PopBox Quick Review. Verdict? It’s a Poopbox

Posted by matt on July 20, 2010

Popbox opened upNote: 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:

Popbox Front Popbox Side Popbox Back
Popbox Remote: weird latch thingy Remote Popbox Remote: Lit up
Popbox underneath popbox HDMI cable, wireless adaptor, SD card close-up Popbox quick reference guide

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:

Popbox Downloading firmware Popbox verifying firmware Popbox Check CRC
Popbox Updating Firmware Popbox Verifying Firmware Again Popbox Rebooting

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:

Popbox Loading Popbox Network Popbox Time Zone

Popbox Dayling Popbox Email Signup Popbox USB Storage

(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:

Popbox terrible for TV Show metadata

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.

Posted under popbox, Popcorn Hour, reviews, tech gadgets, Unbox
  1. chadd Said,

    that’ll teach you to pre-order. reviews on this POS have been horrible all over.

    by the way, what do you mean “bring computer media to the PC.” isn’t your computer media already on your PC? or did you mean TV?

  2. The Sasquatch Said,

    Looks like the early reviews at Amazon are not very good, so you’re not alone in your opinion. Is this in any way related to the Cornhole Hour, er, the Popcorn Hour? At $129, and having used the WD TV Live, I’d recommend the WD device for $99. It’s bullet proof, albeit not quite as full-featured as Boxee software. I’m looking forward tot the Boxee Box. It think that will be the device to beat, and realistically only Google has a chance to beat it in the foreseeable future. Until the Boxee Box, I’ll continue to enjoy running the Boxee software on my laptop connected to the HDTV via HDMI. Love it. Movie posters and descriptions are awesome and automatic.

  3. matt Said,

    Sas, you should try XBMC… a little more customizable than Boxee if you have a lot of local media.

    Chadd, thanks for the fix, I had a typo :)

  4. neil Said,

    I just use Windows Media Center. It does everything I need.

  5. Joseph Joestar Said,

    I’ll echo what chadd said about pre-ordering, because that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last week :).

    I held off on actually using it until the other day, and I’m grateful that I’m still in the returns period…I ended up having a laundry list of problems. Normally I’d give them the benefit of the doubt, but it’s just not worth it. Basic things like subtitles aren’t supported, at least not yet…and Netflix support is DOA. That, and if you visit their forums it’s essentially a bunch of overprotective fanboys defending the Popbox by pissing all over everyone else.

    But yeah, avoid Popbox like the plague!