ASRock Core 100HT-BD Home Theater PC

The Inside: Components And Construction

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).

  • ivan_chess
    Interesting but I wonder if an AMD system would provide more value on your dollar.
  • Stardude82
    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.
  • zooted
    This would be great, if it were priced around $300-400
  • DeZenT
    Asrock also puts alot of focus on the possibility of streaming true Bluray sound. One thing, that all other pre-buildt htpc lack
  • liquidsnake718
    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......
  • amgsoft
    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.
  • jestersage
    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?
  • rwpritchett
    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.
  • domenic
  • bunz_of_steel
    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... :)