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Syabas Popcorn hour A-210 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £209
inc VAT

Although its format support and basic functionality are good, the A-210 is expensive and lacks polish.

Syabas’s Popcorn Hour streamers are known for their adaptability, and were among the first to include built-in BitTorrent and Usenet clients. Further development comes quickly thanks to a keen user development community constantly producing new apps and features.

The A-210 is a basic but well-constructed black metal box with HDMI, component, composite and S-Video outputs, plus stereo phono and both optical and co-axial S/PDIF outputs. It has Gigabit Ethernet and has two standard USB ports for connecting external storage, a wireless adaptor or a USB keyboard.

Syabas Popcorn hour Back

A USB Type B port allows you to connect it to your PC as an external storage device. There’s room to fit either a 2.5in or 3.5in hard disk; the A-210 makes little noise with a disk installed and none without one. Once you’ve attached either internal or external hard disks, you can use the Popcorn Hour’s built-in NAS features to share its content via Samba, UPnP, FTP or NFS file shares. The remote control is an ugly wedge of silver plastic with loads of clunky and confusing buttons. It lights up in the dark, though, which is handy for midnight movie sessions.

There are two main interfaces; one is a file browser, which shows all the media files on a local drive or network share. The other divides files by type – audio, video, pictures and playlists. This works automatically for viewing UPnP content, but the A-210 has to write a small file to any target SMB share you want to view like this. Your files are only displayed as a list – you don’t get thumbnails, album art or any additional information. The features you get depend on how you’re sharing your content. The A-210 works best with the official myiHome UPnP server – album art and track information didn’t displaying properly when we used Windows Media Player’s UPnP sharing.

Popcorn Hour’s format support is legendary and the A-210 played everything we threw at it, although we noticed a couple of minor frame skips in our 1080p H.264 MOV file. We were impressed by the streamer’s support for both DVD and Blu-Ray discs and ISOs, including fully functional menus.

Syabas Popcorn hour

The A-210 can play almost any kind of media file, but doesn’t have all the features we want. Video playlist support isn’t built in, although you can add it with an app. Photo thumbnails are only available in media browser mode and you can’t manually advance between slides. Supported internet media services include Shoutcast internet radio and full access to your Flickr and Picassa accounts, but Syabas is no longer allowed to provide YouTube access, which is a major loss.

The A-210 works well for video and audio and it’s an obvious choice for those who like to tinker with their media devices but its features and functionality aren’t sleek enough to make it friendly and easy-to-use option for most users. At £209, it’s also very expensive when you can buy the D-Link Boxee Box or Western Digital WD TV Live Hub for less.

Basic Specifications

Rating ***
Media Streamer type streaming multimedia receiver

Audio Compatibility

Audio MP3 playback Yes
Audio WMA playback Yes
Audio WMA-DRM playback Yes
Audio AAC playback Yes
Audio Protected AAC playback No
Audio OGG playback Yes
Audio WAV playback Yes
Audio Audible playback No
Other audio formats FLAC

Video Compatibility

Other video formats MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, APC, H.264, WMV9, XVID, DIVX

Image Compatibility

Image BMP support Yes
Image JPEG support Yes
Image TIFF support No

Network Interfaces

Wired network ports 1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support Yes

AV Interfaces

Minijack line outputs 0
Minijack headphone outputs 0
Stereo phono outputs 1
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs 1
Optical S/PDIF outputs 1
Total SCART sockets 0
HDMI outputs 1
Component outputs 1
S-video output 1
Composite outputs 1
Other connectors 2x USB, 1x USB (client)


Size 32x270x132mm
Power consumption standby 6W
Power consumption on 9W

Server Compatibility

Software included myiHome
UPnP Yes
iTunes No
SlimServer No

Buying Information

Price £209
Warranty one year RTB

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