR

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A few more clips just so I can show some of what this looks like in action.. the CD Ripping Application:






Sodoku?





Twitter






1080P/60FPS content





Music View






I should have a Video Review up tomorrow.
 

Al.Anderson

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Great review Matt, thanks! I've been thinking about a Popcorn Hour for a while now and you may have pushed me over the hump. (I currently just use a Seagate Theater+ connected to a NAS.)


A couple of questions for you, what kind of interface does it give you for DVDs and music? Specifically, can you get a cover view? And for bonus points can you set up playlists for tunes?
 

mattCR

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It supports YAMJ. It by default has a very baren interface, but with YAMJ, you can have a pretty tricked out one. I will have a 2-part video review up later. :)
 

leefuji

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Great review ! I think I'm going buy this one for sure ! If it only had Netflix and Vudu but I think I can live without them for the good features that this unit offers. looking forward to the video review by MattCR .
 

mattCR

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Thanks. I'm putting together a video review of functionality, and then a seperate one that isn't really a review but more a matter of custom apps and how you can "improve" on it using their custom apps (YAMJ, OverSight, etc.)
 

mattCR

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Video Review of how the unit works, please note, the second part will be more about add-on software options. Note: I've captured this in 720P, so if you want to watch it in full screen mode, you can follow it to Youtube or go fullscreen. :)


 

ArchMike

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Good video. I've thought about the Popcorn Hour for mobility, actually. Load it up with movies and take it when I travel. I see you're doing another video on software. It looks like there are three or four different fornt ends. Any chance you can show some of those?
 

ChristopherG

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Any guesses on why it doesn't do Netflix or Vudu? Other than that this seems pretty close to the perfect device for me.
 

mattCR

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I think it's because Netflix is very picky about their platforms, and since PopCorn Hour allows for an OpenSource installer, that may throw off both Netflix and Vudu.
 

ChristopherG

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Back when Netflix was "hungry" I don't suspect they would have been so picky, very irritating.


BTW - mattCR I really appreciate your thorough reviews on these devices - extremely helpful. Thanks!
 

mattCR

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Thanks. I've been working on 3 more, but one of them (for a projector) is really going slower then planned because of some issues with how I want it to turn out, and what they want.. so bah! But I will have one up of the new Roku box and hopefully the projector by Sunday.
 

Edwin-S

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How exactly are you guys ripping BDs and DVDs to hard drive based media servers? I thought that was illegal under your DMCA laws or whatever name that piece of fascism goes by.
 

mattCR

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NMT has introduced a new version, the PopCorn Hour A-300:


http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/index.php?pluginoption=catalog&mainItemId=45



Accelerate Your Entertainment Mesmerize your audience with a lightning fast media jukebox experience and seamless navigation using a liquid smooth Adobe Flash based user interface. The A-300 accelerates your digital life with the following enhancements: All new Sigma Designs 8647 800MHz CPU with L2 Cache, new and improved Networked Media Jukebox V2, USB 3.0 connection to your PC and Gigabit Ethernet for flawless streaming and fast file transfer speeds. Networked Media Jukebox v2 The Popcorn Hour A-300 comes pre-loaded with the industry’s most user friendly jukebox interface. No additional or complicated software setup needed. The Networked Media Jukebox (NMJ) automatically scans your media source and downloads useful information such as the cover-art, movie synopsis, cast and director. With the addition of multi-lingual support, you can enjoy your videos in your native language. English, Svenska, Norsk, Dansk, Suomeksi, Nederlands, Italiano, Español, Français, Polski, Magyar, Ελληνικά, Türkçe, русский язык, עברית, 日本語, Português, 中文, če ŝtina, Slovenski, Hrvatski, 한국어, български , Tiếng Việt, ภาษาไทย For more information about NMJ, please click here. Popcorn Hour Apps Market Watch global news, listen to internet radio and stay in touch with friends on Twitter. You can catch up on your favorite YouTube channel or play some casual games with the family. With over 80 free and premium TV apps currently available, and even more on the way, there's something for everyone! For more information, please click here. MKV3D Support Start enjoying 3D content on your Popcorn Hour A-300. With support for Matroska’s MKV 3D codec and other Side-by-Side video, you can watch 3D movies or stream 3D video from the web. Just plug the A-300 into your 3D television and enjoy the show. *3D TV Required All new aluminum vented box Relax with the fan-less, silent operation of the A-300 while keeping your player cool and reliable. Our new aluminum vented chassis design is effective at dissipating heat from the CPU and your internal hard drive. Video Quality Enjoy better than Blu-ray quality video with support for more than 100Mbps bitrate video and 24P frame rate sync. Experience 1080p content like never before with ultra sharp detail and life like visuals. BluRay ISO Support Never deal with scratched or damaged discs again with support for Blu-ray backup ISO files. With zero loss of movie quality and interactive menu support, you’ll have all the features of Blu-ray without all the hassles of physical media. Multiple codec and file container support With support for nearly every media codec and file container, you never have to worry about having to have the right format for your media. Simply select the file and enjoy. We keep our file support as up to date as possible, adding new codec versions via firmware update. Language and Subtitle Support (powered by opensubtitles.org) With customers around the world, we recognize the need for localization. The Popcorn Hour A-300 supports more than 20 system languages and subtitle support.
In addition to multi-lingual movie information, you can now search and download subtitles directly from your A-300 without ever leaving your couch! NMT Apps Turn your Popcorn Hour A-300 to a SMB, NFS or UPNP Server with the NMT Apps. Share your hard drive in the A-300 to other compatible devices. It works like a NAS and no complicated setup needed. Just hook up a HDD and install the NMT Apps. Bit Torrent and Usenet Support Turn off your power hungry PC and start downloading using the energy efficient Popcorn Hour A-300. Share out the downloaded content within your home easily with NMT apps. Firmware and Community Our dedicated team of software engineers and developers work to protect your investment with regular firmware updates. NetworkedMediaTank.com, our community forums are home to over 70,000 passionate users who are always willing to help newcomers and veterans alike. When you buy a Popcorn Hour you aren't just buying a media player, you're joining a growing community. Making perfect copies of your CD without breaking the bank Audio CD ripper is a free app that you can install from our Apps Market. Our Audio CD ripper features a full CDDA digital audio extraction tool with exact audio copy and error checking. This means that you get a lossless copy of your music without any degradation in quality.
ID3 tags are automatically added (internet connection required) along with a playlist.
For those audiophiles with golden ears, you can immediately notice the outstanding quality when you play back your audio with your Popcorn Hour A-300.
 

Al.Anderson

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Does anyone know what this means in terms of the Popcornhour specs:
DRM Cardea DRM (WMDRM-ND),Janus DRM (WMDRM-PD)​
 

mattCR

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They are microsoft supported DRM formats, (WMV) reserved for purchase on demand content. So, it's saying for websites that allow you to buy DRM media in those formats (*cough* *cough* PRON *cough* *cough*) then it supports it, allowing you to login using the device and authenticate your credentials.
 

Al.Anderson

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Oooooh. Well, I guess it can't hurt to have those DRM formats. I was in paranoid mode, thinking they may be limiting what you play on the device. I'm definitely getting closer to buying one of them. Maybe a Christmas present to myself; we need one for the bedroom. If it served Amazon I would pull the trigger.
 

mattCR

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I should have one of the 300s next week to review. I'll try to go through it and get the video/shots as here, and compare to the A210.

Originally Posted by Al.Anderson

Oooooh. Well, I guess it can't hurt to have those DRM formats.
I was in paranoid mode, thinking they may be limiting what you play on the device. I'm definitely getting closer to buying one of them. Maybe a Christmas present to myself; we need one for the bedroom. If it served Amazon I would pull the trigger.
/t/312133/popcorn-hour-a210-rolls-royce-of-a-media-device#post_3869615
 

Al.Anderson

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I should have one of the 300s next week to review. I'll try to go through it and get the video/shots as here, and compare to the A210.
The anticipation is killing me ... !
 

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