Review: Popcorn Hour A-200

by Damian on February 4, 2010 · 212 comments

in Reviews

Nearly a month ago I posted that Syabas had just announced the Popcorn Hour A-200. Since I obviously don’t have enough gadgets (I justify that I do it for our readers!), I decided to order one, which showed up at my door a few days ago. To be honest, I already felt like I had a good idea of what to expect since I own a PCH C-200 (you can see my review here) of which the A-200 is based off of. So, did the A-200 meet or even exceed my expectations? Well, throw on your reading glasses, put the dentures in some Efferdent, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.


The A-200 comes with the usual compliment of goodies. Included is a power cord/brick, HDMI cable, USB cable, 2 AAA batteries, 1 IR Remote, some screws for mounting a HDD, and a quick start guide.

There are a couple of changes in the hardware versus previous PCH models. The first is the case is plastic, whereas previous models were aluminum. Because of this, the A-200  has an internal fan. I don’t have a problem with the plastic case but it does feel cheap when compared to the previous models. The fan is of a bigger concern, as with fans comes noise. I am guessing you could probably disable the fan if no HDD is installed, and expect that all the modders out there are licking their chops.

Here is a closer look at the fan.

There are slots for ventilation on the underside and side of the case. I am not sure exactly how effective this is since I thought hot air rises, but hopefully at a minimum the fan will push the hot air out the side of the case.

Here is a side by side comparison of the A-110 and the A-200.

Here is a picture of the PCH family!

Overall the PCH A-200 hardware appears just ok. Some people don’t like the look of the plastic case which is understandable, but then again the A-110 wasn’t exactly a looker! While operating the A-200 the case did get warm to the touch, but by no means hot (keep in mind that this is without an internal HDD). The fan was barely audible, only being able to hear a slight whisper by putting my ear up to the case. The bigger issue with the fan is that with daily use it is the one item I could see breaking down and getting loud over time (I didn’t get a chance to confirm is the fan runs 24/7 when you power down).

Before continuing I should mention that the first thing I did when I got the A-200 was update to the latest firmware.

UI Appearance:

Although the stock UI has been spiced up a little from the days of the A-110, I still think it sucks. There is however promise that a new Flash Based Rich UI will be available for both C-200 and A-200 owners come March (you can get details and a sneak preview here).

Current UI

Also, there is a very active community on the NMT forums that have created a variety of different jukeboxes/skins to use in place on the stock UI. My personal favorite right now is YAMJ + Aeon as shown below:


As with the C-200, the response time when navigating around the A-200 is much quicker then the A-110. The IR remote has decent range, but as with any IR remote if you lose line of sight it won’t respond. I do enjoy the RF remote that came with the C-200 since I don’t need to rely on line of sight to operate, however I think going with the IR remote makes more sense as many people will incorporate the PCH with their universal remote.

Network Performance:

When the C-200 was first released there were a lot of issues with playback over gigE networks. It appears that this problem hasn’t been fully resolved. There is an option to set the NIC to 10/100 or Auto. When I set to Auto (my network is gigabit) none of my videos would play back. When I set to 10/100 all my video files played without issue. 10/100 is more then adequate for video playback (including high bitrate content), so I am content with that. However, people who are looking to utilize the full gigabit network (main benefit probably being transferring data to/from the PCH) will be somewhat dissapointed.

Video Playback:

The Popcorn Hour players have a great reputation of being able to play back almost every file format out there. As expected, the A-200 continues this trend as every file I threw at it played fine (I tested over SMB and NFS with files ranging from basic xvid avi files to high bitrate Blu Ray mkv/ts to 1080p Apple Trailers). Below is a list of some of the types of files I played and the results:

  • DVD ISO/Video_TS - The A-200 played as if there was an actual DVD disc present, with full menu functionality. No issues with playback
  • Blu Ray ISO/BDMV Structure -This is where it gets a little interesting. The A-200 is only expected to have “BD Lite” functionality. What this means is that when playing back a Blu Ray ISO/BDMV you will not have the full Blu Ray menu that you would expect playing an actual Blu Ray disc, but instead have a very basic menu. When I tested out I did confirm that only a basic menu was available (see below screenshot However, other users have reported that they have full Blu Ray menus with certain movies, and witha  Blu Ray ISO of District 9 I got no menus at all, not even BD Lite. It is still unclear exactly the reasoning for this. No issues with playback.

Audio Playback:

When I look at audio playback my focus is as always on how each player handles HD Audio. I check to see if bitstreaming of HD Audio (DTS-MA and TrueHD) is supported, as well as downmixing to stereo. For me the downmixing to stereo is important mainly because I want a player that if small enough I can travel with, and odds are if traveling wherever I stay will not have a state of the art home theater setup to decode the hd audio. Also, I want to be able to put the player in any room in my house and not have to worry about having the “right” equipment setup. As was the case with the previous PCH models the A-200 successfully downmixed TrueHD and DTS(MA) to stereo for playback when connected directly to a TV.

Now for the big one, bitstreaming of HD Audio. It seems more and more this is the first question that is asked when a new player is announced, can it bitstream DTS(MA) and TrueHD. It also became somewhat of a hotly debated topic with the C-200. The A-110 was capable of bitstreaming HD audio from standalone m2ts files, so it was expected that this same feature would apply to the C-200 (adding to the confusion is that the specs do state Audio Pass-Through of DTS-HD and TrueHD). However, it was discovered that the C-200 could in fact not bitstream from standalone m2ts files, only from Blu Ray disc structures (i.e. ISO or BDMV). It appears the lack of this feature is due to the new Sigma chip that is used with the C-200, so there is still hope that this “bug” can be resolved soon enough.

Since the A-200 has the same Sigma chip as the C-200, I would expect the same results with Bitstreaming. Unfortunately I ran into problems at the start. To confirm that bitstreaming from standalone files did not work I played a few of my Blu Ray ts/mkv rips, and as expected only the core audio (DTS for DTS-MA and AC3/DD for TrueHD) showed up on my Receiver. However, for any movie that had a TrueHD track, audio would drop out about every 5-10 seconds, not good. Next up were my Blu Ray ISO/BDMV rips which I should expect bitstreaming. To my surprise though I only got core audio, another bad sign. Yet I just created another Blu Ray ISO of District 9 and I got DTS(MA) bitstreaming perfectly. Interestingly enough, the movies that only gave me core audio had BD Lite, yet the one movie that gave me DTS(MA) did not have BD Lite available, so I am wondering if BD Lite is killing the bitstreaming??? From reading around the nmt forum there seems to be mixed results about getting bitstreaming to work, so it is not clear what the culprit is, but I hope this will be a quick fix in the next Firmware update. Unfortunately as I write this review the A-200 has mostly failed in not only being able to bitstream HD audio from Blu Ray structures but also failed in that I cannot play a TrueHD movie without audio dropouts every 5-10 seconds.

I should also mention that the A-200 played multi channel FLAC without issue.

Online Content:

Aside for the typical online content that has been available there is also an App center which is interesting because the apps in there are flash based. This gives a good sense of what is potentially in store for the new Flash UI. Below is a screenshot of the Weather Bug app (The latdy bug flies around the screen!).

Youtube Trailers (this is not flash based but probably the Online Content I use most frequently, you can read about how  to set up here). Please note that Youtube is not supported with the A-200, this is separate “plugin” that must be added manually.

Final Thoughts:

At this point I am a little unsure what to think of the A-200. In many ways it met my expectations and felt just as if I was operating the C-200 (aside from a few bumps in the road at launch I am very happy with). Network performance was flawless for me when using the 10/100 setting, bu the moment I switched to auto I lost the ability to play back any files. Every video file I threw at the A-200 played perfectly, and my already created YAMJ + Aeon jukebox operated without issue. The stock UI still sucks, but there is hope that in the next few months the new Flash based Rich UI will finally put all my complaints about the UI to bed. The plastic case and internal fan may turn off some potential buyers, but this isn’t a deal breaker for me. I also like the fact that as a PCH owner you have access to the many different jukeboxes out there, whereas with many other players out there you are at the mercy of the manufacturer when it comes to the UI. However, I cannot look past the audio issues. I like to think that the C-200 served as testing ground for the A-200, so with the C-200 already having 4 months under its belt and much more stable Firmware from its inital release I would expect the A-200 to come swinging out of the gate. I didn’t expect bitstreaming to work on standalone files, but the inability to consistently bitstream HD Audio from Blu Ray structures as well as the frequent drop out of audio is inexcusable (I figure right now I have lost the ability to play about 1/4 of my movie library with the A-200 due to the audio drop out issue). I would hope (or really expect) that this issue gets resolved very quickly in one of the next Firmware updates. As much as I want to recommend the A-200 because I think once these issues are worked out and the new UI gets implemented it will be a killer player, I just can’t until the audio issues are resolved.

One more thing regarding HD Audio. For me, if a media player cannot bitstream HD Audio from standalone files then it is completely useless in my Home Theatre. For some players such as the PCH C-200 and A-200 (assuming this feature gets fixed) there are ways to get around this by converting the standalone files into a Blu Ray structure, but for me this is just not practical nor do I have a desire to waste time going through my entire video collection. So FOR ME, I would not even consider the C-200 or A-200 for my home theater until standalone bitstreaming is added. However, many other people use Blu Ray structures and the PCH works perfect for their home theater. And lets not forget there is another group who could care less about HD audio. My point here is that don’t just go by what someone says about a product, do your research, figure out what features are most important to you, and then make your decision.


  • Ability to play a large selection of video/audio formats, including HD content
  • Large user community
  • HD Audio downmix
  • Pending Flash UI
  • Ability to implement 3rd party jukebox in place of stock UI


  • Audio dropouts
  • Inconsistent results with bitstreaming DTS(MA)/TrueHD and Blu Ray Lite menu functionality (possibly related?)
  • No bitstreaming from standalone files
  • Hit or miss gigabit network
  • Plastic case and fan

Links/Useful Information:

Known Issues:

  • Issues negotiating certain gigabit networks
  • Inability to bitstream from standalone files
  • Frequent audio drop outs

Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for you can find me over at my blog at or follow me on twitter


Chris February 4, 2010 at 7:57 am

Great review Damian, I am currently installing my own gigabit network, I know the C-200 has problems with gigabit though so not sure if I will have the same issues as you, I am using a netgear switch, what do you have and we can compare results after I get mine up and running hopefully this evening

Damian February 4, 2010 at 8:02 am

@ Chris,

OK, so here is my network:

HP ProCurve 1400-8G connected to my WHS
DLink 5 Port Gigabit Switch connected to my C-200
DLink 8 Port Gigabit Switch connected to my A-200

I have my C-200 on 10/100, if I get a chance tonight I will try putting back to Auto to see if I get the same issue as with the A-200. When I had the C-200 on Auto originally I could still play back my videos, just with a lot of stutter. Since it works perfect now set to 10/100 I never went back to check out how Auto is performing.

hidef_fan February 4, 2010 at 8:50 am

Another great review Damian. I also follow your posts on AVSForum. After owning the C-200 and getting rid of it, I have my hopes on the PopBox. I’ve also tried the A-110, WD TV, WD TV Live (my current player), TViX and PlayOn!HD. But, Syabas is going to lose customers if they launch the PopBox the same underlying, significant issues as they’ve done things to date. Firmware updates should be for minor bug fixes and additional features/options. If the PopBox also ends up disappointing (no BD ISO, no HD audio bitstreaming and no BD-lite menu as promised in their Twitter posts, all working decently), I’ve decided to pay the premium and get a Dune 3.0.

Damian February 4, 2010 at 9:13 am

Well, there will definitely be a lot of pressure on the PopBox since the aim is to get it out to the more “average” consumer and not just us geeks, so there will be less of a tolerance for “bugs” upon release.

You mention you got rid of the C-200, what was the final straw for you?

hidef_fan February 4, 2010 at 9:40 am

Got rid of C-200 for poor AVCHD performance (my PS3 and Sony BDP-N460 play AVCHD discs flawlessly). This was last year, so new firmware releases may have improved functionality. Also, the issues you already listed w/HD audio. Finally, got tired of messing with YAMJ and skins to achieve better UI. The promise of what the PopBox could deliver is what excites me, but knowing who it’s coming from, I have reservations. But, hoping it’s different this time as they’re going for mass market as you pointed out. I’ll even put up w/some ads if features work as promised.

Alex Kuretz February 4, 2010 at 9:53 am

Good review, Damian. It’s a bummer to see that issues like this still plaque the PopCorn Hour series. Hopefully they can be addressed relatively quickly in firmware updates.

Comp1962 February 4, 2010 at 10:25 am

Great review as always Damian. I find your reviews informative and the often motivate me to try something new. I am one of those who enjoy a surround system but have no idea what HD Audio is about, hell I been working in loud enviroments for around 30 years so I am happy just to still be able to hear something. I currently use a WDTV LIVE its UI sucks but just to scroll through the movie selection and have things play is good enough for me however I do think attention should be concentrated on the UI to make life simple for all.

Jason February 4, 2010 at 11:22 am

Great review Damien. It seems that there still is not a “great” solution for media extension. Hoping that we will see more from PopBox and Boxee Box.

I won’t buy an Extender until I can stream BD ISO to my various displays with the menus working, etc.

Looks like it’s going to be another year without an extender for this user.

Damian February 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

@ Jason,

Right now if you want full BR menus with your ISO the Dune Base/Prime, the PCH C-200, and I think the HDX-BD1 are the only players that will give you that. Otherwise you will see more of the BD Lite menu that the A-200 has, as well as I think others.

ladino February 4, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Good review, I have barely had my A200 for 3 days and I really have mixed feels about this unit. Yeah, its a ‘shiny new plastic toy’(wife’s exact words), noisy fan, Stuttering on a lot of my videos & no HD audio. For now I think I will stick with my A110

Jmpage2 February 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm


Unfortunately it appears we have a way to go before an NMT with a polished interface arrives that can decode HD audio, do BD menus, etc.

I had high hopes for the D-Link Boxee but it appears they will not do BD ISO due to license restrictions.

David February 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Another great review Damian. Did you have a chance to notice if YAMJ ran faster on the a200 vs the a110? There is a little lag of 1 to 1.5 seconds when scrolling through the thumbnail pages on my a110 and was curious if the upgraded hardware in the a200 eliminated this. Thanks.

Damian February 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

@ David,

Both the C-200 and the A-200 run the same chip, and I find that it does navigate faster then the A-110 in YAMJ. It is by no means lightning faster, but does move faster

Scott Johnson February 4, 2010 at 7:53 pm

What boxes are capable of bitstreaming HD audio from standalone files? It seems the PCH-A110 can do this. Any others?

Damian February 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm

@ Scott,

PCH A-110 and The Egreat (I forget which one) can bitstream from standalone m2ts

The Dune Base/Prime and I think the HDX-BD1 can bitstream from standalone m2ts and mkv

That is it for now. Supposedly the C-200/A-200 will eventually be able to, but who knows if/when?

Chris February 6, 2010 at 1:07 am

I set up the gigabit network last night and surprise surprise it all works perfectly, streaming from the WHS to the PCH C-200 was flawless, looks like this is down to what hardware you have.

I am using a Netgear GS-605 5 port switch and a netgear Wireless N router for internet

Damian February 6, 2010 at 6:04 am

@ Chris,

For the C-200 I have no problems with my gigabit network and playback. I have it set to 10/100 instead of auto, never tried putting it back to auto since playback has been flawless. I think from reading on the NMT forum, certain equipment plays nice with the gigabit while others don’t

Chris February 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Yeah I agree, mine is set in auto and works fine, I just downloaded and played the Birds video and it tops out at about 117MBs and is silky smooth, very happy

Damian February 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm

When I have a sec I will throw my C200 back to auto and see what results I get. The A200 seems to have its own problems so I wont assume that because it is not working on t he A200 that it doesn’t work on the c200

Seth February 7, 2010 at 7:53 am

Syabas keeps blaming Sigma for not providing the proper microcode to fix things like bitstreaming from a single file (and I haven’t seen an explanation at all for why their GigE code isn’t working properly) but that doesn’t excuse Syabas from falling into the trap of ship now/fix later. I think this is especially unforgivable considering they knew these issues existed with the C-200 and shipped the A-200 knowing what state it was in.

Damian February 7, 2010 at 8:06 am

@ Seth,

I forget what the reasoning was but somewhere on the forum they did mention what the issue was with the NIC for GigE. I guess the real question, should they be marketing the device as a GigE device when it is hit or miss if it works?

Seth February 8, 2010 at 11:07 am

I’ve got a bunch of GigE gear in my house including various NICs, routers and switches from makers like D-Link, Linksys, Intel and a couple of generic companies (cheap NICs) and I’ve got not a single problem with any of them operating correctly at gigabit speeds. Syabas may have an explanation why there’s a problem, but the problem is wide-spread enough that the only conclusion I can reach is they didn’t properly test their gear before they put it on the market. [Or they did, realized it didn't work properly, figured they could fix it later with a firmware upgrade and sold it anyway. Shame on them if that's the case.]

Comp1962 February 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

No company should market a product with a known issue. It just sends out the wrong message. I mean lets say next year they develope the worlds best media device with not a single issue and works straight out of the box with the simplest of configurations and they advertise all their great features, would you believe what they actually advertise or would you question their credibility?

I think people would simply question their credibility and having said that in the long run they actually hurt themself. Now I am not bashing the manufacturer because I have no experience with their devices but what I say applies to all manufactures.

Personally when I buy something and it gives me a bad impression it takes along time before I might try a particular manufacturers product again if at all and usually I do not go back and risk more punishment. Now if I buy something knowing there are potential issues then its on me and I take the burden here and will not have any ill will towards that manufacturer.

Still I am sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what if anything comes of the PCH’s units. Not sure if I want to dedicate funds to them or not but what I do know for sure is if Damian puts a good word in for something then I know I can rely on his judgement because unlike the people at FOX, Damian is always FAIR AND BALANCED with his reviews and I for one feel that after reading one of his reviews I get a complete over view of the product.

So in time I may had a PCH device to my home and if I seem negative its not my intention and I apologise in advance. I just want to spend money where I know I will get value for my dollar. There are times when I will take a chance on something but usually I have a game plan if something does not work for one application I will use it for another and sometimes the HAMMER is a good thing.

Damian February 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

@ Comp1962,

I think there are two problems here:

1) PCHs own success. Back when the A100 came out it was purely a geek/underground product, so when the A110 came out the people who were buying the product were used to dealing with issues. Eventually the bugs were worked out of the A110, but due to its popularity when the C200 was announced/released I would say that a “more average” consumer got involved. Once you get the “more average” consumer involved you just cannot have these problems at product launch (although I would prefer not to deal with these problems even if the “average” consumer was not involved!!).

2) The market for these players has exploded, many from unknown companies who may/may not be around this time next year. So basically, throw every feature you can think of out there, and just hope people buy off of that. $hitty any way you look at it.

Comp1962 February 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm

@ Damian ~ I am just going to sit back and see how you make out with the unit your working with. Now I do like my WDTV Live but it was not really solid unil WD released a firmware update last week which appears to of resolved the random connection issues I was experiencing. Still its just your basic device to play movies and in the end thats what I want but there should be more to the UI then what they offer and its aweful but not so bad that it needs a hammer to be taken to it.

Let me know when you get to play with that EyeconTroller thats comming out soon. Now that sounds interesting to me but I want to see what you have to say because I value your opinion because your reviews are always very complete.

Seth February 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

If you want to buy something today, and don’t care about the more advanced BluRay support in the A-200/C-200 the A-110 is a rock solid, basically flawless player. I have one and it plays absolutely everything I throw at it that’s not encoded with weird codecs or particularly old codecs. I can tell you there isn’t a single HD file that doesn’t play fine over 100Mbit, including my BluRay collection.

pz February 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Hello! I would like to ask you what is weight of whole package, cables, remote, documentation etc. Regards.

Whoheart March 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

I will be gladly dumping my two WD TV LIVE the moment my A-200s arrive at the door.

td March 4, 2010 at 7:15 am

Great review. I like to know if I hook up an external USB DVD or BD player would the A-200 play store purchase disc without ripping the disc first? I know the A-110 I have don’t. Thanks

Tom March 7, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Was curious about whether the A-200 will output HDMI and component at the same time? I currently have a component switch for the workout room TV and HDMI in the theater. I’d like both to have access to the A-200 if possible. Thoughts?

MLiggy March 8, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Firmware released after article written:

I see reference to:
“Added patches for audio bitstream issues.”

Perhaps this is the fix needed to address the main knock in the above article?

If anyone can tes/verify and report back I would really appreciate it. I’m banging my head against the wall with my Patriot Box Office unit and am considering replacing it with the Popcorn A-200.


Damian March 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

@ Mliggy,

The patch fixed the issues I had with TrueHD dropping out every 5 seconds which was one of the knocks I had.

Overall the A-200 is a solid player now that the TrueHD bug has been fixed. Last major item is to get DTS(MA) and TrueHD bitstreaming from standalone m2ts/mkv, no idea when that may happen

MLiggy March 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Hey Damian.

Thanks for the turbo reply. I apologize for my basic knowledge, but based on your comment, can I expect an A-200 with the latest firmware to properly play the HD audio on Bluray-derived m2ts and mkv files streamed from my NAS (Synology unit)? (i.e. I don’t know what you mean by “standalone”).


Damian March 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm

@ MLiggy,

When I say standalone I mean an m2ts or mkv file, not a Blu Ray Structure (standalone meaning just one file). So it sounds like you have standalone m2ts and mkv files. The A-200 will play those files but right now it will not bitstream the HD audio, you will only get DTS for DTS(MA) and AC3 for TrueHD. Hopefully a future FW update will add this. If you want bitstreaming right now you would have to convert those files to Blu Ray disc structure

Damian March 9, 2010 at 4:21 am

@ td,

I wan to to say no but not 100% sure as I don’t have an external USB drive to test out.

Damian March 9, 2010 at 4:23 am

@ Tom,

Good question, never thought of doing that. I don’t think the A-200 has the capability to send out video simultaneously to two different sources. You may want to ask that question over on the NMT forums to see if anyone has actually tried

Daniel March 9, 2010 at 5:18 am

@ Damian

Hi Damian.
I am very interested in buying the A-200 and just want to confirm one thing, mainly concerning the audio dropouts. Will the player be able to play downloaded mkv files (720/1080) with DTS audio without any problems? Cause if this is so, I could have a potential problem since most files available online are of this type and would be very frustrating if these cannot be played well. Thanks!

Daniel March 9, 2010 at 5:42 am

…continued from previous post….

Also, I’d like to add that I am not fussed about high quality audio since anyway my setup does not allow for it. All I am interested in is that audio track matches the video track on these files! Thanks again!

Anyone who has any experience with this, please comment too! Would appreciate greatly!

Damian March 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm

@ Daniel,

The audio dropout was only for TrueHD, not DTS. The latest FW update fixed it, but I will confirm again and update this review. Most of my Blu Ray collection that I throw into mkv contains DTS(MA) and plays without issue (only the DTS part of course).

Daniel March 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm


Ok Great thanks, that means I should have no problem! Just to confirm, what do you mean by “only the DTS part”??

I just really want to make sure Ill have no problems since as I said, most of my collection is made up of these files (mkvs 720/1080 with DTS soundtrack) which would make the player pretty useless if it can’t play any of them! thanks again!

Damian March 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm

@ Daniel,

DTS(MA) is the full HD Audio track. Since right now the A-200 cannot bitstream the full HD Audio track from mkv, it will only send through the core audio from this track (which is just DTS). Shouldn’t make a difference for you either way, DTS is all you need.


Daniel March 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Thanks for your prompt reply, you’ve been very helpful and great review by the way.

Maurice March 10, 2010 at 11:47 am

Hi Damian!

Hows the popcorn a-200 with mp4 movies with aac audio? Im having troubles with my wdtv live when playing mp4s with aac audio..the audio drops for like 1 sec and it happens once in awhile when watching the movie.. its just annoying that the audio drops.. Any experience of playing mp4s with aac audio with popcorn a-200? Cause most of the files i download are the mp4s with aac audio cause quality is like 720p and its only around 1-2gig.. the actual 720ps are like 3-4gigs each.


Maurice March 10, 2010 at 11:54 am

Also just wanted to add.. so the popcorn a-200 plays all the 720p mkv files without any problems? :) thanks!

Fairman March 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Nice review indeed!

I want to verify that A-200 does in-fact plays mkv 1080p files with high bitrate (if i even say it correctly!) without stuttering or other problems (except the audio ones that have been mentioned).

My wd tv is certainly having trouble with the action scenes in most 1080p mkvs and with large sized 1080p mkvs (over 10 gb–i guess more information per picture, higher bit-rate??)

I would guess it does all right but ladino mentions “noisy fan, Stuttering on a lot of my videos”…?

–also how is the fan noise now??

thx! very comprehensive review and very useful follow-ups!

Damian March 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm

@ Maurice,

I don’t have many mp4/AAC files, but my sons cartoon shows that I record I encode to mp4/AAC and they play fine with the A-200.

As far as mkv, I play 1080p mkvs without issue.


Damian March 10, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Most of my Blu Rays are in mkv format (not encoded, 1:1) and I have no issues with playback of any of these. I think I have even been able to play test files that have bitrates in excess of 90 Mbps, which is much higher then the average Blu Ray (probably averages 20+ Mbps). Since all my Blu Rays are not encoded they are generally anywhere for 15-30GB+ in size.

The fan noise is audible. If I am watching a movie I don’t hear it, if the room is completely quiet I do here it. I am not sensitive to fans and I honestly don’t consider it loud at all. There is also a mod coming out I think in the next 5 days or so that will have a new case without a fan for the A-200, still waiting for full details though.


Maurice March 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Thanks Damian! So is the popcorn a-200 way better than wdtv live, asus oplay, patriot box office? Just wondering :) So the popcorn hour doesn’t have problems with audio when it comes to AAC?

A new case without a fan? That would be interesting cause im planning to return the wdtv live soon…so should i wait for the new popcorn a-200 casing?

Maurice March 10, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Btw does popcorn hour a-200 play subtitles in srt format? :) also, does the srt file have to be beside the movie file to be able to make the subtitle work and does it have to have the file name of the movie? Example is i have a Ninja Assassin.mp4 .. does the subtitle have to be “Ninja Assassin” to make the subtitle work or just “”. When i download all my mp4 movies the subtitles are usually inside a subtitle folder and i noticed that subtitle doesn’t work when its inside the subtitle folder.. i have to move the srt file beside the movie file..and i think that the subtitle won’t work if its only “”? it has to be “Ninja Assassin”? This is what i have experienced with my wdtv so far… Is this the same way for popcorn hour too? Thanks!! :)

Damian March 11, 2010 at 5:30 am

@ Maurice,

Honestly not sure as I don’t use srt subtitles. The only movies for me that have subtitles are movies with forced subtitles (i.e. District 9), and for those I have the subtitles embedded in the mkv. It may be worth asking the question on the nmt forum as I am sure others use srt subtitles.


Fairman March 11, 2010 at 7:34 am

thx damian for ur answer!
Maurice in the popcorn site it mention it supports srt subtitles-along others.
I would guess they have to be the same name as the movie, at least this is how they work in the pc and the wdtv

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 8:04 am

Thanks Damian! :) so how do u put subtitles on mkv formats? if u have a mkv format and a srt subtitle.. will that still work?

Is popcorn hour a-200 the best media player under $200? Whats the best media player atm? Just curious! Thanks!

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 8:20 am

Also i noticed that the popcorn a-200 has a slot for hard disk? Would it fit a 3.5 sata hd? Also how do u install the hard disk to the popcorn hour? is it just slide it in the slot and its good? So ways of storing files to the hard disk is copying from an external hard disk? Thanks!

Damian March 11, 2010 at 8:35 am

@ Maurice

I have never used the oplay, wdtv, or patriot box, but from what I have read you get what you pay for, meaning the PCH A-200 is a better product. You also have much more flexibility over the UI.

As for subtitles, as Fairman mentioned, you should be fine with srt subtitles.

Yes, you can install a 2.5 or 3.5 internal HDD. It is as easy as sliding it in, and screwing to the case to secure, takes less then a minute.


Maurice March 11, 2010 at 9:04 am

Thanks damian! :) So basically the hard disk that u install in the pch a-200 is for storage or u can install other things too? :) Maybe i should get a pch a200 and see if my mp4s are not buggy anymore and once its all good.. then i might get a sata hd for internal storage :) would a wd caviar green sata drive be good enough for the a-200?

Also, updating to the latest firmware is recommended after i get my pch a-200?Whats the fastest way to update? is there like something in the GUI that would say update firmware? Thanks! sorry for so many questions!

Damian March 11, 2010 at 9:11 am

Really you would use the internal drive if you want store movies on that drive, if you want to use the PCH to download bit torrents, etc… A WD Green drive would be perfect.

You can update directly from the A-200, which will go online and grab. I just prefer to download the update onto a USB stick and do manually. Either way, updating the FW is definitely the first thing you would want to do

David March 11, 2010 at 11:46 am


srt subtitles work fine on PCH. You need to name the sub file exactly the same as the movie file (but with an added .srt in place of .mkv, or .avi or whatever) and it needs to be in the same folder as the movie. Delete that Eng that you have in your subtitle file names.

ex) Monster.mkv is the movie and would be the subtitle file

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm

@David Thanks!but usually the mp4s i get have lots of subtitle included.. different version! so i have to check it out then.. if it doesn’t work then i have to delete all the other subtitles and leave the english one :)

@Damian Thanks for the reply! So was wondering i know that the wd black is more expensive but is a lot faster right? so for pch, storage capacity is much more important than getting a super fast sata hd? So i don’t need a wd black?
Also u said that u can download torrents with pch.. thats a nice feature.. but that means u have to turn the pch on always while downloading right? I think id rather download the movies to my desktop pc and transfer it to the external hard disk then transfer the files in the external hd to the internal hd of the pch? I know its a long way but at least i dont have to turn the pch on while downloading the movies off the torrents…
Is transferring from an external hard disk going to the internal hd of pch takes a long time? hows the transfer speed from an ext hd to the internal hd of the pch? Thanks!

David March 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Maurice: A Caviar Green drive would be plenty fast enough for use in the PCH. I used one in each of my PCHs until I eventually went with a separate 12TB server. The extra speed of the Caviar Black would not make any real world difference and would only create more heat in the PCH case.

I actually prefer the new samsung 2tb drive over even the Caviar Green as it seems to run a little cooler.

David March 11, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I forgot to add that the torrenting part of the PCH did not seem all that robust to me, so I never really put it to good use. It is not up to par with the modern clients like utorrent.

Also, as far as I know, there is no way to easily unpack RARed files, which some people insist on upping to torrent sites, though there is no good reason to do so anymore.

I never turn off my PCHs and no one I know does either.

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm

@David Samsung 2tb drive? Never tried samsung for hd so i have no experience.. are samsung hd reliable and durable? What model is that and how much are those? So its better to download torrents from my desktop pc then transfer it through an external hard disk then to the internal hard disk of the pch.. that’s ok right?

U never turn off the pch? why is that? doesnt the pch over heat or something? Well.. if im going to get the pch.. ill just use it when im transferring new movie files and when i am gonna watch movies i guess.. i dont see the point for me to turn the pch on the whole time…

david.. have u tried wdtv live? well i got one and im planning to return it and spend a lil more for the pch a-200 :)

Btw, for the a-200.. playing movies from an external hard disk would still be ok right? No lag or audio drops ? cause i might not buy an internal hd right away.. i have to try out the mp4s movies first with the pch then if its all good then i might get an internal storage :) i have probs with my wdtv live with aac audio.. theres like a audio drop for 1sec that happens once in a while.. its annoying! thats why im leaning towards the pch.. seems a better media player and hopefully theres not audio drop when playing aac audio :)

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Also when u have an internal hard disk for the a-200.. it does the actual formatting when newly installed? does it format the new hd with ntfs or fat 32? Thanks!

David March 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm


It is the Samsung Spinpoint F3EG HD203WI 2TB 5400 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive. I have five of them and also have three of the 1.5TB version. If you read reviews at newegg, you will see that it is basically the only 2TB drive that has almost no zero or low ratings. It is quiet and cool. Price now is 179 but it goes down to 150 sometimes.

You can DL torrents to wherever you like. If your PCH is going to be on your wired ethernet network, I would not even bother putting a drive in it. I would just DL all your torrents to your computer and then setup a network share so that the PCH can just stream from that computer’s drive.

My PCHs never even got past warm with a drive in them, although they were on 24/7. And this was keeping them in an enclosed cabinet in my tv stand. I don’t know why you would want to turn it off. That just means another step and some boot up wait time before you get to watch your movie. It is not like the unit has some limited lifespan that you have to conserve by turning it off. I have not had any problems with overheating.

The WDLive was never an option for me. It is just not robust enough to play high bit rate 1080p files without any stuttering.

Before I put the drives inside the PCH, I used to use external USB drives with the PCH all the time. Played fine without issues, even on HD files.

I don’t have any AAC files, but I think the PCH should play those with no issue, according to the spec sheet.

As far as formatting, the PCH is a linux device and will format with EXT2 or EXT3 file system. This is not an issue as there is a little utility that lets windows read and write to EXT formatted drives. You can just attach an already formatted FAT32 or NTFS drive and that will work also. You won’t be able to use the torrent client in the PCH though though because the PCH cannot write to a FAT32 or NTFS formatted disk.

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm

@David THanks for the reply! Ok im gonna check out that samsung drive of urs.. hopefully its locally available here…or might as well get it in newegg :) so even if its 5400rpm.. its ok? Are the wd green 5400rpm or 7200rpm?

Well.. the actual plan for the media player is to play mp4s aac movies and i might eventually download mkvs as well.. basically download 720p movies instead of buying the actual blu ray movies in retail stores…also im not always watching movies due to full time work.. just on the free time.. so its still ok to leave it on ?

Are the 720p mkvs movies are good enough when comparing it to the actual blu ray disc copy?

So PCH is using linux! NICE

Im not sure if streaming would be ok with me.. cause my desktop pc is using a wireless pci adapter…so im not sure if its a good idea to stream from our wireless desktop pc and im only using G router…the pch would be connected wired to the router though…wouldn’t the streaming of mkvs or mp4s be delayed or keeps buffering because my desktop pc is using wireless?

I was wondering if im not gonna do the streaming part.. whats the fatest way to transfer files to the internal hard disk of the pch? Can i plug the a-200 to our desktop pc and copy paste all the movies from the hard disk of our desktop or i have to transfer all the files to external hd then transfer the files from the ext hd to the internal hd of the a-200?

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Also would the cache of the hard drive matter when using it with the pch? Cause i noticed that there are the newer version of the wd green 2tb.. it now has a 64mb cache compared to the old ones with 32mb.. :) Is samsung gonna be better than the wd green when its going to be used in pch a-200? Thanks!

David March 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Caviar greens are 5400, as I recall. The samsung is also 5400.

In my experience, there is nothing wrong with leaving the PCH on all the time. But, it is your machine and you can turn it off if it makes you feel better.

I don’t DL 720p mkvs, only 1080p ones. On a 55 inch LCD, a 50 inch plasma and a 63 inch plasma, I see basically no difference between a full bluray and a high bit rate (that is the key) mkv. Your experience will depending on the size of your display and your viewing distance. What are they?

I have streamed standard def over wireless G to the PCH and had very, very few issues. Pretty rock solid. It will work with some 720p rips and not others, depending on the bitrate and the distance over wireless. 1080p does not stream over wireless without stuttering, even wireless N in my experience.

If you are going to transfer files like you mention, I would just use a large external drive and skip putting a drive in the PCH. Just copy the files to the drive from your pc and then just hook the external drive to the PCH and stream off the external drive.

Damian March 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Stick with 32mb, there have been compatibility issues with the 64mb versions. Don’t overcomplicate things :-)

Maurice March 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

@Damian OK! Thanks! :)

So Samsung or WD?

Wow 1080p rips! NICE! omg 3 tvs! NICE i only have a 40″ full 1080p and a 42″ 720p :) the pch would most likely be used in the 42″ 720p..cause im using a ps3 with the 40″ 1080p…

Well.. i dont really like streaming cause i tried streaming to my ps3 before and it keeps buffering once in awhile.. which sucks! i used tversity media server to stream the files from the desktop to the ps3 :)

So should i just skip the the internal hard disk? Well..that would save me alot of money too…Cause i recently bought a 500gb external hard disk.. Is that decent size to be used for the pch? Well.. all my files will be mainly downloaded and stored on the 1.5tb hard disk on our desktop then transferred to the external hard disk if thats gonna be better:)

Thanks for answering all my questions! appreciate it! sorry for all the questions asked! :)

David March 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

If you tvs are 40-42 inches and you sit more than 6-7 feet away, I don’t think you will see any difference between 1080p and 720p anyway, so just stick with 720p. Here is the relevant chart:

Streaming off of a USB drive attached to the PCH should be no problem at all. There is no buffering, in my experience.

500GB is a decently big drive if you only are watching SD. That is about 320 1.4gb avi rips after you format that drive.

I would skip the internal disk because I have not seen in your posts that you have any real need for it. If you really want to buy something, you can get a 1.5tb external USB drive online for 100-115 dollars. Then you will have more room to DL 720p rips (generally 4-6 GB each).

Damian March 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Here are some pics on the new modded case being worked on:

Maurice March 12, 2010 at 8:39 am

@David Thanks! :) ya.. i think i wil just settle with 720p copy.. thats gonna be good enough :) so for 1080p.. the tv size should be in the 50″++ to see the difference? So if the tv is around 40-46″ a 720p would be enough? I tried playing an actual blu ray disc on my ps3 + 40″ 1080p tv and quality wise its really nice..

i think the 500gb ext hd that i got would be enough for me in the meantime :) when i drop less than 50gig on the external hard disk then ill start looking for a bigger ext hd.. the price of the 2tb is still kinda expensive though :( hopefully in the next few months the prices will drop or go on a sale :) regarding the speed of the external hard disk.. are the speed of a usb powered and ac adapter powered ext hd be the same?


@Damian Nice! should i wait for the modded version ? im planning to get a pch today after i return my wdtv live :)

Damian March 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

@ Maurice,

Hard to say about the modded version. It is supposed to come out in a couple of days but without knowing the price and shipping costs it is a crapshoot. For instance, if the cost of the case and shipping brings the total cost of an A-200 close to $300 then you might as well just get the C-200.

Maurice March 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

@Damian close to 300? might as well get a ps3 then! haha :) but ps3 sucks.. can’t play mkvs.. i just hope ps3 gets an update and will be able to play mkvs soon! :)

ill just stick with the regular a-200 then.. hopefully everything will be ok :)

Damian March 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

@ Maurice,

The C-200 costs $299 which is why I mentioned that if the cost of the A200 + mod gets anywhere near that price then it makes no sense to go with the A200. I honestly hate my PS3 for streaming, the UI is horrible as well as file support.

Maurice March 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

@Damian Isee.. c-200 is $100 more :) hopefully the a-200 would be good enough for me :) wish that ps3 would be able to play mkvs!!!!

Just wondering, i saw some threads in the forums saying “a-200 dead” .. and many people posted that there a-200 died so fast or died out of the box.. so was wondering hows the durability and lifespan of an a-200? I just dont want to experience getting a faulty or problematic a-200.. Thanks!

Damian March 12, 2010 at 9:54 am

@ Maurice,

Yeah, the C-200 has a few other bells and whistles that the A200 does not have, which is what accounts for the extra $120.

I have not had any issues with my A-200. Unfortunately every player out there is going to have a handful of bad user experiences (defective hardware, etc…), but those are the posts that always seem to be most apparent on the forums.

Maurice March 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

@Damian so are u saying that those people are saying negative stuff about popcorn hour in general? just to make the pch a-200 look bad and make other people look for alternatives?

Damian March 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

@ Maurice,

No, my point was that really with any forum you are more likely to hear from people who are having problems (whether it be hardware or otherwise), where I find people who own a product and are perfectly happy with it are less likely to post about their experience. I am sure the people who had the A-200 die on them are real people

Maurice March 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm

@Damian Well..i just hope im not those people whose a-200 dies… :) i got my a-200 today.. haven’t tried it yet.. but i will later after dinner hopefully :)

Was wondering whats the usb to pc for? Is that how u transfer files going to the internal hard disk of the pch? Thanks!

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 3:08 am

This is weird.. the popcorn hour a-200 still drops audio on the same movie that i was playing with the wdtv live.. thats weird! so whats the problem then? the actual movie itself?

Also the subtitles won’t work with my a-200.. i dunno why…

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 4:15 am

By the way .. the movie plays fine on my laptop and on my ps3.. only with the wdtv live and now the popcorn a-200…

Damian March 13, 2010 at 5:24 am

@ Maurice,

Yes, the cable is if you wanted to connect your A-200 directly to your PC/Server to transfer files instead of over the network.

As far as the movie, what is the mediainfo for it?

With the subtitles, do you have to turn them on with the remote?

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

@Damian So thats the way to transfer files to the internal hard disk :)

Im gonna download media info now :)

Subtitles ..using the remote.. to enabled it, it is on the track ? when i go down to track it says OFF.. and i can’t change it :(

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

Complete name : C:\Love Happens 2009 BRRip H264 AAC-SecretMyth (Kingdom-Release)\Audio 2 ch\Love Happens audio track 2 ch.mp4
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : Base Media / Version 2
Codec ID : mp42
File size : 102 MiB
Duration : 1h 49mn
Overall bit rate : 130 Kbps
Encoded date : UTC 2010-01-21 08:15:03
Tagged date : UTC 2010-01-21 08:15:03
Writing application : Yamb []

ID : 101
Format : AAC
Format/Info : Advanced Audio Codec
Format version : Version 4
Format profile : LC
Format settings, SBR : No
Codec ID : 40
Duration : 1h 49mn
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 129 Kbps
Maximum bit rate : 171 Kbps
Channel(s) : 2 channels
Channel positions : Front: L R
Sampling rate : 48.0 KHz
Stream size : 101 MiB (99%)
Encoded date : UTC 2010-01-21 08:15:03
Tagged date : UTC 2010-01-21 08:15:05

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

Oopps.. copy pasted the wrong one.. heres the right info :)

Complete name : C:\Love Happens 2009 BRRip H264 AAC-SecretMyth (Kingdom-Release)\Love Happens.mp4
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : Base Media
Codec ID : isom
File size : 1.54 GiB
Duration : 1h 49mn
Overall bit rate : 2 025 Kbps
Encoded date : UTC 2010-01-20 19:33:45
Tagged date : UTC 2010-01-20 19:33:45

ID : 1
Format : AVC
Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile : High@L4.1
Format settings, CABAC : Yes
Format settings, ReFrames : 8 frames
Codec ID : avc1
Codec ID/Info : Advanced Video Coding
Duration : 1h 49mn
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 1 784 Kbps
Maximum bit rate : 15.7 Mbps
Width : 1 280 pixels
Height : 690 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 1.855
Frame rate mode : Constant
Frame rate : 23.976 fps
Resolution : 8 bits
Colorimetry : 4:2:0
Scan type : Progressive
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.084
Stream size : 1.36 GiB (88%)
Writing library : x264 core 84 r1391M 3d0f110
Encoding settings : cabac=1 / ref=8 / deblock=1:-1:-1 / analyse=0×3:0×113 / me=umh / subme=9 / psy=1 / psy_rd=1.0:1.0 / mixed_ref=1 / me_range=16 / chroma_me=1 / trellis=2 / 8x8dct=1 / cqm=0 / deadzone=21,11 / fast_pskip=1 / chroma_qp_offset=-4 / threads=3 / sliced_threads=0 / slices=4 / nr=0 / decimate=1 / mbaff=0 / constrained_intra=0 / bframes=4 / b_pyramid=0 / b_adapt=2 / b_bias=0 / direct=1 / wpredb=1 / wpredp=2 / keyint=24 / keyint_min=2 / scenecut=40 / intra_refresh=0 / rc_lookahead=24 / rc=2pass / mbtree=1 / bitrate=1784 / ratetol=1.0 / qcomp=0.60 / qpmin=10 / qpmax=51 / qpstep=4 / cplxblur=20.0 / qblur=0.5 / vbv_maxrate=40000 / vbv_bufsize=30000 / ip_ratio=1.40 / aq=1:1.00 / pulldown=0 / nal_hrd=1
Encoded date : UTC 2010-01-20 10:28:16
Tagged date : UTC 2010-01-20 19:34:48

ID : 2
Format : AAC
Format/Info : Advanced Audio Codec
Format version : Version 4
Format profile : LC
Format settings, SBR : No
Codec ID : 40
Duration : 1h 49mn
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 238 Kbps
Maximum bit rate : 324 Kbps
Channel(s) : 6 channels
Channel positions : Front: L C R, Side: L R, LFE
Sampling rate : 48.0 KHz
Stream size : 186 MiB (12%)
Language : English
Encoded date : UTC 2010-01-20 19:34:40
Tagged date : UTC 2010-01-20 19:34:48

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 10:02 am

Also for the audio settings.. all the aac wmv are all in analog.. when i set it to digital.. the receiver won’t work and i have to set it back to analog to have the audio back..

Whats the DRC? should i enable it? also how about the surround mode.. should it be stereo or 5.1? Thanks

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 11:11 am

Which setup is better?

PCH connected through tv using hdmi then hdtv connected to the receiver with toslink?
PCH connected through tv using hdmi and toslink to the receiver for audio?

Also im confused on how to remove the external hard disk on the pch a-200.. do i just have to put the GUI on the usb icon then press eject? then remove the ext hard disk or i can just remove the ext hard disk ?

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

Update: Was able to make the subtitles work.. finally. The original srt file was Love Happens and i had to change it to Love and now its working.. BUt question if u want to have multiple subtitles to work how do do that?

Sorry for all the questions! im just getting paranoid about the audio issues!

Maurice March 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

Is there a way to completely turn off the a-200? Cause even if i press the power button.. the fan is still running.. is this how the a-200 really works? Thanks!

DamianP March 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Hold the power button down for 5 seconds on the remote to shut down and shut off the fan

DamianP March 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I usually just remove an external drive (such as a USB drive), never have issues.

DamianP March 13, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Set to 5.1. Not sure about the other settings, not at home so cant check on my unit

DamianP March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm

This option:

PCH connected through tv using hdmi and toslink to the receiver for audio. Does your receiver not accept HDMI (i.e. tv to receiver via hdmi, and then PCH to receiver via HDMI)?

DamianP March 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Not sure why you are having issues with the AAC file. Best bet I would ask on the NMT forums to see if others have that issue.

Maurice March 14, 2010 at 3:38 am

Sadly my receiver doesn’t have hdmi. So what’s the best connection then? Well it might be the movie itself. I just have to try other mp4 with aac and see if there also problem. The movie love happens apparently has the most audio dropout so far. So have to observe the other movies when I have time. Ok I will set the surround audio to 5.1. How about the drc? Is that suppose to be on as well? For my receiver what’s the best setting to use? The settings I have are music movie games dolby prologic 2 and surround stereo? So I can just remove the ext hard disk anytime. Thanks!

Damian March 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Since your AVR does not have HDMI I would connect as follows:

PCH connected through tv using hdmi and toslink to the receiver for audio

Honestly cannot tell you what the best settings are for your receiver, just trying playing a movie and switching through the various modes to see what produces the best sound for you,

Maurice March 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm

@Damian the toslink is pch to recevier right? :)

ok.. cause the surround stereo.. all the speakers have the conversation while when i move to dolby prologic II.. the conversation is on the centre channel while background music/effects are on the remaining 4speakers.. which is usually better? Conversation on the centre only or on all the speakers?

Maurice March 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm

*receiver haha wrong spelling.. my bad!

Damian March 15, 2010 at 4:12 am

Yes, toslink from PCH to receiver

Only having dialogue coming from center speaker seems odd, at least to me.

Maurice March 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

@Damian THanks

Cause my receiver has the option for SURROUND STEREO… so what happens is that its in stereo mode and makes it surround.. and i think when its in stereo.. both left and right speakers work right? so when its surround stereo.. it makes the all the speakers the same output so all speakers have conversation..switching to dolby pro logic 2 makes the conversation into the centre speaker and the rest are for surround sounds….The only thing i noticed if the conversation is in the centre is that the audio is much better i think.. much clearer rather than if its in surround stereo.. surround stereo is definitely louder when it comes to conversation but the quality is not that nice as when its in dolby prologic 2 and the centre speakers are the one outputting the sounds for conversation..

Also, i have a questions whats better when watching movies… cause the tv im using with the pch is only 1080i max.. so which one is better 720p or 1080i? Thanks!

Damian March 15, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Receivers/Speakers in not my particular strong point, so I just choose whatever settings sounds best to me :-)

As far as settings, I would set to 1080i, but once again, try switching between the two settings to see what works best for your setup.

Maurice March 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

@Damian Thanks! :)

so when it comes to video 1080i would be better than 720p? So most people if they only have 720p and 1080i with there tvs.. 1080i would be best choice? Do u think theres a huge difference between 720p and 1080i? Thanks!

Alex Kuretz March 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm

@Maurice – You’ve deviated pretty far from the Popcorn Hour discussion, there are lots of resources for learning about the basics of high definition TVs. I encourage you to try searching for some of this info.

Maurice March 16, 2010 at 12:33 am

@Alex sorry.. but im using a pch a-200 and my tv is only 1080i max so was wondering what would be better for my tv with pch.. 720p or 1080i.. sorry if its like going out of topic..i just wanted to ask damian’s opinion about the 720p and 1080i …

Would anyone know here if there’s a difference between mp4 aac and the actual aac codec? Cause my a-200 is still having the audio dropouts on mp4s with mp4 aac audio…Thanks!

Comp1962 March 16, 2010 at 4:54 am

@ Maurice do the MP4′s your having trouble with on the A200 run well on other devices?

Maurice March 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

@Comp1962 I just got an asus o play yesterday to try out if there will be problem with aac and to my surprise asus plays mp4 aac movies fine…after trying wdtv, wdtv live and popcorn a-200… theres a media player that can play aac without any problem :) Now my problem is solved.. hopefully the asus o play won’t have any problems playing mkv formats :)

George G March 22, 2010 at 4:53 am

Hi Damian, Thanks for a useful review and informative answers to the follow up questions. My issue is HD Audio pass through. I have an A110 and Egreat M34 but unfortunately the Popcorn was damaged by lightning. It’s proving tough to get a useful repair response, buying another Egreat is likewise difficult so I’m having to look at the A-200 or C-200.

You mentioned that converting the standalone M2TS files to a Bluray structure will allow DTS-MA and Dolby TruHD (presumably DTS-HD also) to bitstream on both A200 and C-200. I have around 70 Blurays ripped to standalone M2TS and while it’s a pain to convert them all I’ll do so if needs be. Having done so however can I then play those structures on the Egreat – it’s 100% compatible with the A110.

As far as the conversion is concerned do I just run the M2TS files through tsMuxeR and use the Blu-ray Disk output option?

George G March 22, 2010 at 5:04 am

Having just re-read the above rather complex post, a clarification might be useful.

I operate 2 NMTS on the same network although they are not used simultaneously (90 meters apart). One is an Egreat M34 (PCH-110 clone) and the other will be either an A-200 or C-200.

Damian March 22, 2010 at 5:10 am

Hi George,

Sorry to hear about the lightning damage. As far as compatibility of the Egreat honestly I am not sure as I have never used. You may want to ask around on the nmt forums as I think they cover Egreats as well. What I would suggest is just convert one of your m2ts to Blu Ray structure and test out on your EGreat before you go through your entire collection.

As far as conversion you can use tsMuxeR or Clown_BD (Clown_BD uses tsMuxeR, I use Clown_BD). One thing to mention though, supposedly a fix is around the corner to allow for bitstreaming HD audio from standalone m2ts. Granted I have been hearing this for a while so I have no insight to how close they really are to fixing, I guess it would only be fitting that they fix this bug the day after you convert your entire collection :-)

George G March 22, 2010 at 7:04 am

“I guess it would only be fitting that they fix this bug the day after you convert your entire collection ”

An absolute certainty Damien. Thank you for the reply.

Alessio March 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Hello Damian,

I have a popcorn A110 and I need another one for another room. I am wondering if buying another A110 or a newer A200. I just read your review and I am very worried about the bitstreaming issue. I always see mkv and listen to DTS audio connecting the A110 to one digital input of the amplifier. If I correctly understood your findings, the A200 will not do this and this makes it unusable for me. I then went to the Popcorn site and downloaded the latest sw update to check the release notes for fixings and found “Fixed MKV playback file cannot get audio bitstream/passthrough after resume from bookmark.” This means to me that the player did bitstream, they solved an issue related to the resume from bookmark. So I am confused now. Also, the date of your posting is Feb 4 while the new firmware was released on Feb 24, have you tried this new software? Is DTS passthrough working?
I also would like to know how much better is the quality to the 1080p mkv video playback compared to the A110 given the fatser processor.

Thanks very much and best regards


Damian March 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Hello Alessio,

Bitstreaming of standalone mkvs and m2ts is definitely still not fixed with the C-200 and A-200 (I am running the latest FW for the A-200). So from what you are saying you currently get DTS with your A-110, which you still get the A-200. What you don’t get is DTS(MA), that is what I am speaking specifically about. Even on the A-110 you could never get DTS(MA) out of mkvs, only DTS (which is the core audio track). So just to clarify, if you are just looking to bitstream DTS from mkvs you will be fine with the A-200, if you are looking to bitstream DTS(MA) from mkvs looks like we have to wait a little bit longer until they fix. Hope this makes sense, let me know.

As far as quality, the faster processor does not impact. Much of where you can see the difference in the processor is response time when navigating around the UI, FLash UI implementation, etc…

Any other questions don’t hesitate to ask. So for me the two outstanding issues are still:

1) no bitstreaming of HD Audio (DTS-MA and TrueHD) from standalone m2ts/mkv
2) Inconsistent results with TrueHD tracks (although better with the latest FW updates)

Igal March 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm


I’m new with these gadgets…I am gonna buy a Popcorn hour but I am a bit confused…which one should I go for? A-110 or A-200?


Igal March 25, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Oh….is the warranty international?


Damian March 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm


The A-100 you may have to look around for as it is no longer made, probably EBay would have some used ones. Between the A110 and A200 (I have both) I would go with t he A200. You get the latest hardware and potential for a new Flash UI. The warranty should be internationl, it is not just a US product

Igal Goldsmith March 26, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Thanks…I just purchased the A-200. They still sell in Chile (where I live) the A-100, is it better? I ask this since you mentioned that model in your reply.

Damian March 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Sorry, meant A-110, not A100. If I had to do again I would still purchase the A-200 over the A-110, I like having newer hardware with the potential for more features.

Mark April 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Hi Damian !
I want to buy popcorn a-200 and i have read your beautiful review !
Please..tell me..if i watch (and listen) a ISO BD with audio DTS-MA (core only) audio drop out every 5-10 sec. or this happens only with singles m2ts files ?
Thanks and Happy Easter !!


Mark April 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm


watchin’ a BD ISO i can see extras ecc. or a-200 select only the bigger file ?

Damian April 3, 2010 at 4:52 pm

@ Mark,

The audio dropouts I experiences were only with TrueHD. The latest FW did make this better, but still some dropouts. I never experienced dropouts with DTS(MA).

Regarding BD ISO, are you asking if you can select/view extras if you rip the full disc and not just the main menu?

Mark April 3, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Thanks for the answer Damian

yes….the question is regarding a full BD rip…film and extras..

Sorry for my bad english..


Frenchris April 4, 2010 at 7:21 am

Best review I’ve seen for some times!
Thank you for sharing

Mark April 4, 2010 at 10:41 am


using the A-200 without internal HD but with an external USB NTFS HD can i have audio/video problems ?

Thanks again


Damian April 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm

@ Mark,

The A-200 does not play full Blu Ray menus. What this means is that you will be unable to play any extras, you will only get the main movie. Some Blu Rays you can actually get full menus (I think it has to do with whether or not bd live is present, most blu rays have bd live which means you would not get full menu with the A-200 as that requires a special java license). The PCH C-200 supports full Blu Ray menus.

As far as external Hard Drives although I have never tested (I stream all my content from my server) I have heard many other people have no issues with playback via USB attached drives

Mark April 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

Many thanks again Damian !

Please tell me more…

when main movie in iso/folder has more audio tracks/languages can i select my favorite between them via menù or remote control ?


Damian April 7, 2010 at 10:42 am

@ Mark,

Yes, you can switch via menu or remote control. For example, my movies have two audio tracks (the original HD Audio track and a secondary AC3 track). There is an “audio” button the remote that if I press allows me to toggle between the two audio tracks.

Anders April 10, 2010 at 5:17 am

Hi Damian

I just orderd a A-200.

Is it best to update the firmware before or after I put in the harddisk? Or does it not make a difference?

DamianP April 10, 2010 at 5:29 am

@ Anders

Shouldn’t make a difference, as long as you update to the latest Firmware

Tomas April 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

Thanks for the great review.

DTS-MA is important to me, so I was wondering if the A200 will pass through the audio signal via hdmi or optical, for the receiver to decode?

Damian April 12, 2010 at 11:10 am


My understanding is that you can only bitstream HD Audio (i.e. DTS-MA and TrueHD) via HDMI, optical does not have enough bandwidth to handle. In the case that you are using optical I am not sure if this means that only the core audio will be sent though as I have never used optical. If you want bitstreaming though you will want to go through HDMI.

Tomas April 12, 2010 at 11:46 am


I believe HD Audio can be passed through via optical, like it seems this Lacie does
From your article, I understand the A200 has problems decoding standalone DTS-MA files. What I´m wondering is, can the signal be passed through for the receiver to decode it? Like playing a mkv container with a DTS MA track, allowing it to be passed on…Or maybe that´s just not possible…

Damian April 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

@ Tomas,

Optical connections will only carry compressed Dolby Digital 5.1, compressed DTS 5.1, and uncompressed PCM 2.0 (stereo). The reason behind this is because DTS-HD Maser Audio and Dolby True HD are lossless based encoders, and HDMI is the only cable capable that can carry a lossless signal over 7 channels. Optical only has the bandwidth for lossless stereo sound and true 5.1 surround and can only simulate 7.1. I think Lacie’s specs are confusing because it can pass through DTS via optical, but not DTS(MA).

As far as your question, let me answer in two parts:

- Bitstreaming (pass through) means that the audio track is sent through untouched for the receiver to decode. As mentioned currently the A-200 cannot bitstream HD Audio (DTS-MA/TrueHD) from standalone m2ts/mkv, so what gets sent through to your receiver is either DTS to decode and not the full DTS(MA) track.
- As for is it possible, yes. Players such as the Dune and HDX-BD1 can bitstream from standalone m2ts/mkv files, and HTPCs can do it as well with the correct hardware (as I do with mine). It has been acknowledged that the PCH C-200/A-200 has a bug in the code with the current Sigma chip that does not allow for this bitstreaming. They have said that it will be fixed, but I honestly can’t tell you how close they are to fixing.

Hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Tomas April 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Okay now it makes sense!
Thanks a million Damian

Liam April 14, 2010 at 12:18 am

In case it wasnt mentioned earlier, the A-110 can bitstream DTSMA and TruHD from mkv containers. In a way they have gone backwards in the development of HD Audio compatability, seems a shame as I was thinking of upgrading my A-110 for a bluray iso playback unit eventually…

Damian April 14, 2010 at 3:08 am

@ Liam,

The PCH A-110 can bitstream DTSMA and TrueHD from m2ts containers, NOT mkv. This is what bothered many A-110 owners who had spent time putting their moving into standalone m2ts containers only to find out that by upgrading to the C-200/A-200 if they wanted to bitstream they would need to redo their library again (into a BDMV folder structure)

Liam April 15, 2010 at 7:42 pm

yes thats what I meant sorry mate. Popcorn Box better get there act together otherwise the new products will overtake them sooner than later…

Igal Goldsmith April 16, 2010 at 8:35 am

Hey! IU just received my Popcorn Hour A-200 and was able to test out abit before having to leave for work…I have a couple of questions:

1. When I turn of the gadget, the fan stays on and I can see the light of the WiFi plug in lighting up…is that normal? is there a way to completly power down?

2. How do I connect to download directly from torrents?

3. whats the best configuration for the HDD? FTP?

Thanxs All!

DamianP April 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

@ Igal

1. Hold the power button down for 5 seconds. You should then see the power button blink for a few seconds and the everything should power down.

2. You may want to dig around on the nmt forum regarding, I have never tried to use the bittorrent client

3. What do you mean best configuration? For an internal HDD the PCH will automatically format it once connected

Igal Goldsmith April 16, 2010 at 9:15 am

Thanks Damian!

1. I’ll try the power button when I get home….does it work with the control power button or just on the device?

2. What type of HDD do I need? SATA?

Thanks again.

DamianP April 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

@ Igal,

1. Yes, the power button on the remote control is what I use

2. SATA hard drive. It can be either 3.5″ or 2.5″. I would recommend a Green Drive such as the Western Digital GP (EADS)

Rhino April 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

POPBOX available on Amazon as a preorder. just ordered one. $129.99, no tax and free shipping. Sweet

DamianP April 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

@ Rhino,

Same here, now we wait….

Fairman April 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

Can you please post a link to a good installation guide, and i mean an A-Z guide, from installing the new firmware, to making it ready to download torrents, to finding and using the most recommended third party utilities/software etc?

Igal Goldsmith April 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Popcorn Hour A-200 it this weekend…couple of questions:

1. Is there anyways of completly turning it off so the red light isn’t on?

2. Are there any applications you can download out there?


Rhinoevans April 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm

1. Hold down the power on/off button for about 4-5 sec.

2. Unknown

Igal Goldsmith April 20, 2010 at 7:44 am

When you press down the power button for 4-5 secs, it powers down the device but it leaves a red light on.

Another question, how do you turn off the subtitles when a video is playing? The only way I’ve been able to is in the setup page. Is there a way to do this while watching with te subtitle button?

Damian April 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Yeah, either you leave the player in sleep mode with keeps the fan on but the light I think an orange color, or shut it down and be left with the red light. The other alternative would unfortunately be to unplug t he A200

As far as subtitles, can you try toggling through via the remote using the subtitle button?

Fairman April 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

i see that i would be searching in forums soon, but before that i would like to ask here if anybody had any sudden shut downs of the pch-a200?
I had two in one day, it was and still is very hot, while i hear the fan still working. It was multitasking at the moment, downloading from internet, transfering a file to my computer and showing a 720p video. that the second time, i think the first one only dling and copying a file. it also keeps disappearing from my network, especially when trying to to delete some big file from a connected usb hdd…..

Damian April 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

@ Fairman,

Sorry, missed your previous comment. There is no good central guide, best bet is just to search around the NMT forums. Updating the firmware is very easy to do. I usually do it via a USB drive (because I get the beta firmware) but you can update to the latest public firmware directly from the A200 setup screen. As far as the sudden shutdowns I haven’t used my A200 with the amount activity as you, so don’t know if you are overloading it. Make sure you are updated to the latest fw first. Also, if you think it is a heat issue try leaving the top cover off when doing your multi tasking and see if you still experience the same issues.

Igal Goldsmith April 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Thanks, but the subtitle button doesn’t have the off option. Any clues?

Fairman April 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm

would overheating make it just shut down? and is it so easily overheating, with its fan and in an open tv stand with space around?

thx for answer, i have been reading the forums for hours, but not for these new issues, just to see how to install/make the best of it and fix some app problems, and i did updated first thing when i plugged it in-following your advice.

I already wrote the customer support i will paste it here just in case you or someone had these issues –and maybe resolved them.

“I am using this a200 3-4 days now. I have installed an internal 2.5 500gb hdd and some apps. I have several problems:

1)I had two shut downs in one day today. When it shut down it was, and still is, quite hot, while i can hear the fan working. It is placed in an open tv stand with room around. It was multitasking at the moment of the second shut down, downloading from internet, transferring a file to my computer and showing a 720p video. I think the first time it was downloading and copying a file, no video playback.

2) It keeps disappearing from my network, several times today again, when trying to to delete some big file from a connected usb hdd and in other times too. I had to completely shut it down and reboot to reconnect, and later on again and again. The connection is wireless and the problem seems to occur when i am trying to move files around-not streaming –haven’t tried that, just deleting or copying etc from/to the hdd connected to the a-200 to/from the hdds connected to my computer.

3) Most of the times when it starts, it uses a fraction of my tv screen–like a rectangular on the upper right corner, about half the size of the tv and, usually, when browsing the hdd, it corrects itself and uses all the screen. The settings can be anything, as i tried most, and usually is at full screen. Sometimes though it does Not correct itself and I need to re-boot it to use the display properly.

4) When i am turning it on, after lets say a night that it was shut down (big red light, 5 secs pushing off) its fan make a loud and very strange noise. After a while it gets quiet again, audible, but quiet.

Please help!
Tell me how to fix these issues and please try to explain why they happen especially the shutting down which is the most scary one!”

–I think the issue of not using the whole screen in the begining has something to do with my tv too, as it was a minor issue when i was connecting my laptop to tv. But it never happened with wd tv or ps3 or 360 etc.

The issue with the loud fan at boot-up seems to be common enough, and i read several solutions, from hit it in places to make it stop, to dismantle the fan and use silicon or replace it etc. I was expecting some fan issues to turn up after couple years, but not really just out of the box, and not for so many ppl.

As for the shutting down? well it is kinda scary really, I am wondering if it is sign of flawed unit and i should replace it asap or i must work around it somehow.
I hope i didn’t used up too much space
thx again!

Fairman April 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

I was told it maybe a problem with the board and i am to return it.
But I need to ask another question, if damian someone else knows:
Is it really possible to connect the a200 wired to router and then connect your computer wireless to router and to have full functionality/connectivity?
It sounded reasonable, but while I had full functionality/conenctivity when I was using a usb whatsitsname to connect the a200 wireless and my computer wireless (as it is wired to a different router with a different internet connection), now that I am connecting the a200 wired to router while it is connected to the internet for sure I cannot really access it from my wireless laptop??…it shows up in the network and when i am trying to access the a200 folders i get an error message, it cannot be found etc….
thx again)

Jeff C. April 26, 2010 at 12:28 am

Would be interested to see how this stacks up against the new WD Live TV, especially in the area of HD Audio.

Damian April 26, 2010 at 5:14 am

@ Jeff C

I have never used the WD Live TV. From what I have heard the WD Live TV can bitstream TrueHD but not DTS(MA). I don’t know if this applies to all formats or just certain ones?

Comp1962 April 26, 2010 at 6:13 am

I have a WD TV Live it works the UI is plane it streams muliple video formats very well off my servers and from clients. It Lists DTS compatablility but to be honest I know absolutely nothing about HD Audio I am just happy to hear sound from my surround system. What I can say is that for the money its not an awefully bad unit. I think if the need arose I would buy another unit but I think HTPC is probably the best route.

steve April 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

Hi there
I had purchased the A-200 popcorn media 5 to 6 months ago. The first one I had, the fan would come on sometimes with a squealing noise then it would stop after a period of time. After a week the A-200 would not turn on. I had exchanged the unit for another one hoping the problems was gone. My second A-200 started up with no problems until I had to upgrade and format the new hard drive. The format would last up to 70% to 80% then turns off all the time. I had tried to upgrade 3 times which took many minutes to do each time. Since there was not much info about this problem, I was confused “it can’t be another defective one again?” I had notice the A-200 was very hot so I opened the case and placed a laptop cooler pad and a fan to keep the unit cooler, it had worked. Another thing I had noticed if you use the torrent the A-200 is very sluggish in response. Sometimes it even freezes. But besides these problems I can live with this. I do like the feature of the NAS, plays most video formats, and the torrent options. I am hoping that in the future there will be some improvements with the unit.
Best of luck

Damian May 3, 2010 at 8:17 am

@ Fairman,

Any luck getting your connection to work (connecting PCH to a router wired and your PC wirelessly)? You should have no issues with connectivity as long as all devices are on the same network

Damian May 3, 2010 at 8:21 am

@ Stephen,

Sorry to hear that you ran into so many issues. It is still a head scratcher that Syabas went with the case they did for the A-200. All ventilation is on the sides/bottom of the case, but we all know that heat rises, so I have to think that all the fan is doing is just recirculating hot air in a plastic case. Once you start dealing with heat I feel there is always the chance you will get unpredictable results. I am waiting for a modded case to arrive (hopefully in the next few weeks) so I should be able to test out any improvements in heat.

Fairman May 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

I am also returning my A-200
I also hope for a problem free replacement
I also have the funny loud noise from fan upon booting
I also have overheating issues
Actually overheating maybe the cause for all my problems
the case does have the vent holes in the wrong place!!!
The mod metal case is out i think, but for another 40 euro (plus shipping?)
For that extra cash and then some I would think C-200
I have many and several problems some with hardware some with the utilities –like download manager–very useful utility but somewhat temperamental.
As for the network connection I have so many problems atm that i haven’t tried it again!
But I think you Damian must really know at least one or two things about it–judging from your articles.
So I will try again once I have my new A-200, and will ask you then- if it does not work- if u got any ideas! )

Damian May 3, 2010 at 9:34 am

@ Fairman,

Yeah, I don’t think i would recommend the modded case to be honest since it gets the price close to where the C-200 is. I only purchased more from a geek curiosity and just so I could see what it does to the temps. With the new case you can remove the fan, but I think that will void the warranty, so I will probably hold off doing so until after the year is up. Heat causes a lot of issues, and like I said, I just don’t understand why Syabas went with the approach they did (especially since all the other players went with a metal case/fanless).

When you get your replacement let me know how things are going.

Igal Goldsmith June 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I need help…my Popcorn hour was working fine, showed up as part of my network but now it disappeared…I can only connect by a FTP server program like CUTEFTP. I tried it on my other notebook and it does show up on the network…don’t know what happened….HELP!

I have Windows 7….on both computers.

Damian June 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm

@ Igal,

Hmmm…you got me there. I was thinking your NIC died but you mention you can still see it on the network. Did you try doing a factory recovery on the PCH?

icer August 20, 2010 at 1:38 am

1. my hdtv is 1080i (hd ready) if i keep video resolution at 1080 i 60 Hz instead 720 p 60 Hz then nmt a-200 begins to block even at evrey file bd disk or mkv for example
2. if i do not keep my samsung le32r81b on “only scan” setting instead “16/9″ then at every session i have to manually set zoom at 94 % in order to see entire window of movie

Waldek September 25, 2010 at 5:15 pm

At the start congrats great review ;)
I am thinking of buying this popcorn A200 or WD TV HD Live. So far, still pondering what to choose.
I have a question to You.. Did the new firmware update from 23 September fix the issue with bitstream HD Audio from standalone files ? Significant amendments are shown?

Thanks ;)

Damian September 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Correct, the latest firmware update allows for bitstreaming HD audio from standalone files. I want to test out a few more days on the new FW, and then I will update this review to reflect

Waldek September 25, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Thanks for answer.
Great news. Good to know. So I hold witch purchase to review upgrade ;)

Waldek September 25, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Thanks for answer.
Great news. Good to know. So I hold with purchase to review upgrade ;)

Jason September 29, 2010 at 5:26 am

Hi Damian thanks for the awesome review.

Basically my problem is I’m looking to replace my PCH-A110, My main worry is the DTS dropouts, I don’t know why but my A110 every now and then in movies just starts dropping out on the audio I’m just wandering does the A-200 still do this or does it handle better considering the higher cpu speed and more memory. That is pretty much my only requirement flawless audio and video when playing 1080p mkvs.

Also considering the A-200 is now over 6 months old is there another Device you would recommend over it in the same price range…(Dune is a little expensive although I’ll seriously consider it you rate it as the best performance wise)

One of my other review sites gave the new Asus O!Play HD2 a pretty good review. I wander would you agree…and would you recommend it over the popcorn.

Thanks once again.

Damian September 29, 2010 at 7:12 am

Hi Jason,

I have not noticed any issues with audio dropping out on the A200. My guess on the A110 you would just hit ceiling with how much data it could process at certain times which led to the dropouts. I did just update to the latest fw for the A200 but haven’t had a chance to test out (although others have confirmed that HD Audio now works from standalone mkvs as it does for me with the C200).

As far as the A200 versus other players it is a tough call. It is $179 (It was $159 for a few days on Amazon). Some peopple cannot stand the case/fan and replace it which does add to the cost as well (I think when all is said and done after I replaced the case total cost was closer to $250). As far as the Dune they have been the most reliable player that I have tested, but I do understand that the current price on the Dune Base scares people off. The new Dune Smart series coming out (hopefully in the next few weeks) should make the Dune available at a much better price.

Honestly I have not seen much about the O!Play HD2 so I cannot comment. If it is a realtek player I know that realtek players currently cannot properly handle 23.976 output if that is of interest. I have the Xtreamer Pro and the new fw which supports bitstreaming of HD Audio has been a little buggy. I am in the process of doing my writeup on the SageTV HD300 as well.

I would be glad to answer any other questions you may have

Tony Swales October 18, 2010 at 9:30 am

So if you don’t recommend this one, which one do you recommend. Is there any site out there with a good comparison of all the media servers?

Damian October 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

What are you looking for specifically (i.e. price, HD audio, blu ray menus, etc…)?

Tony Swales October 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

mainly playing video so something that plays the main formats also I want to use it to backup laptop/pc so NAS.

Damian October 18, 2010 at 10:35 am

I have never used any of these players as NAS so I cannot comment on how well they function. With the latest FW update the A-200 fixed most of the issues I had encountered. You still have to deal with the cheap plastic case and fan. The realtek players seems to be having a lot of bugs with the new SDK so I would possibly hold off on (otherwise something like the Xtreamer Pro may be what you are looking for). The Dune’s have been pretty much the most reliable of all the players I have tested to date.

Bryan October 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Have recently gotten the A200 and in testing it I’m finding it’s not properly downmixing everything. For instance How to Train your Dragon and Monsters and Aliens both don’t work. I can switch it to the other Audio tracks (other language) and that works, but the main, english channel doesn’t work. These are both bluray iso. I also tried The Green Zone which is DTS and that works. It also has a dolby track though, and I tried that and it did not work so only seems to be with dolby on these blurays. I checked the settings and made sure everything is set to Downmix. Any ideas?

Damian October 30, 2010 at 5:25 pm


The reason is those 2 movies are TrueHD. The newest FW actually broke TrueHD downmix which is why you get no sound. I am surprised though that the A200 does not at least grab the AC3 embedded track.

JohnnyBoy November 12, 2010 at 1:09 am

Hi Damian,

First of all, I want to thank you for a very comprehensive review on A200. I’m very lucky to have searched this.

I’m just a newbie in the world of media streaming. I used to watch downloaded movies/series in my laptops before. Now, I want to maximize our LCD TV and AVR in viewing the mkv/avi files I’ve downloaded. Thus, I came to a decision to have one of those media players. The question is which one?

PCH A200 tops my list. However, I friend of mine recommended the Mede8er MED500x. It’s a good match with PCH A200 he said. I tried to find a review of yours for the MED500x but to no avail. May I know what’s your take on this one? After reading the replies in this review of yours, I’m having 2nd thoughts with A200 because of the overheating issues. Is it an isolated case, or because of the design of the casing it’s really prone to overheating? “The newest FW actually broke TrueHD downmix which is why you get no sound” – this also bothers me… New FW but the old one is better?

Hope you could share some light in me as I’ve been reading dozens of reviews and still couldn’t make up my mind.

Thanks in advance and best Regards,

Damian November 12, 2010 at 3:46 am

Hi JohhnyBoy,

I have heard of the mede8er but have never actually used on myself (which is why you couldn’t find a review). From what I have heard/read the mede8er is one of the better players out there and has a YAMJ jukebox as well. My only concern is that it uses a Realtek chip, and other Realtek players have noted issues playing back high bitrate content over the network (I have noted this with the Xtreamer which is also a realtek player). As I mentioned though, I have never used the mede8er so I cannot confirm whether it suffers from the same issue, just an observation.

As far as the PCH A200 it really is a tough call. The new firmware did fix a lot of issues and is by far better then the old fw (of course aside from TrueHD downmix being broken). The case thing is an issue as the design (plastic, fan, vent locations) does give me some concern for overheating. I modded the case ( so it is no longer an issue, but this adds close to $70 to the price (and at that price if you were ok with the size I would just recommend the C200).

The one interesting development is that the new Flash Based jukebox for the C200 has been released ( and the corresponding A200 version should follow shortly

JohnnyBoy November 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Whohhh…. That was fast!
Thank you very much for that swift response to my queries.

I’ve seen that different casing for A200 too… too bad its not available here… besides, $70 is too much as well…

When you say “issues playing back high bitrate content over the network”, did you mean that if play only from the player straight to the LCD and AVR, I should be fine? What about if I use and external HD, will the high bitrate will also be an issue for the realtek players?

So, what do you recommend for a good NMT? Based from what you have read about Mede8er and your background with realtek, would you recommend it over A200 or the other way around?

Thanks & BR.

Damian November 13, 2010 at 3:36 am

Sorry I forgot to mention, but Alessio pointed out, if you are looking to bitstream HD Audio the Realtek players are a mess. I can confirm this with Xtreamer but have read similar issues with others such as ACRyan PlayOn and Mede8er.

If you care about HD Audio I would definitely not recommend a Realtek player. The A-200 actually isn’t that bad if it wasn’t for the case. The SageTV HD300 (see my review here – performed very well and is a little cheaper (USD 149). The Dunes are solid players as well, although more expensive (starting at $239)

JohnnyBoy November 15, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Thank you very much Damian for pointing the HD Audio problem with Realtek players… That makes my decision easier. I’ll be getting A200 later and then just use external HD to avoid the overheating issue because of the casing. I hope everything would be downhill from this point.

Regards and more power!

Alessio Belloni November 12, 2010 at 6:14 pm


from the Mede8er site specs, it seems that it goes nuts with HD Audio. several formats are “non available” or “under development” so if you are interested to playback HD mkv this is going to be an issue. pity because the product is very sexy and price too.

HD Audio support
Dolby digital – support decode & bypass
Dolby TrueHD – not supported — under development
Dolby digital Plus – support decode – bypass is in testing
Dolby digital EX – support – compatible up to 5.1
Dolby digital Pulse – not supported
DTS digital Surround – support decode & bypass
DTS-HD Master Audio – not supported – under development
DTS-ES – not supported



Damian November 13, 2010 at 3:37 am


Thanks for pointing out, I forgot to mention that. I can confirm similar issues with the Xtreamer Pro, so it is something that affects all Realtek players.

JohnnyBoy November 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm


Thank you very much for sharing sir! Too bad, mede8er is a looker when it comes to the design of the casing and not that pricey too. But it the end, what matters most is still what it can do.


JohnnyBoy November 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm

or should I say, what it can’t do.


Alessio Belloni November 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Thanks, let’s hope for improvements soon! Maybe also Popcorn is preparing some surprises…

JohnnyBoy November 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

Hi Damian,

I finally got my PCH A-200 last week.
Works fine for me, however, I’ve encountered something that I’m hoping or anyone here might help me.

I tried to update its firmware with the latest one which supports the NMJ but to no avail.

I followed the instruction at the README.txt on how to install it:

-Unzip and copy all files into the root directory of my USB thumbdrive
-Plug the USB thumbdrive into the NMT
-Browse to the USB device and use the File Icon to browse to usbupdate.html
-Press Enter on usbupdate.html, and another Enter on the listed firmware update link.

then after the Firmware update commenced, this was the message I got:

Update Failed

Cross-customer update is not allowed.

Then everything froze… All I can do is put the PCH to standby mode.
Do you happen to know what’s wrong? I even tried the other firmware but I’m getting the same message.

Hope you or anyone here could shed some light regarding this.

Thanks in advance.

Damian November 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm

It almost sounds like you downloaded the C200 firmware and not the A200. So you cannot get into the A200 at all? Did you try a factory restore?

I assume the A200 fw is available via online update instead of doing the USB route (I haven’t had a chance to update mine yet)

JohnnyBoy November 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Here’s what i found out:

The current firmware installed in my unit is :

Based on , this is a C200 Firmware released last 29 January 2010. That is why when I load the updated firmware of A200, I am getting the error of “Cross-customer update is not allowed.”

Is there a way around this problem? or should I have my unit replaced by the supplier?


Damian November 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Wait, so you have the C200 fw already installed on your A200? That is how the supplier gave the A200 to you?

JohnnyBoy November 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm

yes Damian. From out of the box, the FW installed in my A200 is for C200.

Damian November 22, 2010 at 4:16 am

Did you purchase the A200 used I assume as no new A200 would come with C200 firmware?

Basically from what I have read you technically no longer own an A200, so you can no longer install A200 firmware (which is why you are getting the error messages). I also don’t think there is any way to get back to the A200 firmware through a factory reset. The only option would be to instead install the latest C200 firmware. Give that a try and see if it works. If it causes problems (which it may) and you purchased the A200 without knowing the reseller had installed C2oo FW, I would go back to the reseller and demand a refund.

JohnnyBoy November 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I bought it brand new, Damian.
I returned the unit yesterday and the supplier will take a look at it. will get the feedback today.

I also thought of installing the latest FW for C200, however, this might make the supplier think that it was my fault why it became a C200 FW. Thank’s why I decided yesterday to return the unit and have them check themselves. Hopefully I’ll be getting a positive response.

Thank you very much sir.

Jason November 22, 2010 at 4:30 am

Hi Everyone was actually thinking I would like the A-200 but was holding off till next year as I am going away for most of Dec and thinking that PCH might release a new SKU version, and looks like they have, estimated ship date on the site says 2010-12-02. for the A-210. Case has gone back to being aluminum. Just letting you guys know. Hopefully one of your awesome reviews to come Damian. :)


Damian November 22, 2010 at 5:34 am

Looking at the product, it looks to be running the same hardware as the A200, just the aluminum case and fanless. That is definitely a big plus. I have my A200 modded with an aluminum case so it would be the same as the A210 (of course the A210 will be cheaper though)

JohnnyBoy November 22, 2010 at 7:40 pm
Damian November 23, 2010 at 5:30 am
Old&slow November 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

The question now will be will the A-210 give full support for standalone m2ts files in regard to audio.
After my Boxee fiasco I won’t be so quick to toss aside my A-110, best money I ever spent for a media player!

Damian November 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

My understanding, the A-210 is the same exact as the A-200, only difference being the case and fanless. This means that the A-210 does support full HD Audio from standalone m2ts and mkvs

Aspedersen November 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

Anyone know if there is an upcomming update that will fix the 10/100 issue on the A-200?

Damian November 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm

What 10/100 issue, do you mean the gigE issue?

Aspedersen November 30, 2010 at 1:26 am

Hi Damian

Yes exactly…I read on other forums that it was impossible to get over 5 Mbps when installing the WN-150 on the A-200. Was wondering if a firmware could fix that problem so we could see some faster speed, kind of wired that they make a device, JUST for a few selected machines and then it doesent really work that great.
And thanks for a really nice review!

Damian November 30, 2010 at 5:16 am

My understanding the gigE issue is specifically related to the Sigma chip and actually might be a flaw in the chip itself. As such I would guess that the gigE issue cannot be fixed with any fw updates. Hopefully the next round of Sigma chips (slated for Q1 2011) will correct the issue as well as bring along further enhancements

Aspedersen December 1, 2010 at 5:13 am


I have run a wire now, so the speed can be a bit faster.

fred jr December 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

please do help me how to set up my pop corn A-200 tnx..


Damian November 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Let me know how it goes. It doesn’t make any sense why the c200 FW would be on a brand new a200. I know people were flashing the c200 FW to the a200 because they wanted to get the new sdk FW with standalone bitstreaming which was released earlier for the c200. This is no longer needed though since the a200 FW is on par with the c200

JohnnyBoy November 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I got my unit back last night with the correct and updated A200 FW.
They also don’t understand why that happened.

I hope everything will be downhill from now on so that I can enjoy my A200…

Thanks Damian.

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