Some time ago we tested both the Popcorn Hour A-100 and the A-110. Now the HDX 1000 has arrived, and it has more than a little in common with our favourite media streamers. The 1000 is based around the Popcorn Hour hardware platform, created by Syabas.
As is the case with the A-100 and A-110, UK distributers seem quite rare. You should be able to get hold of the 1000 for about £200, but it might involve importing one from mainland Europe. As much as that might sound like a pain, it's well worth it.
The 1000 is available in two colours. We tested the black version, but the company also has a silver model.
The front is fairly plain, with just a window to receive infrared commands, a small LED to indicate the machine's status, and a multi-format card reader. We love the inclusion of the card reader -- it's just a shame support is limited to SDHC, Memory Stick Pro Duo and MultiMediaCard.
At the back, you'll find HDMI for passing high-definition video -- up to 1080p resolution -- to your TV. There are also component and composite video outputs and stereo audio via RCA jacks. You get both coaxial digital and optical digital outputs too, which enables you to connect the machine to an AV receiver to get superb audio quality.
For getting video onto your TV, you can either plug a memory stick into the USB host connections or stick a memory card in the reader at the front. There's also a USB slave connection that comes into play when you install a hard drive. This USB jack means you can directly connect the machine to your PC and transfer files to the hard disk, which you have to fit yourself.
There's also an Ethernet socket, which enables you to grab video from anywhere on your network. You can connect to machines sharing their video via Windows Media Player too -- handy if you're running an Xbox as a Windows Media Center extender. Also, there's some free software called myiHome, which you can download from the Syabas website, that allows you to share videos, photos and music with your 1000 in a totally hassle-free way.
If you want to play media, this machine can probably help you out. Every video format under the sun is supported, including MPEG-2, for your legal DVD rips. MPEG-4 and DivX support means virtually any video you get off the Internet will play. There's also support for formats like VC-1 and WMV 9. As with the A-110 and A-100, you can access online services, including YouTube and Flickr.
As previously mentioned, it's possible to add your own hard drive to the 1000. The bottom of the case unscrews, allowing you to attach a 2.5- or 3.5-inch hard drive. The 1000 uses a SATA interface, so you should be able to use any drive you have knocking around that uses that connection.
We honestly can't fault the 1000. Sometimes, very high bit-rate video can cause it problems, but 99.5 per cent of all video you throw at it will play flawlessly. We were able to watch 1080p video with no problems at all. QuickTime trailers from Apple's Web site looked stunning.
Overall picture quality is just brilliant. We tested the HDX on our Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090 and it never ceased to impress us with its detailed picture and punchy sound. We've yet to find anything that doesn't look great. The 1000 does a decent-enough job of upscaling standard-definition video, and 1080p looks nothing short of beautiful.
The 1000 is also capable of playing Blu-ray rips. (We don't need to tell you that ripping DVDs and Blu-rays isn't entirely legal, but what you do in your own home is up to you.) The good news is that rips at a high bit rate from Blu-ray play a treat, and you'll even be able to send HD audio to your AV receiver.
The main disappointment with the 1000 is that, currently, it doesn't include the Digital Theater System decoder, so DTS soundtracks must be parsed to an external decoder in order to be heard. Because the 1000 is based on the A-110, however, it's possible to add this function via a firmware upgrade. We've been told that an update is on the way, and will be available to existing customers over the Internet at some point in the future.
The HDX 1000 offers some slight advantages over the Popcorn Hour A-110. Really though, which one you decide to purchase will come down to availability and personal taste. If you prefer the look of the 1000, you should go for this machine.
Edited by Charles Kloet
Update: A previous version of this review stated that the HDX 1000 didn't have the ability to decode DTS sound. We have since been informed that there will be a free update available to all existing customers that will enable this functionality.