Hands on with the Syabas Popbox


Popbox snuck up on me earlier this week. Plenty of companies are pushing out various digital media boxes and features these days. Some are better than others. Many aren’t very good at all. However, Syabas is well established in this space – providing the technology behind partner products, such as the HP MediaSmart HDTV line (RIP), and merchandising their own solid offerings in the hobbyist (read: geek) market under the Popcorn Hour Media Tank line. So I made arrangements to meet with COO Alex Limberis this morning.

The Popbox contains the same chipset as the powerful Popcorn Hour C200, but forgoes Blu-ray mounting (IFO will work) and internal hard drive options to keep costs down as they go after a more mainstream market. As far as I know, it’ll be the most powerful box you’ll find for under $150 when it launches this spring, handling just about every codec you can throw at it (via networked computer, NAS, or removable storage), many 1080p at up to 100MBps. And boasts a smooth, Flash-based UI with some Java running under the hood. Additionally, like others, they’re opening up their platform to provide a number of apps – which will reside locally on an included 2GB card. The Netflix “Popapp” is currently undergoing certification, using the latest API, as seen on the Xbox 360. Allowing you to browse and select movies by genre, instead of merely viewing your personal queue.


While the physical hardware isn’t quite as flashy as the Boxee Box, the Popbox will likely land at a lower price point. There’s also no Boxee Box QWERTY remote, but Syabas will be providing a free iPhone Popbox remote control app at launch. Given the Popbox’s sheer horsepower and rich, modern interface, Syabas could be the ones to beat. However, content is still king. Boxee has Hulu (for now?), Roku has MLB. Can they all work deals? If CES is any indication, 2010 is going to be loads of fun in this space…

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8 thoughts on “Hands on with the Syabas Popbox”

  1. The big question is the ads. Did you get a sense of where they appear or how obtrusive they are (i.e. I would hope that if you are browsing your own local content then ads would be nowhere to be seen)?

  2. @Dave

    If you were a betting man, which box do you think we are more likely to be talking about this time next year, Popbox or Roku?

  3. Funny, while browsing through the interface I didn’t see much of that and what I did see didn’t bother me.

    jcm, Roku has a large installed based of hundreds of thousands, brand recognition, and are making great progress living up content partners (like MLB). So they’re not going anywhere. Popbox has impressive specs and visuals, but folks don’t know of them yet. It’s not enough to have a great product, you need great marketing, sales, and bizdev. Hopefully it works out for them as it looks quite promising. There’s room for multiple solutions in this space.

  4. Exciting times in this space and to think that a few years ago I was dreaming for these type of solutions. Now that they are arriving en masse it’s hard to know what to do. These things are so cheap I could easily see myself with a few solutons. Did they mention if they were going to roll out the interface to the MediaTank lineup? I’d like to have the built in HD for some local files.

  5. andy, the latest Popcorn Hour (same chipset) has the capabilities to handle the new UI. So it’s technically possible, and I asked Alex this question point blank. He said there are no immediate plans, but it’s possible it could happen.

  6. @Dave

    Can you confirm if this device is able to stream HD Netflix streams?

    I have looked at multiple sites and specs for this thing, but they never seem to mention that. If this thing can do HD Netflix, I finally have the solution I’ve been waiting on.

  7. John, I didn’t explicitly ask. Just assumed it could given the box specs and every other Netflix box service I know of (TiVo, Xbox, Roku, etc) all offer HD streams.

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