Syabas Popcorn Hour A-110 Networked Media Tank review

£168
Price when reviewed

Designed to make the most of an HDTV, Syabas’ Popcorn Hour A-110 is a compact media streamer with a big range of features.

Look to the rear and you’ll be in no doubt that the A-110 means business. There are 1080p-capable HDMI 1.3a and component outputs, and S-Video and composite are thrown in for good measure. Sound is ferried through twin RCAs or optical digital S/PDIF.

The price at the top of the page doesn’t include a drive, but installation is easy. Just slot a 2.5in or 3.5in SATA drive in place, secure the four screws and the job is done.

The simple, icon-based user interface is a welcome sight. Fire up the Popcorn Hour with a wired connection to your network, a couple of USB drives attached and an internal hard disk chock full of entertainment, and the welcome screen provides you with a straightforward list of all the available devices and network shares. The supplied iHome software allows you to share files directly from a PC too, but Windows 7 Media Libraries pop up automatically anyway.

Once you’ve selected the source drive, the simple icon-based interface allows you to choose from Video, Audio, Photo or just to browse through the folder structure manually. It’s easy and intuitive, despite the haphazard layout of the remote control, but it’s a tad sluggish to respond to button-presses.

It’s easy to forgive the A-110 the odd stumble here and there, though, as it does so many things right. A wide range of video formats are supported as standard, and the Popcorn hour dismissed most of our test files without breaking a sweat, although we did encounter a few hiccups with ripped DVD movies.

Audio format support is equally wide-ranging, with support for everything from MP3, WMA and AAC to more esoteric formats such as FLAC and OGG.

There are several bonuses thrown in for good measure. There’s a BitTorrent and Usenet client that lets you download files directly to the internal hard disk without having to leave your PC on, and the A-110 also offers access to YouTube, Flickr and a range of other online services without the need for a PC. It’s even capable of masquerading as a NAS device, with support for SMB, NFS, FTP and Apple Bonjour networking protocols.

Trying to play the part of a media-centre PC and NAS device is a tall order for a £146 media streamer, and it’s to the A-110’s credit that it largely succeeds in doing so. Its quirky nature won’t be to everyone’s taste, but with a good price those willing to forgive the occasional fits of unreliability will find much to love.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players, who supplied the review sample

Display

Display type None
Screen size N/A
Resolution N/A

Software and OS support

Operating system Windows 7 supported? yes
Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

Physical

Dimensions width 270
Dimensions depth 132
Dimensions height 32
Dimensions 270 x 132 x 32mm (WDH)

Audio format support

MP3 support yes
WMA support yes
AAC support yes
OGG support yes
FLAC support yes
ATRAC support no
WAV support yes
ASF support yes
AIFF support no

Video format support

DivX support yes
XviD support yes
H.264 support yes
WMV-HD support yes
WMV support yes
AVI support yes
MP4 support yes
Other video codec support MOV, RMP4, M4V, VOB, ISO, IFO, MKV, TS, M2TS, PS

Ports and communications

Remote control? yes
UPnP media server? yes
802.11a support no
802.11b support no
802.11g support no
802.11 draft-n support no
Ethernet interface yes
Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
RCA (phono) outputs 2
3.5mm audio jacks 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0

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