|ASRock Core-100HT Intel i3-330M HTPC|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 01 July 2010|
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ASRock Core 100HT Conclusion
Although the ratings and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we've done our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on this conclusion as it represents our product rating for the sample received, which may differ from the final retail version. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.
Performance in relation to HTPCs is a subjective matter. Some Media Center enthusiasts browse the web and watch flash-based videos, while others only listen to music and play an occasional video game. It's really never been closer to 'one size fits all' than right now. If you're a home theater enthusiast, or just someone who wants more functionality out of the entertainment center, ASRock's Core 100-series offers one of the most competitive HTPC kits I've ever seen up to this point.
High Definition HDMI media playback using Windows Media Player, Adobe Flash Player (10.1.53.64), and VLC (1.1.0) each worked flawlessly for local content from Blu-ray Disc and saved MKV or MP4 files. Adobe Flash Player software has come a long way, and many of the lessons in our Adobe Flash HD-Video GPU Acceleration Guide still apply, but the Intel Core-i3/ HD Graphics deliver more than enough processing power to avoid dropped frames or broken audio. Everyday computing tasks such as web browsing, document creation, and email are all very basic chores for the Intel Core i3-330 processor. Gaming requires some concessions, though.
While 2D and lightweight 3D gaming was very possible, the ASRock Core 100HT HTPC isn't going to be playing high-demand 3D games such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 or Battlefield Bad Company 2 anytime soon. Nevertheless, parlor-style (Mahjong, Bejeweled 2, Solitaire) and other 2D games (Battlefield Heroes) worked perfectly well, as did low-demand 3D games such as Team Fortress 2, World of Warcraft, Fallout 3, Spore, and The Sims with appropriate settings configured.
While a few critics may consider the appearance and styling of the ASRock Core 100HT to be ordinary, most everyone else will likely appreciate the elegant style and subdued looks. After all, people prefer to have inconspicuous consumer electronics in their entertainment center, and not a neon spectacle with flashing lights everywhere. The ASRock Core 100HT comes in either black or white finish, and has an incredibly small profile. Essentially, the ASRock Core 100-series measures up to be everything you wanted your DVD/BD player to be, plus so much more.
All-solid capacitors and a thick PCB earn the ASRock HM55-HT motherboard very high construction ratings, but the real attraction is the well-conceived layout that allows so much to be packed into a little mini-ITX profile. The metal enclosure is much stronger than required, and the gloss-black bezel is thick enough to sustain heavy impact without damage. The piano-black finish of the front panel will attract dust, and likely show fingerprints and scratches, so perhaps ASRock will consider a fine-textured finish in future revisions.
ASRock went small on the Intel HM55-Express motherboard, but it doesn't go small on the BIOS. All of the functionality and customization you find in other motherboards is also available here... up to and including overclock tweaks. While Benchmark Reviews didn't spend time covering this aspect, primarily because HTPCs favor low operating temperature over maximum clock speeds, it certainly appeals to enthusiasts wanting to squeeze every last frame out of their performance. For an HTPC builder, it will be the full-service HDMI 1.3a connection that sells this kit, along with wireless-N Wi-Fi capability. Even with the low-profile cooling fan installed and spinning, the ASRock Core 100 was completely silent; as in absolutely no noise at all. This is a welcome night-and-day departure from the XBOX360 and PS3, which usually start humming like leaf blowers once they warm up.
As of July 2010 the ASRock Core 100HT HTPC sells for $649.99 at NewEgg. Packaged with a slim DVD-burner, 500GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3, Wireless-N Wi-Fi adapter, SuperSpeed USB-3.0 ports, and a Media Center Edition remote control, this could be enough to satisfy consumers with the ASRock Core 100HT HTPC's price tag. Expect to pay nearly $700 for the Blu-ray Disc version when it's released. For users who like the size and features but don't need the processing power, The ASRock ION-330 series is still an excellent buy. ASRock's base-model Nettop ION 330 sells at NewEgg for $329.99, while the Wi-Fi model costs $419.99 and a Blu-Ray Disc version sells for $499.99.
The ASRock Core 100HT kit could very well be the perfect start towards building the ultimate HTPC, which is why it receives our Golden Tachometer Award. What it lacks in 3D gaming performance, it makes up for in Wireless-N Wi-Fi connectivity, SuperSpeed USB-3.0 ports, and an ultra-compact footprint. The dual-core 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M mobile processor and Intel GMA HD integrated graphics propel this system through any HD media you demand of it, and the fully-native HDMI 1.3a output with 7.1 digital audio paired with THX TruStudio PRO adds excitement to the home theater experience. For home theater enthusiasts, the ASRock Core 100-series will be a perfect fit as the front-room HTPC, and the Core 100HT-BD model adds Blu-ray Disc capability to ensure a relatively future-proof HTPC platform. In terms of pre-built HTPC solutions, ASRock appears to have carved a solid niche market for themselves within the computer industry.
+ Completely silent HTPC computer system
- Not a 3D gaming PC/console replacement
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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