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Popcorn Hour A-100 Review

Much to my surprise, my Popcorn Hour A-100 came in the mail yesterday after only waiting one week. I ended up paying import fees, roughly 35$ more, but didn’t mind it so much as comparable units would cost double, if not triple the amount. It took about a month for the whole unit to arrive on my doorstep, from ordering process to unpacking it. Here’s a short review on this little device.

Design – sleek and small, it’s incredible how Syabas has managed to cram so much into so little. I’m able to fit this device among my other A/V hardware with ease. Right now, it’s stacked on top of my DVD player taking up next to nothing in terms of space.

User Interface – I would say one of the most important parts of any consumer device, this puppy is easy to use and it’s very responsive with the provided remote control. The GUI resembles that of Microsoft’s Media Center application (in terms of icons and colours) and that’s not a bad thing either. The whole interface is sleek and smooth, adding class to the device.

Playback – Simply, it plays anything I can throw at it. I started off directly with with some 720p and 1080p Matroska (MKV) files and it didn’t even stutter: the Popcorn Hour A-100 played them beautifully in high definition along with the multi-surround AC3 sound channels. The only problem the A-100 has with these types of files is the fast-forwarding, but I don’t think it’s the device’s fault (I’m pretty sure it’s something to do with MKV files and indexes). Regardless, I also played some WMVs and AVIs (XviD) perfectly over the network. I didn’t try playing any audio files though, but I’m sure the A-100 will do a fine job.

Value – When I first heard about the A-100, I thought it would cost somewhere near 300 to 400$. When I found out it was only 179.00$ USD, my jaw dropped. “There must be a catch” I thought. But doing a quick search on Google resulted in many high praises for the units and people with working units. Without hesitating, I ordered a unit right away. Comparing the A-100 to the likes of the other media players on the market, this is the cheapest and most powerful unit out there. Previously, to playback 1080p video, I built myself a basic low-end computer that cost me 434$. That’s roughly 200$ more than Syabas’ unit, at a fraction of the size of a desktop computer. I wish I knew about this puppy long-before I built myself a new computer to do high definition video playback.

So far, I have no complaints about this unit. I installed a temporary 120GB hard drive into it but didn’t have time to test it out. I’ll have a follow-up guide/review once I settle in with this new media player.