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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC
Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 01 July 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
ASRock Core-100HT Intel i3-330M HTPC
ASRock Core 100 Features
Core 100HT Specifications
Closer Look: Asrock Core 100HT
ASRock HM55-HT Detailed Features
Motherboard Testing Methodology
PCMark Vantage Test Results
EVEREST CPU Benchmarks
Passmark PerformanceTest
Cinebench R11.5 Benchmarks
Street Fighter IV Benchmark
Lightweight Gaming Performance
ASRock HTPC Final Thoughts
ASRock Core 100HT Conclusion

Asrock-CORE-100HT-HTPC-Computer-Upright.jpgASRock 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.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Completely silent HTPC computer system
+ 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M dual-core CPU
+ 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM with up to 8GB supported
+ Native HDMI 1.3a A/V interface
+ Optical and digital 7.1-channel audio output
+ Two SuperSpeed USB-3.0 ports, six USB-2.0 ports
+ Extremely small component footprint
+ Wireless-N Wi-Fi connectivity
+ Includes Media Center Edition remote control
+ eSATA port for attached high-speed storage

Cons:

- Not a 3D gaming PC/console replacement
- SuperSpeed USB ports located on front only
- Lacks TosLink optical audio cable

Ratings:

  • Performance: 8.75
  • Appearance: 9.25
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 9.50
  • Value: 8.00

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

Questions? Comments? Benchmark Reviews really wants your feedback. We invite you to leave your remarks in our Discussion Forum.

NewEgg.com


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Comments 

 
# RE: ASRock Core-100HT Intel i3-330M HTPCv_lestat 2010-07-01 16:57
It is a home theater pc. Not a gaming machine or anything even remotely close to it.

On the other hand AsRock needs to have their heads examined... the intel 4500hd video chip...wtf.... you cant do hd decoding with that without crushing the cpu ...

Go back and use a nvidia chipset and watch it pur like a kitten thru Ll the hd content you have.
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# Cpu overhead when decoding HD ?Stef 2010-07-02 01:22
This looks nice enough to sit under my TV , but what about HD media ? Quality , cpu overhead , etc ?
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# Gaming on HTPCOlin Coles 2010-07-02 05:51
I think that many people would like to play video games on their HTPC, which is why we test graphics performance. You don't know what a product can do until you test it.

As for HD quality and CPU overhead, they were difficult to demonstrate because each media changed the outcome. DVDs were clean and lossless, MKV and flash each performed extremely well but had different CPU usuage depending on the source. Overall I didn't have any problems with HD media playback.

Encoding was not tested, aside from the included encoding tests that PCMark and Passmark perform.
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# They Can't Use Nvidia with Core i3Ryan 2010-07-07 11:24
Unfortunately to move to the Core i3 based processor, they cannot use an Nvidia chipset, which is how the Ion is packaged. They must use the Intel HD GPU that comes with the Core processors, or accept a separate GPU board through the PCI-e slot.

This is an Intel restriction, and a quite anti-competitive one at that.
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# intel HDmikeccuk2005 2010-07-03 08:30
GMA HD is a different story to hd4500 and other predecessor.
Just look at the score at hwbot.org 3000 3dmark06:
#hwbot.org/hardware/videocard/gma_hd?tab=rankings#/manufacturer.rankings.do?applicationId=12&manufacturer=intel&hardwareTypeId=GPU_1645&hardwareType=GPU&tabid=gpubenchmarks
compared to ion 1.9k:
#hwbot.org/hardware/videocard/nvidia_ion?tab=rankings#/manufacturer.rankings.do?applicationId=12&manufacturer=nvidia&hardwareTypeId=GPU_1530&hardwareType=GPU&tabid=gpubenchmarks
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# $400.00?????Swamp 2010-07-17 15:00
##newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16856158013

hmmmm......didn't quite make that
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# Thank youOlin Coles 2010-07-17 15:28
I appreciate the pricing update... that's quite a difference from the ION-330 series. I've updated the article with all the prices.
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# XBMC media centerHenrique Ferreira 2011-02-26 09:24
My ideia is to setup one of these in my house as a media center, running windows 7 64 bit and XBMC. Will i be able to playback 1080p and 720p movies and videos with 5.1 dts audio in this device properly???

Thanks in advance!!
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# RE: XBMC media centerOlin Coles 2011-02-26 11:56
Hello Henrique:
Yes, you can easily play back 1080p video with this and stream via HDMI for full DTS sound. I might suggest something that could play games, too:
benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=620
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# RE: RE: XBMC media centerHenrique Ferreira 2011-02-26 12:35
First of all, thanks for the fast reply! ;)
What are the main diferences between this and the Vision 3D?
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# RE: RE: RE: XBMC media centerOlin Coles 2011-02-26 13:56
Please read the Vision 3D review, because I explain it there in more detail.
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