Reviews: Media Centre Reviews

REVIEW / Popcorn Hour C-300

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Régis Jehl Published on March 9, 2012
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  • Connections (HDMI/composite/optical/coaxial) 1 / 1 / 1 / 1
  • Hard drive bay (2.5''/3.5'') yes / yes
  • WiFi Optional USB adapter / N+G - 300 Mbit/s
  • Ethernet 1 Gbit/s }
  • DVB-T tuner no
  • Chip Sigma Designs SMP8647
The Popcorn Hour C-300 has been designed very much in line with the hybrid PCH C-200 Blu-ray player plus media centre and the electronics and software are strictly speaking identical to the A-300. So what’s new? The colour LCD screen on the front of course!

As we’ve said the Popcorn Hour A-300 and C-300 share the same components and internal software. We’re not going to repeat everything we’ve already said in our test for the A-300 and refer you to that for a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the flash interface, which includes a universal jukebox and an applications market.

The home opens with the applications store

In this article we’re going to concentrate on the colour LCD screen on the front. To summarise rapidly: it left us wanting more. Given its size and the fact that it’s a colour screen we expected it to be a true secondary display, giving access to information and features that would either be new or complementary to those displayed by the television or projector.

Display of folders in list/tree mode

Thus, in almost all cases, this screen simply gives a zoom of a part of the screen displayed on the television. This means you can browse the menus when the TV is off, notably in ‘tree’ mode (see illustration).

In jukebox mode (NMJ), we were hoping for something from the screen with audio playback, where the TV isn’t used. The screen then fulfils its role though browsing is slightly slow - it takes a second for a request for an action to be implemented.

C300audio2 C300audio2
Display of album covers / Long titles truncated
Display during playback: you need to know
what you’re looking for to make sense of it

You browse by viewing album covers. Where an album or a song doesn’t have a cover, you press on the ‘i’ button for more info. This is a shame as it would have been preferable to see this information appear directly on-screen. You can then listen to the whole album or a single track. It’s a shame that tracks with titles that have 15 letters or more are truncated. This is down to the ‘zoom’ tool used and could have been avoided using a different screen display system. Once playback is underway, the album cover and tags are displayed.

C300images1 C300images1

Photo display: not much point

In photo mode, the screen displays the name of the file as well as the date it was taken but no more. For videos there’s not much more: you get just the name of the file and a time bar. It would have been nice to see, say, the film/series poster in the background. Sure, you won’t be looking at the screen on the Popcorn Hour C-300 when you’re playing a film, but there has obviously been a lack of attention to detail in the way the screen has been set up.

C300video2 C300video2
The display during film playback is minimalist and the text very small


Finally, from a technical point of view, the colours are rather dull on the screen and the viewing angles rather limited. You have to get close to the screen to read the information displayed on it (your sofa will be too far at 3m for example). See what we mean when we say there's been a lack of attention to detail…
Blu-ray playback but at what price?
Built on exactly the same principle as the hybrid Popcorn Hour C-200, the C-300 comes with a rack allowing you to install a standard hard drive (mounted without screws) and a slim format Blu-ray / DVD player.

You also have the option of installing a full size optical disc player, but then you'll need to make do with the installation of a 2.5-inch hard drive.

Once the player is in place, you'll be able to play any of the media you buy in stores: Blu-ray (2D only), DVD and audio CD. While always practical to have a single device instead of two, it's a shame that some Blu-ray menus are so jumpy. The animations on the menu of the Star Wars Blu-ray are more like a slideshow than anything else.

Then there’s the question of cost: the C-300 is on sale for upwards of £350. To this you have to add £50 for a full size Blu-ray player or £130 for a slim model! The final bill will therefore be between £400 and £500 without a hard drive!

At this price it’s much better to go for a Popcorn Hour A-300 (around £200) which offers exactly the same in terms of multimedia playback and a separate Blu-ray player. Depending on the player you go for, the final cost will be between £250 and £350 and you won’t have any slowdowns with the Blu-ray menus.


  • Multimedia compatibility
  • Intuitive, attractive interface
  • Built-in video jukebox
  • Applications market adapted to TV usage
  • Advanced options / high-end remote


  • No memory card reader
  • No VOD, nor TV catch-up service
  • Slowdowns in Blu-ray menus
  • The screen integration needs revisiting
  • Adding a Blu-ray player is costly


We like the hybrid concept but it works out too expensive for most. The addition of the colour LCD screen doesn’t as yet add much to what you get with the C-200. From a purely technical point of view, this is a very good piece of hardware and this is why it gets a 5-star rating and while not much more than a simple refresh on the previous model, the innovations are there and the built-in jukebox is a real added value.
5 Popcorn Hour C-300 DigitalVersus 2012-03-09 13:19:00
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