|ASRock Vision 3D Blu-ray Compact HTPC|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 24 November 2010|
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ASRock 137B Detailed Features
When you task your design engineers with building on a micro-sized scale, component placement must be handled with the utmost efficiency for the system to work. ASRock has done an excellent job finding a home for everything needed to bring the HM55-MXM platform to life on the mini-ITX form factor. All-solid capacitors prolong component lifetime and can endure harsh operating conditions, and the thick PCB is quality-made. Engineers designed the ASRock Vision 3D platform to be completely silent, emitting only 23 dBA under normal operation. As a result, the only fan on this system efficiently exhausts heated air out through a deflector vent at the rear of the chassis.
On the back panel ASRock outfitted the Vision 3D kit with native HDMI 1.4a audio/video output for uncompressed high-definition displays, along with Dual-Link DVI output for standard and 120Hz digital monitors. External storage devices can be attached by the 3.0 GB/s eSATA port, five Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports, or single SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port. A digital optical audio TosLink output compliments the 5.1-channel analog audio outputs, and Gigabit Ethernet allow for network connectivity.
The ASRock HM55-MXM motherboard is directly designed for HTPC purposes. The component layout is completely different for this platform, which offers one spare SATA 3Gb/s port and a mini-PCI Express port (filled with an Atheros AR9287 wireless network adapter). These two features, along with the added eSATA port, Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet adapter, and NEC uPD720200 SuperSpeed USB-3.0 controller all add up to reasons why the ASRock Vision 3D series could be the ideal all-in-one HTPC Media Center solution.
This particular ASRock Vision 3D (model 137B) features the 2.40 GHz dual-core Intel Core i3-370M mobile processor. The i3-370M includes 3MB (128KB L1 per core, 512KB L2 per core, and 3072KB shared L3) of Intel Smart Cache memory on a 32nm process, and includes Intel's 64-bit instruction set. The i3-370M maintains a 35-watt TDP, which operates separately from the 45nm Intel HD Graphics integrated 500 MHz Ironlake-M GPU. The CPU processor measures 81mm2 while the GPU measures 114mm2, and both are cooled by a low-profile heatsink and silent blower fan assembly. Unlike the ASRock Core 100HT series, the Vision 3D does not make use of Intel's integrated HD Graphics because of the installed discrete graphics card.
The NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M mobile graphics card plays a huge role in the ASRock Vision 3D platform, and could arguably be the centerpiece to this HTPC. Using NVIDIA's GF108M GPU, the GeForce GT 425M delivers 96 Unified Shaders over 8 pixel pipelines with one TMU per pipeline. The 560 MHz GPU (1120 Shader clock) supports DirectX 11 extensions and offers a 256MB GDDR3 video frame buffer at 800 MHz. Located on the motherboard's only PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, the 40nm GF108M GPU occupies 114 mm2 and is cooled by a copper plate with a single attached heat-pipe rod.
The ASRock HM55-MXM motherboard supports only 1.5 volt DDR3 SoDIMM memory, so upgrades to 8GB (maximum allowed by motherboard and Intel i3 limitations) will need to maintain JEDEC standards. ASRock includes two ASint Technology SSZ3128M8-EDJ1D dual-channel 2GB DDR3-1333 (667MHz) SoDIMM modules, which offer the following latency timings:
A steel drive tray assembly houses a slim-line internal SATA optical drive (DVD or Blu-ray), and 500GB Seagate Momentus 5400.6 SATA hard disk drive (unformatted). Regardless of HTPC or Nettop application, the high-capacity drive inside the ASRock Vision 3D system will easily handle the storage needs demanded of it. For power users who want more performance without sacrificing capacity, the Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid Drive is an excellent alternative.
The internal drive tray pulls out away from the enclosure once two retaining screws are removed, allowing for motherboard or drive access. The HM55-MXM motherboard has a third SATA and power connection add-on, should you need it, but the drive tray does not accommodate mounting. Luckily, there's just barely enough room beneath the tray for another 2.5" SATA notebook drive.