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Starhub's Latest Pop Sensation
By Andy Sim - on 08 Mar 2011, 8:25pm

A Media Companion For Your Fiber Network

Meet Starhub's latest secret weapon - the PopBox. Served by ServTouch, the PopBox media player will showcase extensive video format support as well as a customized apps and widgets. Also worth a mention are its HDMI, Component, dual USB ports and memory card slot. Starhub and ServTouch will be bundling a WiFi-dongle and 2GB SD card along with the PopBox.

I swung by Starhub’s head office earlier to uncover more about a clandestine OTT (Over-the-Top) product they’ve been cooking up with ServTouch recently. Sooner than not, the Popbox was revealed to the few media personnel huddled in Starhub's cosy living room lounge. Here’s what I gathered from the product demo, followed by a brief chat with Starhub and ServTouch.

The PopBox made its first appearance in the States last year, as revealed by digital entertainment solutions firm, Syabas. Months later, ServTouch moved in to acquire rights from Syabas to develop the box based on an ODM agreement. That said, fans of the Popcorn Hour media tank should be familiar with the Syabas namesake by now, yes? Partnering with Starhub, the Singaporean ISP hopes that ServTouch’s bundled PopBox will serve as an incentive for subscribers to jump onto their fiber bandwagon.

Essentially, the PopBox is a localized adaptation of its American counterpart; you can call it a standalone Full-HD media player with Internet streaming capabilities. Working closely with MDA, ServTouch has also gone the extra mile by devising content tailored for local needs, such as applications for PSLE tuition, National University Hospital health talks, and PA community activities. Apart from that, I’ve been shown that users can also pull content from popular global sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and video hosting site Channels.com as well.

The PopBox will feature an online app store with a mix of local and global content. Users will be able to access RSS radio feeds plus a wide range of social networking applications as well as video streams on the 1080p-capable player. Its app count stands at 25 for now, with more to come in the near future.

In fact, the PopBox isn’t that different from media players offered by the likes of ASUS and AC Ryan. Powered by a Sigma SMP8643 chip, the PopBox will feature two USB ports for media playback via HDD or Flash-based storage. It also supports a plethora of video containers, ranging from MP4 to MKV formats. Being a Sigma carrier, however, I do not see RMVB on the specs list as anticipated. At the software end, the PopBox is riding on a Linux platform with a UI based on Adobe’s Flash Lite, which makes it pretty user-friendly thanks to its graphical layout.

In the light of Smart TVs heralded by television makers, Starhub and ServTouch might face an uphill task in pushing their open-platform media box to consumers in the near future. Then again, it is an assured bonus for home users wanting to switch over to the fiber network from a current broadband setup, thus gaining a media hub in return.

So how can you obtain the PopBox? Well, Starhub will be launching the PopBox exclusively at the upcoming IT Show 2011. New subscribers will enjoy the PopBox for free as long as they sign up with any of Starhub’s four fiber MaxInfinity plans. And yes, the media box is not dependent on any of Starhub’s set-top boxes. All it needs is your fiber router on your home gateway. Pop away! 

Andy Sim

Andy Sim / Former Senior Tech Writer

Andy is a self-made geek with a penchant for good music and a hearty pint. His domain includes swanky TVs, notebooks and networking gizmos.