Syabas Technology has said today that it will be shipping a new set-top box in March and is rumoured to be offered around the $130 price point. Targeting the internet streaming media arena, Syabas’ set top box, dubbed the “PopBox,” is aimed at competing with Roku’s offering and the recently announced Boxee Box by D-Link.
Syabas will be demoing the PopBox at this years CES with the handful of applications listed below and promises more by the March shipping date.
|PopBox Built-in Apps|
The PopBox is based on Syabas’ previous offering, the Popcorn Hour, and comes with a largely redesigned user interface that is easier to setup and use, a sleeker case, and some other hardware changes. For example, instead of allowing for a user installed internal hard drive, the PopBox only offers 2GB of internal flash storage. Differing from Roku’s limited selection of downloadable applications, the PopBox will offer its own API for third-party developers to provide their own applications to be downloaded directly to the device.
With the limitation of the 2GB internal storage and no option for expansion via an additional user-provided hard drive, there is no need for media server functions and as such, they have not been included. However, the ability to stream to the PopBox from your personal network media server is still possible. The PopBox continues to fully support streaming from the more popular SMB, UPnP, and DLNA server protocols. Although it hits most of the popular codecs and containers, the list below still leaves one wanting more.
- Video Codecs: MPEG1/2/4, Open MPEG-4 HD, Xvid-HD, WMV9-HD, VC-1,H.264
- Audio Codecs: MP1/2/3, WMA, WMA Pro, OggVorbis, AAC, AC3, DTS, PCM, WAV, FLAC
- Containers: ASF, ISO, IFO, MPEG-TS, MPEG-4, MOV, MKV, AVI, WM-DRM, VOB, MP4, RMP4
- Photos: JPEG, animated GIF89a, BMP, PNG
- Subtitles: MicroDVD (*.sub), SubRip (*.srt), Sub Station Alpha (*.ssa), Microsoft’s Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange -SAMI (*.smi)
- Streaming Protocols: SMB, UPnP, DLNA, Bonjour, WM-DRM
The PopBox is running a custom embedded version of Linux on a 667MHz SMP8643 SoC MIPS processor which includes an on-chip security processor for handling DRM and “content protection” protocols. Apparently, Netflix requires the use of DRM to access its Instant Streaming content. This on-chip security processor is a separate 333MHz MIPS 4KEc IPU to fulfill those requirements. Additionally, the PopBox touts the following specs:
Sigma Designs SMP8643 system-on-chip processor:
- 667MHz MIPS application processor
- 333MHz security processor
- Three 333MHz audio DSPs
- 512MB DDR2 SDRAM
- SD Card slot equipped with a 2GB card
- HDMI v1.3a
- Component video
- Stereo analog audio
- S/PDIF optical digital audio
It also comes with a standard 10/100MB Ethernet port and two USB 2.0 ports.
Another nicely featured set-top box at a decent price point. Although the codec and container support for media is missing a few, the PopBox seems marketed as more of a solution for streaming internet media content and providing access to social networking sites instead. With Netflix Instant Streaming support at the time of shipping, they are already strongly positioned ahead of D-Link’s Boxee Box. However, they still need to beef up their codec support in order to become that all-in-one holy grail of a home theater media device.
On a side note, this being the third (Roku, Boxee Box, and now PopBox) Linux based set-top box to promise support for Netflix’s Instant Streaming makes me wonder how much longer until Netflix offers full streaming support to Linux machines including users’ desktops and laptops. Netflix, care to comment on this or provide a note about current plans for Linux support? And no, “soon” is not an acceptable answer as we have been hearing “soon” for the past two years. Support for these Linux-based devices and Microsoft’s embrace of the Moonlight project demonstrates that it is completely possible. So what is holding you back Netflix?
What features do you most look for in a set-top box or htpc replacement? What codecs and containers do you use most and want support for in your next build or device? Sound off in the comments and let the manufacturers know what they need to start including!