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Popcorn Hour C-200 Blu-ray media streamer: Hands-on photos

The Popcorn Hour C-200 is possibly one of the most exciting things we've ever put our sweaty hands on, in large part due to its ability to play both downloaded media and Blu-ray discs

Ian Morris
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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.

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As the Australians would say, "Strewth, we're excited."
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The accessories are provided in a simple, environmentally friendly paper sack.
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The accessory pack includes an HDMI cable, some mounting screws, two AAA batteries, an RF remote control and an RF antenna.
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As always, the Popcorn Hour is a work in progress in many ways. One of the things we really like about these products is they're constantly evolving, and being improved with firmware updates.
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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.
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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.
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Shown next to each other, you can see the RF and IR remotes are almost identical, colour apart. The black controller doesn't have any branding on it for some reason.
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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.
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The mono display is designed to show you relevant information while you're using the C-200. During boot it shows the Popcorn Hour logo...
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When the C-200 has finished booting, you'll be given the opportunity to select the source for your media.
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Sideways-on, you can see the C-200 is a reasonably compact machine in most dimensions. It's only its height that makes it look large.
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The usual video outputs are included. HDMI for 1080p video and all modern audio codecs, including passthrough of DTS HD and Dolby True HD.
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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.
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If you want to fit an SATA drive, this is where it goes.
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Putting an SATA hard drive in the C-200 is no more complex than sliding it into the supplied bay and shutting the door.
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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.
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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.
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The odd thing is, behind the new interface sits the familiar old system. This doesn't bother us, because we've always found this system easy to use -- but an update to the visuals wouldn't go amiss.

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