We reviewed the performance of the Core 100 HT-BD from the standpoint of a HTPC, and it has come out pretty well in almost all perspectives. It does have some shortcomings, particularly for the dedicated enthusiasts who are concerned about the support for 23.976 fps, and those who clamour for complete open source software support. However, these are not really ASRock's faults, but more of Intel's.

Since the introduction of the Clarkdale / Arrandale platforms, HTPCs based on them have been solely built by enthusiasts.  Their requests to Intel to fix issues have usually fallen on deaf ears. If their customers like ASRock are able to build up a good market share and bring HTPCs into the mainstream market, it is quite possible that the frequency of Intel's driver updates would go up and issues would get fixed faster.

Let us wrap up this review with the pros and cons of the Core 100 HT-BD:

Pros

1. Quantum leap in performance and lowered power consumption (maximum of 48W) over similar form factor nettops from last year (Atom / ION)
2. USB 3.0 ports in front get maximum performance out of external hard disks
3. Perfect Blu-Ray playback with bitstreaming and GPU decode acceleration using PowerDVD / ArcSoft TMT / Corel WinDVD
4. Customers without fancy A/V receivers still get the advantage of the THX Studio Pro certification in the VIA VT2020 codec, supposedly better on specifications compared to the Realtek ALC892 (higher SNR ratio)
5. Powerful and stable 300 Mbps Wireless-N networking capable of streaming high bitrate videos.
6. Fancy AiWi gaming feature enables usage of external devices with accelerometers as motion controllers
7. Bundled MCE remote can control almost all media playback programs
8. Easy overclocking from within Windows
9. Ability to install two 2.5" HDDs / SSDs in addition to the optical disk drive.
10. Perfect wake-up from sleep / shutdown using the MCE remote (No different from using a dedicated media streamer like the WDTV Live)

Cons

1. HM55 chipset limitations doesn't allow for full performance from USB 3.0 ports when using external SSDs
2. Needs some overclocking / disabling of C-States and SpeedStep in the BIOS to handle DPC latency issues and some complicated video encodes
3. Noise levels go up from the 25dB at idle to 55dB when the system is under full load.
4. No PCI-E expansion slots inside, ruling out the possibility of an internal TV tuner
5. Monitor resolutions higher than 1920x1080 aren't supported
6. Intel's drivers aren't up to the mark (Absence of 23.976fps support, absence of support for good deinterlacing and noise reduction, no ability to perform skin tone correction)
7. Absence of a unified interface to handle all types of media because of limited support for open source software developers (MPC-HC / VLC) from Intel

ASRock continues to make rapid strides in the HTPC arena with their second generation product, and we really like the fact that they seem to be learning from the shortcomings of their previous generation products based on the ION platform. Despite the cons of the Core 100 HT-BD (the ones which really matter are Intel's and not ASRock's), we have no qualms in recommending this HTPC to anyone planning to invest in a Clarkdale or Arrandale for their home theater. Kudos to ASRock for taking the lead in bringing the first pre-built HTPC based on this platform into the market. We also commend them for putting in a nice balance of features and providing a decent value for the money. This is a sign of good things to come for the company as well as the pre-built HTPC market.

HTPC Performance : Noise, Power Consumption & Miscellaneous Concerns
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  • spddemon - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    This system is capable of dobly truHD and DTS HD. A ION system is not capable of decoding of those sounds format...

    So this system will appeal heavily to someone that wants a small nettop type system with a BD and good encoding performance. With any nettop you are going to have to use NAS storage anyways, but this system will allow more internal expansion than most others.. But if you wanted to, you could pair it with an external drive cage.. I wouldn't want that in my living room / theater room though.

    biggest problem with this system is price.. You can build a great system for a couple hundred less if you are willing to take hours of researching the components and integration. A successful HTPC build will take considerable more time in planning/research than a typical PC/Gaming PC Build....

    If you are wanting a powerful, small, efficient, prebuilt nettop, this is the best out there right now!

    That is really the only thing i wish Ganesh would of pointed out a little more clearly. The capabilities of the "iGPU" vs an ION.. with the growth of this field, I would love to see a followup review that would pit a custom built (but comparable build) HTPC.. like a Core i3 530 (or maybe an e7200) / H55 with and without an ATI/NVIDIA (non ION) card. This would really give some people something to look at as far as capabilities..

    and really, who cares what the remote looks like.. get a Logitech harmony or some other home automation remote... most people will only care about if the IR or RF functionality is already there...
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    spddemon,

    Stay tuned for more HTPC reviews in this space. Their performance will be pitted against this solution.

    However, ION is passe right now. We will be testing with the ATI 5xxx series and upcoming Nvidia cards.
    Reply
  • Furuno - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Upcoming nVidia cards...

    Hmm I wonder what it is... A low-cost version of fermi or another rebranding of GT2XX cards?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    We already published reviews of the GTX460 from the gaming perspective.

    The card is good from a gaming HTPC perspective because it also supports HD audio bitstreaming.

    There are some rumours that Nvidia has lower priced cards coming out in the next 2 months, so we will cover them when they get released :) At the least, we will cover the GTX460.
    Reply
  • spddemon - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the updates Ganeshts!

    It looks like your time frame will be perfect for my new HTPC project.

    I really hope Nvidia can get some low powered cards out to offer a true HTPC card that covers all the current HD formats/codecs.
    Reply
  • mindbomb - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Ion can only bitstream LPCM, but I assume the atom cpu is powerful enough to decode truehd in libavcodec.
    So that only leaves DTS-HD MA as a problem.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Goty,

    The user can always opt for a USB TV tuner.

    If we had an expansion slot for a TV tuner inside this box, the unit wouldn't be based off the HM55 chipset, and wouldn't fit in the sub-50 W power envelop which is a coveted mark in this space.

    Further, including a TV tuner in the box would drive up the cost of the system in some areas, as it would be taxed as an entertainment device, rather than a computer.
    Reply
  • bearxor - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    No one that is serious about using this as a HTPC is going to string USB TV tuners off this thing. You want 2 USB tuners hanging off the back of the machine? How about 4?

    My HTPC has 7 tuners total. 2xHauppage 2250's, 2xCats Eye 150's and a ATi DCT. Tell me exactly where I'm going to be able to put those on a machine like this.

    There needs to be some kind of market differentiation between a HTPC and a Living Room PC. One is for serious use as a DVR and the other is to hook up to the TV and watch some videos/play games/surf the web/Facebook/chat, etc. They are two different markets.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    bearxor,

    You have got an impressive set up.

    However, I believe your type of setup is more the exception rather than the norm. The sort of arrangement which will remain a niche for a long time to come. With the advent of IP streaming and availability of TV shows and live sports broadcasts online, I am not even sure people will require so many tuners.

    I also think that your sort of setup isn't amenable to the silent, power efficient HTPC that people want (particularly from the viewpoint of media streamers and boxes such as the upcoming Google TV). The latter 'living room PC' that you mention has more potential to explode as a market for manufacturers to exploit, rather than the DVR-centric PC that you envisage.
    Reply
  • hughlle - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Exactly, 7 tuners is hardly the norm. I make do without a single one on my HTPC, i have the likes of iplayer if i really feel inclined to drop into the fantastic realm that is daytime television :S Reply

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