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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  • BPB - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Hook this up with an HDHomeRun Prime and you have one heck of a DVR. It will do lots more than any of the other items you mentioned.

    But, the point about the Mac Mini is a good one, you can just buy one of those, load Windows for $100, and you're good to go (sans blu-ray).
    Reply
  • Southernsharky - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    HP Pavilion dv6-6c50us Notebook Intel Core i5 2450M(2.50GHz) 15.6" 6GB Memory DDR3 750GB HDD 5400rpm BD Combo Intel HD Graphics 3000

    In stock.
    Was: $799.99
    Now: $759.99

    Ok yes it only has 6gb of memory, but it also has a quad core processor... and of course a screen and that sort of thing.... And oh yeah... its 759.99.

    Its even got the 750gb HD.......
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    That would compare with the Core HT 252B we reviewed earlier (There is no dGPU in that model).

    Add the dGPU, and the laptop cost would turn out to be similar to that of the system here. The only difference is the screen (we have analyzed this in the first generation Vision 3D review), and the reason the laptop turns out cheaper is because of the economies of scale (more laptops are bound to be sold compared to the number of such HTPCs).
    Reply
  • Wurmer - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I agree with many posters here, 1190.00 $ for an HTCP is way too much money. I've built a few by mostly salvaging parts from older computers. Some may argue that I don't get the best power efficiency by doing is so but I certainly save a bundle of cash in parts. Anyways, you don't need a super powerful rig to play Blue ray and store media. A good mid end rig of three years ago is plenty good for HTCP usage. I got some parts on the cheap so my next HTPC will include an AMD x3 455, 8 gig of rams and cheap MSI board, GT 430. The only thing I'll be spending cash on this time around is a dedicated HTPC case from Lian Li (200.00$) which should last me many years. The only real thing that is expensive with that kind of built is the storage since the last year or so HHD prices have gone through the roof and if you use you HTPC quite a bit then you need some serious storage space. Reply
  • philipma1957 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Yeah I agree I even set about building a htpc/gamer with new parts.

    an intel 2500t 210 or a 2500k for 210 I have both.
    a crucial ssd 199
    a wd 2tb hdd 99
    a passive gpu card hd7750 140 or a hd6870 with a fan for 150 I have both,
    a mobo 130
    samsung ram 80
    a cheap rosewill case 25
    a seasonic psu 110
    a samsung bluray 65
    total 1058

    add soft ware and a tuner and you are at 1.2k all new parts. functionally it is just better.

    It will game that gpu gets 7.4 on wei and if you sub a hd6870 you can game at almost all games. I know I have a hd6870 and it runs hotter uses more power but gamers better and gets a 7.8 for wei.

    now if you are in an apartment and are really tight for space this unit makes sense over my build.

    If you have rack space this unit does not make sense at least to me it doesn't. my wei scores are 7.3 for the cpu and 7.4 for the gpu. and 7.8 for all other. if you swap the 2500k and the hd6870 you get 7.8 for all score . same price but more watts used. this all fits in a 14 by 14 by 7 inch case.

    I can't see using the asrock unless space is really really really tight.
    Reply
  • Scannall - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    A Mac Mini with an i7 and a real video card is $4.00 less. And a better machine. Reply
  • Wurmer - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I've considered the mac mini but the IGP Intel 3000 is a bit weak and the one with the optional AMD GPU is not much more powerful. When the Mac mini gets Ivy bridge and Intel 4000 IGP things will be more interesting I think. Reply
  • justniz - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    This unit comes with an IR receiver.
    Why are most manufacturers still producing/supporting IR remotes instead of wireless remotes?
    Wireless remotes have many advantages and no disadvantages, such as better range, including through walls, they still work in bright sunlight, and theres no need to point the remote at the receiver.
    The ergonomics of remotes is limited by the need to point them. Without that limitation their whole design could be improved.
    Reply
  • JSt0rm01 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    for $99 you can get a apple tv that while it has way less raw "features" Has the ability to stream content from your main system and stream from the internet all in 1080p with 5.1 digital audio output. I dont see how these feature sets are worth $900 more then the feature set of a apple tv or roku.

    ---------------------------------

    Also, after being a member of the anandtech forums for 10 years I was permanently banned by the moderators there because they wanted to censor a website (ffdt.info) that had conversation that was critical of their moderation. I find that the free flow of all information on the internet is critical. For a tech website such as this to limit the flow of information is offensive the core of these beliefs and its all because certain people in positions of illusory power deem that information detrimental to their positions.
    Reply
  • axellslade - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I just built a brand new HTPC but I can't seem to be able to find the VESA mounting holes on the side of my HAF X. And it's weighting like a ton. I think I did something wrong. Reply

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