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Popcorn Hour A-110 review: Popcorn Hour A-110

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As we mentioned before, the A-110 has a USB target connector, specifically designed to copy files to the machine, as you would with any external hard drive. There is one slight difficulty you will run into with this. Because the A-110 is a Linux device it uses the EXT3 filing system, which means that if you plug it into a non-Linux machine, it won't initially be able to read or write data to the drive. Luckily there are EXT2/3 drivers available for Windows and OS X, and these will let you mount the disk on your computer.

There is another option, however -- instead of letting the Popcorn Hour format its own disk, you can simply feed it a FAT 32- or NTFS-formatted drive, which will show up under Windows with no problem. You will not be able to use the built-in Torrent client, however, because the A-110 will lose the ability to save data to the disk.

Performance
There isn't really very much to say that's changed from the A-100 in terms of performance.

You can still expect the same great picture quality, and sound either via the analogue or digital outputs is faithful to the original. We did notice that some material had quite low volume levels, which made us turn the TV up to compensate, but we suspect this is more a problem with the media than the box -- generally AC3 soundtracks seemed the quietist.

The menus are the same as those on the A-100. They're exceptionally easy to use, and although some have criticised the Popcorn Hour for being a little basic, we can't really see what the problem is. The basic user interface means anyone can operate it with minimal fuss. Setting up some of the more advanced features requires a little expertise, but that's to be expected.

Generally, getting the A-110 to stream media from your PC is a matter of installing a small piece of software on the computer. Nothing else needs to be done -- there's no configuration, apart from telling the application which folders to share out. The A-110 will simply find the shared content, and allow you to play it.

If you're slightly more technically minded, the FTP and BitTorrent features of the Popcorn Hour are all well designed, and actually surprisingly easy to use.

Conclusion
The A-110 offers a significant improvement over the A-100 without invalidating the usefulness of its predecessor. All of the important elements such as usability, picture and sound quality remain up to the same high standard. The A-110 does offer some extra features that some will find useful -- the switch to SATA will please many, and DTS audio decoding and HDMI 1.3 are a bonus.

In short, if you have an A-100, you don't need to feel left behind -- the A-110 is a worthy step forward, but not an essential one. Ultimately, if DTS downmix, HDMI 1.3 and SATA support aren't important to you, you should grab the cheaper A-100.

Edited by Nick Hide

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