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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  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    As nice as it looks, I'll pass.

    Cool PC, bro --but there are options that will get this job done equally well, for far less. Ones that don't have Asrock's track record for awful customer support if something goes wrong (having owned one of their high-end mainboards briefly, I experienced that personally).

    Less expensive options have desktop CPU upgrade options too. The mobile Sandy Bridge systems currently out aren't upgradeable to mobile Ivy Bridge, so I doubt this is, either.
    Reply
  • cjmccarthy72 - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    I almost dare not admit to owning one of these- I can imagine the comments especially from the build your own brigade....

    But I got one just before Christmas and it is a real box of joy. I stuck a SSD from my previous HTPC inside it and this goes like the wind. Large photo, music and movie collection load really quick in WMC. Streams HD media with ease. Extremely quiet- the fans on my plasma are more audible!

    Very small- and yet it is truly a one box solution- despite this review I can play most games like Street Fighter IV at full spec on it.

    I live in tiny city centre flat and so yes it is expensive, but it beats having a laptop or desktop on the floor, taking up space. Paired with a soundbar and HD tv it means very little space is taken up with my equipment and so my wife is happy. It means that my AV cabinet is now taken up with more family friendly boxes- Scrabble, Monopoly, Battleships!

    Last, but not least, it has Blu-Ray- now if only Windows 8 supported it natively....
    Reply
  • allensays - Friday, May 11, 2012 - link

    I can do the same things with my similarly spec'd Asus K73S laptop, then unplug it, go out on the deck or take it to the beach...

    ...For much LESS $.

    What a waste.
    Reply
  • cjmccarthy72 - Friday, May 11, 2012 - link

    I'm happy for you- no beach or deck where I am I am afraid- & lots of rain at the moment here unfortunately... but also no USA Amazon so no "similarly spec'd Asus K73S laptop". Our Amazon has listed only an Asus K73S- but this only has an i3 cpu, dvd only, 4gb ram only, 320gb hard-drive only - all for $852 equivalent price in dollars. So you clearly have the better deal your end.
    I have a company laptop which sounds like a jet taking off so I like the silence of this HTPC but I also use it as my PVR so want it hooked up all the time- yet hidden away without my family needing to plug it in and hook it up. + I can do some limited upgrades with it. My last HTPC, a Sony VGX-XL, was also relatively expensive- but I had it for over 5 years before I sold it and so thought that was a reasonable investment.

    But clearly for some people this would be a waste- I agree- no argument. However as an owner I thought I would add an opinion about this HTPC, as the majority of comments here only deal with the price.
    Reply
  • iq100 - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    There are better alternatives to the $50 JRiver MediaCenter game. Did you know that JRiver will charge you again and again for each new release? Worse is their censorship. Criticize them, post about alternatives, and you will be BANNED for life. And they will get their 'commercial friends' to do the same. These folks are NOT like anandtech. They are not about sharing ideas. They add on free GNU softward without embracing the spirit of open source code. They are about commercial money wars. If they were Egypt, or Iran, or Iraq, the would kill your right to speak.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltoQwSpHQBA

    iq100
    the best way to delete an idea is to post one of your own.
    Reply
  • ix400 - Sunday, June 03, 2012 - link

    Or is there an alternative tool for finding out the exact refresh rate of the display? Reply
  • iq100 - Monday, June 04, 2012 - link

    With MPC-HC:
    http://www.homecinema-hd.com/autofrequency_en.html

    iq100
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltoQwSpHQBA
    Reply
  • ix400 - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    ... but this tool doesn't show me a precise value of the refresh rate that is actually set. Reply
  • iq100 - Friday, June 08, 2012 - link

    >http://www.exampledepot.com/egs/java.awt/screen_Sc...

    You can do this in java:
    http://www.exampledepot.com/egs/java.awt/screen_Sc...

    iq100
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltoQwSpHQBA
    Reply
  • shurik_1 - Thursday, August 02, 2012 - link

    try to create couple of dozen gig archive on another PC. create a parity set. corrupt a few bits. transfer to Vision 3D. try to repair and see for yourself what happens...

    I have complained to ASRock about this and was forced to send entire PC for repairs (no they do not refund shipping costs you have to swallow it). Only change is that BIOS now is 1.10c instead of 1.10. A friend of mine managed to get from their support the actual BIOS without shipping back and indeed it solved his issues as well.

    Now I try to update memory to 16GB and the issue is back. Had to go back to 8GB. It's been over a month since I reported this new issue to them and still no fix.

    Note that they never acknowledged the issue and never posted updated BIOS to their site. Customers data gets silently corrupted meanwhile...

    Other than that is has everything I wanted in HTPC.
    Reply

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