The Popcorn Hour media player actually poses a bit of a challenge to write about. Not because it's poor or lacking in features, you understand, but because it's virtually identical to the HD Digitech HDX-1000 which we tested in the same Group Test. The Popcorn Hour, as with the HD Digitech, was supplied to us by ripcaster.co.uk.
However, we'll fight the urge to write 'see the HD Digitech', and take the opportunity to point out the few differences, as well as some further observations.
First, the differences: quite obviously the Popcorn Hour's case is different from that of the HD Digitech. It's no less well made, but the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision review team did generally prefer the looks and dimensions of the HDX-1000.
The case also has slightly different connections. You do without a coaxial output, but you do still get optical. Oh, and the A-110 also lacks the HDX's SD card slot.
Turn the Popcorn Hour on though, and you're greeted with the exact same Networked Media Tank menu screen as that on the HDX. Settings, features and format support are identical, so you can play pretty much any format in existence as long as it's not DRM-protected. Arduous to sift through large music collectionsThe identical menu system means it's equally arduous to sift through large music collections. A temporary network error unrelated to the Popcorn Hour meant that the first time we played our test files on it was from a USB hard disk, and we were very surprised to see a marked loss in quality compared with the HDX-1000.
More after the break
Trying the same external HDD on the HD Digitech proved that the problem lay in the delivery via USB rather than the player itself, and sure enough, when playing the files through the Ethernet connection or from the Popcorn Hour's own hard drive, we could see no discernable difference between it and the '1000.
Once again, HD video files are crisp, detailed and vibrant, with only a little smear to motion, while standard-definition content proves close to the disc equivalent. Music delivery is still disappointing though, with tracks lacking musical gusto.
A touch cheaper, but no SD slotSo, if you like the sound of a media player that is capable of playing anything, the question is, should you get the Popcorn Hour A-110 or the HD Digitech HDX-1000?
Well, whether you buy the 1TB, 500GB or diskless version, the Popcorn Hour is a little bit cheaper than its rival, but we don't reckon it looks as nice, and the missing SD card slot might bother some. If such factors bother you, get the HDX. If they don't, save yourself a few quid and go for the A-110.