Of all the media streamers we've seen, the Popcorn Hours are still the ones that impress us the most. It might have a silly name and its hardware has been a little, er, unconventional, but it plays every piece of video we've ever shown it and it's wonderfully simple to setup and use. The latest Popcorn Hour, the C-200, is an evolution of the A-110, offering the same media playback support, but adding a few new features to the mix.
What makes the C-200 different to every other media streamer on the market is that it's designed to accept a Blu-ray drive -- which means you get not only excellent network media playback, but also support for HD video on Blu-ray. Some Blu-ray players have dabbled with support for downloaded video content, but none have yet troubled proper media streamers, so it's interesting to see the Popcorn Hour going after the old-school disc players.
Every video format on the planet worth using is supported. The Popcorn Hour is happy decoding 1080p video in the MKV wrapper and it's also able to decode Dolby Digital and DTS audio to pass to your TV. If you're watching HD video from Blu-ray, the player can happily pass DTS HD and Dolby True HD to your AV receiver.
We'll be reviewing the Popcorn Hour C-200 soon, so keep an eye on our reviews channel. In the meantime, enjoy a multitude of photos that should get you as excited as we are about this new piece of kit.
The new remote control has a couple of advantages over the older Popcorn Hour remote. Because it's RF based, you don't need to show it directly to the C-200 in order for it to obey your commands. That means the C-200 can be tucked away, out of sight. This new style remote also has a backlight -- ideal when you're watching in the dark.
The Popcorn Hour team are aware some people like to control their home-cinema systems with universal remotes. To make this possible, an optional IR remote can be supplied, and comes with an IR receiver which connects at the rear of the C-200.
The C-200 is a smart-looking piece of equipment. It's a little taller than a standard Blu-ray player, with a large monochrome LCD display with a dimmable backlight. On the right-hand side you'll find the SATA disk bay. If you're installing a hard drive, you have two options -- the simplest is to slide an SATA drive into this bay. If you're fitting a Blu-ray drive, however, you'll need to use a laptop-size hard drive, and mount it inside the C-200.
Don't get too excited, the antenna here is just for the RF remote control. Networking on the C-200, like the A-100 and A-110, is done over Ethernet. There is, however, the opportunity for you to add a mini PCI Express Wi-Fi adaptor though -- should you want wireless badly enough.
On the right of this image, you'll see the SATA bay, which can either house a Blu-ray drive or a standard, desktop PC hard drive. If you opt for the Blu-ray, you can fit a laptop-sized drive underneath it to handle files you want to store on the Popcorn Hour itself.
There's a slightly tweaked user interface when you first boot the Popcorn Hour. This allows you to select the location you'd like to watch media from. Available options are streaming Internet TV, Blu-ray, network or a user-fitted hard drive.