The dust has only just begun to settle on our new Popcorn Hour when this Hisense media player swaggers up, threatening to rock the home-cinema boat and send its occupants into the ocean of media-streamer confusion.
The Hisense has the same basic concept as the Popcorn Hour -- namely, make it easy to get media from your PC to your TV -- but it does it for the bargain price of £70. In this case, the Hisense uses either USB or Ethernet to make that happen.
As with the Popcorn Hour, there's plenty of format love. The usual codecs and containers are supported, up to 1080p where appropriate. MPEG-4 is the main event here and the Hisense has no problem with such files. We bunged on a high bit-rate, 1080/24p video, and it played smoothly with no stuttering at all.
As you would expect, there's an HDMI output, capable of sending raw Dolby True HD and DTS HD audio, alongside 1080p video. There are component outputs and RCA stereo audio, if your TV isn't HDMI-capable. Digital audio can also be sent to an AV receiver or speaker bar via the optical digital output -- but this is only capable of handling Dolby Digital or DTS sound, not the newer lossless codecs.
Moving video on to the Hisense is reasonably straightforward. Two USB connections are provided, which make it possible to connect a USB hard drive or any memory stick you've got knocking around. There are no SD card slots, but it's fair to assume adaptors will make these a possibility. The great news is that, if you're a NAS user, you can simply hook the Hisense to your network storage directly. You can also use the network port to access machines on your home network too.
The Hisense media player costs £70 via Expansys and is available now. This is much cheaper than the more flexible Popcorn Hour, but the question of whether it's better value will have to wait for our full review. Keep an eye on our reviews channel to hear our detailed thoughts, but in the meantime click 'Continue' for more hands-on pics.
Two USB sockets are included, to which you can connect hard drives, USB keys or even your NAS, should the need take you.
Component video provides options for those without HDMI, and there's an optical digital output too, as well as Ethernet for network streaming.