Popcorn Hour C-200: Adding a Blu-ray drive

We love the Popcorn Hour and the new C-200 has the option to accept a Blu-ray drive -- a very smart piece of set-top box convergence. Here's how you plug one in

Ian Morris
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Our review of the Popcorn Hour C-200 is now live, but because of some production delays, our C-200 review sample didn't come with a Blu-ray drive, or a hard disk. As such, we weren't able to test the former in our review, and had to strip down a laptop to get a 2.5-inch drive to use the latter. The good news is that, thanks to LG, we now have a Blu-ray drive to test with the C-200 and we thought we'd show you how to plug it in.

Fitting the drive shouldn't be a problem if you've ever done any work on your home PC before. Our photos give you an idea of what to do, but you'll need to check the instructions to figure it out. If you're fitting both a 2.5-inch hard drive and a Blu-ray reader you'll probably have your system up and running in around 15 minutes. The hardest part of the whole thing is making the Blu-ray drive sit flush with the outside of the Popcorn Hour.

We were slightly worried that allowing users to fit their own Blu-ray drives would result in all sorts of problems and a really ugly machine. Aesthetically though, we're happy with the way the LG drive sits with the Popcorn Hour. It looks like a compact Windows-based home-cinema PC, which isn't a bad look at all and won't distract from most setups.

We do still have some reservations about user-fitted Blu-ray drives though. If you're planning to do this, please check the Popcorn Hour compatibility wiki first. You can't use just any Blu-ray reader, because not all of them work properly. In an ideal world, the C-200 would ship with a drive included -- after all, surely people buying this machine are doing so for the Blu-ray compatibility, or they would simply buy the excellent A-110 model.

Having spent some time testing the Blu-ray performance, we have to say, we're very impressed. Loading discs is fast and painless. The quality seems every bit as good as most stand-alone Blu-ray players on the market. We're a little dubious about the sound in some cases though -- this probably isn't the product for you unless you're using an external AV receiver. We do hope this will improve as time goes on though, and at the moment it is at least usable, if not perfect.

We should point out that although the drive LG sent us to use in this device supports HD DVD, the Popcorn Hour doesn't. That's rather sad, because it would have been helpful to offer a little backwards compatibility for people (all four of them) with HD DVD collections. Even so, DVD playback is possible, and you'll also be able to listen to audio CDs at some point in the future, via a firmware upgrade.

We'll be using the C-200 extensively over the next few weeks, so expect a long-term test from us in the coming months.

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With the lid off, you can see there's a drive bay on the left into which you can install either an SATA 3.5-inch drive, or a PC-style Blu-ray drive.
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With the cage removed, you can see the mounting screw holes for the 2.5-inch laptop drive. If you're fitting a Blu-ray drive and want a hard disk too, you'll need to use one of these smaller drives.
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To fit a 2.5-inch drive, remove the rails from the C-200 and attach to the side of the hard drive. Screws are provided for this.
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Here's the 2.5-inch drive fitted, with the power and SATA data cables attached.
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Then, with the hard disk fitted, you simply need to bolt your Blu-ray drive into the cage, as you would with any drive, and you're away. We found getting the Blu-ray drive level with the facia of the C-200 a little tricky. And we aren't totally satisfied with how flush the drive is with the front of the Popcorn Hour. Still, it doesn't look ghastly, and with some tweaking you could probably improve this.
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It's important to note that if you're fitting a Blu-ray drive you must have a minimum of 2GB of flash memory. This is needed for the various persistent storage requirements Blu-ray has. If you want to keep your C-200 neat and tidy, there's an internal USB socket for you to plug a memory stick in to get this storage.
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The C-200 is a profile 2.0 player, so it can connect to the Internet and download trailers and other content.
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The C-200 also has a slot for a wireless network card at some point in the future -- although no such compatible card is available yet.
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Now we're good to go. This is the disc we use to measure the load speeds of all the Blu-ray players we test.
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And we're off. There's no configuration -- if you're using a compatible Blu-ray drive you just select the disc logo from the main menu and you'll be watching a Blu-ray movie in 1080p in less time than it takes to eat a sandwich.
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And there you go -- profile 2.0 features from the Internet. Pointless, but pleasing to have all the same.

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