Computers, Gadgets and Beyond!

Popcorn Hour NMT (Networked Media Tank) A-110

The followup to the wildly successful A-100 is out, and it's called the A-110. The new number is quite fitting, as it's not a major upgrade. I doubt anyone with an A-100 will get the new one, unless they really need some of the new features. The player itself looks almost identical to the "old" A-100, except for a few port changes. Shown here is the back of the new player, as that is the most interesting part. A quick rundown of the new features: * SATA connection for internal drive - Personally I have a lot more of the old style disks lying around the house than SATA disks, but this is what the people wanted. * USB Slave functionality - This means that you can connect it to your PC and it will show up as a hard drive just like the USB sticks you have lying around. * HDMI 1.3a - This means support for pass-through of the new HD audio formats like DTS HD-HR, DTS HD-MA, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. Technically 1.3a also supports the new Deep Colour, or "blacker than black", colour systems, but as far as I know the Sigma Designs chip in the PCHs do not support this at all. * The SP/DIF has been changed from a coaxial to an optical one. * A hardware reset button has been added. - This was theoretically possible on the A-100 using the remot, but most of the time you had to disconnect the mains to get it to unfreeze. Only happened a couple of times so far for me, so tje A-100 is amazingly stable. * One of the USB ports have been moved around the back. That's about it for changes described by PCH themselves. However, there is one really important upgrade they fail to mention. And that is that the A-110 can decode DTS and output as two-channel PCM. Which means you don't need a separate decoder like a receiver to play those DTS tracks. Major bonus for the people without a DTS receiver. The astute reader will know that the A-100 and the A-110 are pretty much identical in terms of what they can do, so this decoding can also be done on an A-100. However, due to licensing money PopcornHour will not enable this in the firmware of the A-100. They can, but they have no way of recovering their licensing costs on already sold A-100s. And no, you can't send them $20 and get your own firmware with the decode-bit flipped, guess how long it would take until every A-100 owner ran that specific firmware...? So, it's really down to the A-110 being a minor upgrade, with a few hardware tweaks that half a year of user-nags on the forum have made necessary. You have to hand it to PopcornHour/Syabas though, even after six months and on their second product revision they still seem committed to the users. Another interesting newcomer is the B-110. It's an A-110 motherboard without the chassis, power-supply and with a slightly different PCB and I/O layout. It's basically the useful bits of an A-110, allowing custom builders and amateurs to embed the player in whatever they want. Make a gold plated chassis with Swarovski diamonds and sell it to the "$5000 for a powercable"-crowd, embed it into your sofa or whatever tickles your fancy. Now, can you boot an A-100 with an A-110 firmware to get the DTS decode...? Only time will tell. 🙂

2 Comments to “Popcorn Hour NMT (Networked Media Tank) A-110”

  1. Razeen Baboo says:

    Hi, I have the A110 when i install the sata hdd it comes up with the menu but i can’t use the remote. If i take the hdd out i can use the remote on the menu. somehow it doesn’t recognise the hdd ,it’s a sata seagate 500gb. the drive can be seen when put in a pc but not in the popchorn

  2. Hi Razeen!
    So with the hdd installed, the popcorn just boots into the menu but after that nothing happens when you press buttons on the remote? Weird. I haven’t used a Seagate 500gb myself, but I have tried a Samsung 500GB disk without any problems, presumably there shouldn’t be any differences there. Do you have another hdd available that you can use to see if it’s the hdd or the popcorn that causes the problem?


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