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The Inside: Components And Construction

ASRock Core 100HT-BD Home Theater PC

With the top cover removed, most of the internals are covered by a drive mounting bracket. This bracket holds a slim Sony Optiarc BC-5500-AJ BD combo drive capable of reading Blu-ray discs at 2x, DVDs at 8x, and CD-ROMs at 24x speeds. This drive can’t write to Blu-ray discs, unfortunately, but it can write to DVD+/-R discs at 8x and CD-R discs at 16x speeds.

The hard drive is located under the optical drive, which in this case is a 500 GB Seagate Momentus 5400 RPM hard disk. Both of these drives are designed for notebook use, so it's little wonder why ASRock chose them for such a diminutive machine. The mounting bracket can accommodate a second notebook-sized hard drive if the user wants to add another more storage.

With the drive mounting bracket fully removed, we have a full view of the motherboard (except for what’s behind the active cooler--the CPU and chipset). We see two DDR3 1.5 V SO-DIMM memory slots, populated by two 2 GB modules of Elixir PC3-10600 memory running at 533 MHz and 7-7-7-20-60-1T timings. The motherboard handles up to 8 GB of RAM, likely more than it would ever need for HTPC duty.

Under the main cooler, we see the heart of the Core 100HT-BD: Intel’s Core i3-330M mobile CPU. The choice of a mobile platform underlines ASRock’s low power, heat, and noise targets for the Core 100HT-BD.

The Core i3-330M CPU has a 35 W TDP, yet it offers almost all of the processing power of a desktop Core i3 CPU, the main differences being a relatively low 2.13 GHz clock speed and 3 MB of L3 cache instead of 4 MB. In addition, the integrated GPU runs at 667 MHz on the mobile Core i3-330M CPU, while the GPU in the desktop Core i3 runs at 733 MHz. All of these compromises are relatively minor in the scheme of things, and as a result, the Core i3-330M mobile CPU should perform in roughly the same league as Intel's desktop Core-i3 530.

ASRock leans on its HM55-HT, a mini-ITX model designed for use in the Core 100HT-BD. The board’s most notable limitation is a single mini-PCIe expansion slot, already occupied by an Atheros AR9287-BL1A wireless card. Note the two wires coming out of the card, which attach to both sides of the case and are used as a dual antennae.

The onboard H55M chipset supports four SATA ports, one of which is used for the hard disk and the other for the optical drive. With one of the remaining ports reserved for eSATA use, the fourth port remains empty for the addition of another hard disk.

Extra functionality is handled by a number of onboard components, such as the Realtek RTL8111E gigabit network adapter, the Via VT2020 eight-channel HD audio codec with THX TruStudio Pro, the Nuvoton NCT6775F for monitoring onboard sensors, and the NEC D720200F1 controller for USB 3.0 functionality (note that ASRock claims that its Core 100HT-BD is the world’s first HTPC system with USB 3.0).

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