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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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    erictorch,

    Thanks for informing me about eWiz carrying the mobile processor. We searched on the usual haunts (Amazon and Newegg), and neither of them carried the processor

    I perused further, and it looks like the i3-330M is the only i series processor they have (The i7 mobile they carry has no GPU die in the package and its TDP is 45W).

    In any case, I couldn't find a mobo based on the HM55. Are you aware of any with the PGA 988 socket?

    By the way, I did see AHCI is selectable in the BIOS, but didn't personally verify whether it works. I will get back to you here in a couple of days if it doesn't :)
    Reply
  • erictorch - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I stumbled upon this list of mini-itx motherboards
    http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php...
    with froogle.com I was able to find the
    IEI KINO-QM57A $320
    IBASE MI953F $440
    DFI CP100-NRM $400

    I was also able to find the i5 mobile CPU through pricewatch.com
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the links, erictorch.

    At $320 for the board, a build similar to the Core 100 is going to be pretty costly.. We had budgeted $140 for the board.

    I wonder how many end users actually end up doing builds based on these mobos.

    But you are right! It is possible to do such a build on one's own if the necessary efforts are taken. However, most people will go in for the Clarkdale builds because they are much more cost efficient.
    Reply
  • spddemon - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    That is very true, ganeshts; however, I would love to see what the end result would be with one of those boards instead of a clarkdale...

    I am more than willing to spend a couple hundred more for a true low powered system providing my performance and functionality were not hindered.

    I was targeting a Core i3 530 but if the performance per watt of the 330 is close to the 530 then it could be a great trade off.

    I will have to add this info to my build sheet and see where it goes.. I have sifted the hardware down quite a bit, but I still have a lot of products to research before i start..
    Reply
  • Riccardo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    Good work on this review - I really appreciate the HTPC focus on this one. I look forward to seeing it used again in relevant reviews. Thanks!
    Reply
  • Pessimism - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'd pay an extra $5 for a remote that doesn't look so cheesy and cheap. They aren't the only company at fault though. I see a LOT of slick looking devices with cheap, tacky, flimsy looking remotes that don't match up with the look of the device whatsoever. Reply
  • OblivionLord - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'm thinking that people would be more inclined to believe your point of using a USB capture card if they knew the real benefit of it compared to a typical PCI Capture card. The only real physical drawback with the USB card is that you need a second one if you want a dual tuner setup.

    The other problem is that the quality of the captured video produced by a USB card is inferior to a PCI capture card. This is what I've come to believe since I've never owned a USB card for this purpose.

    Perhaps you should do a comparison of a few USB capture devices vs PCI capture cards. This will show the truth.
    Reply
  • pcfxer - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'm surprised that you chose A-weighting for the measurement of the machine. I'm also surprised that you used the Radioshack and took the 53dB as a "solid" measurement. I have the same SPL meter and its accuracy does not live in the 50dB range. It is far more accurate and stable (if you've used this to get any meaningful information you'll know what I mean) 65+dB.

    That said, I am fully aware of the noise required to gain measurement on that darn thing. That "HTPC" is effing LOUD! Even inside my case I get the good old Lo A-weighted/C-weighted.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    pcfxer,

    Thanks for your feedback. I will keep this in mind for future reviews.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Mainstream Market? For $700? I got news for you... there may be millions of mindless drones rushing out to buy iCrap, but this is way above and beyond mainstream for a HTPC. It only costs $100 to build a HTPC. Anything more than that and you may as well go on ebay and buy a notebook with a damaged LCD and use that as a HTPC (assuming it has hdmi out of course). Reply

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