I have a Roku 2XS in the office and a
Popcorn Hour A-300
in the living room. The Roku is small — the Popcorn Hour
is as big as a book, the Roku fits on the palm of my hand. I can
almost close my hand around it.
The Roku doesn't have as many connectors as the Popcorn Hour.
Getting a digital sound signal from the Roku to an amplifier won't be
easy, and the box is small and light enough that it won't sit properly
on my desk, which annoys me more than it should. The ethernet and HDMI
cables are too heavy for it. Wiggling helps.
The Popcorn Hour is friendlier at setup time. I was able to play my
ISO images (I rip all my DVDs at purchase time and play from a NAS)
without giving anyone any credit card number. Roku demanded one, and
about anything I watch will be logged to their servers (and the NSA's,
I suppose). That makes me want to cook up some attention-getting
The Roku shows advertising on the main screen, while the Popcorn
Hour abstains from such ignoble behaviour.
Roku wins on UI (apart from the advertising). In particular, the
remote is smaller, friendlier and doesn't suffer from button overdose
syndrome. Both boxes are quiet.
Video quality isn't directly comparable: The Roku plays network
streams to digital output, and the video quality depends mostly on the
network connection. (There's an app to play files from USB sticks,
which I haven't tried.) The Popcorn Hour also plays ISO, Matroska, AVI
and MP4 streams from NAS, and scales them up to 1920×1080. The
upscaling quality varies from astonishingly good in the best cases to
not very good in the worst. (Some MP4s encoded directly from
high-resolution masters are scaled up well, ditto most of my ISOs, but
not all. Matroska files I made from the same ISOs are scaled up
Sound quality is identical when comparable. The Popcorn Hour also
has analog sound outputs (of poor quality), which the Roku does not.
Update: The Roku has more apps. None I really care about,
partly because I use a projector and a largish canvas. For some
reason, a large canvas demands a high bitrate in order to look good, and
the streaming services generally stop below 3Mbps
so the apps I've tried are useless. If you use a screen or small
canvas, app availability may be an important factor to you.