Not all media streamers are made equal. Just like any gadget out in the market, media streamers come in a variety of models and features, from the basic, USB streamer to more complicated NAS (network attached storage) capable models. Made by Syabas in Hongkong, the Popcorn Hour A210 delivers all you’d ever want in a media streamer – even if the experience is slightly unhinged by a less than friendly UI.
There’s not much to say about styling when it comes to digital streamers – they’re usually just boxes with fans and few physical controls, and aside from Apple’s own take on the segment, visually boring. The Popcorn Hour A210 follows that particular design mantra, though it does look better than its competitors. The A210 uses a nice brushed metal material for its outer housing which gives the unit better heat dissipating qualities and a better aesthetic overall.
When it comes to connectivity, the A210 has it all. It has a whole suite of connections that range from standard definition (composite, component and RCA jacks for audio) as well as HD (HDMI). There’s an Ethernet port thrown in for home network integration too. USB connections are also provided, and the A210 can reliably play content contained in thumb drives and HDDs.
While the A210 can play media from external sources, it’s perfectly capable of taking both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch HDDs for storage and playback. Putting the drives into the device is easy enough, and the drive caddy is designed in such a way that even the most novice of users can figure out how to do it.
When talking about media streamers, one of the main things that people look for is file compatibility. You’ll be happy to know then, that the A210 can literally play almost every file currently out – .MKV, .MOV, .WMV – if it’s an audio or movie file and it has a dot and acronyms, you can bet that this baby can play it. It’s even capable of playing 3D Blu-ray files and a myriad of 3D video, so it’s the streamer to have if you already have a 3D capable HD TV.
Video quality is fantastic for the A210, especially if you already have a properly calibrated TV. Images just seem to pop out at you, and everything just…looks better. Obviously lower bitrates and badly encoded movies will still look like garbage, but even decently encoded movies look fantastic on the A210. Audio pretty much follows the same trend as video – simply put, we were blown away. The A210 has support for the latest lossless audio codecs and the results is fantastic sound with every movie you play, from the running gun battles of the action classic HEAT, to the rousing sounds of the Imperial March in Star Wars.
Probably the only fault we can see with the A210 is its simplistic menu system. Items are listed via their text file names, and you’re also shown the subfolders of whatever media you’re accessing (either through the internal HDD or external USB). Compared to the elegance of Apple’s GUI, the A210 looks primitive in comparison, but then again, the A210 is far more capable than Cupertino’s offering, so there’s that.
There are also a number of additional features for the A210, like advanced networking features, being able to stream videos directly from networked PCs and downloading torrents and the like, but unfortunately using them isn’t as easy as pressing play. You’ll definitely have to dive into the manual a bit to properly use them (and even learn a few networking tricks along the way). Amateurs need not apply.
But in the end, the Popcorn Hour A210 is a great media content streamer. Sure, it’s simplistic menus and more complicated features need a bit of learning, but you’ll also be getting a streamer that’s able to play almost any file imaginable with excellent picture quality and unbelievable sound. The Popcorn Hour A210 retails for Php 11,500.
Able to play almost all media files currently out
Excellent picture and sound quality
Has support for both standard and hi-definition setups
Novices will have a hard time setting up the advanced features of the device
Simply put, the Popcorn Hour A210 is probably one of the best media streamers we’ve ever had the
pleasure of testing. Grab it if you can.