You can easily play your DivX, Xvid, h.264, mkv, and other file formats on your home HDTV with this Popcorn Hour media center set-top box.
I’ll admit up-front that I’m a disgruntled Xbox 360 user. One of the reasons I bought it was to use it for streaming video from a home server to my TV. However, Microsoft has chosen to cripple the 360 so that it only plays certain limited formats via their own limited video streaming programs. Maybe MS wants to lose to the PS3 – I don’t know, but one thing is certain and that’s the 360 can play any format available today via the xbmc because the *original* Xbox can.
Anyway, gripes aside, the 360 is a pathetic video playback platform due to the needs for formats and “serving” software. What if you could have a box that would simply access your existing network attached storage and play whatever formats you choose to store there? What if such a device could provide its own storage for files and share them out to the rest of your network? What if it did it for HALF the price of an Xbox 360?
Enter the Popcorn Hour playback box. The Popcorn Hour will play back a myriad of formats ranging from wmv to H.264 to Xvid. It will play back various containers such as ISO and MKV. Simply point the Popcorn Hour at your SMB/Samba storage and it plays. Point it at your uPNP storage and it plays. Point it at Bonjour stores and it plays. Yeah, it’s everything I wanted from the 360 playback that Microsoft has decided I don’t need.
Ordering the Popcorn Hour is kinda weird as they are pre-paid and shipments go-out every two weeks or so. So, you send your money and wait for the next shipment from China. Still, they have a solid history of shipping units (sometimes with minor delays) and it doesn’t seem to be a shady operation. There are a couple models of Popcorn Hour ranging from the plug-and-chug model A-110 at $219 to the “build it yourself” model B-110 for $199.
Information on the UI is pretty limited, so I will try to get ahold of a review unit and follow-up with some photos of the UI and other things that affect daily usage (much like how a Tivo is far superior to a generic cable DVR, the UI makes a huge difference). Stay tuned… er… streaming…