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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  • GreeneEyez - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Have fun bitstreaming HD audio from the Mac Mini or playing back Blu ray disks/ISOs... Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    GeorgeH,

    It is not possible for any home built mini-ITX box to be within the power envelop of this unit.

    This uses an Arrandale processor which isn't available for purchase by the general public.

    Further, as you rightly observe, the MacMini has worse specs, but looks better. Companies like ASRock provide the best bang for the buck, and in this pursuit, industrial design takes a back seat. However, things are going in the right direction, and I am sure the execution next time around will be much better from all perspectives.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    i need a tv tuner in or connected to my htpc.

    you say that the 100HT-BD's chipset cannot support an internal TV tuner, but that it has a smaller power envelope than a chipset which can.

    in that case, you would also have to factor in the extra power used by your external TV tuner box.

    you would also have to compare the cost of that box versus the cost of a tuner card.

    if all things are equal (you break even), then the all-in-one solution (a beefier htpc) would be the obvious choice.
    Reply
  • tmservo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    As others mention, since the MacMini doesn't do Bluray, and doesn't bitstream DTS-MA or DD-HD, it's not really a great HTPC. It's LPCM support also troubled, and it doesn't matter since it doesn't do Bluray. The MacMini simply isn't a very good HTPC at all. It might compete against something like an ION.. except you can get an ION with BD at 1/2 the price. Apple has to give up rejecting the "bag of hurt" that is bluray, because as long as they keep their phobia of it, they aren't in the HTPC market at all Reply
  • Computer Bottleneck - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    It will be interesting to see your future evaluation of the AMD IGP in the HQV 2.0 benchmark.

    As far as this product goes I really liked reading your technical explanation of how Asrock integrated what is basically a laptop mainboard into the Mini-ITX form factor.
    Reply
  • alaricljs - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Can I suggest in that HTPC centric features chart that under SPDIF you specify optical/copper instead of just yes/no? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Thanks for your suggestion, alaricjls.

    The SPDIF is optical, and I will update the article shortly.
    Reply
  • dbone1026 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Hey Ganesh,

    Excellent job with the review. Honestly I am surprised by some of the comments regarding an expansion slot, which to me defeats the whole purpose of ASRock making this HTPC in such a small form factor. Aside from USB tuners I know many people who use network tuners (i.e HDHomeRun) so in many cases there is no need for any sort of internal tuner. If want to strap on multiple tuners then why not just a MicroATX or ATX case as that is not the intention of this ASRock..

    I honestly think the biggest challenge with the ASRock 100HT is the price. Newegg has it listed at $649 (without BR drive) and no O/S. The mini-ITX HTPC I built which was only slightly larger and was easily $100 less with better specs (using core i5). Hopefully we start seeing prices drop soon.
    Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I've been rolling out the dual core Atom ones for small office/home PCs. The customers love them over the old big black/grey boxes.

    Low power and small desk presence are a big win.

    Very nicely made too.

    Built about sixteen of them and not one issue so far.
    Reply
  • erictorch - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    The core i3-330m processor is available for ordering from www.superbiiz.com
    If the reviewer reads this comment, can they comment on whether AHCI support is available in the BIOS menus? This is necessary to get the full performance out of a SSD. A lot of laptop bioses don't have AHCI selectable.
    Reply

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