Syabas launched the next generation member of their Popcorn Hour A-series at IFA 2012 last week. Even though we have been aware of the news for quite some time, we waited till the official US press release was sent to us. Some blogs have already covered the IFA launch. US readers worried about the price (289 Euros, which translates to more than $350 at current exchange rates) should be quite happy to find that Syabas plans to sell the A-400 elsewhere for US $249 only.

The A-400 scores over the A-300 in some critical aspects:

  • Support for 3D Blu-ray playback with BD-Lite
  • Premium casing from SilverStone, which ensures optimal passive cooling
  • Slide-out tray for hard disk installation
  • Tablet apps (iOS available at launch / Android version coming later this year) to present NMJ interface on the secondary screen
  • Sigma Designs SMP8911 with VXP Video Processing

The final aspect should prove to be a worthy competitor to the Marvell chips with Qdeo video processing. The SMP 891x series was demonstrated at the 2011 CES, and it has spent quite some time getting into the hands of the media player manufacturers. Hopefully, the SDK and firmware are stable. Syabas also has a table comparing the features of the A-400 with other contemporary media players.

The A-300 might still be the player of choice for many users because it offers full Blu-ray menu functionality unofficially. The case with A-400 is not very clear because the BD stack wasn't licensed for the SMP8911 due to Cinavia concerns. This is also the reason why a C-400 (a Blu-ray drive equipped version of the A-400) appears quite unlikely at this point.

Syabas assures that the issues with HD Audio and multi-branching Blu-ray titles that plagued the A-300 aren't a problem with the A-400. There are a number of other showstopper bugs in the A300 (which has prevented us from putting out a full review) which are hopefully addressed in a future A-300 firmware update / don't exist in the A-400.

Source: Networked Media Tank Forums

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  • cjb110 - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    I hope the UI is much improved over their previous offerings. The A-110 was great hardware wise, but its UI was atrocious and ugly has hell. So it wasn't recommendable to anybody but techies that would more likely put up with it.
  • MarkD001 - Saturday, September 8, 2012 - link

    I have an A300 which seems to work quite well, since the latest firmware update. (It was definitely not ready for prime-time previously.)

    Yes, the interface is a little clunky, but it was a lot less expensive than a HTPC. For the price, I'm happy. We use it to play torrented foreign TV shows. My only real complaint would be slow scrolling through hundreds of episodes.
  • ClueLessNoob - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - link

    "A-300 Blu-ray menu functionality unofficially"

    not sure what you guys are talking about but the A210 already had full BluRay support and it is officially

    Yes the UI is ugly and sluggish but that's why there is JAMY and wonderful HTML or Flash based themes, if you wonder how that looks like go and youtube like this one

    I have an A210 and I am very happy with it. It is connected via 100mbit Ethernet with an Ubuntu server that provides the media and the Jukebox(s). My wife sees all her favourite shows without any issues so I would say if a ClueLessNoob like me can set this up you guys should be able to as well :) It is not a out-of-the box AppleTV experience but therefore I am not stuck with iTunes.

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