HTPC enthusiasts are rightly concerned about the noise factor, heat and power consumption, ease of usage and many other criteria. We will tackle each of these concerns one by one in this section.

Noise

ASRock doesn't make any claims about the quietness of the system in their marketing material. We were pleasantly surprised upon looking at the noise reports. In the set of pictures below, a professional sound level detector was placed less than 2 ft away from the CoreHT, and the sound level measurements were taken in various HTPC scenarios. The unit has a noise level of less than 36 dB at full load (for both CPU and GPU). In this respect, it is actually similar in performance to the earlier SFF HTPCs from ASRock.

22.4 dB at Idle

27 dB during Disc Playback

35.5 dB at Full Load (Prime95 + Furmark)

Power Consumption

In order to get an idea of the power consumption numbers, the Prime95 and Furmark benchmarks were let run overnight to keep both the CPU and GPU completely loaded for an extended duration. Under these extreme conditions, we found the average power consumption to be around 62.8 W. At idle, the average power consumption was around 18 W.

These type of power consumption numbers have been enabled by ASRock's choice of going in for a notebook platform instead of a desktop configuration. This has resulted in a smaller form factor case design for the mini-ITX motherboard. Since there is not much heat to be dissipated, the cooling system is also appropriately small and silent.

Ease of Use

HTPC enthusiasts are concerned about how easy it is for their system to come out of standby. Existence of HDMI handshake issues upon return from standby is also a deal breaker for many. Fortunately, the CoreHT 252B has no issues in these two aspects. As long as the AC power adapter is connected to the system, the bundled MCE remote can be used to boot the system (even if the PC had been shut down previously). In order to shorten the boot times, ASRock supplies an Instant Boot utility. Using this, whenver the CoreHT is shut down, it boots up once again and shuts down before the power can be safely removed. Upon power up, the boot up is instantaneous. The MCE remote can also be used to bring the PC out of sleep mode.

Power users can also take advantage of the AXTU (ASRock eXtreme Tune Up) utility for greater overclocking control.

Within Windows, the MCE remote can be made to work with a variety of applications such as XBMC, MediaPortal, MPC-HC and of course, Windows 7 Media Center. Blu Ray players such as PowerDVD and ArcSoft TMT can also be controlled with the help of the MCE remote. For the ideal I/O scenario, one probably needs to purchase a wireless keyboard / mouse combo.
 

Configuring XBMC for the ASRock CoreHT 252B Final Words
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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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