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ASRock Core 100HT-BD Home Theater PC

ASRock Core 100HT-BD Home Theater PC
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ASRock delivers a Wii-sized home theater PC (HTPC) with a powerful Core i3 CPU, Intel HD Graphics, and a Blu-ray drive. We put the Core 100HT-BD system through a number of tasks to see how its performance compares to a desktop-based home theater PC.

When I want to gauge whether new computing gear is ready for mainstream adoption, I ask whether or not my mother could handle it. If the device is something I could give to my mom without terrifying her or getting a phone call every 10 minutes with questions about how to use it, then it has serious potential.

Certainly, the home theater PC (HTPC) continues to gain traction in this respect, but it really hasn't broken into the mainstream with any force. This is because HTPCs are still PCs. As much as they look like components that belong next to the amplifier in your living room, there are aspects of the personal computer that simply intimidate and confuse people who aren't comfortable with them in the first place.

But as personal video recorders (PVRs) become more prolific, as the line between a PC monitor and a living room-based TV blurs, and as Mom begins to rely on email and the Internet as much as I do, the HTPC becomes increasingly viable as an appliance. It’s inevitable that the future will see TVs and computing devices intertwined. But before that happens, we need user-friendly HTPCs, ready-made for public consumption. We need home theater systems that are powerful enough to handle any high-definition video and audio format we throw at them, yet simple enough for my mom to use, and in a comfortable package that is not the least bit intimidating.

PC vendors know this, too. They are working to make a mainstream-friendly HTPC real. Today, we're looking at ASRock’s latest HTPC offering, a cute (Ed.: I can't believe you used the word cute) and powerful little box its calls the Core 100HT-BD.

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  • 18 Hide
    ivan_chess , September 2, 2010 6:13 AM
    Interesting but I wonder if an AMD system would provide more value on your dollar.
  • 10 Hide
    zooted , September 2, 2010 7:11 AM
    This would be great, if it were priced around $300-400
Other Comments
  • 18 Hide
    ivan_chess , September 2, 2010 6:13 AM
    Interesting but I wonder if an AMD system would provide more value on your dollar.
  • 1 Hide
    Stardude82 , September 2, 2010 6:57 AM
    Certainly beats a Zino, but the price puts it in the class of a Mac Mini. An M600 + HD4200 system would be interesting for a HTPC like this.
  • 10 Hide
    zooted , September 2, 2010 7:11 AM
    This would be great, if it were priced around $300-400
  • 1 Hide
    DeZenT , September 2, 2010 8:12 AM
    Asrock also puts alot of focus on the possibility of streaming true Bluray sound. One thing, that all other pre-buildt htpc lack
  • -1 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , September 2, 2010 8:14 AM
    Well this is great and can do alot more than a regulr media player, but id prefer the ASUS OPLAY! and have a standalone media player while I also have a supercomputer or a monster PC and a console gaming system......
  • 1 Hide
    amgsoft , September 2, 2010 8:50 AM
    I'am testing one at home. Excellent piece of hardware for multimedia and TV center. This HTPC is much faster to boot and shutdown (S3 sleep mode) then the traditional DVB-T boxes i had previously at home (2-3 sec startup, 9-11 sec shutdown). All I needed to do was to buy a DVB-T USB dongle (terratec). In S3 it uses very low power (less then 1W according to the reviews on the internet). I'am using for watching the DVB-T, dvd's, playing music, showing photo. Its performance is more then adequate, so I cannot see any reason for overclocking the unit. The heat comming out of the unit is very acceptable, the noise is hardly, if at all, noticeable.

    The only limitation is the angle of the IR remote. The angle for remotelly controlling the unit from your living room is a bit narrow for home use and I hope that they will consider to provide an external IR receiver later.

    Regarding the price, I was trying to find a cheaper unit with same specs and same look and size, but I was not able to find any. Dell has a PC which is a bit smaller (a bit bigger then wii) however it is not a htpc unit. You can build a sligthly cheaper one. It will be larger, will need a larger power supply, the case will like a traditional pc which you don't want in your living room, and at the end of the day you will end up with something which has cost you more money. In my mind its a very good hardware piece and worth to consider if you want a home media center in you living room.
  • 0 Hide
    jestersage , September 2, 2010 10:09 AM
    Where I am, it's mighty expensive. But what I like about this article and the Core100HT-BD is that it inspires me to put together a similarly small and 'cute' system.

    I'm thinking along the lines of an e3300 and G31 chipset with a 200w or 300w mATX PSU (how I'd love to get my hands on a Silverstone 300w mATX unit from the SG05!).

    Without the powersupply, the unit will cost about USD250 here. With a decent 80plus mATX PSU, the cost goes beyond the USD320 mark.

    It won't play blu-ray but everything else would run better than, say, an Atom (even the ION variants). It would be twice as tall, almost twice large and a tad deeper, true, but it would have room for a half-height PCIE video card (ahem, HD5570) upgrade.

    One bit of constructive feedback for Don: why use a 650W PSU on the comparison unit? Wouldn't a 380w or even 300w PSU be sufficient - not to mention place the power draw closer to the center of the efficiency curve?
  • 2 Hide
    rwpritchett , September 2, 2010 12:44 PM
    A step in the right direction. I'd like to see more pre-built HTPC's like this but with better styling and more expansion options. A slot load drive would also be great.

    I wish they would make the parts available so us DIY'ers can build our own like this.
  • -1 Hide
    domenic , September 2, 2010 1:05 PM
    ni
  • 0 Hide
    bunz_of_steel , September 2, 2010 1:08 PM
    good review and attention to the real needs of an htpc. size, heat, noise and video performance. The price tag is just yuk! I would like to see how this would compare to a geek dude building their own and see how it fares... :) 
  • 0 Hide
    fozzie76 , September 2, 2010 1:39 PM
    $700 is the MSI gaming notebook range. Why not just buy the MSI notebook, and keep it folded up in the entertainment center. Then if you need to travel just unplug the HDMI cable and off you go!
  • -1 Hide
    Nossy , September 2, 2010 1:46 PM
    Why cant they just throw in a LAPTOP sans the LCD and call it an HTPC? Geez. Seriously just cram in a i7 with a powerful graphics card into a notebook package.

    If you're lookin for just something to play videos files, youtubes, etc, just get a Popcorn hour, Asus Oplay, etc. There's almost no good reason for a HTPC anymore.
  • 2 Hide
    Humans think , September 2, 2010 2:06 PM
    It has everything I need from a HTPC, including analog audio output, but price is too high to justify a purchase. Since I have a PS3 I would probably buy the DVD version.

    If it was a little bigger and used underclocked desktop components to lower the price around $450 (without OS, all I need is UBUNTU/XBMC), I would buy it for sure
  • 1 Hide
    digitalgriffin , September 2, 2010 2:28 PM
    $750?!?!? w/o OS?

    You could buy a prebuilt laptop with the OS for less money and it will occupy roughly the same amount of space. And it will be more powerful to boot!
  • 2 Hide
    zaixionito , September 2, 2010 2:28 PM
    The problem is, HTPCs are just too expensive for their specs. Maybe a $300 one is just dreaming, but I would never purchase one, even if I were in the market. :|
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , September 2, 2010 2:36 PM
    jestersage...(how I'd love to get my hands on a Silverstone 300w mATX unit from the SG05!)...

    You can (although it's out of stock right now): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817104075
    Apparently the SG-05 uses a slightly custom variant with different cables, but this is the one. HardwareSecrets reviewed it favorably: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/FSP300-60GHS-Power-Supply-Review/757
    Seasonic also has a 300W TFX PSU that is 80+ bronze, which has also been favorably reviewed: http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=Story5&reid=190 and http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Seasonic-SS-300TFX-Power-Supply-Review/1021
  • 0 Hide
    kilthas_th , September 2, 2010 2:58 PM
    $750 seems incredibly steep for basically adding Bluray support to a media box like the Oplay. If it were a more capable gaming setup, it would be more acceptable, but it's grossly overpriced for what it can realistically deliver.

    I think the real take-off for these will be the second or third generation of intel/AMD's CPU/GPU consolidation. Sandy Bridge looks like a huge step forward for integrated graphics, and I'm hoping AMD's Fusion efforts will prove similar. Must not forget nVidia's SB/GPU integration project, as well. All of these projects should bring reduced cost, increased functionality, and more manageable power usage to the HTPC arena.
  • 2 Hide
    elbert , September 2, 2010 3:25 PM
    I can build my own HTPC for under $500 based on the 785G. With a wireless KB/MS you really have no need for the remote. Newegg has plenty of combo deals with the 785G motherboards so you can at times get $20 off a CPU or $10 off the OS.
    Currently tho best BD player for the price on Newegg is LG's burner and under combo get upto $25 of a CPU.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductCombos.aspx?Item=N82E16827136181&SubCategory=600&SortField=0&PageSize=10&Page=2
  • 1 Hide
    terr281 , September 2, 2010 3:27 PM
    For roughly $750 during the fall of last year, I built a:

    1. AMD Phenom 2 720 BE CPU (undervolted at base running speed)
    2. Gigabyte AMD 770 chipset MB (not crossfire capable)
    3. 8 GB DDR3 1066 7-7-7-20-1T (4 x 2 GB) (only did 8 GB instead of 4 GB due to the fact this pc will hopefully never be upgraded)
    4. WD Black 750 GB HD (enough storage for movies and music)
    5. ATI 4670 1 GB (light gaming capable
    6. Cooler Master Elite 360 case (entertainment component sized, with plenty of room to work with inside it)
    7. Corsair 400w PSU (plenty of power for the system)
    8. Logitech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse (functional 15 foot range)
    9. DVD Writer
    10. Blu-Ray Reader (with software included)
    11. Win Vista Home Premium 64 bit OEM with Win 7 upgrade included (already completed)
    12. Cooler Master Gemini 2 CPU cooler
    13. Quiet fans throughout the case. (Inaudible under idle, HT use, and light living room gaming by my ears at the keyboard/mouse range)

    Missing from my year old system, when compared to the reviewed unit:

    1. Remote control (Not needed for my family, wireless keyboard and mouse)
    2. Wireless capability (Not needed, house wired with GB wiring)

    The only benefit I see to the ASRock unit, and other units like it, for tech enthusiasts is the unified warranty and lack of labor and support required to put it together.

    As the article states, for "the mom, father, grandparents, etc...," especially those without large entertainment centers with multiple components, units such as this work perfectly. (The only issue, of course, being that the "standard universal remote" will not work with these units... and they must use 2+ remotes.

    The computer will eventually move away from the "computer room" and into the "living room." For we computer gamers, we can only hope that this happens, and is accepted by the general population, before computer gaming has further deteriorated and console gaming has completely taken hold.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , September 2, 2010 3:33 PM
    On some CPU's tho note that a few newer designed like the 6 cores and 445 rana require motherboard bios upgrades flashed. IE you don't have a CPU the motherboard supports with is current bios your stuck.
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