The small form factor (SFF) HTPC market has been steadily growing over the last few years. As mobile processors become more and more powerful, it is becoming easier for users to be satisfied with their performance even in desktop configurations.

The DIY HTPC crowd has a marked preference for mini-ITX motherboards and cases. However, the excessive TDP of desktop CPUs resulted in complicated thermal designs and noisy results. Thermal designs for systems with mobile CPUs with 35W TDPs are fairly straightforward and not very noisy. In fact, it is even possible to create systems which are fully passively cooled.

ASRock has three HTPC families catering to the entry level, mid-range and high-end markets. While the ION based HTPCs form the entry level, the Core series serves the mid-range and the Vision series caters to the high-end. Today, we will be looking in detail at the CoreHT 252B, the second generation Core series HTPC from ASRock. First off, let us take a look at the configuration of the review unit sent to us by ASRock

ASRock CoreHT 252B HTPC Specifications
Processor Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5-2520M
(2 x 2.50 GHz (3.20 GHz Turbo), 32nm, 3MB L2, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 2 x 2GB DDR3-1333
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000
650 MHz / 1.3 GHz (Turbo)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM 2.5" HDD
(Western Digital Scorpio Black WD5000BEKT)
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11b/g/n (2T2R Atheros AR5B97 in AzureWave AW-NE121H mini-PCIE card)
Audio Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (optical SPDIF/HDMI)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)
Extras THX TruStudio Pro Audio Certification
IR receiver and MCE remote
Pricing TBD

ASRock has three configurations of the CoreHT series available. Two of them have the Core i3-2310M processor (one with a Blu-ray drive - CoreHT 231B, and the other with a DVD drive - CoreHT 231D). The review unit is the CoreHT 252B with the Core i5-2520M processor. This comes with a Blu-ray drive.

 

Unboxing Impressions
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  • casteve - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    page 3, GPU paragraph:

    "However, WiDi is supported by the CoreHT 252B. "

    I think you meant to say NOT supported.

    Great article! Thanks, Ganesh.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Thansk! Fixed. Reply
  • jensend - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    If somebody made a system like this with a 65W Llano, esp. an A8-3800, I'd be all over it. Mobile Llano would be ok as well. (Barebones would be nice- I'd like to put in my own small ssd, and I have no need for Blu-Ray.) Reply
  • Foggg - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I thought there was a chance that ASRock's next level "Vision 3D series" which Ganesh referred to was possibly so-named because of AMD's "Vision" labeling for the Llano's.
    No such luck. That series has mobile i7's/i5's/i3's paired with Nvidia's GT425M. Guaranteed to be pricier than a mobile Llano. And for most, unnecessary, given this uses for this thing.
    Reply
  • smdx - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Following the last comment, is there any news on a possible update for the ZInoHD 410 line? (I guess they will be using Llano on their next lineup)
    Last year model was presented in September 2010...

    Don't know in Anandtech has any feedback on this...
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yeah would be nice. I got one in for a customer and he loves it. I thought it a great bit of kit. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I would like to see performance and power consumption comparisons to a desktop running an i3-2105. I suspect they are close, even though the i3 costs significantly less. My scam radar is going off like crazy here. Since when is a small form factor worth that much? Why not just buy a notebook and use that as your HTPC???? That is a much higher volume product and thus it is highly likely you'll be able to find one on sale for cheaper than this product. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Just saw these on slickdeals:

    Sony VPC EG13FX/B 14" Notebook - i5 / 500GB / 4GB RAM - $549 @ Frys

    (New) ThinkPad Edge E420/ i5-2520M/ Win7 HP 64/ 2GB/ 320GB/ 9-Cell for $488 @ lenovo outlet
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yes, a laptop can be a portable HTPC nowadays.

    As you say, pricing is just a matter of scale. I would expect this to weigh in around the 500 - 600 range. Laptops are mass produced. So, they have an advantage there.
    Reply
  • justniz - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I'm looking for a mythtv frontend.
    But this thing has Intel graphics and you can't buy it without windows.
    What stupid marketing decisions. I think I'll pass.

    I would have bought one if they had a nVidia GPU and a no-OS or Linux option.
    Reply

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