updated 06:00 pm EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Expensive but flexible media server
Popcorn Hour has released its latest home media streaming assistant, the C-300. The new model features a new color screen, support for a user-added Blu-Ray DVD player, room for full-sized as well as notebook-sized hard drives (which are easily swappable) and a revamped user interface. While considerably pricier than an Apple TV, the C-300 offers advantages such as storage space, multiple format support and extra content.
The new version, which is expected to start shipping in early March, comes with an RF remote along with support for third-party infrared remotes. A free app for iOS and Android devices augmented with a Syabas IR add-on is also available. Wireless 802.11n connectivity can be added to the device with a $50 kit also available from the company.
The C-300 is aimed at consumers who would like to combine a single-unit home media server that can handle multiple types of video formats with the option of a built-in Blu-Ray player. It offers the ability to easily implant hard drives with media files inside the device, and users can choose to install one of the number of recommended Blu-Ray player drives into the existing caddy. The unit supports a wide range of Internet video and audio formats, up to and including the MKV3D specification for 3D-capable televisions.
The front-screen LED display allows users to navigate content without necessarily turning on the TV interface, handy for when users just want to access music. The unit supports Shoutcast internet radio, iPlayer, YouTube videos (including the "leanback" interface), Facebook and Twitter media and more. The new interface features its own apps including some 80 free or subscription TV apps, and includes time and temperature information. The unit also sports extensive language and subtitle support.
The C-300, like it's predecessors, does not support Netflix or other third-party sites like Lovefilm. It doesn't come with internet connectivity out of the box, though it does include Bonjour, UPnP and Samba support for network connectivity using Gigabit Ethernet. Outputs include component and composite video, HDMI, analog audio and S/PDIF optical as well as digital optical. Files can also be read from inserted USB flash drives from the two front-mounted USB ports. The unit supports better-than-1080p resolutions, and can also work with conventional SD televisions, another advantage over the current Apple TV.
The Popcorn Hour C-300 sells for $349, with an A-300 version that lacks the Blu-Ray caddy and support but is otherwise nearly identical selling for $219.