We have absolutely no complaints about the quality of the pictures or sounds that the C-200 generates. HD video looked wonderfully crisp and clear on the 42in plasma we tested the unit with, and we have never seen our SD video library look so good on a telly either.
Comprehensive AV set-up options
Depending on how you have your AV system set up the C-200 can decode Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound or if you want to hear DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD the C-200 will pass this audio au naturel using HDMI. Connect things together with component and the C-200 can also down-mix HD audio tracks to stereo without any problems.
The C-200's UI is pretty straightforward, not to say downright basic. The central menu screen provides access to media present on the USB port, your network and the Blu-ray or HDD, if fitted. Two further icons allow you to access the settings menu and web services. Since the C-200 supports Flash, the latter includes a YouTube client as well as ShoutCAST Internet radio and photographic applications such as Flickr and Photobucket. We wouldn't be at all surprised if a future firmware update emerges with a web browser of some sort.
If you instal Popcorn's recommended myiHome UPnP server software, the UI will present you with image thumbnails and an optional, but rather half-baked, iTunes interface. Stick with Windows Media Server and you have to put up with plain old folder icons and a tendency to ignore some file formats. If you really can't live with the basic UI, new ones can be dowloaded from Popcorn's network media tank wiki.
Menu navigation is both slick and fast, benefiting from the system being driven by a 667MHz Sigma CPU with 512MB Ram. We were a little disappointed by the video fast-forward and re-wind facility though. To start with the maximum speed is limited to x16 rather than the Hisense's x32 but, more to the point, the x8 and x16 selections often don't actually give you anything like those speeds and some video files flat refused to FF or RWD at all. Fortunately, the system can multi-task, so you can listen to music and run a slide show at the same time.
Media listings are more functional than fancy
Like previous Popcorn products the C-200's firmware does have the slight whiff of work in progress. Once in a while we would get the odd bit of stutter when streaming large hi-def MKV files, but this would then stop as mysteriously as it had started. Also, if the device was left alone for an hour or so after finishing playback, it would sometimes suffer a mild nervous breakdown when we came back to it and refuse to allow access to the main menu.
If you want a cheaper alternative, without the BR drive and LCD.
They have just announced (about an hour ago), the new A200, same chip $179
Christ this thing is expensive! It might play virtually any format but a 360 / Tversity combination plays DIVX and AVI files easily and for a lot cheaper than this item. If I had this much money to burn I'd rather build a dedicated media PC and have fully functional device connected to my TV. But to spend this much on something you have to add to anyway is laughable!
Windows Media PC?
Don't make me laugh, Windows on a media PC is a strange concept, XBMC runs much better on my PC under Ubuntu than under XP.
Plus I've got it setup to boot straight into an XBMC session, no need to even see the desktop.
And anyway, it's fairly easy to set Windows so that it doesn't download updates automatically, and even if it does you can set it to not install them without your say so.
Read the forums first
Make sure you have a good read of the NMT forums (http://www.networkedmediatank.com) before getting one of these, there are subtle bugs in various areas that can trip up the non-geeky user! This is definitely a hobbyists device, not for mum and dad!
Media PC? Don't make me laugh. Imagine being halfway through Avatar when Windows decides to download updates and reboot.