The ASRock CoreHT 252B is covered quite nicely with respect to networking hardware. With support for both Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n, it really doesn't matter if you keep the unit beyond cable reach from the router. All our network streaming tests were carried out with a 300 Mbps 802.11n network (currently provided in my lab location by a RT-N16 802.11n gigabit router from Asus). We were easily able to stream HD clips of more than 50 Mbps. HD YouTube videos and HD Netflix streaming had no issues.

While on the topic of network streaming, let us take a brief look at how the system performs while accessing online video services. We used Flash 10.3 in Firefox 4 with Intel Graphics Driver v2372 for testing. The first set of screenshots below show the CPU usage while playing back a 1080p YouTube video with and without hardware acceleration enabled. This is the same clip used in all the other SFF HTPC reviews.

1080p YouTube HD Streaming without Hardware Acceleration
 


1080p YouTube HD Streaming with Hardware Acceleration (Flash in Firefox)

Unfortunately, enabling hardware acceleration in the Flash properties seems to result in only accelerated video rendering. The decode still ends up being done in software. This accounts for the ~5% decrease in CPU usage when hardware acceleration is enabled. Just before posting the review, we also confirmed that the issue still exists on IE9 / Firefox 6.0 with Flash 10.3.183.7. Another puzzling aspect was the fact that we could get hardware accelerated decoding for some videos occasionally.


1080p YouTube HD Streaming with Hardware Acceleration (Flash in IE9)

It looks like the Adobe Flash Player has some trouble in hooking up to the Intel DXVA library. Both AMD and NVIDIA platforms support GPU acceleration for Flash without issues. It is disappointing to note that the largest GPU vendor (in terms of install base) still hasn't got this working right.

Netflix streaming, on the other hand, uses Microsoft's Silverlight technology. Unlike Flash, hardware acceleration for the video decode process is not controlled by the user. It is upto the server side code to attempt GPU acceleration. Thankfully, Netflix does try to take advantage of the GPU's capabilities. This is evident from the A/V stats recorded while streaming a Netflix HD video at the maximum possible bitrate of 3.8 Mbps. While the video is definitely not 1080p, we observe that the CPU utilization of around 18% is lower than the CPU usage for a 1080p YouTube video.


Netflix HD Streaming with Hardware Acceleration

Users of media streamers streaming online videos often have to put up with messages of the sort 'This content is not available on TV connected devices' or  need to queue up the videos on a PC before accessing them through their media streamer box. HTPC users don't need to worry about any such limitations.

On a side note, it is disappointing to see Netflix restrict its 1080p / DD+ 5.1 offerings to the PS3 and Roku 2. It is the PC platform which launched the streaming business for Netflix. It would be good if they do not relegate HTPC users to being second string consumers as their popularity grows.

Generic Performance Metrics HQV 2.0 Benchmarking
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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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