Note: The following is a review and unboxing done on 7/19/2010, with basically ‘launch’ firmware of the Popbox Media Player. In it’s current state, it justly deserves my moniker, “Poopbox”.
As a fan of the oddly named Popcorn Hour A-100 media tank (which I did a number of reviews), I had high hopes for the new ‘Popbox’ when I saw it released during CES. The Popcorn hour, purchased over 2 years ago, played most anything you threw at it. While the interface speed and usability wasn’t that great, it got the job done quite effectively, and in 1080p.
Fast forward a couple years… since then, the excellent XBMC with robust media metadata support has matured on the PC, Boxee has also shown us network streaming done right and tons of media boxes (like the WDTV Live) have all launched providing many ways to bring computer media to the TV. Thinking what 2 years of development could do to benefit Syabas (company who makes the device), I figured the power of the PCH mixed with metadata would provide quite a nice experience. Thus, my reason for pre-ordering for the PopBox back in April. Fast forward to July 19, 2010, I finally got it…
Some pictures from unboxing the Popbox Media Player:
Packaging was adequate, remote was probably the most interesting component as I have never seen one light up SO BRIGHT when keys were pressed (note dark picture above).
While I was initially going to just make this an unbox review and do a more in depth one later, I thought I would do some shots of the initial boot-up. Here we go:
Why the hell would I show you six almost identical screens of a boot-up? Well, remember the scene in Office Space where Peter Gibbons is trying to leave early for the day and he is shutting down his machine? That is basically what the Popbox Firmware update process does… you think you are almost done, only to be shown yet another screen with a % done… This took about 10 minutes, which pretty much kills the fun of your ‘first boot-up experience’. I had no option to do anything but this either–it just happened immediately when I turned it on. Obviously Syabas had some even worse firmware on it when I got the thing.
A few more setup screens:
(I said ‘no’ to the last screen about USB storage since all my data is on the network). So now came the part where I went to set up media. Yes, the Popbox was connected to my network, but it didn’t have a place to put in a user/pass when browsing, so the network browsing was useless since it had no access to the shares. I had to add the network shares by hand, which was very painful (note the remote above… no #’s or letters, so it’s like the slowest hunt-n-peck you can imagine). For the IP address, the ‘.’ isn’t on the screen, so you have to shift 2 screens away to add a share… it took like e minutes to add just one, and I have like 8! I decided to just add the TV show one for starters.
Okay, so far I’m annoyed, but still sort-of optimistic. But now for the Coup de grâce… let’s see how it does detecting meta data for TV shows:
Wow, thanks! So I assume “30 Rock 1″ is Season 1, but after going in there is no episode synopsis or information like you may be accustomed to with pretty much any other meta-data scraper. I only know it’s 30 Rock 6… I use XBMC on a regular basis so I may be a bit spoiled in the metadata department, but who would think this is even at all useful when watching TV shows? We know what the series is about, I want to see what the episode is about. After trying to play a show, there was a lengthy pause before the show started, and then I was getting no sound. (audio was not passing through HDMI to my receiver). At this point, there were so many other issues with this thing that I didn’t even bother troubleshooting it, since it just added to the lengthy bug list.
So overall Conclusion based on the above? It’s a Poopbox.
Sure, this will likely get better with firmware updates–and likely will get updated quickly–but it simply has way too far to go to be usuable at this point. Since the metadata for TV Shows will likely not change, you are likely better off using something like the WDTV Live Plus since the interface is much better. Additionally, the removal of Netflix is likely to be permanent, since I doubt the Popbox chipset supports the necessary copy protection… this is the same thing that necessitated the WDTV Live to put out the ‘plus’ version.
If you want robust metadata, get a Dell Zino with XBMC and/or Boxee (or both, it’s a computer afterall). Or hold out hope for the Boxee Box in November–or a Roku. In the meantime, I’m sending the Poopbox back to Amazon.
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