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Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300 review

Barry de la Rosa
6 Feb 2012
Our Rating 

A fully-featured media streamer with some unique features, the A-300 requires a bit of work to get up and running, but its high price lets it down

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Syabas's Popcorn Hour A-300 is designed to play pretty much every media type and make it easy to view. The A-300 requires a hands-on approach to get everything working: for a start, there's room inside for a hard disk to store content locally, but you'll have to fit one yourself.

Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300

You can copy files on to the hard disk using the network or the built-in USB3 port. However, as the disk is formatted as ext3, Windows 7 users will find it tricky to use the USB connection.

Instead of splitting up media into different sections like most streamers, the A-300 simply divides it into local or networked media. It supports UPnP shares as well as Windows SMB shares. You get fewer ways of viewing your media via the network, however, and the idea is to move your stuff to the local drive where it can be more easily accessed.

The A-300 runs its own jukebox software to index your files and attach images, but it will only work on files stored locally. Once the process is done, however, it makes finding and browsing your movies far more enjoyable.

Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300

Internet services take centre stage and is the default menu item on the home page. Like the Boxee Box, you get to choose which services you install from an Apps Market. The range of apps on offer is wide, but not comprehensive - it's the only one we've seen to give access to PhotoBucket, but it doesn't have a Last.fm app, so if you're heavily dependent on a particular service it's worth checking first whether it's supported - go to popcornhour.com and click on "Partners" in the top menu to see a full list.

The real strength of this product is its file support. Basically, pretty much every single type of video file that you could want to play is supported, including rarely-supported formats, such as MKV 3D. Blu-ray ISO files are supported and the player will even send HD audio formats to a connected amp over HDMI.

Syabas Popcorn Hour A-300

Overall, the interface and back-lit remote (you can also use an iPhone or Android app that replicate the remote's features) are easy to work with. When browsing media, the interface gives you pop-out menus on the left and right of the screen, plus hotkeys accessed via the coloured buttons.

With its wide range of ports, services and format support, the A-300 is at the top end of the market. It takes a bit of work to get it set up, but given the wide format support it could well be worth the effort and high cost. If format support's not so important the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub is better value and comes with a 1TB hard disk.

Basic Specifications

Rating****
Media Streamer typestreaming multimedia receiver

Audio Compatibility

Audio MP3 playbackYes
Audio WMA playbackYes
Audio WMA-DRM playbackNo
Audio AAC playbackYes
Audio Protected AAC playbackNo
Audio OGG playbackYes
Audio WAV playbackYes
Audio Audible playbackNo
Other audio formatsM4A, MP1, MP2, MPA, FLAC, TTA, DTS, AC3

Video Compatibility

Other video formatsMPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, WMV9, XVID, VC-1

Image Compatibility

Image BMP supportYes
Image JPEG supportYes
Image TIFF supportNo

Network Interfaces

Wired network ports1x 10/100
Wireless networking supportNo

AV Interfaces

Minijack line outputs0
Minijack headphone outputs0
Stereo phono outputs1
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs1
Optical S/PDIF outputs1
Total SCART sockets0
HDMI outputs1
Component outputs1
S-video output1
Composite outputs1
Other connectors2x USB2, 1x USB3 slave

Physical

Size45x265x135mm
Power consumption standby8W
Power consumption on8W

Server Compatibility

Software includedYAMJ
UPnPYes
iTunesNo
SlimServerNo
SMBYes

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Supplierhttp://www.advancedmp3players.co.uk
Detailswww.popcornhour.com

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