ASRock Core 100HT-BD : Bringing HTPCs to the Mainstream Market [UPDATED : Noise Issue]by Ganesh T S on July 19, 2010 9:34 PM EST
- Posted in
- Home Theater
- Media Streamer
- Core i3
Most users of the Core 100 HT-BD will probably not need to play around with the BIOS. That said, the unit carries the AMI L1.32 BIOS, and does provide a good set of features for the enthusiasts to play around with.
First off, we have the OC Tweaker option, which has more features compared to the overclocking Windows utility that ASRock supplies. There is a Turbo30 option to increase the system performance in a transparent manner. In our testing, we found that overclocking doesn't deliver any improvement for HTPC workloads, so we didn't test this aspect too much. One point of note is that the GPU easily overclocks to 900 MHz from the stock 667 MHz. This improved the Windows Experience Index score sometimes (depending on the Intel graphics driver version).
In the 'Advanced' section of the BIOS, most users would be interested in the Instant Flash utility which enables BIOS updates from a flash driver without booting into Windows. Of more usefulness is the 'Good Night LED' feature which turns off the really bright blue LED in the front when the unit is in 'Standby' mode.
The 'H/W Monitor' section allows one to modify the CPU and chassis fan settings. The default 'Auto' option worked very well, and managed to keep the unit idling around 45C. The BIOS page seemed to always indicate a higher temperature compared to the Windows utility. On booting into the OS and entering into 'Idle' mode, the power saving options kick in, bringing down the temperatures.
The Boot section allows you to choose the boot device and boot order. Booting from USB devices is indeed possible, but the menu entry in the BIOS appears only if the USB device is connected to the unit.
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Goty - Monday, July 19, 2010 - linkUnfortunately, the lack of even the ability to include a TV tuner in this system kills it for me. If all I am going to do is use it as a Blu-Ray player and DLNA client, I've already got a PS3 that handles both admirably.
Allio - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - linkI agree. I don't understand the niche this system fills - if your needs aren't met by the existing set-top devices, you probably want to do serious gaming on it or use it as a DVR. What exactly does this do better than an ION system, other than be more expensive? Is anyone really encoding video on their HTPCs? That's what my power hungry quad core is for.
RamarC - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - linkditto. as soon as i saw the external power supply, i immediately started the laptop comparison. it's bigger than a laptop but still has the same limited expansion capability. considering i just got similar a i3 based laptop for a niece going to college for only $550, i can't see why i wouldn't go with the lappy over this mini box.
ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - linkRamarC,
After having used this unit for 2 weeks in the process of writing the review, I do have to say that the same thought crossed my mind.
However, ASRock does have some compelling points:
1. HTPC centric features such as Instant Boot
2. MCE Remote + I/R Receiver
3. AiWi gaming feature
4. Expansion slot for 2nd hard disk
5. Better audio codec
6. Blu-Ray drive (may also be on the laptop)
Basically, the laptop's monitor & keyboard / trackpad get exchanged for the above features and the unit ends up at the same cost as the notebook.
quiksilvr - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - linkThat's not worth it. I suggest you return it and get a notebook. There are laptops out there with quick launch, an IR receiver, discrete graphics for actual gaming, usb ports for that 2nd hard disk, and expresscard slots for better audio codecs.
And on top of all that, you get a screen, a keyboard and a trackpad and mobilitiy.
If this HTPC had discrete graphics and a $500 price tag instead of a $600-$700, then it would be pretty cool. But given that it doesn't, it's not worth it.
ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - linkquiksilvr,
This HTPC is supposed to be a companion box for a TV, and as such its 'non-mobile' nature is supposed to lend itself to tasks such as running downloads overnight, and recording TV programs with external tuners and so on and so forth.
For a laptop with the specs you mention, the cost is probably going to be in the $900 - $1000 range. We have done the cost analysis, and it looks like ASRock is just charging a $90 premium (probably lesser if you go with the DVD drive). I believe this will be a compelling investment for people thinking about streamers such as the C-200 from PopCornHour or the Dune and other similar products. They can get an exponential rise in performance and available utilities for a couple of $100s more.
Yes, I agree that notebooks could be a great choice.. provided they fit your usage scenario.
Milleman - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - linkI use the Zotac MAG Ion w. Intel 330, together with XBMC. Works just great as a streaming device for all my movies on the media server.
You should consider to include XBMC Live (dedicated SBMC Linux installation) in your reviews as well.
ganeshts - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - linkMilleman,
Thanks for your suggestion. XBMC Live doesn't support HD audio bitstreaming, which is fast becoming one of the most important aspects for HTPCs.
I will definitely keep in mind your suggestion for future reviews.
doxxius - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - linkWell, I use the separate optical audio output jack on the rear which I connect to the audio receiver. Works great for me. But maybe some prefer to have it inside the HDMI cable.
ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - linkFor HTPC enthusiasts:
1. This box can bitstream HD audio to the A/V receiver, while the ION can't.
2. The CPU is much more powerful than the Atom, and the user has the option to let the box run overnight to do tasks (such as downloads and encodes) without running their quad cores. This is a greener alternative.
The opinion that people don't run encodes on their HTPCs is because of the fact that such form factor machines (usually based on Atom) aren't capable enough. With this Arrandale offering, that possibility is getting opened up.
Usage as a DVR is possible using an external USB TV tuner.