Home Kitchen

A-210 Popcorn Time Review

The world of advanced networking and storage was once reserved for heavy brains or those eager to learn. However, Syabas, a Hong Kong company, didn’t want anything and released a box called Popcorn Hour. We’re now into advanced versions, which come with advancements like a passive cooling design, a better chipset, and even broader file support, but is this the best media box out there?


The box certainly thinks yes, when you open it you will find all the essentials to get started. It even comes with an HDMI cable, which is no longer a given. The book is minimalist, but enough to start with. Syabas also included a laminated card with instructions on how to change the HDD. I found handling easy and straightforward, especially with the manual in hand. Finally, the device comes with a USB extension cable, a USB slave cable, and of course an AC adapter and power cord. Overall, I think the content is enough to keep most users satisfied, despite not being the best.

The Popcorn Hour A-210 is the successor to the A-200, a very well received player except for its plastic design. They responded to the cries and redesigned the A-210 from scratch. This time you get an integral brushed metal case that is completely passively cooled. That means no fans to ruin your movie experience. I love Syabas’ minimalist approach and find the Popcorn hour A-210 to be among the best looking players out there. That’s largely thanks to the lack of any buttons or indicators on the device. Also, the dimensions are suitable for small homes at 270mm x 132mm x 32mm, making it one of the smallest cases available and offering enough space for a bulky 3.5″ HDD.

Also inside is the Sigma Design SMP8643 667mhz CPU. This chipset is specifically designed to play media. The heart of the machine is backed by 512MB of DDR2 memory and 256MB of NAND flash. What does this all mean? Well, in human terms, it’s a year away from being the best, but it’s very understandable by all means.

Honestly, I can’t fault its design for anything. It looks very modern and clean, definitely a design that I would like to see on my devices. The fanless approach doesn’t compromise on cooling, they now only have one audible challenge left: the HDD.


Not brushed metal is the remote. Syabas felt no reason to change it from the A-200 model, a risky move. My opinion about the remote control is ambiguous because I actually really like the way it looks. The silver on black color scheme works really well, and this is one of the few backlit remotes on the market. The button layout takes some getting used to, but in the end it feels quite logical. That said, the buttons have a lot of wiggle room, it just doesn’t feel firm and modern. Overall, it definitely could have been better; maybe they should copy some designs from the likes of LG, Samsung or Apple.

Operating system

Popcorn Hour uses its own unique software package, which is great. The update can be done via USB or the Internet and often adds many new features or fixes to the device. Syabas has done a great job of creating its own ecosystem of media player software.

I did experience some crashes along the way, especially when using the YouTube app. Very unfortunate because the device is very stable in general, but these small issues limit the user experience.

Navigating the software suite is also something of a mixed experience. Everything wears a NEON style outfit, which means the design contains lots of highlights, shimmers, and colors from the outer rings of the color spectrum. If that’s your thing it’s very personal. I think it’s decent but not great, the style is probably past its expiration date in favor of sleek and fitted.

What is more objective is the fact that the navigation is sometimes not very intuitive. The home screen is simplified and shows the layout of files and folders on the hard drive. Internet functionality and additional applications are a couple of menus away, which can be a search of sorts. The media portal software is a nice touch, here all your media will be sorted with descriptions and covers, all automatic. It’s not bulletproof and having clear titles definitely helps you progress.

Fortunately, the most important part of the operating system is well done. The menus respond quickly to the remote, a problem that has plagued most media players in the past.

The net

Popcorn Hour A-210 contains its own app store (@Apple, or can I not use that term?). It allows users to download a large number of different apps to enhance the experience. The offer is wide for a media player and I love the initiative, but it obviously falls short compared to Android/iOS platforms. My personal favorite is the CNET app, which grants access to all the tech shows they have, including top5, reviews, and apple byte. The usual is there too, including Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, all of which work decent enough to be useful.

Perhaps the most practical and useful application for the Popcorn Hour A-210 does not even come from the device itself. People who own an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad (>70%?) can download an app and use it as a remote or transmitter. It works instantly without any additional configuration. I could even use my iPhone to browse YouTube and send the video directly to my Popcorn Hour. This is great for family gatherings and goes to show the fact that this media player enjoys a lot of general support from the community.

The NAS feature of the device has proven to work extremely well. It was easy to set up apart from some difficulty getting it to work with Windows XP. The transfer speed over the cable is about 4 to 7mb per second, which is about the best I’ve seen on an internet cable. I have experienced zero difficulties in terms of instability when using the device as storage; perfect scores here.

backing track

Playing music is still a very simplified experience. Popcorn time doesn’t support playlists, equalizer or advanced stuff like lyrics, no karaoke here folks! However, Syabas did at least try to implement music during navigation, signs that a perfect world of audio is on the horizon. Sound quality isn’t outstanding; I have definitely heard better devices in my time.

Of course, movie playback is where these devices should shine, and popcorn time shines. It can play almost any format without problems. Avi, Mpeg, MKV; whatever, and you can probably reproduce it. I did notice a couple of minor hiccups, most noticeable stutters and audio sync issues in some of the files. However, remember that these issues are minor and occurred in about 1/20th of the movies.


The Popcorn Hour A-210 media box is a mature product that does what it says on the box: a lot. It’s a NAS (network access system) that can send and receive media from all over your living room and display it in perfect HD. A few issues limit the experience, most notably the occasional instability and goofy UI. Still, Syabas has created the best media player available today, a title that will stay in Hong Kong for some time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *