Popcorn Hour C-200 Review

I am a TV junkie and whenever I accidentally miss one of my favorite shows, I use various methods to download the video file so I can watch it. I don’t watch the shows on my iMac or iPhone though. I stream them to my 65″ RPTV so I can watch them in my living room. Over the years I’ve tested several video / media players and have had good luck with the WD TV HD Media Player and more recently, the Popcorn Hour A-110. The Popcorn Hour has become one of the most heavily used gadgets in my home until now. Now I have found something even better… the Popcorn Hour C-200.

Hardware Specs

Chipset: Sigma Designs SMP8643, 667MHz CPU with floating point coprocessor.
Memory: 512MB DDR2 DRAM, 256MB NAND Flash
Audio/Video Outputs: HDMI v1.3a with CEC, 36bpp deep color, 12-bit xvYCC processing and HDCP 1.2 content protection
Component Video, S-Video, Composite Video, Stereo Analog Audio, S/PDIF Optical and Coaxial Digital Audio
2x USB 2.0 host at the front, 2x USB 2.0 host at the back, 1x USB 2.0 internal
2x SATA (one occupied by HDD tray)
3.5″ HDD tray
Internal mounting for 2.5″ HDD
2.4GHz RF Remote Control, Infra-Red Remote Control port (Infra-Red Remote Control optional)
Network: Ethernet 10/100/1000, miniPCI MII interface for 11n WiFi card (optional)
Power: 100~240V AC, 50~60 Hz, max 2.5A
Dimensions: 425mm x 290mm x 80mm (16.73″ x 11.42″ x 3.15″)
Weight: 3.7kg (8lbs 3oz)

Connectivity: Bonjour, UPnP SSDP, UPnP AV, Windows Media Connect, Windows Media Player NSS, Samba, NFS

Media Servers: myiHome, myiHomeLite, myiHomeMS (UPnP), MSP Portal
Third-party media servers: WizD, SwissCenter, Llink, GB-PVR

BitTorrent P2P
Usenet downloader

NAS Access : SMB, NFS, FTP

Casgle iDVR RSS feed downloader

Web Services
Video : Revision 3, Videocast, CNET TV, Mediafly, Mevio, Bliptv, Break Podcast, CBS Evening News, CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Daily, CNN The Larry King Podcast, NBC Today Show, The CNN Daily, CNN In Case You Missed It, NBC Nightly News, NBC Meet The Press, CBS Face the Nation, Podfinder UK, Motorz

Audio : Jamendo, iPodcast, BBC Podcast, Indiefeed, CNN News, ABC News

Photos : Flickr, Picasaweb, Pikeo, 23, Photobucket, SmugMug

RSS feed : Yahoo! Weather, NMT Forum, Bloglines, Cinecast, MSNBC News, Traffice Condition, Yahoo! Traffic Alerts, Yahoo! News, Weather Bug

Peer-to-peer TV : SayaTV

Internet Radio : SHOUTcast™ Radio, Radiobox, Live365 Radio

Supported Media File Formats
Video containers: MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V), MPEG1/2 PS (M2P, MPG, DAT, VOB), MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS), AVI, ASF, WMV, Matroska (MKV), MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4

Video Decoders: XVID SD/HD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 MP@HL, MPEG-4.2 ASP@L5, 720p, 1-point GMC, MPEG-4.10 (H.264) : BP@L3, MP@L4.0, HP@L4.0, HP@L4.1, WMV9 : MP@HL, SMPTE 421M (VC-1) : MP@HL, AP@L3

Audio Containers: AAC, M4A, MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA), WAV, WMA, FLAC, OGG

Audio Decoders: Dolby Digital, DTS, WMA, WMA Pro, MPEG-1 Layer 1, 2, 3, MPEG-4 AAC-LC, MPEG-4 HE-AAC, MPEG-4 BSAC, LPCM, FLAC, Vorbis

Audio Pass-Through: DTS, DTS-HD HR, DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD

Other Formats: ISO, IFO navigation, AVCHD navigation, Blu-ray** ready (requires addition of compatible BD-ROM and at least 2GB USB memory stick)

Photo Formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF

Subtitle Formats: SRT, MicroDVD SUB, SSA, SUB/IDX

DRM: Cardea DRM (WMDRM-ND), Janus DRM (WMDRM-PD)

Package Contents

Popcorn Hour C-200 (HDD not included)
IEC 60320 C13 power cord
1.5M length HDMI cable
RF Remote Control with 2 “AAA” batteries
Quick start guide

The previous Popcorn Hour unit is pretty small compared to the new model. The C-200 has a typical set-top box size similar to DVRs and satellite tuners.

The front of the unit has a power button, 2 USB ports, a large White on Blue backlit LCD display, menu navigation buttons and an access door to a hard drive, CD drive, DVD drive compartment. You can click the image above to see a larger view.

With regards to the LCD display, I’m not really sure what the point of it is because you can’t see it from across the room and everything you’d need to see (menu info) is displayed on your TV’s screen anyway.

The Popcorn Hour doesn’t ship with a hard drive installed, but you can easily add your own. The front panel has an easy to access tray for a 3.5 inch drive. You can also pull out the whole tray assembly to install a CD drive or DVD drive. As with the previous Popcorn Hour, I didn’t install a hard drive because I keep all my media on my iMac in my office and stream it to the C-200 wirelessly. More about that in a sec.

On the back you will find all the normal A/V connectors including HDMI. There are also two more USB ports and an Ethernet port.

I had issues with the previous Popcorn Hour working with my TV via HDMI. Basically it didn’t work. :) I had to use component cables. I’m happy to say that this isn’t a problem with the C-200. HDMI works perfectly.

The C-200 has an Ethernet port which I tested and found to work very well. If you prefer to use WiFi instead of hard wiring it to your network via Ethernet, you’ll need to buy and install the optional MN-200 WiFi Card.

The card comes with 3 antennas.

Installing it is not difficult. First you remove the cover. You’ll see the WiFi card connector below the round sticker.

Then insert the card in the slot.

Cables for the 3 antennas are then connected to the back panel.

The hardest part of the whole installation is attaching the tiny antenna cable connectors to the WiFi card. Everything else is plug and play. After the card has been installed, you won’t need to install any special software or do any setup for the card to be activated. Put the cover back on and you’re all set to watch video, listen to music, access web video / audio sources and view your images.

The remote that is included with the C-200 is above average as far as having a good button layout with Red backlit keys. The best part about the remote is that it is an RF remote and not IR. What difference does that make? Well, I have all my A/V components stacked on top of each other on top of an entertainment center. Think Leaning Tower of Pisa and you won’t be that far from the truth ;) Anyway, I sometimes have difficulty getting my devices to recognize remote commands due to the angle that I’m pointing the remote. RF doesn’t need line of sight, so no problems. Yay!

Setting up the C-200 with my 65″ RPTV was a snap. It was equally easy to connect to a shared drive on my iMac in the other room. Streaming music and video over Ethernet is blazing fast. The older Popcorn Hour would take 30-45 seconds to load a video file, the C-200 only takes about 5-10.

The menus on the C-200 haven’t changed significantly from the A-110. They are basic, with no wow factor. The great thing is, if you hate the interface, you can load another. The Popcorn Hour is a media player that has a large community of modders that have created some alternative ‘jukeboxes’ (menu systems).

The main menu allows you to browse your network  shares, attached hard drives, USB drives and CD/DVD drives. Like I had mentioned previously, I keep all my content on my iMac and stream it to the Popcorn Hour. I tested streaming via Ethernet and WiFi and found that there wasn’t much of a noticeable difference in speed between the two methods, but were very noticeable compared to the A-110. This speed increase in itself is a big reason to upgrade if you have the older Popcorn Hour unit.

If you’re bored with your own content, you can view videos and listen to internet radio stations. I don’t do this often because I find that the video media can be old and sometimes isn’t available. I have enjoyed playing around with internet radio stations though.

I have also noticed that the C-200 will sometimes freeze up when I try to access some of the web options. The spinning load graphic will display in the center of the screen and will stay that way till I unplug the box to reset it.

One thing that I really really really wish was built into the C-200 is Netflix and Hulu streaming. Alas, it doesn’t… :( YouTube isn’t available either which is odd because it was available on the A-110. I would think that a web browser would have been a great feature to include too, but it wasn’t.

In addition to Internet radio and video features, there are apps that you can run on the device. One fun app is Weather Bug.

A free download for your Windows or Mac computer called myiHome will let you view the videos and images from your computer, as well as listen to music from your computer. It is very easy to setup and works pretty well… when it doesn’t freeze up. I’ll stick with just sharing a drive instead of running that service on my Mac.

Another really nice feature is the ability to add a DVD / Blu-Ray DVD drive to the unit. I tested this feature with the external USB Blu-Ray drive that came with the HP DV2 laptop. I love that I can put all my media playing gadgets into one box that requires only one power cord. That said, I had some problems playing non Blu-Ray DVDs in the Blu-Ray player. The onscreen status would just show the spinning graphic forever and I would have to pull the power cord to reset the whole device. I’m hoping a firmware update will fix this issue.

While I really liked the first Popcorn Hour (A-110), I am loving the C-200 for what I use it for – video file playback. It seems to handle every video type that I throw at it and it loads that content much faster than the older Popcorn Hour. All the USB expandability is terrific too, not to mention the ability to add a hard drive or DVD drive. So far it’s the best digital media player I’ve used even though it has occasional glitches with accessing internet video / radio.  If they can add NetFlix and Hulu support, I’d be in heaven.

 

Product Information

Price:$299.00, $349.00 (with MN-200 WiFi Card)
Manufacturer:Popcorn Hour
Pros:
  • Fast
  • Very expandable with USB, hard drive, CD drive, DVD, Blu-Ray drive
  • Can view internet video, radio, etc.
Cons:
  • Large footprint
  • WiFi is not built in
  • No web browser or Netflix feature
  • Some issues with playing SD CDs in Blu-Ray drive
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, Reviews

46 comments… add one

  • Gareth Jones March 3, 2010, 12:22 pm

    Does this box display on both the HDMI *and* the svideo/composite video at the same time? Reason I ask is that I have a vcr that I distribute signals to the rest of the house. When I use the PS3 it *only* outputs on the hdmi – which means I cannot see that for the rest of the house. I want something that can take High def downloads – display them on my big tv in high def – and downconvert them to composite video for the rest of the house.

    • Julie March 3, 2010, 12:26 pm

      @Gareth I don’t have a 2nd TV, so I am not sure how I can test that feature. Let me ask my contact and try to get you an answer.

  • Julie March 3, 2010, 1:41 pm

    I received a reply to my question:

    I don’t believe it does. It should output on both HDMI and component at the same time assuming you’re running a resolution that’s compatible on both displays. I believe that the composite only outputs video if you have it set to a compatible resolution as well, which definitely wouldn’t be one you want to use over HDMI or component.

    Regards,
    Scott Walters
    Technical Marketing Staff
    Syabas Technology Inc. DBA Popcorn Hour

  • tracyjump March 4, 2010, 3:05 am

    I recently got one Sony HDR-XR200V Camcorder I want to convert the files from m2ts to MKV I have SONY Vegas but MKV Vegas isn’t there. I basically want to convert m2ts file into a more common video formats, how to do?
    So I searched internet and found a best M2TS to MKV Converter and shared here.

    http://www.dvd-ripper-copy.com/articles/convert-avchd-mts-m2ts-to-mkv.html#195

  • AL March 4, 2010, 11:09 am

    The Holy Grail for these boxes is the ability to play BluRay ISO files (with menus) and pass through uncompressed audio (DTS MD, Dolby True HD). Have you tested these formats yet? Once I find a ‘reasonably priced’ player that can support these formats, I will purchase it. I don’t particularly like to tie up my computer converting BluRay ISO’s to various other formats, so I’m looking forward to a true BluRay ‘extender’.

    • Julie March 4, 2010, 11:11 am

      @AL I have not tested these formats. For one thing I don’t have that good of an audio setup. I can ask the technical person if this box supports them though. Let me find out for you.

  • Julie March 4, 2010, 3:12 pm

    @AL Here is the answer I received:

    Retail BD discs, BD ISO and BD IFO can all be played with full menu support. Opening the ISO or root folder for the IFO will launch it just like inserting the disc.

    With all our video files, we pass through any uncompressed audio such as Dolby DTS and Dolby True HD. Please note that True HD can only go over HDMI whereas DTS audio can go over both HDMI, optical and coax.

  • Leo March 18, 2010, 4:50 am

    Thank you for the helpful review.
    I read somewhere that if there is no HDD in the PCH, some features are missing. Do you know if that’s correct? And if so, which features?

    • Julie March 18, 2010, 7:37 am

      @Leo You have to supply your own HD. Or, you can use USB flash drives or access shared drives on a computer on your home network (which is what I do). I’m not sure what you mean about missing features.

  • Leo March 19, 2010, 4:48 am

    Yes. I also use a NAS in my current setup so I don’t need an internal HDD in my NMT. I was considering to switch from my current player (A.C. Ryan Payon.HD) to the PCH, but while browsing for reviews I found a Dutch review -from someone who bought one- in which he states that some features are missing from the PCH if it has no internal HDD. I can’t imagine what that would be, but perhaps you would know?

    • Julie March 19, 2010, 10:57 am

      @Leo I sure don’t know what the missing features would be…

  • Imanol March 20, 2010, 12:55 pm

    Hi:

    About that:
    “Another really nice feature is the ability to add a DVD / Blu-Ray DVD drive to the unit. I tested this feature with the external USB Blu-Ray drive that came with the HP DV2 laptop. I love that I can put all my media playing gadgets into one box that requires only one power cord. That said, I had some problems playing non Blu-Ray DVDs in the Blu-Ray player. The onscreen status would just show the spinning graphic forever and I would have to pull the power cord to reset the whole device. I’m hoping a firmware update will fix this issue.”

    I just bought a external LG GGW-H20L Blu-ray inserted in a Icy Box 5.25 case. I was thinking in connect this Blu-ray drive by usb to the C-200, but I’m readig that the C-200 won’t read retail Blu-rays or Dvd by usb, only pluggind by the internal Sata. Is it true? Have you test that? Any fix?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Julie March 20, 2010, 4:41 pm

      @Imanol I have only tested the C-200 with one DVD drive and that was a USB DVD drive. It worked fine with the few retail DVDs I tried.

  • Imanol March 20, 2010, 5:50 pm

    Thank you, Julie. I’ll try with the LG and tell if it works fine too.

  • Leo March 21, 2010, 3:24 pm

    I did a bit more research and heard that some of the software (like FTP) needs a HDD to run. Perhaps that’s the difference.

    • Julie March 22, 2010, 9:25 am

      @Leo That might be right if you’re going to use the machine for Bit torrents? Not sure. I did not test that functionality. To use it as a media player, you do not need a physical hard drive installed in it.

  • Leo March 22, 2010, 11:40 am

    Thanks Julie.

  • ARDotCom May 19, 2010, 12:16 pm

    Whose can help me? I m using C200 connected with network-attached storage (NAS) and Snow Leopard (Mac). The question is, how can i get connecting from C200 to my NAS because my C200 did t find my network and what software that compatible with my Mac? TQ

  • Caesarmarcus May 28, 2010, 5:48 pm

    It seems its the machine that will suit my needs but who of you -the owners of C-200 can answer my 2 questions :

    1. Does the LCD screen permit to browse through folders on the disc in order to choose the film(or especially a unique CDA music track) I would like to watch or I still need a TV screen ? I use a projector and don’t want to switch it on while browsing among folders.

    2. Haven’t you find any problems with ripped DVD and BR film menus(VOB or ISO) ? Have they always worked smoothly bringing you to an indicated scene ?

  • Austin June 11, 2010, 11:03 pm

    Will the C-200 output via ethernet?

    • Julie June 12, 2010, 10:47 am

      @Austin Your question confuses me… What exactly are you wanting to do? The C-200 does have an Ethernet jack and can use that or WiFi (with the optional WiFi kit) to stream media from another computer to the C-200 and to the TV. Is that what you want?

  • dandyes June 14, 2010, 4:58 am

    is it easy to upgrade the firmware due to the trouble (freeze up, playing non Blu-Ray DVDs in the Blu-Ray player n some browser functionality) ?

    • Julie June 14, 2010, 7:42 am

      @dandyes It’s very easy to upgrade the firmware. You just use the remote control to go to a screen and press a button. :)

  • ZB July 6, 2010, 8:42 pm

    I have reservations regarding the remote. White RF is great in general I use Logitech universal remote to control all my equipment via IR. Having only C-200 working via RF is simply a pain… What my options are in this regard? Can/ does the C-200 work with IR as well ?

  • maccolar July 19, 2010, 12:25 pm

    I always use this video converter for mac to convert my sony camcorder mts video to mp4 video for editing on iMovie, it works pretty well for me.

  • Gravy8 July 29, 2010, 4:27 am

    I notice the specs for ethernet connection is 10/100/1000 but on the network menu it only shows 10/100. Can this unit actually connect at 1gb?

  • Darth Ono August 8, 2010, 5:15 pm

    PLEASE learn the difference between the word “review” and “overview”

    This article is not a review. It is at best a press release with pictures :(

  • John August 9, 2010, 2:44 pm

    I have an external hard drive with 500 folders and each folder contains about 50 files. If I want to play file # 32 in folder # 389. Can I press #389 + OK (ENTER) and then press #32 + OK to play the file #32 or do I have scroll down to folder 389 (press 389 times) and then scroll down to file # 32 (press 32 times again) then press OK to play the file?
    With Popcorn Hour C-200 or A-200, can we just punch numbers and press OK(or ENTER) instead scrolling down the cursor?

  • Dan August 29, 2010, 12:40 pm

    Bought a brand new one. Has problems streaming MKV and AVI files (freezes when using internal hard disk and jittery when trying to stream on the network.) Would not recommend it.

  • kirbini September 9, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Sounds like a great box. Unfortunately no Pandora or NetFlix counts as a double fail in my house. I guess if that’s all we need then Roku or iTV (or even Boxee) are probably better options for us.

  • Richard December 5, 2010, 1:34 am

    Newbie time.

    I am looking for something to play my CD’s on – so to speak (i.e. rip all my CD’s to hard drive with minimal compression .wav?) and to be able to play back avi’s that I have downloaded – mainly TV series that take more than a while to reach New Zealand (and when they do arrive and are played are chock fill of ads).

    At this stage I will say we are not av-phile nutters whom must have the latest and greatest toy/technology – current TV only displays 1080i. So my questions are:

    is the C-200 overkill for me?
    what is the difference between the A-200, A-210 and the C-200?
    is there something else somebody could recommend (that I can buy in NZ)?

    Thanks

  • Phil February 2, 2011, 11:24 am

    Does this device display file structure info and track info etc on the onboard screen? the reason i ask this and through lots of research it seems that nobody else in the whole world is interested in this feature but i really want to be able to use one device for both audio and video streaming from a NAS drive but when i stream the audio only i.e. an mp3 file, i dont want to have to have my 60″ sony bravia illuminating the whole town! surely there must be a device that can do this?

    • Julie February 2, 2011, 1:30 pm

      @Phil I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for. What do you mean by file structure and track info? You’re wanting to see all this on the small LCD built into the Popcorn Hour? I’ll need to hook mine back up to check.

  • Phil February 2, 2011, 5:27 pm

    Julie, U’ve hit the nail right on the head there. It’s infuriating that on all the streamers iv found on the market so far, if you just want to listen to some music, you have to have your TV on too! or atleast turn it on to make your selection and then turn it off again. what i need is a device that enables you to make your selection through a small built in screen or perhaps a remote control with a small screen showing this information (playlists, file structure of nas drive etc) the logitech squeezebox system would be perfect except it doesn’t support video.

  • Andreas March 15, 2011, 8:23 am
  • Nex9 April 1, 2011, 5:36 pm

    excuse my english.. can it read from NTFS or just FAT 32?
    how many external hard discs can i connect, i have 3 discs of 2 TB on usb 2.0, so 3×2=6 TB will it function…
    where do you install apps like YAMJ, on the device or you own hard

    • Julie April 1, 2011, 9:34 pm

      @Nex9 It can also read NTFS. There are 5 USB ports (1 internal) and 2 SATA connections. So I believe that you could connect up to 7 drives. WOW.
      As for where the apps are installed, I believe it’s in the flash memory on the device.

  • Ben April 23, 2011, 1:53 pm

    Nex9,
    At this time I’m using 3 of the four external USB port with a SATA Thermaltake BlacX Duet on each port that gives me six discs with 1.5 TB each, almost 9 TB. I could add another pair of 2TB discs. So using only the external USB ports you could connect op to 8 hard drives using the double sata USB adapters.
    Plus the internal USB and two internal SATA connections.

  • Eli May 3, 2011, 6:49 am

    this doesn’t support HDMI 1.4 right? thanks..

  • Andre June 24, 2011, 11:45 am

    Did I understand right, that you can install either a DVD or a HDD, or is both at the same time possible?

    • Julie June 24, 2011, 12:21 pm

      @Andre One or the other can be installed internally. But, there are extra USB connections to attach drives externally too.

  • Andre June 24, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Exactly what I wanted to know, thanks :)

  • Ben June 24, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Andre,

    You could install a 2.5″ internal hard disk AND a DVD or Bluray 5.25 ” Drive.
    If you already have 3.5″ SATA HDD could use a slim optical drive with the accesory HBR-200 as shown in the popcorn hour site.

    Ben

  • Refik October 16, 2011, 4:04 pm

    I bought one LG GGW-H20L for my c200. It played one copy BD at the first time. Now there is no change about any settings or else. It does not see the discs. No BD or DVDs. Any idea? Quick reply is welcome. Thnx.

  • Inge September 13, 2012, 6:12 am

    I cant find my ISO files from my PC. Any solutions?

  • Inge September 13, 2012, 6:13 am

    I have just bought this C-200.

Leave a Comment