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Loving and hating the Popcorn Hour

On 28, Aug 2008 | 4 Comments | In Hi-fi, User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

The Popcorn Hour A-100 is a wholly remarkable media player that I have been enjoying for the past few months. It plays just about any digital format you can throw at it, including 1080p video. But what’s most remarkable about the Popcorn Hour is its price — $179 USD + shipping.

I will state up front that, as an interface designer, I find the UI to be as terrible as any DVD player I’ve ever used. And if you’re as prone to configuration problems as I am, there isn’t any documentation to speak of, so you are left to the mercy of their chaotic forums.

Once running, the device, which can house its own hard drive and stream content from over the network, plays media incredibly well and improves with each firmware upgrade. If it’s connected to the internet, firmware updates are easily applied from the admin interface.

Also built into the device is a Torrent client, and as of the latest firmware upgrade, a Linux-based Usenet client called NZBget.

Recently the Popcorn Hour people released the A-110 which costs $35 more but addresses most of the firmware concerns I had with the A-100. Surprisingly it fails to add gigabit ethernet. Guys, why cheap out?


  1. cj

    any feedback/comments on what the music/playlist management is like?

    i’ve played around with the xbox media center and the music/playlist management (creation, editing, etc.) is a pain.

  2. Kevin Skelton

    I too recently purhased the Popcorn Hour A-110, delivered much quicker then I originally expected. However, much to my dismay the unit would not recognize my network connection. After trying several different attempts to acquire an IP address, including 3 separate internet connects, I’ve tried to get help from the on-line support group. They just keep asking me one sentance questions, rehashing the steps I’ve already gone through and outlined to them.

    Other then the AppleTV, does anyone know of any other 1080p (HDMI) players?

    Thanks Kevin

  3. wb

    The Western Digital WD TV is amazing. If I didn’t have a Mac Mini connected to my TV, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. WD TV is what I’ve recommended to friends and the two who have purchased it love it. The interface is surprisingly good and they’ve been very proactive in releasing firmware updates. It has two USB ports, so there’s no worrying about buying something that will still have enough capacity in the future.

    I loaded a 6gig MKV video file, containing a 1080p blu-ray rip and 5.1 surround audio and it started playing the movie without any buffering at all. Played perfectly and sounded amazing.

    I’ve seen the WD TV, regular version with HDMI and optical out and ethernet, for $99 and the ‘Live’ version that works with Flickr and YouTube for $119. Going to be giving a couple as Christmas gifts this year.

  4. Ethernet is a nice upgrade to see on those WDTVs, though built in wifi would be nicer. I bought the wifi stick for the PCH A-100 and it’s a complete joke. About as fast as my internet connection. Fine for downloading or streaming stuff, but when I want to copy to a different drive, or burn something, it has to go overnight!

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