|ASRock Core-100HT Intel i3-330M HTPC|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 01 July 2010|
Page 13 of 14
ASRock HTPC Final Thoughts
Computers are at a constant struggle with scaled performance, and the PC is ground zero for innovation. CPU's and GPU's have both become much smaller, while fitting many more transistors into them. The opposite is true for their total package size, as evidenced by the growing dimensions for heatsinks and printed circuit boards. These things directly relate to HTPCs, primarily because personal entertainment enthusiasts demand oversized performance inside of undersized enclosures. While CPUs have scaled accordingly, as has storage media with the SSD, it seems that GPUs are still clinging to the outdated 'bigger is better' philosophy.
Intel and AMD each offer dual-core mobile processors, and they offer excellent performance with very low power consumption demands. Seagate offers a 500GB Solid State Hybrid Drive that outperforms some of the fastest desktop hard drives while remaining notebook-sized. SoDIMM-sized system memory has made 4GB RAM modules available to compact computers, breaking a barrier that has held notebook computers back for years. Even motherboards have shrunk to miniature proportions, such as the micro-ITX form factor seen with the ASRock HM55-HT. The only remaining holdout is the graphics processor.
Integrated graphics can display HD content at 1280x720 for 720p resolution on your HDTV, or even 1920×1080 for 1080p, but the situation changes when 3D video games are added into the equation. Based on the performance results we've received thus far, it seems that powerful 3D gaming performance isn't coming to compact HTPCs anytime soon. Benchmark Reviews has already proven that almost any discrete video card on the desktop graphics market will play our favorite games with acceptable settings and frame rate performance, but more than halfway through 2010 consumers still can't get the same performance for mobile/compact computer platforms. While I'm sure someone has found a level of satisfaction in playing video games on their tiny netbook PC at 1024x600 resolution, it's simply unrealistic to expect that same gaming experience to equal desktop PCs or gaming consoles.
Ultimately, only the most lightweight video game titles are playable with integrated/mobile GPUs. While there are a few exceptional GPUs out there that have been 'made mobile', but none of these are economical or operate in a low-power envelope, and none of them are going to be your cheap ticket to replacing desktop-level graphics performance with demanding 3D video games. Intel has yet to produce any GPU capable of powerful 3D gaming, as the Intel HD Graphics inside ASRock's Core 100HT HTPC has demonstrated. Unfortunately, graphically powerful GPUs with low-consumption and low-TDP aren't available from NVIDIA or ATI either.
Have they read the writing on the wall? The desktop computing segment shrinks by the day, ever woefully losing market segment to compact computing devices. It's not my place to tell someone how to run their business, but one would think that selling leaded fuel in the hydrogen age would be a losing proposition. Intel has conceded defeat to NVIDIA in the GPU industry and has returned to doing what they've always done best. Perhaps it's time for ATI to focus itself on the mobile graphics market, just as AMD has remained focused on the value-processor segment. Doing things incrementally better each time is not nearly as important as doing things that the industry needs.