November 23, 2008

Help Choose: Apple TV or Popcorn Hour

Ever since I've made the jump to the world of torrents, I've been downloading feature films non-stop, and even though the iMac's screen is very much adequate for movies, movies are watched at least in a TV. And additional free Hard Drive space is always appreciated.

Burning DVD's is a different matter. Unreliability of the end product for one. I mean, if you burn a DVD, there's always the chance of having a skipping picture. So I've decided to research on HDTV receivers (where you can put movie files and play in HD, since my dad has an HDTV already), and I'm stuck with two solutions: Apple TV and Popcorn Hour. If you can help me determine the better of the two, then I'd be so grateful.

Apple TV

It has a lot of room for improvement, but every time it does improve, it becomes a lot more attractive to buy. Plus, the improvements are free. They say it's painless to set up, and if you want file format support, you can just hack it (but it will void the warranty).

Unfortunately, the Apple TV doesn't come with HDMI cables, I'm afraid to hack it so I can play my AVI files uncompressed (my movie files are mostly AVI files) and you have to re-encode your movies (and inevitably suffer quality loss). Picture quality loss that's not significant isn't that much of a loss for me, but we're talking about a big screen here.

I predict that Apple will inevitably bring out an update that brings support for all the formats Quicktime supports, but it doesn't seem as if it will happen soon. But anything could happen in MacWorld in January.

Still, Wi-Fi is built-in so you can stream straight from YouTube, Flickr, or the iTunes Store (I like watching trailers... in HD!) and the hard drive is already built-in unlike in Popcorn Hour where you have to shell out extra cash. Additionally, the minimalist style is very much appreciated and it's extremely n00b-friendly. To reiterate, enhancements are also very much free, so the product's life will be pretty darn long and replacement would have to take very long.

The quality may not beat Blu-ray, but I don't really care, because the iTunes integration (from multiple computers so anyone dropping by to watch a file in his laptop with you can watch it on TV instead) is a pretty big sell.

The price for 160GB which I'm eyeing on, is supposed to be 16000 pesos when converted from its US dollar price, so I'm expecting that price in Greenhills. Still, you'd also have to buy your own HDMI cables which are pretty expensive unless you look.

Popcorn Hour A-110
Anything you set beside an Apple product comes out unattractive, and while not very ugly, the Popcorn Hour looks like such in comparison. Still, it's the features that matter, and features it delivers.

First and foremost, the file format support. Any format you put in it is very much supported so I don't have to suffer long encoding times, and so that the movies I download are gonna be very much untouched (and thus, may be able to even beat Blu-ray). Additionally, it has a built-in torrent downloader, but it would have to depend on how dependable it is. Plus, you can go beyond YouTube and even view Metacafe videos, etc., etc.. And it's effing cheaper (P10000 when converted from USD).

But it wouldn't be that effing cheaper when you consider the additional stuff you'd have to buy. In fact, it would be extremely close (maybe even slightly more expensive) to the price of the USD-converted price for the 160GB Apple TV. For one thing, the Popcorn Hour doesn't come with a Hard Drive. 

While you can select the capacity of Hard Drive you want, it would bring the Popcorn Hour's price up to par with the Apple TV's (that doesn't include the HDMI cables). And if you want to sync the Popcorn Hour with a PC or Mac, you'd have to format that Hard Drive into the conventional FAT32 or NTFS.
 BUT, the torrent downloader becomes unusable because the Popcorn Hour can't write into FAT32 or NTFS drives (or so they say) thus the torrent downloader becomes unusable.

Additionally, if I want to stream videos wirelessly from the Internet (aka, thru Wi-Fi), I would have to buy yet another accessory! I'm not sure how much it costs, but even without it, it would still cost as much as the Apple TV in hindsight. Plus, the interface isn't as n00b-friendly, so I wouldn't dare leave it to my youngest brother to operate. Of course, that is unless you'd opt for using a USB flash disk as a poor substitute for the hard disk drive.

Still, the file format support is the big sell here. But I'd also like to stream the occasional online video through the Wi-Fi connection we have here without having to expend more.

Which one?
These devices may have already received some sort of upgrade already when we actually get to buying one of them, but being able to decide on a definitive streamer would be very appreciated.


  1. Well, first off on the media player end there are more to consider in addition to Popcorn Hour and AppleTV.

    Pretty much the standard for hi-def media players is the TVIX 6500. It is a bit pricey, and maybe too pricey, but it is a great, easy to use box that has incredible HD output and will play most any thing you might get off BT.

    Since the release of the Popcorn Hour there have been many more Networked Media Tanks running the Syabas software to hit the market, the best currently being the EGreat EG-M31B NMT. It is available with an internal 1.5TB HDD and wireless.

    Networked Media Tanks have made some good steps since the PCH was first release and the product works reliably and there are things like YAMJ to make the interface more friendly. You should check it out before you limit your options with an Apple TV ;)

    Happy streaming,

  2. The HDX1000 Network Media Tank will do everything the Popcorn Hour A-110 does... and then some.

    The software that drives the HDX1000 is developed by Syabas... it's virtually identical to that being used by the Popcorn Hour A-110.

    The HDX1000 has a beautiful solid aluminum housing that will looks great beside your audio/video equipment, not to mention that the case is very effective in dissipating heat.

    The HDX1000 also has a 3-in-1 memory card reader up front that accepts SDHD, MMC and Memory Sticks. This makes it very convenient to access photos, videos and music from your digital cameras, videocams, etc.

    For those with older surround sound receivers/amplifiers, the HDX1000 has a coaxial output (aside from an optical output) so that you can enjoy theater audio without replacing your existing equipment.

    Check out the March 2009 Review on "What HiFi"?

    Here's the link:

    The HDX1000 will be available in the Philippines by the second week of March 2009.


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