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 results 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 (and have since been discontinued), 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 Vision 3D 252B, the second generation Vision 3D 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 3.00 GHz (3.20 GHz Turbo), 32nm, 3MB L2, 35W)
Chipset Intel Cougar Point HM65
Memory 2 x 4 GB DDR3-1333
Graphics NVIDIA GT 540M (1 GB VRAM)
650 MHz / 1300 MHz / 900 MHz
Intel HD Graphics 3000
650 MHz / 1.3 GHz (Turbo)
Hard Drive(s) 750 GB 7200RPM 2.5" HDD
(Western Digital Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT)
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11b/g/n (2T2R Atheros AR9287 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)
Front Side Power button
IR Receiver
MMC/SD/MS/MS Pro Card Reader
Slot loading Blu-ray/DVDRW optical drive
2 x USB 3.0 Ports
Headphone and mic jacks
Right and Left Sides -
Rear Side AC Adaptor input
Optical SPDIF and analog audio jacks
RJ-45 connector (1 x GbE LAN)
2 x USB 3.0 Ports
Kensington Lock
Vent for airflow
1 x DL-DVI-I
1 x eSATA
1 x HDMI 1.4a
4 x USB 2.0
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)
Extras THX TruStudio Audio Certification
IR receiver and MCE remote
Dimensions 20 cm x 20 cm x 7 cm
Pricing Approx. £ 830 / $1190

ASRock has three configurations of the Vision 3D 2nd Gen series available. While the 252B comes with a 750 GB hard drive and 8 GB of RAM, the 245B and 241B come with a 500 GB hard drive and 4 GB of RAM. The 245B uses a Core i5-2450M procesor while the 241B uses a Core i5-2410M. Other specifications remain the same.
 

Unboxing Impressions
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  • jabber - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I bought about a dozen of the first generation Atom boxes and they are all still trucking and the customers still love them.

    I still want one for myself.
    Reply
  • TerdFerguson - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    For what they were meant for, the little ION machines were flipping fantastic. With a package price of below $200 for everything but the OS, it's a value proposition that hasn't been matched by anything since. Reply
  • duploxxx - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    yes there are but not all OEM have the guts to do it right and just stuff garbage onto consumers. If they love it means they have never used anything else...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4442/zotac-zbox-braz...
    Reply
  • BPB - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Am I the only guy who goes to the bottom of the specs sheet first and looks fir price? This thing is way too much for an HTPC. Reply
  • duploxxx - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    what would you expect if you see following specs...

    Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5-2520M
    (2 x 3.00 GHz (3.20 GHz Turbo), 32nm, 3MB L2, 35W)

    Graphics NVIDIA GT 540M (1 GB VRAM)

    1 reason why you would need these 2 parts into a HTPC, can be replaced by 1 APU which cost less and consumes less in total, end of story.
    Reply
  • BPB - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I am not saying it isn't worth it. I am saying I see HTPC in the review title, look at the price, and think it's not worth reading the article. Simply can't see spending that on an HTPC, that's all. It is not a knock on the product. I'd be very happy owning this. Reply
  • cknobman - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Agreed.

    Over $1000 for a HTPC and then with these specs to boot?

    Im not saying the specs are bad but they are certainly not worth of over $1000.
    Reply
  • mbzastava - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I recall reading a nice comment from the Intel NUC article which points out how this new form factor is just repackaged laptop parts whith a nice new profit margin. I couldn't agree with him more.

    The question you should be asking is: Why does this unit cost around $1000 when you could get a similarly specced laptop for almost $300 less?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Economy of scale - How many such HTPCs are going to be purchased vs. how many laptops the vendor would sell. Reply
  • blackbrrd - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I just use a laptop as a HTPC. You can get a decent laptop for waaay less than this costs, and you can use it as a laptop if you need one. Reply

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