Is ATV+boxee better than popcorn hour?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by tirexstorm, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. tirexstorm macrumors regular

    Oct 22, 2007
    I am new to the world of apple tv so I apologize if some of this has been discussed before.

    Most of the tv that I watch comes from downloading torrents (usually avi or divx files.) I'd like a way to watch them on my tv. I know popcorn hour is great for this, but can a hacked ATV do all of that plus allow you to rent movies?

    Can I watch all of my avi downloads stored on my external hard drive and watch it on my HDTV via a hacked ATV? If so, is there any advantage to hardware like popcorn hour?

    Also, is there a link to an up-to-date guide on getting an ATV to play non-itunes compatible files?
  2. Josh396 macrumors 65816


    Oct 16, 2004
    Peoria/Chicago, IL
    I'm not familiar with Popcorn Hour so I can't compare it to boxee. But I can say that Boxee will do exactly what you want it to do. It will play just about any file format you throw at it and you can still switch back to the original AppleTV OS and rent movies or play any iTunes compatible format you have in your library.
  3. wtd macrumors newbie

    Feb 4, 2008
    different strokes for different folks, my friend. atv's main limitation is that it maxes out at 720p. so if any of your downloads are 1080p, they essentially won't play at all on atv - not even downscaled to 720p. i've also heard mixed results when playing some high bitrate AVC encoded 720p files as well. popcorn hour does not have this limitation because it uses a hardware decoder for video, as opposed to atv's cpu+software approach (it's essentially a mini-mac mini).

    however, the flipside is that the popcorn hour is unable to run most htpc software, like boxee, since its cpu isn't fast enough. there are ways to get popcorn hour to stream hulu, netflix, etc., but it generally requires a bit of hacking (much like using the patchstick atv solution), and even this is quite limited in functionality.

    i would say that if you have a lot of hd movies downloaded already, and you plan to use that method in the future, popcorn hour is the way to go. if you want the convenience of the apple movie store, legitimacy, etc., and don't mind the 720p limitation, go with atv.
  4. BoulderBum macrumors 6502a

    Feb 3, 2008
    The Popcorn Hour has broad format support and hackability, but it comes at the expense of usability and clean integration. The PCH is definately a box for those who like to tinker.

    The Apple TV will come out of the box ready to go when you plug it in with little or no instruction to get used to the interface. The Apple TV can connect to your wireless network, it syncs with your iTunes-organized content, including playlists, you can control it with your iPod Touch/iPhone, and it's a generally slicker, more robust experience.

    In my opinion, the Popcorn Hour is akin to a no-name mom-and-pop company that tries to make a Linux-based MP3 player to compete with the iPod. On paper, it might have a few features you think are compelling, but in practice, it just comes up short.
  5. Donar macrumors 6502


    Jul 12, 2008
    I heard the latest aTV update breaks Boxee, so the aTV seems to be a box for people who like to tinker too.
    Studder free 1080p output and the ability to play .mkv out of the box made me to choose a Popcornhour instead of aTV. That said i wouldn't mind it to have a nicer user interface on the Popcornhour.

    On one hand you are right "integration" between devices e.g. iMac, iPod, iPhone aTV on Apple Hardware really is nice and also with great usability. On the other hand Apple devices loose in some cases because of (unnecessary?) restrictions. No 1080p on the aTV, no .mkv no Boxee because Apple tires to keep it out...
  6. BoulderBum macrumors 6502a

    Feb 3, 2008
    Good point, but I'd argue the majority of the customer base for Apple TV won't apply the Boxee hack (myself included). For people like me, the experience is almost as painless as, say, plugging a DVD player in.

    Popcorn Hour customers are a little different, and may have to know (and arguably enjoy) fiddling with network settings and file shares and upgrading hard drives.

    Yes, I think that's what it comes down to. Technically, you can do more with a Popcorn Hour, it just won't be as slick. It's like having a Symbian smart phone vs. an iPhone. I'm doing a product review of a Nokia N96 now which is technically more capable than an iPhone: it has video chat, a 5 MP camera, a removable SD card in addition to its 16 GB internal drive, MMS, etc., but after using the two, I find that I value the elegance and ease of use of features more than the length of the feature list.

    That said, I don't think the Popcorn Hour can do iTunes rentals either, which was the main reason I bought my Apple TV.

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