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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  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    There is a no-OS option. (in fact, that is what will be sold mostly)

    For Linux drivers.. well, let us not go down that road right now.
    Reply
  • martajd - Sunday, September 04, 2011 - link

    Read the article. It CLEARLY says in the specifications chart "Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)"

    That means NO OS IS DEFAULT. It's not Asrock that has the stupidity.
    Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Item#: N82E16856158025, that's pretty high for no Windows or blu-ray software.($87 for PowerDVD). Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    If this is anything like the Vision 3D, I bet the price will definitely go down, or there will be a rebate / combo deal of some sort to sweeten things up. I stand by what I said in the review.. if they get the price down to the Core 100's launch price, I will have no hesitation in recommending the unit. Reply
  • ypsylon - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    External power supply is instant kill for any HPTC system. What is the point of SFF if you have to use external PSU? You can't move the case without moving PSU.

    No thank you AsRock. Small Lian-Li cube will do nicely.
    Reply
  • miahallen - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    "The ASRock CoreHT 252B is primarily built out of notebook components, and it is not possible for the average enthusiast to build such a system with off-the-shelf components."

    Yes it is...I did about 3 months ago (with the H67 version) and I've been quite heppy with it.
    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t228/miahallen/...
    Reply
  • miahallen - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    This is the low cost version w/o BluRay but with an SSD...more similar to what I built.
    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t228/miahallen/...

    At only $400, it's a steal next to the version in this article.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, September 04, 2011 - link

    I only intended to convey that it is not possible for consumers to build a desktop with a mobile procsesor / mobile chipset.

    However, yes, you have an interesting build with a similar power profile. Andrew at MissingRemote also has a similar build reviewed: http://www.missingremote.com/review/intel-core-i3-... : This uses the more HTPC centric motherboard from Intel.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    Should be a better deal buying a E-350 APU/Mobo combo. Why have intel subpar image quality gpu? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    350 is too weak. Higher end Llanos are good, but need some driver work in the common scenarios like 1080p60 AVCHD decode.

    Intel is pretty good for the average consumer. If you are a stickler for image and video quality, go with AMD, and if you want the best of freeware / open source software to do the work for you, go with NVIDIA.
    Reply

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