Popcorn Hour A-210 unboxed in our exclusive hands-on photos
We're always giddy with excitement when new Popcorn Hour hardware turns up. The last bit we got our hands on was the C-200, which we liked then, and really love now. The A-210 has a much smaller body, and loses the ability to accept a Blu-ray drive. But it's a very worthy replacement for the old A-100, A-110 and A-200 devices.
Like other hardware from Syabas -- the company behind the Popcorn Hour name -- there's pretty much nothing that this device won't play. There's support for MKV containers with MPEG-4 1080p video crammed into them, plus DivX, XviD, MOV and every type of MPEG-2 you can dream of. It's easier to list the video that this machine doesn't play back -- or it would be if we could think of any.
As with the other Popcorn Hour players, you can also fit your own SATA hard drive into the machine. That enables you to install extra features that turn the box into an FTP server and Samba share. You can also download torrents and binaries from newsgroups and then access it all either from the box itself, or from other Popcorn Hour boxes on your home network.
Streaming video with the A-210 is as simple as ever. Either use software like Twonky, or download a copy of MyiHome, which is designed for the Popcorn Hour range. We like MyiHome, because it gives you the option to search your video files, and makes sharing content with the player a piece of 1080p. The box has a gigabit Ethernet socket too, so you'll never have to wait long for a video to play, or see any playback problems from a lack of bandwidth.
There's also an optional 802.11n Wi-Fi dongle, which will let you access video files without the hassle of connecting a wired network up to the back of your TV. It costs an extra $23 (£15), which is hardly bank-breaking money.
The A-210 is available on pre-order from the Popcorn Hour website. It's around $200 (£125) but you'll need to consider shipping, import duty and VAT if you want one sent over to the UK. British retailers are starting to stock Popcorn Hour hardware, so check the likes of Advanced MP3 players if you're interested.
A full review will follow shortly, but in the mean time, why not check out the photos and tell us what you think via the comments section.
We always get super-excited at this point, because we just adore getting our hands on new a Popcorn Hour.
Ta-da! The company has clearly listened to feedback -- the new model looks much smarter than almost all the models that have preceded it. The sturdy metal box is fanless, which keeps the noise down.
There's room to mount a hard drive in the box, either a 3.5- or 2.5-inch version. Note that adding a drive will increase the amount of noise the box makes.
There's every possible output, including component, composite, S-Video...
...HDMI, Ethernet, USB host and USB slave, which allows you to copy media files from a PC on to the hard drive.
Seriously, is there anything missing from this box of joy?
The shallow depth is welcome too. This machine is certainly efficient with its design, and much more compact than the C-200.
The front is sparse, with only a USB socket and a simple power light. This is great for home cinemas, where you don't want excessive LEDs.
The supplied remote hasn't changed since the first player, apart from a minor cosmetic tweak and backlit keys.
We really like the backlight on this remote -- it's blueish and awesome.
HDMI and USB cables are provided too.
As are hard-drive mounting screws, should you opt to put a drive in.
The boot screen is unchanged from previous models.
Network Media Jukebox refers to new software that's coming to the Popcorn Hour machines that supports Flash. It adds a new, slicker, user interface.
And there you have it, a wall of movies. Here we're using trailers, but it's just as simple to put full-length versions on the player. Do note though, you need an installed SATA drive to use this particular interface, as it doesn't work over the network.
We noticed that the IMDb plugin thought our Star Trek (2009) trailer was actually the original series. So this information is wrong.
The UI allows you to play the file, mark it as unviewed or rate it.
The UI is the same as the one found on the excellent C-200 player.
The new UI allows you to rate movies. Here we're downgrading Sex and the City to 0 stars, which is about 50 more than it deserves.
There are dozens of built-in tools that allow you to use the machine to torrent files, download from newsgroups and run FTP and UPnP servers to share video with other devices on your network.
DTS sound previously presented a problem on Popcorn Hour boxes, but the more recent models have the ability to downmix it, which is very useful.
The Popcorn Hour user interface is top-notch. It may not be as slick as some of the other media streamers, but importantly it works and is easy to understand.
Fitting a hard drive is simple: just unscrew the base and slide the caddy out. Attach a hard drive and slide it back in. The caddy will ensure the drive lines up with the SATA sockets.
Nice and simple -- adding a hard drive can make your new Popcorn Hour even more useful.
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