|ASRock Vision 3D Blu-ray Compact HTPC|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 24 November 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 just now arriving at a point where compact size doesn't necessarily mean limited performance.
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-MXM. The only remaining holdout has been the graphics processor, up until now.
Modern integrated graphics (such as Intel's GMA HD) are sufficiently powerful enough to display high definition video content at 1280x720p or 1920×1080p resolutions, but expectations change once 3D video games are added into the equation. It takes a more powerful mobile GPU to share the same gaming experience equal to desktop PCs or gaming consoles. The problem is power, as all mobile devices must adhere to a strict power consumption threshold. This is why development on new compact discrete mobile graphics solutions moves so slowly, and products like the GeForce GT 445M (and especially the yet to be mass-produced NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M) only see implementation in platforms with a looser power envelope.
As we've just discussed in the previous section, the ASRock Vision 3D HTPC offers ample gaming performance thanks to the GeForce GT 425M video card. Perhaps they've read the writing on the wall? The desktop computing segment shrinks by the day, ever woefully losing market segment to compact computing devices like this one. 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 AMD and NVIDIA to seriously focus themselves on the mobile graphics market, and place their development in this sector ahead of desktop graphics. Doing things incrementally better each time is not nearly as important as doing things that the industry needs.