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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  • ck_mb - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Does the video card pass WMC cablecard test? I have a AMD 780G that doesn't, since this motherboard doesn't have any expanision slot it would be worthless as a dvr using cablecards. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Yes, the system passes the Digital Cable Advisor test without any issues. Reply
  • schoenbe - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    An HTPC without a TV tuner is not an HTPC. It is a media player.

    In the case of the Core-100HT-BD reviewed here, a powerful media player. But you still can't watch TV with it. You cannot record TV with it. Not even a single channel, let alone several channels simultaneously. Anandtech should not recommend this unit as an HTPC. Besides, $700 for a media player? For playing back BD discs and media files? Not sure who wants to pay this much for an incomplete feature set.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    If you don't like it, don't buy it. Is someone standing there with a gun to your head? Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    In my experience, USB tuners are the easiest for people to work with. This unit is targeted at people who probably wouldn't be willing to open up a computer case and install an internal tuner IMO. Personally, I think the best tuner is the HDHomeRun, which is a network based tuner, so this ASRock unit definitely delivers in every regard. Reply
  • schoenbe - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    "... this ASRock unit definitely delivers in every regard." Really? Even if you have to go out and buy a TV Tuner and make it work? This product definitely doesn't deliver the complete package. Reply
  • Ipatinga - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    In the article, there is a part where it says "... One must also take into consideration the cost of the Atheros AR9287, which can be bought for around US $15 online..."

    Where can I find Mini PCI Express 1x Wireless Adapters (Half Height or not) like this Atheros AR9287 this cheap ($15)?

    Thanks :)
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    This is the listing I was referring to:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Atheros-Dual-Band-AR9287-Wirel...
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    Ganeshts: I think you and I have different definitions of noisy. Lets take a simple and real life example.

    I am listening to classical music - obviously a quiet section, the 1812 overture can be heard over a jet engine!

    At same time I have firefox up and running (couple of tabs one of which is of course Anandtech but the other is a chess site I use)

    I am also running a chess analysis program, fritz, which will take whatever CPU capacity you through at it

    Pretty obviously under this scenario the IGP is not fully loaded but the CPU could be running close to capacity.

    My Sofa is 6ft away.

    If I can hear the ASRock then it is too loud. By comparison my main work rig (admittedly water cooled), I cannot hear other than possible a very slight noise of air movement.

    We all know that manufacturer claims of noise levels are typically overstated (expecially by fan manufacturers) but to be suitable for me the noise (close to the machine) has to be sub 30db or even sub 25db. It is not difficult but does limit the cooling to a slow running 140+mm fan.

    Mind you the loudest thing in the living room (apart from my daughter) has to be the cable set up box - but only when it starts up from sleep, some really bad design I think there
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    cjs150,

    Noise is a very subjective issue. What might be noisy to me might be OK to you, or vice versa. It is really hard to say what the "ideal" dB would be (aside from silent of course). Some people seem to have the hearing of a bat, while others are more tolerant.

    For the correct judgement, you will have to experience it yourself, unfortunately.

    The hobbyist sound meter we used could barely register anything unless it was very close to the unit (as you can see from the photo). At 2 ft away, manufacturer shows proof of 34.5 dB (Please check UPDATE section on Page 11).

    I am not even sure there are professional sound meters to measure sub 30 and sub 25 dB unless you have an anechoic room.

    The figures are presented, and in our opinion, at this cost and for this form factor, ASRock appears to have done the best it could do. Whether the figures are acceptable to you or not, I can't judge from here :)

    Our review of this product was from the perspective of the average HTPC user ( not people with 7 TV tuners, for instance ;) )
    Reply

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