The BBC's iPlayer is now a must-have for any self-respecting AV device. If the Spice Girls were about today (and significantly more nerdy) they'd sing, "If you want to be my AV product, you've got to get with my iPlayer." Apart from the fact that it doesn't rhyme. Happily, the people behind Popcorn Hour media streamers agree -- not about the rhyming, the iPlayer -- and have just added the Beeb's catchup service to some of their boxes.
To take advantage of iPlayer, you'll need one of the newer Popcorn Hour devices that supports apps, so the A-210 and C-200 are the machines to go for if you haven't already got one. The iPlayer app itself takes just a few seconds to download. You'll need to make sure the firmware of your machine is up to date though, which you can do through the setup menu.
Once the app is installed, you're off. It's fast and responsive and works really well. Finding programmes is easy, as it follows the standard large-screen iPlayer interface. There are options to select programmes from any of the BBC's TV or radio channels and there's a search option, to find other stuff.
Most impressive, though, is the picture quality. The Popcorn Hour app supports the BBC's HD streams, so the quality is excellent. We're not going to say it's proper HD, but it's certainly far better than Freeview. If all broadcasters had a service this good for TV catch-up, we could just shut Freeview down altogether.
The update is free for existing Popcorn Hour owners, and we're hard pressed to find fault in it. Sometimes our Internet connection didn't seem able to cope, but for the most part, the streaming worked incredibly well. Consider our thumbs engaged in the upward direction for this update to some already excellent hardware.
As you can tell, we love Popcorn Hour -- we've rarely been as excited as when the original A-100
arrived a few years back. Since then we've never really found a player
that's as versatile or simple to use. While some devices, such as Western Digital's brilliant TV Live Hub, offer some excellent features, and slicker user interface, nothing beats the flexibility of the Popcorn Hour C-200.
The iPlayer banner tells you what you're watching, and allows you to control playback. Some devices we've tested don't do this well, and seeking is a problem. Not so on the Popcorn Hour -- the app works perfectly.
Sadly, our Internet connection was having a funny five minutes, so here is Prof Cox with the buffering icon next to him. It's not the constellation of fail or some other cosmic phenomenon. Although thinking about it, sun spots and a supermoon might have broken the Internets.