Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2012-04-04

Popcorn Hour A-300

The Popcorn Hour A-300 is an updated version of the A-110 — a small fanless box to play ISOs and other movies. My work involves such boxes, so I upgraded from the A-110. I still use it with a Synology NAS, an Epson HD projector, a Musical Fidelity M6i amplifier and B&W 804 speakers, and mostly play ISOs ripped with Anydvd.

The A-300 is better than the A-110: The remote control has better range, it doesn't take as long to start playing ISOs, and the user interface is snappier in general.

Its film selection interface remains terrible. It shows less than three film titles per m² of canvas in my case, and navigation is strictly one-dimensional. Up, down, select. A web site built along the same design principles would have wonderful margins and beautiful fonts, but this paragraph would not fit on a 1920×1080 screen.

The screen saver now features animated buzzwords. I call that a feature, because it goaded me to disable the ███████ screensaver. The rest is rather like the old box.

Remarkably, telnetting to the A-300 gives a root prompt.

Update: At first, I didn't notice how bad the sound quality is. I have now played some films with good sound. Ouch is the word.

Update: There are a few bad bugs that Syabas isn't fixing. For example, ISO images without FBI warnings and menus are generally played with the wrong aspect ratio, except the very first time each ISO image is opened. Even cold booting doesn't help.

Update: I bought a FiiO Taishan D03K D/A converter, €33 of high-end audio. The FiiO is a little too up/forward/aggressive for my taste, but it's very, very much better than the A-300's analog output. And Syabas acknowledged the previous bug and provided a workaround: Play in any mode other than fit to screen.