Review: Popbox 3D

by Damian on November 4, 2011 · 3 comments

in Reviews

It has been over a year since the Popbox 3D was released, and the entire time for better or worse I have had the Popbox 3D in my possession. The main reason why I never did a review when it was first released was because it was an absolutely horrible launch, and I felt is just didn’t warrant the time spent. However, with over a year under its belt  many of the issues that plagued the Popbox 3D at launch have been fixed, and given the release of the Popbox V8 I thought it would be a good opportunity to put together a review/comparison to the V8.


Price: USD 129 (available at the following retailers)

  • Sigma Designs SMP8643, 667MHz CPU
  • 512MB DDR2 DRAM
  • 256MB NAND Flash
Audio/Video Output
  • HDMI v1.3a (1080p/1080i/720p)
    12-bit xvYCC processing and HDCP 1.2 content protection
  • Component Video
  • Stereo Analog Audio
  • S/PDIF Optical Digital Audio
Networking & Connectivity
  • Ethernet 10/100
  • Optional 801.11 N/B/G Wi-Fi
  • UPnP
  • Samba
  • NFS
  • Bonjour
Other Interfaces
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port at the front
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port at the back
  • SD Card Slot on Back (2GB SD Card included)
  • Infra-Red Remote Control
DVD / Blu-Ray Formats
  • DVD ISO & IFO navigation
  • Blu-ray ISO & IFO Simple Navigation
Video File Containers
  • MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V)
  • MPEG1/2 PS (M2P, MPG, DAT, VOB)
  • MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS)
  • Matroska (MKV)
  • MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4
  • FLV, F4V
Video Codecs
  • H.264
  • MPEG-1
  • MPEG-2 MP@HL
  • MPEG-4.2 ASP@L5,
    720p, 1-point GMC
  • MPEG-4.10 (H.264)
  • WMV9
  • SMPTE 421M (VC-1)
Audio File Containers
  • AAC
  • M4A
  • MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA)
  • WAV
  • WMA
  • FLAC
  • OGG
Audio Decoders
  • Dolby Digital
  • DTS
  • WMA
  • MPEG-1 Layer 1, 2, 3
  • LPCM
  • FLAC
  • Vorbis
Audio Pass-Through
  • TS
  • Dolby Digital
  • Dolby Digital Plus
  • Dolby True HD
Content Security
  • HDCP 1.2
  • CGMS-A
Photo formats
  • JPEG
  • BMP
  • PNG
  • GIF



In the Box
  • 1x PopBox 3D Full HD Media Streamer
  • 1x IR Remote Control with Batteries
  • 1x 5v DC 2A Adapter
  • 1x HDMI Cable (1.5m)
Height and Weight:
  • Footprint – 8.0″ x 6.0″ (203 mm x 154 mm)
  • Height – 1.4″ (36 mm, including rubber feet)
  • Weight – 16.7oz (474g)

The front of the Popbox 3D is USB 2.0 port to the left and the Popbox logo engraved to the right and around the corner.

The back of the Popbox V8  includes 1 USB 2.0 port, Ethernet 10/100 port, HDMI, Optical, Component output, and an SD Card slot (the SD card is used to cache the metadata/artwork for the internal jukebox).

One annoyance with the Popbox 3D is that the power plug does not fit in snugly (you can see this clearly from the photo below). It makes it very easy for the plug to be accidentally pulled out and overall gives a cheap/rushed feel to the 3D.

 vs. Popbox V8 – really there is no comparison between the two. The 3D is a plastic case, feels cheap, and the power plug does not even fit in properly. The V8 is a sturdy aluminum case that has a solid feel to it, with all peripherals fitting nice and snug. The V8 clearly wins the battle of the hardware .

UI Appearance:

The big draw for the Popbox 3D was to be the UI which got away from the typical boring UIs many other media players use, including a built in video jukebox. The Home Page is broken up into 4 categories (Media Library, Apps, Search, and Settings)

From the Home Page the first area worth visiting is the Settings Page. In order to utilize the Popbox 3D’s internal jukebox, you need to assign your Media Library, a fairly straightforward process. Simply click the “add media” button, point the Popbox 3D to your media share, and assign a media type (either Movies, TV Shows, Music, or Photos). Once done you can set the Popbox 3D to scan your libraries (although to be honest I found the terminology to be a little confusing, and in general I just found the whole scan process to be confusing).

With the media library now set up and scanned head over to the Media Library where your library will be broken up between videos (red), music (green), photos (yellow) and my apps (blue). For videos if your media library was scanned properly you should see a nice poster view for each movie, along with metadata on the right hand side. The Popbox 3D will first look to see if you have an .nfo file (you can find more information about this here) or coverart file (I believe folder.jpg), and if present will use that. If not it will attempt to pull in the information from IMDB.

If you encounter a movie that has incorrect metadata the Popbox 3D allows you to search and pull in the correct information via IMDB. One annoying aspect of this is that after you do this you are taken back to the very first movie in your library insted of just being taken back to the movie that you were editing.

The Popbox 3D will categorize videos between movies, tv shows, and home videos (i.e. all others). If for whatever reason a video gets miscategorized you can move this. However, it appears you can either move to Home Videos or Remove from Popbox (so for one of my movies that Popbox 3D categorized as a TV Show it wouldn’t let me move it to movies.)

TV Shows will appear in the same manner as the movies, with a poster/wall view, with the corresponding episodes appearing in list view.

Similar to Videos, music will appear in a wall view with corresponding covers (assuming your music files are tagged correctly).

The Popbox 3D uses BD Lite, which allows for easy navigation between audio, subtitles, and scenes.

Utilizing the Popbox 3D UI is a bit of a mixed bag. Having the ability to maintain an internal video jukebox without the need for a PC is a nice addition. However, there were too many inconsistencies to call it an enjoyable experience. This includes an unclear scanning process, inability to easily move videos between categories, and instances where the info screen (where you would edit movie/tv show info) would stay on the screen even as videos played in the background. Videos even after being removed from my network and re initializing a media scan would still appear. When the Popbox 3D was first released navigating through the movie wall was painfully slow. Thankfully this has been greatly improved, and for someone with a smaller video library it is not a bad option.

vs. Popbox V8 - This is a bit of a tough call as to an extent the Popbox 3D and Popbox V8 offer something a little different. The Popbox 3D allows you to aggregate multiple folders into a single Movies or TV Shows view, whereas with the Popbox V8 is broken out by folder/share view. In that respect I would give the slight edge to the Popbox 3D being that it has a more functional jukebox/UI. However, since both the Popbox 3D and Popbox V8 can run YAMJ/Eversion with an identical experience, relying on the internal jukebox of either is not necessary.

Responsiveness/Remote Control:

The remote control is IR based which means direct line of sight is needed. As long as the line of sight is maintained I noticed no issues with dropped commands or needing multiple clicks.  Navigating around could get a little slughish, in particualr when using the built in jukebox with a large library.

When it comes to the Popbox 3D remote there are a couple of issues. If you look at the picture below the 3D remote is to the left, with the V8 remote to the right. For some reason a glossy finish was used with the 3D remote, which leaves noticeable smudges and fingerprints (vs. the V8 remote which is a nice matte finish). Also, you may notice that the 3D remote has quite a few less buttons then the V8 which honestly made it very frustrating to use (including poor placement of buttons such as the volume button)

vs. Popbox V8 - The Popbox V8 is noticably quicker when navigating around, in part due to the newer Sigma chip being used.  The remote comes with a glossy finish which is horrible for finger prints and minimal/poorly placed buttons made for frustrating usage. Hands down the V8 is the winner.

Network Performance:

The Popbox 3D is not gigE but instead 10/100. For file playback this is perfectly fine. The Popbox 3D was able to automatically recognize both smb and nfs set up on my Windows Home Server. Using the infamous “bird scene” from Planet Earth I was able to play back without issue the 60 Mbps clip via smb and the 100 Mbps clip via nfs. I also did not encounter any issues accessing my network shares.

vs. Popbox V8 – same results for both the V8 and 3D

Audio/Video Playback:

I tested playback using the latest Popbox 3D public firmware at the time of this post, and below are the results:

  • mkv w/ chapters – (PASS)
  • mkv w/ 480p internal IDX/SUB subtitles  (PASS)
  • mkv w/multiple SSA subtitles (FAIL)
  • mkv w/ internal PGS subtitles (PASS)
  • HD Audio downmix to stereo – DTS(MA) (PASS) / TrueHD (FAIL)
  • mkv w/ forced subtitles –  (PASS)
  • mkv/(m2)ts with DTS(MA) – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
  • mkv/(m2)ts with TrueHD Audio Track – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
  • mkv/(m2)ts with Dolby Digital Plus – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
  • mkv w/ VC-1 encoded video – played without issue (PASS)
  • Forced Subtitles in a BluRay Structure – forced subtitles (using District 9) did not automatically display (FAIL)
  • BluRay ISO (main movie only) – played without issue (PASS)
  • BluRay Folder (entire disc) – played movie, only main movie with bd lite menu support (PASS). However, if the BluRay is a seamless branch (i.e. the main movie is broken up into multiple files) playback issues were encountered (FAIL)
  • DVD ISO and/or Folder Structure – played with full menus (PASS)
  • 1080p quicktime (.mov) trailer – played without issue (PASS)
  • avi/mpeg/m4v clips – played without issue (PASS)
  • mkv w/ FLAC – played w/ multi channel PCM (PASS)
  • mkv w/ header compression – played without issue (PASS)
  • 3D SBS mkv – played with autoswitch (PASS)

In many respects the Popbox 3D played nearly everything I threw at however. However, there were a few glaring fails, in particular no downmix for TrueHD to stereo (note: I tested with a standalone TrueHD track found in an mkv and a TrueHD + AC3 track found in Blu-ray folder rips). Also, currently there is no support for SSA subtitles in mkvs (which I believe are heavily used with anime).

vs. Popbox V8 – Both the 3D and V8 fail when it comes to forced subtitles in Blu-ray structures and will hiccup during playback of seamless branch Blu-rays. However the V8 handles SSA subtitles and more importantly can downmix TrueHD, so in my book the clear winner is the V8.

Third Party Jukebox:

Similar to the Popbox V8, the 3D supports YAMJ/Eversion via the App market. Since I just posted screenshots in the V8 review there really is no need to repost here as the experience is the same.

vs. Popbox V8 - Both the V8 and 3D support YAMJ/Eversion, so call it a tie.

Online Content:

The Popbox 3D offers a variety of online content via the App market. Installing and using Apps is straightforward and easy to manage. Premium content such as Netflix or Hulu unfortunately are not part of the Content Offerings.

vs. Popbox V8 – Both the Popbox 3D and V8 offer a similar App market experience, tie.

Final Thoughts:

Well, I should start off by saying that I purchased the Popbox when it was first released over a year ago (I think around July 2010), with the intention of doing a review soon after. However, the release was quite possibly one of the worst releases I have seen for a media player, and there were just too many things wrong to even warrant looking at. Fast forward a year and many of the issues that were present at launch have been fixed. At $130 (can be found for much less on eBay or other) it is not a bad bargain player that can play back HD content with full HD Audio bitstream  support, and even a flash jukebox via Eversion/YAMJ. However, I can’t completely dismiss the poor launch, cheap case, poorly thought out remote, and power plug that doesn’t quite, all things that give the feeling of a player that was thrown together at the last minute. The concept behind the Popbox 3D was good, but overall execution  just did not follow through. At the right price the Popbox 3D might make for a good budget player, in particular because you can get the full YAMJ/Eversion experience along with HD Audio bitstream support. Otherwise there are many better options out there (including the Popbox V8).

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


Brajesh November 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

Nice review as usual Damian. You nailed all the initial issues and where the box stands now: a decent budget box that bitstreams HD audio, plays full MKV/ISO files without hiccups, and supports a nice jukebox via YAMJ/Eversion. In fact, Syabas should thank accident for making PopBox and Popcorn Hour sleek with his work on Eversion. You can find PopBox-es on eBay on occasion for $60-75, and for those prices, not bad at all as secondary players.

Damian November 8, 2011 at 11:51 am

Agreed, I think the only reason to buy is if you can get at a low price $60-$80, which makes it tough to beat with HD Audio bitstream support alongside Eversion. Unfortunately for this to be a secondary player in my house it needs to be able to downmix TrueHD, which it cannot do and thus why it got eBay’d right after I wrote this lol.

Bernard January 26, 2012 at 5:49 am

Good morning.
I really liked your review. I would like to include your review on my blog and translated into Spanish. You give me permission to use your photographs and content?
thank you very much

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

Previous post:

Next post: