The Syabas Popcorn Hour A-400 is one of the, if not the, best media players currently on the market. The file compatibility is good, the network performance is fast, and the picture quality is high. The build quality of the player itself is impressive and is on the level of high-end audio components, and the passive cooling makes it a very silent media device (as long as you don't use a hard drive).
We're still enthusiastic about Networked Media Jukebox. Other media players require the use of a PC to get the same type of functionality, and the A-400 has a very efficient way of downloading and displaying meta data. It's a very nice way of browsing through your media collection.
Our enthusiasm doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. The access to the Jukebox feature still isn't very intuitive, since it functions as an extra layer on top of the standard screen. It would make more sense to include it in the main menu. The way the context menus are implemented also isn't optimal. Our major complaint has to do with the firmware updates. There are too many of them since there were so many bugs when the product was launched, and updating via the internet doesn't always work the way it should.
Then the price. £246 or 299 euro is a lot for a media player, and competitors with a Realtek chip such as the Mede8er MED1000X3D and the Xtreamer Prodigy are significantly cheaper. For just playing back media files those two are good options. Then again, the A-400 offers superior picture quality for sub-1080p material, and the Jukebox and related apps have added value, along with the small app store. Do these extra features justify the higher price?
Yes and no. If you want the best media player you have to pay for it, and it offers more features, ease of use, and quality. However, the price does get very close to an alternative that offers the same and more, and that's a compact PC using an AMD Fusion or Intel Atom processor, without or without a cheap GPU. You can build one for about the same amount, but they do require more tinkering and configuring, even if installing XBMC from a USB stick isn't that difficult. Then again, the A-400 is aimed at the demanding consumer, and that's the audience that can also handle a mini-PC. The Popcorn Hour A-400 does remain the most user-friendly option.
On the one hand the Popcorn Hour A-400 is the best media player on the market, but on the other hand it does have bugs and the interface isn't always user-friendly. It therefore falls short of Gold, but a Silver Award is definitely in its place for the A-400.
Syabas Popcorn Hour A-400