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  • Goty - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    Unfortunately, the lack of even the ability to include a TV tuner in this system kills it for me. If all I am going to do is use it as a Blu-Ray player and DLNA client, I've already got a PS3 that handles both admirably. Reply
  • Allio - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I agree. I don't understand the niche this system fills - if your needs aren't met by the existing set-top devices, you probably want to do serious gaming on it or use it as a DVR. What exactly does this do better than an ION system, other than be more expensive? Is anyone really encoding video on their HTPCs? That's what my power hungry quad core is for. Reply
  • RamarC - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    ditto. as soon as i saw the external power supply, i immediately started the laptop comparison. it's bigger than a laptop but still has the same limited expansion capability. considering i just got similar a i3 based laptop for a niece going to college for only $550, i can't see why i wouldn't go with the lappy over this mini box. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    After having used this unit for 2 weeks in the process of writing the review, I do have to say that the same thought crossed my mind.

    However, ASRock does have some compelling points:

    1. HTPC centric features such as Instant Boot
    2. MCE Remote + I/R Receiver
    3. AiWi gaming feature
    4. Expansion slot for 2nd hard disk
    5. Better audio codec
    6. Blu-Ray drive (may also be on the laptop)

    Basically, the laptop's monitor & keyboard / trackpad get exchanged for the above features and the unit ends up at the same cost as the notebook.
  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    That's not worth it. I suggest you return it and get a notebook. There are laptops out there with quick launch, an IR receiver, discrete graphics for actual gaming, usb ports for that 2nd hard disk, and expresscard slots for better audio codecs.

    And on top of all that, you get a screen, a keyboard and a trackpad and mobilitiy.

    If this HTPC had discrete graphics and a $500 price tag instead of a $600-$700, then it would be pretty cool. But given that it doesn't, it's not worth it.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    This HTPC is supposed to be a companion box for a TV, and as such its 'non-mobile' nature is supposed to lend itself to tasks such as running downloads overnight, and recording TV programs with external tuners and so on and so forth.

    For a laptop with the specs you mention, the cost is probably going to be in the $900 - $1000 range. We have done the cost analysis, and it looks like ASRock is just charging a $90 premium (probably lesser if you go with the DVD drive). I believe this will be a compelling investment for people thinking about streamers such as the C-200 from PopCornHour or the Dune and other similar products. They can get an exponential rise in performance and available utilities for a couple of $100s more.

    Yes, I agree that notebooks could be a great choice.. provided they fit your usage scenario.
  • Milleman - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    I use the Zotac MAG Ion w. Intel 330, together with XBMC. Works just great as a streaming device for all my movies on the media server.

    You should consider to include XBMC Live (dedicated SBMC Linux installation) in your reviews as well.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link


    Thanks for your suggestion. XBMC Live doesn't support HD audio bitstreaming, which is fast becoming one of the most important aspects for HTPCs.

    I will definitely keep in mind your suggestion for future reviews.
  • doxxius - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    Well, I use the separate optical audio output jack on the rear which I connect to the audio receiver. Works great for me. But maybe some prefer to have it inside the HDMI cable. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    For HTPC enthusiasts:

    1. This box can bitstream HD audio to the A/V receiver, while the ION can't.

    2. The CPU is much more powerful than the Atom, and the user has the option to let the box run overnight to do tasks (such as downloads and encodes) without running their quad cores. This is a greener alternative.

    The opinion that people don't run encodes on their HTPCs is because of the fact that such form factor machines (usually based on Atom) aren't capable enough. With this Arrandale offering, that possibility is getting opened up.

    Usage as a DVR is possible using an external USB TV tuner.
  • spddemon - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    This system is capable of dobly truHD and DTS HD. A ION system is not capable of decoding of those sounds format...

    So this system will appeal heavily to someone that wants a small nettop type system with a BD and good encoding performance. With any nettop you are going to have to use NAS storage anyways, but this system will allow more internal expansion than most others.. But if you wanted to, you could pair it with an external drive cage.. I wouldn't want that in my living room / theater room though.

    biggest problem with this system is price.. You can build a great system for a couple hundred less if you are willing to take hours of researching the components and integration. A successful HTPC build will take considerable more time in planning/research than a typical PC/Gaming PC Build....

    If you are wanting a powerful, small, efficient, prebuilt nettop, this is the best out there right now!

    That is really the only thing i wish Ganesh would of pointed out a little more clearly. The capabilities of the "iGPU" vs an ION.. with the growth of this field, I would love to see a followup review that would pit a custom built (but comparable build) HTPC.. like a Core i3 530 (or maybe an e7200) / H55 with and without an ATI/NVIDIA (non ION) card. This would really give some people something to look at as far as capabilities..

    and really, who cares what the remote looks like.. get a Logitech harmony or some other home automation remote... most people will only care about if the IR or RF functionality is already there...
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    Stay tuned for more HTPC reviews in this space. Their performance will be pitted against this solution.

    However, ION is passe right now. We will be testing with the ATI 5xxx series and upcoming Nvidia cards.
  • Furuno - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Upcoming nVidia cards...

    Hmm I wonder what it is... A low-cost version of fermi or another rebranding of GT2XX cards?
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    We already published reviews of the GTX460 from the gaming perspective.

    The card is good from a gaming HTPC perspective because it also supports HD audio bitstreaming.

    There are some rumours that Nvidia has lower priced cards coming out in the next 2 months, so we will cover them when they get released :) At the least, we will cover the GTX460.
  • spddemon - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the updates Ganeshts!

    It looks like your time frame will be perfect for my new HTPC project.

    I really hope Nvidia can get some low powered cards out to offer a true HTPC card that covers all the current HD formats/codecs.
  • mindbomb - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Ion can only bitstream LPCM, but I assume the atom cpu is powerful enough to decode truehd in libavcodec.
    So that only leaves DTS-HD MA as a problem.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    The user can always opt for a USB TV tuner.

    If we had an expansion slot for a TV tuner inside this box, the unit wouldn't be based off the HM55 chipset, and wouldn't fit in the sub-50 W power envelop which is a coveted mark in this space.

    Further, including a TV tuner in the box would drive up the cost of the system in some areas, as it would be taxed as an entertainment device, rather than a computer.
  • bearxor - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    No one that is serious about using this as a HTPC is going to string USB TV tuners off this thing. You want 2 USB tuners hanging off the back of the machine? How about 4?

    My HTPC has 7 tuners total. 2xHauppage 2250's, 2xCats Eye 150's and a ATi DCT. Tell me exactly where I'm going to be able to put those on a machine like this.

    There needs to be some kind of market differentiation between a HTPC and a Living Room PC. One is for serious use as a DVR and the other is to hook up to the TV and watch some videos/play games/surf the web/Facebook/chat, etc. They are two different markets.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    You have got an impressive set up.

    However, I believe your type of setup is more the exception rather than the norm. The sort of arrangement which will remain a niche for a long time to come. With the advent of IP streaming and availability of TV shows and live sports broadcasts online, I am not even sure people will require so many tuners.

    I also think that your sort of setup isn't amenable to the silent, power efficient HTPC that people want (particularly from the viewpoint of media streamers and boxes such as the upcoming Google TV). The latter 'living room PC' that you mention has more potential to explode as a market for manufacturers to exploit, rather than the DVR-centric PC that you envisage.
  • hughlle - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Exactly, 7 tuners is hardly the norm. I make do without a single one on my HTPC, i have the likes of iplayer if i really feel inclined to drop into the fantastic realm that is daytime television :S Reply
  • tmservo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    This is a good point regarding tuners. I also wish there was an internal. But I can deal without. Right now, I have 4 tuners: a SiliconDust dual tuner QAM (connects over ethernet) a 2250 and a ATI650. But I almost never watch that many programs at once, and with the cable companies limiting, they are on my elimination list. This fall SiliconDust is supposed to have their 3 tuner CableCard solution out. At the moment they have that, my need of any cards in my PC completely go away. Completely goes away. I'll have better TV input.

    Now, I wish there was a single PCI-E x1 slot so I could consider the Ceton, but I could deal.
  • jnmfox - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Surprised Silicon Dust's HDHomeRun hasn't been mentioned:

    One of the best tuners around and will work on any networked PC. Plus you don't have to add bulk to your HTPC by making it bigger to fit a tuner inside. One of the best HTPC purchases I've made.
  • Braumin - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Everyone needs a different tuner. Including any tuner would just be a waste of money since it would not be guaranteed to work on the owner's system. USB and Network tuners are available and make this a complete DVR. Reply
  • CharonPDX - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    I already use an HD HomeRun as my tuner, so no internal tuner isn't a deal killer at all for me. (And I may get a second HD HomeRun.) Reply
  • jrwalte - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Did you ever consider using a USB tuner? Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    There are probably more USB based tuners these days than internal tuners being made. Secondly, I strongly recommend the network based HDHomeRun tuner. Lastly, this is probably targeted at people who wouldn't want to install an internal tuner. Reply
  • RamIt - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Give me an expansion slot and I'll buy one. until then no thx. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    Most of what can be achieved through an expansion slot is possible using external USB devices. The Core 100 unit is quite liberal in that respect, providing 6 USB 2.0 ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports.

    Also, note that the chipset used is the HM55. Compare this with a similarly spec-ed notebook computer. It is difficult for manufacturers to provide expansion slots, and even if they do, the costs of the devices fitting those slots are much higher than their external USB counterparts.
  • Stokestack - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Unfortunately, the only USB 3 ports are on the front. This is a mistake. People setting up a nice home-theater system don't want ugly wires hanging out of their components full-time.

    Receiver makers are making the same baffling mistake with USB ports for iPods. Why on earth would I want this wire dangling off the front of the unit all the time? A port on the back allows you to plug a dock, an external drive, or tuner in and keep it out of sight.
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    At $700 this will be competing with the Mac Mini. It has superior hardware specs, but if I were looking for something small, quiet, and attractive to put in my living room the Mini would win easily. This box is just to close to a basic mini-ITX box that any troglodyte could throw together - ASRock really needs to leverage their ability to make completely custom parts before they have a truly compelling product.

    It's cool to see more high-powered boxes in this form factor, I just wish it had been executed better.
  • GreeneEyez - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Have fun bitstreaming HD audio from the Mac Mini or playing back Blu ray disks/ISOs... Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    It is not possible for any home built mini-ITX box to be within the power envelop of this unit.

    This uses an Arrandale processor which isn't available for purchase by the general public.

    Further, as you rightly observe, the MacMini has worse specs, but looks better. Companies like ASRock provide the best bang for the buck, and in this pursuit, industrial design takes a back seat. However, things are going in the right direction, and I am sure the execution next time around will be much better from all perspectives.
  • softdrinkviking - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    i need a tv tuner in or connected to my htpc.

    you say that the 100HT-BD's chipset cannot support an internal TV tuner, but that it has a smaller power envelope than a chipset which can.

    in that case, you would also have to factor in the extra power used by your external TV tuner box.

    you would also have to compare the cost of that box versus the cost of a tuner card.

    if all things are equal (you break even), then the all-in-one solution (a beefier htpc) would be the obvious choice.
  • tmservo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    As others mention, since the MacMini doesn't do Bluray, and doesn't bitstream DTS-MA or DD-HD, it's not really a great HTPC. It's LPCM support also troubled, and it doesn't matter since it doesn't do Bluray. The MacMini simply isn't a very good HTPC at all. It might compete against something like an ION.. except you can get an ION with BD at 1/2 the price. Apple has to give up rejecting the "bag of hurt" that is bluray, because as long as they keep their phobia of it, they aren't in the HTPC market at all Reply
  • Computer Bottleneck - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    It will be interesting to see your future evaluation of the AMD IGP in the HQV 2.0 benchmark.

    As far as this product goes I really liked reading your technical explanation of how Asrock integrated what is basically a laptop mainboard into the Mini-ITX form factor.
  • alaricljs - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Can I suggest in that HTPC centric features chart that under SPDIF you specify optical/copper instead of just yes/no? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Thanks for your suggestion, alaricjls.

    The SPDIF is optical, and I will update the article shortly.
  • dbone1026 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Hey Ganesh,

    Excellent job with the review. Honestly I am surprised by some of the comments regarding an expansion slot, which to me defeats the whole purpose of ASRock making this HTPC in such a small form factor. Aside from USB tuners I know many people who use network tuners (i.e HDHomeRun) so in many cases there is no need for any sort of internal tuner. If want to strap on multiple tuners then why not just a MicroATX or ATX case as that is not the intention of this ASRock..

    I honestly think the biggest challenge with the ASRock 100HT is the price. Newegg has it listed at $649 (without BR drive) and no O/S. The mini-ITX HTPC I built which was only slightly larger and was easily $100 less with better specs (using core i5). Hopefully we start seeing prices drop soon.
  • jabber - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I've been rolling out the dual core Atom ones for small office/home PCs. The customers love them over the old big black/grey boxes.

    Low power and small desk presence are a big win.

    Very nicely made too.

    Built about sixteen of them and not one issue so far.
  • erictorch - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    The core i3-330m processor is available for ordering from
    If the reviewer reads this comment, can they comment on whether AHCI support is available in the BIOS menus? This is necessary to get the full performance out of a SSD. A lot of laptop bioses don't have AHCI selectable.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    Thanks for informing me about eWiz carrying the mobile processor. We searched on the usual haunts (Amazon and Newegg), and neither of them carried the processor

    I perused further, and it looks like the i3-330M is the only i series processor they have (The i7 mobile they carry has no GPU die in the package and its TDP is 45W).

    In any case, I couldn't find a mobo based on the HM55. Are you aware of any with the PGA 988 socket?

    By the way, I did see AHCI is selectable in the BIOS, but didn't personally verify whether it works. I will get back to you here in a couple of days if it doesn't :)
  • erictorch - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I stumbled upon this list of mini-itx motherboards
    with I was able to find the
    IEI KINO-QM57A $320
    IBASE MI953F $440
    DFI CP100-NRM $400

    I was also able to find the i5 mobile CPU through
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the links, erictorch.

    At $320 for the board, a build similar to the Core 100 is going to be pretty costly.. We had budgeted $140 for the board.

    I wonder how many end users actually end up doing builds based on these mobos.

    But you are right! It is possible to do such a build on one's own if the necessary efforts are taken. However, most people will go in for the Clarkdale builds because they are much more cost efficient.
  • spddemon - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    That is very true, ganeshts; however, I would love to see what the end result would be with one of those boards instead of a clarkdale...

    I am more than willing to spend a couple hundred more for a true low powered system providing my performance and functionality were not hindered.

    I was targeting a Core i3 530 but if the performance per watt of the 330 is close to the 530 then it could be a great trade off.

    I will have to add this info to my build sheet and see where it goes.. I have sifted the hardware down quite a bit, but I still have a lot of products to research before i start..
  • Riccardo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    Good work on this review - I really appreciate the HTPC focus on this one. I look forward to seeing it used again in relevant reviews. Thanks!
  • Pessimism - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'd pay an extra $5 for a remote that doesn't look so cheesy and cheap. They aren't the only company at fault though. I see a LOT of slick looking devices with cheap, tacky, flimsy looking remotes that don't match up with the look of the device whatsoever. Reply
  • OblivionLord - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'm thinking that people would be more inclined to believe your point of using a USB capture card if they knew the real benefit of it compared to a typical PCI Capture card. The only real physical drawback with the USB card is that you need a second one if you want a dual tuner setup.

    The other problem is that the quality of the captured video produced by a USB card is inferior to a PCI capture card. This is what I've come to believe since I've never owned a USB card for this purpose.

    Perhaps you should do a comparison of a few USB capture devices vs PCI capture cards. This will show the truth.
  • pcfxer - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'm surprised that you chose A-weighting for the measurement of the machine. I'm also surprised that you used the Radioshack and took the 53dB as a "solid" measurement. I have the same SPL meter and its accuracy does not live in the 50dB range. It is far more accurate and stable (if you've used this to get any meaningful information you'll know what I mean) 65+dB.

    That said, I am fully aware of the noise required to gain measurement on that darn thing. That "HTPC" is effing LOUD! Even inside my case I get the good old Lo A-weighted/C-weighted.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    Thanks for your feedback. I will keep this in mind for future reviews.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Mainstream Market? For $700? I got news for you... there may be millions of mindless drones rushing out to buy iCrap, but this is way above and beyond mainstream for a HTPC. It only costs $100 to build a HTPC. Anything more than that and you may as well go on ebay and buy a notebook with a damaged LCD and use that as a HTPC (assuming it has hdmi out of course). Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    This unit is slightly on the leading edge (The Arrandales were introduced around 6 months back).

    With $100, it is difficult to get a notebook with HD audio bitstreaming and Blu-Ray drive, even second hand.

    For the set of features it offers, we think it is a decent value for money. As for this being mainstream, I am sure there are many who spend $700 or so on a PC once every 4 - 5 years, and this is a perfect system for such people.
  • tmservo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Pray tell.. if you've got a way to get a case/motherboard/ram/hdd/bluray drive and get 1080P for under $100, I'm interested. Somehow, I don't see that as at all feasible. Hell, even the cheapest AMD CPU + board and a cheap case alone is $100. So, however you shoe horn in all those other components, or then get the software to run them (supplied here) ..

    But, if you'd like.. give me a part list of what you can get that anyone could go buy, NEW, for $100.

    Or, find me a used laptop on Ebay with HDMI output that does 1080P and has a bluray drive for $100. Even if it has no screen. Needs to have a HDD, Memory, BD drive though.. and function.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    53 db!! That is just plain daft.

    I suspect the design of the case does not help.

    I have just built a mini-server using a Atom 510 and I am sure the M/B was ASrock, mini-itx format and a PCI-E slot. Easiest build I have done even though the case was not perfect. As a server it is effectively silent

    I do not want an HTPC that creates any more noise other than maybe a slow running 140mm+ fan
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    Note that the 53dB is under full load, when all threads are pegged at 100%, and it is just inches away from the unit. The farther you are, the lesser it is, and at 8ft, it was barely discernible.

    Under idle, the unit is advertised as having 25dB noise, measured in an anechoic chamber (Refer YouTube video from their marketing department).

    I would say, for HTPC purposes, the noise from the unit is definitely within limits.
  • tech6 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Nice work Ganesh - I look forward to further HTPC reviews to see how the AMD platforms compete. Reply
  • shamans33 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    I'm curious as to how the IR receiver is connected to the motherboard...USB and/or motherboard headers? Is it possible to do a force power off (if let's say the system is frozen) or to do a cold boot up?

    Thanks for reviewing more SFF items.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    I believe the IR receiver is connected to a dedicated NuvoTon chip on the motherboard.

    The power off button on the remote puts the system in sleep mode when the unit is in operation. In my usage scenario, I had the AC adapter connected to the back of the unit, and the system was completely shutdown. The Power button on the remote was able to boot up the unit without issues (even with Instant Boot disabled).
  • johnspierce - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    Very nice review, extremely thorough, thank you!

    I have a question about how the HDMI handshaking works with the ASRock.

    I have built several HTPC's with both NVidia and ATI HDMI-out video cards and it seems they all have a problem when I have it plugged into my HDMI-switching Onkyo receiver.

    When I switch from HTPC to DVR and don't change back for awhile, it always has a problem with the display coming "alive" on the switch back. Turning the monitor off and on re-establishes the handshake, but this is an annoying trait of the current crop of video cards. Does the ASRock have this problem?

    Also, I wanted to "weigh in" on the lack of a TV tuner -- I really think this is quickly becoming a non-issue since I now use an OTA receiver for local HD and everything else gets streamed. TV Tuners will soon be an anachronism in my opinion.

  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    I have the same handshaking issue with my ATI based HTPC.

    As far as I could see, I didn't have the handshaking issue with the ASRock setup, but the whole testing was done with 2 displays connected to it. I will do a 'standalone' test and get back to you on this.
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    A very interesting product indeed, but I've got my own three cents to provide!

    1) The price. Ouch... when I first opened this review, I checked the Egg to see if they had them in. Of course as the review mentions, I ended up finding the DVD-equipped model for $650. Tack on another $130 for Windows 7 Professional (note, I use Pro since it enables remoting in, which I find indispensible for a HTPC) and you've got nearly $800. If the Blu-Ray-equipped model retails for $700, you get $830 with the OS and then you have to consider that the blu-ray playback software will set you back another $100 (unless you can find them on sale... TMT3 has been on sale for $75 before).

    I've spec'd out a few HTPCs in my quest to find the Holy Grail of HTPC devices, and if price were my main concern, I'd still probably go with my own build. I never put my HTPCs to sleep, so I'm honestly not even worried about that aspect and I don't mind a slightly higher power consumption.

    2) The VIA VT2020. Have you noticed a strange amount of memory use from having this? I have an ASUS P7P55D-E Premium motherboard, which also features the same VIA audio chip, and I have god awful levels of memory use from audiodg.exe (Window 7's audio "controller"). At one point before upgrading my BIOS, I would literally see 800MB of memory being used by it. Last night I checked and I had 130MB of memory being used and I only had a single mp3 open. The worst part is that the last time I checked, VIA does not provide audio drivers for that chip. On their website they said that it was manufactured specifically for ASUS and to check their website for drivers.

    But who knows... the strange things I see are possibly just issues with the P7P55D-E Premium... it's a god awful motherboard that was released with buggy BIOS revisions and it's no wonder you can't even buy it from NewEgg anymore.

    3) The Front. Why do people want to see things like USB ports, bright blue LEDs and 3.5mm ports on the front of entertainment center components? The worst offender of the "sleak front" has to be that ghastly Intel i3 Inside sticker. I'd rather the connections be hidden under some sort of flap or door if they absolutely have to be on the front.

    4) The remote. As something to mention, when I was discussing HTPC stuff on the Anandtech forums, a user clued me in on a nice Gyration MPC-capable remote that you could buy off eBay (from Lenovo it looks like) for only $50 that provided some mouse support if you ever needed it. I have to say that I quite like it so far and it might be something to look into if you don't like IR remotes. The only negative aspect is the ugly and obtuse dongle.

    5) The comparison. It'd be nice to see how this item really compares to it's cousin, the ATOM-based version. Given the blu-ray version is available for $500 on NewEgg, does it handle all the necessary playback? A $200 savings for slightly longer application loads might be somewhat advantageous. Right now, I literally just leave my HTPC turned on 24/7 with WMC loaded up, so other than any necessary start-ups/shut-downs, I may see very little difference with the ATOM version.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    Thanks for your insights.

    1. Customers should hopefully be able to salvage some stuff from their previous setups (Blu-Ray playback software, keyboards and mice etc.)

    2. We didn't do exhaustive testing on the VIA codec. Most of the time, it was disabled since we were using audio over HDMI.

    3. The sticker is optional ( It comes as a separate label with the package, but you can choose whether to stick it in the front or not :) )

    4. The build quality of the remote is not that great and there are better options out there as you observe.

    5. Major drawback of ION is the lower general performance, higher power consumption and absence of HD audio bitstreaming. I think the $200 extra is worth it.
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    1) It'd definitely be nice to harvest a few extra items from previous builds, but maybe a blurb about the overall cost of the software might be nice. I'm not sure, but it might help people sway toward or against the unit as being their Blu-Ray player, since you can easily just buy a decent separate unit for $100 or so. Another aspect that might sway some users is that the BR software will only truly integrate into WMC (last I checked). TMT3 has a plug-in for MediaPortal, but it isn't true integration (just loads the player and minimizes MP).

    I guess that all kind of goes with your talk on how it can be a pain to get all of the formats working, which let me tell you... I definitely agree with you on that! I had a point where using my laptop as a HTPC, I could get sound while playing MKVs through WMP, but not with WMC. It was the strangest thing :P.

    3) Alright, that's good that the sticker is optional ;). I just wish manufacturers would push to not showing the rest of those connectors. It seems the consumer's desire is to have components that are PCs that don't look like PCs, but not many devices have those connections and if they do, they're typically hidden (except the PS3, but they're out of the way).

    5) I think the main point I was trying to drive is that even though the ION is inherently weaker, does it still perform the tasks properly? I mean, you can take the kids to school in a Porsche 911 Turbo, but is it a tad bit overkill compared to a Prius? Do you really think the bitstreaming matters that much? I don't think most people would even be able to tell the difference between a good encode output from a SPU and the bitstream... I know I can't! :)


    I like the articles though... I think the HTPCs are going to become more and more popular as people look for non-standard ways to get content. I've actually gone back to using my server as a quasi-HTPC to help alleviate the stress I was putting on my M1530. It's a little better now that I replaced some of its noisy components :).
  • vlado08 - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    " 5. Major drawback of ION is the lower general performance, higher power consumption and absence of HD audio bitstreaming. I think the $200 extra is worth it. "

    And what about picture quality? HQV v 2.0
    The ION does the 23,976 but the Core 100HT - does not.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    Good point, vlad08. The point mentioned was the drawbacks of the ION. Of course, if one wants to give the advantages of ION, they are as you mention.

    I think the average users just set the display refresh rate to 60 Hz and forget about it.. so the 24fps bug doesn't affect those.

    Picture quality.. yes, maybe ION is better. We haven't done benchmarking on that platform yet (and will probably not do because it is a product from last year, and we have more exciting Nvidia stuff coming up) to confirm.
  • pirspilane - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Good point about the software costs. This is really a $900+ machine.

    The Mac Mini competes well with this machine when you consider:
    - It comes loaded with some very nice software
    - It's light years ahead, aesthetically
    - It beats the AsRock on noise and power consumption
    - Most people already have a Blu-ray player and don't want the aggravation of dealing with Blu-ray playback on an HTPC. I rarely use my HTPC (Corel WinDVD) to play Blu-rays because of the hassle factor.
  • tmservo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    While this seems like a good train of thought, it isn't. The poster above points out he uses pro (which is fine, I do too) but there is no reason why Home Premium, which has media center, wouldn't be used by the majority of users. So, $645 + $91. That's it, for anyone wanting the DVD model. Or, about $736.

    Your comparison at $900 is based on a comparison with a model featuring a Bluray Drive and Bluray software. This is not valid, because you're now comparing apples to oranges ;) The mac mini doesn't have, won't have, and doesn't support a bluray drive. So, the two aren't the same, at all. There just isn't a comparison.

    Whether or not people have a seperate player already, there are lots of people who like the idea of 1 single box doing everything, like DVR, DVD, BD, Media Management, etc.

    So, let's say you do a comparison on that front. So, the Mac Mini is $699. DVD only. Yes, it comes with software, but not really a front end for this.. so you download Front Row, which was last updated almost 2 years ago. You then go about hacking it to get your supports you need.

    And you add a remote control, because the Mac Mini doesn't come with one. So, even if this remote is "flimsly and crap" you add a remote control that is say $50 (and don't say "iPhone" because then you're adding $300 in expense for a remote for everyone who doesn't have one).

    So now the cost of your Mini with a remote is basically the same as this with a copy of Win7HP. Except, oh yeah, even if you get the DVD one of this, your ability to later convert to BD is there. Not at all on the other front. Remote wakeup? Yep. Since neither have tuner slots, both would be using say a network tuner. So, Silicon Dust HDHomeRun for both. So a wash on the cost here, except Front Row can't natively manage those tuners for anything, meanwhile Media center can.

    You can buy software to do that on the mac.. now you've spent more money.

    The Mac Mini is a good unit as a desktop. But for an HTPC, you spend a lot of money for almost no bang. You can get an ION based unit at about $350 that is DVD based that gives you the exact same features.... plus LPCM for your MKVs that the Mini doesn't do worth a damn.

    Nothing against the Mac, but not every purpose works out for it. This just isn't one where you say "wow is that a great solution for a Mac". And AppleTV is a laughable product that should die a slow death.
  • Guspaz - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    One reason that ASU *cough* I mean ASRock is always the first to put these out is probably that all of their SFF machines use the exact same case, nearly the same packaging, and mostly the same pack-in material.

    They've used this exact same case all the way back to their first Atom machines. Their ION machines also used this case, as did their bluray machines.

    Now that they've introduced some CULV machines, surprise, same case again.
  • kwrzesien - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link


    And why is it narrow and tall? Why can't they put this in a DVD-sized case with the industry standard width? The front should look just as clean as a nice DVD player, with the front ports, buttons and maybe even the drive behind a fold-down door.
  • whartsell - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    "Unfortunately, there is no single unified interface (from XBMC or MediaPortal or any other similar program) which could successfully play back all the files from within. "

    Cant SageTV play back all the tested formats?
  • dukero - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I wish I seen this coming last month Just about finished building one ECS itx mobo and i core 3 530 in jetway 101 case and mines going to end up at about grand after software and tuners. And as far as tuners go for the asrock get a USB or homerun Ethernet. Reply
  • ck_mb - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Does the video card pass WMC cablecard test? I have a AMD 780G that doesn't, since this motherboard doesn't have any expanision slot it would be worthless as a dvr using cablecards. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Yes, the system passes the Digital Cable Advisor test without any issues. Reply
  • schoenbe - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    An HTPC without a TV tuner is not an HTPC. It is a media player.

    In the case of the Core-100HT-BD reviewed here, a powerful media player. But you still can't watch TV with it. You cannot record TV with it. Not even a single channel, let alone several channels simultaneously. Anandtech should not recommend this unit as an HTPC. Besides, $700 for a media player? For playing back BD discs and media files? Not sure who wants to pay this much for an incomplete feature set.
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    If you don't like it, don't buy it. Is someone standing there with a gun to your head? Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    In my experience, USB tuners are the easiest for people to work with. This unit is targeted at people who probably wouldn't be willing to open up a computer case and install an internal tuner IMO. Personally, I think the best tuner is the HDHomeRun, which is a network based tuner, so this ASRock unit definitely delivers in every regard. Reply
  • schoenbe - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    "... this ASRock unit definitely delivers in every regard." Really? Even if you have to go out and buy a TV Tuner and make it work? This product definitely doesn't deliver the complete package. Reply
  • Ipatinga - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    In the article, there is a part where it says "... One must also take into consideration the cost of the Atheros AR9287, which can be bought for around US $15 online..."

    Where can I find Mini PCI Express 1x Wireless Adapters (Half Height or not) like this Atheros AR9287 this cheap ($15)?

    Thanks :)
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    This is the listing I was referring to:
  • cjs150 - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    Ganeshts: I think you and I have different definitions of noisy. Lets take a simple and real life example.

    I am listening to classical music - obviously a quiet section, the 1812 overture can be heard over a jet engine!

    At same time I have firefox up and running (couple of tabs one of which is of course Anandtech but the other is a chess site I use)

    I am also running a chess analysis program, fritz, which will take whatever CPU capacity you through at it

    Pretty obviously under this scenario the IGP is not fully loaded but the CPU could be running close to capacity.

    My Sofa is 6ft away.

    If I can hear the ASRock then it is too loud. By comparison my main work rig (admittedly water cooled), I cannot hear other than possible a very slight noise of air movement.

    We all know that manufacturer claims of noise levels are typically overstated (expecially by fan manufacturers) but to be suitable for me the noise (close to the machine) has to be sub 30db or even sub 25db. It is not difficult but does limit the cooling to a slow running 140+mm fan.

    Mind you the loudest thing in the living room (apart from my daughter) has to be the cable set up box - but only when it starts up from sleep, some really bad design I think there
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link


    Noise is a very subjective issue. What might be noisy to me might be OK to you, or vice versa. It is really hard to say what the "ideal" dB would be (aside from silent of course). Some people seem to have the hearing of a bat, while others are more tolerant.

    For the correct judgement, you will have to experience it yourself, unfortunately.

    The hobbyist sound meter we used could barely register anything unless it was very close to the unit (as you can see from the photo). At 2 ft away, manufacturer shows proof of 34.5 dB (Please check UPDATE section on Page 11).

    I am not even sure there are professional sound meters to measure sub 30 and sub 25 dB unless you have an anechoic room.

    The figures are presented, and in our opinion, at this cost and for this form factor, ASRock appears to have done the best it could do. Whether the figures are acceptable to you or not, I can't judge from here :)

    Our review of this product was from the perspective of the average HTPC user ( not people with 7 TV tuners, for instance ;) )
  • spddemon - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    That is great news ganeshts.

    34.5db at 2ft is very quiet to me... with my theater setup you can not even hear my xbox so this would be no problem.

    i still want to see the core i3 330 vs 530 tests. I wonder how much faster the 530 is since it is a faster CPU and GPU, but I also wonder how much more power it will consume in typical home theater use.
  • omems - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    This is a really great article, Ganesh. My HTPC is getting a bit old at about 6 years, so I'm definitely ready to upgrade and take advantage of some of the newer technologies which are finally being combined usefully. I have a few questions about how this assembly sleeps:

    1. When you put it to sleep, which components remain on? Just RAM? Any fans?

    2. I believe the Atheros AR9287 supports what they call wake-on-wireless. Does that work in this implementation, from sleep? How about from hibernation?

    3. Did you try coming out of Hibernation and seeing if the handshakes were maintained?

    4. I am confused by what's going on when you say in the Ease of Use section:
    "...ASRock supplies an Instant Boot utility. Using this, whenver [sic] the Core 100 HT-BD is shut down, it boots up once again and shuts down before the power can be safely removed."

    Does the instant boot utility bring the machine into the main OS (say Windows) or is it a stripped-down linux environment for simple access to things like music and DVD playback?
    If it's the former, what's the point--what does it do that just waking up doesn't? Or is it some kind of middleware to keep maybe the IR and WiFi active?
    If it's the latter, what sorts of playback support is there?

    I'm mostly concerned with limiting hard drive and power usage, but also being able to quickly resume from a wireless connection. With my current setup (almost 7 years old at its core), I like to send it to Hibernate, and then wake it up via WOL with my iPod or another computer to send new files to over. I avoid sleep because the something (CPU fan and hard drives, if I recall correctly) is still active and it's kind of loud and I worry the drives will wear out faster. I probably could sort it out but why bother when such cool new toys are coming out?

  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link


    I will try to handle your queries in a series of replies. In this one, I will let you know things which I know off the top of my head without accessing the unit:

    1. Sleep : The fans are completely off. I heard nary a sound from the unit when in sleep mode. I think cross ventilation slots on either side of the RAM modules help. The blue front LED keeps blinking slowly on and off in sleep mode, but you can turn that OFF in the BIOS by Enabling the 'Goodnight LED' option (see BIOS pictures set).

    2. Wake on wireless using AR9287 hasn't been tested. I will get back to you on this ASAP.

    3. Handshakes are maintained much better than in my ATI based HTPC. My power on sequence when unit is in sleep or hibernate or complete shutdown mode (as long as AC adapater is connected to unit) is as follows: Power on TV and put it it in AV receiver input mode -> Power on Receiver -> Press Power button on MCE remote. Display comes out perfectly on TV every time I followed this sequence.

    4. InstantBoot : Look at the coverage on ZDNet here: ; I think their explanation and analysis would be much better than what I can do in this space :)

    Will provide more info within a day or so.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link


    ASRock reports that only the AR9280 and AR9281 support Wake-On-Wireless. Unfortunately, the add on card in Core 100 is the AR9287.

    I am not sure how you wanted to use the 'wake on wireless' feature, but I would say that using the MCE remote to wake up the unit is the easiest and most simple.
  • omems - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Thanks, Ganesh, for all the additional info.

    I plan to use the wake on wireless when the HTPC is asleep and I'm at another computer in the house and want to move newly-acquired media to the HTPC without having to go to that room and wake it up.
    I suppose it's not a deal breaker though if the included card doesn't support it. I could use encouragement to get off my butt now and again.

    The insantBoot sounds like an interesting hybrid concept. Thanks for the link.

  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    omems, I did see an option in the BIOS to enable / disable 'Wake-On-LAN'. So, if this unit is going to be connected to a wired network, you might still find it hard to get off your couch / chair / bed :D Reply
  • vlado08 - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link

    Ganesh on page 5 you say:

    "We did observe red spikes, but disabling the C-states, as well as SpeedStep in the BIOS Advanced CPU configuration helped in alleviating the issue."

    On page 11 you say:

    "At idle, the system consumed around 18 W."

    1) Is this DC power or is this AC power measured at wall outlet?
    2) Is 18W idle power with enabled C-states and SpeedStep?
    3) And if yes then what is the idle power when disabling the C-states, as well as SpeedStep?
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - link


    The quoted power numbers are measured AC power using Kill-a-Watt over a 6 hour usage period.

    18W idle power is with C-state and SpeedStep enabled. I will quote idle power numbers with them disabled after testing out tonight.
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 23, 2010 - link


    The idle power consumption with both C-states and SpeedStep disabled is 21.6W.

    The CPU wasn't overclocked (it idled at 2.14 GHz).

  • vlado08 - Friday, July 23, 2010 - link

    Thanks Ganesh.

    So it is still less than the ion 330 idle power - 28,6W according to:

    If only Intel team resolve the 23,976hz issue .....

    I am still waiting because for me this is more important than bitsreaming
  • Lostclusters - Sunday, July 25, 2010 - link

    I know the review mentioned things like "Perfect Blu-Ray playback with bitstreaming", and "able to play back all Blu-Rays with bitstreaming to the AV receiver", but there is no mention of whether the sound is at 24 bits or 16 bits. I am sure that the same limiting factors as any other PC comes into play. But as I am currently not very well informed on Windows 7, I'd like to see some mention of this in the review. Both with LPCM and native codec. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link


    The bitstreaming is perfect. This means whatever bit resolution is present in the soundtrack is passed on as-is, with no downsampling of any sort.

    Its HDMI can pass through Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio up to 192KHz/24-bit , whereas absence of passthrough would mean support for only Dolby or DTS 48KHz/16-bit audio quality.

    Even on the other sound channel, i.e, VIA VT2020 codec, there exists support for Blu-ray audio up to 7.1ch 192KHz/24-bit audio with content protection.
  • Lostclusters - Sunday, July 25, 2010 - link

    I forgot to mention that this should be examined not only when playing off a Bluray disk but when playing files off the hard drive as well. Reply
  • Lostclusters - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Another item not addressed (maybe in the bench marks) is was how it performed an SD media. I know the screen resolution is locked in at 1080. But how well does it play SD media? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link


    While I agree that the majority of the streams in the test suite were HD (after all, that is the future), we do have 5 - 6 SD streams (evident from the file names).

    What you may be looking for is the upscaling capabilities of the GPU / software. I didn't pay much attention to this, but things didn't look horribly wrong. So, I would say that it is good enough to play SD media also. I am unable to think of a metric which will give you a quantitative view of the capability.
  • Lostclusters - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Check out this link at the bottom of the post under the heading of "My Pick of HTPC":
  • LNCPapa - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    This device really appeals to me - I was seriously considering going with a Mac Mini + Plex but with the price changes I figured I might as well not give Apple any more my money. By the way - great link post LostCluster - That thread was an awesome read and that guy has done an incredible amount of research.

    If this device had/would launch at a $500 price point I would purchase it now and ask the wife for forgiveness later.
  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    NewEgg seems to have the non-BluRay model for $580 + shipping:
  • Lostclusters - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    I have been following Rene's work since his first recommendation on hardware. I have even donated to his work. He is one dedicated individual and has several threads on that forum. Many many good threads there. Chocked full of info. Reply
  • Decaff - Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - link

    I really enjoyed reading through this article, as I am myself looking for a media streamer solution. I do, however, have some points of inquiry.

    First of all, the picture quality testing should be figured out. I have seen television review sites who do regular testing of the picture quality. I know that much of this is a often subjective, but I still think it is paramount that this is analysed, as many home theater enthusiasts are highly sensitive to the picture quality. I do think the use of the HQV test is a good starting point, but I still think subjective measures are in order, as a means of relating the numbers to any percieved loss of quality.
    In essense, the people investing in HTPC's of media streamers will probably also have a quality TV-set/projector attached to it. So the framerate issue could naturally be a killer for many enthusiasts, as I know this particular issue has been discussed on many TV forums, where they are very concerned with configuring the TV properly to the correct framerate in order to achieve the right picture quality.
    Perhaps an alliance with a site that specialises in reviewing picture quality of TV sets?

    Secondly, I think you should be more aware of what software you are using on the machine. Naturally, Anandtech is largely a hardware site, but when dealing with a media streamer/HTPC it is essentially the software that defines the final user experience of the setup. Essentially, if I have just bought a HTPC, I don't want to be pestered with 3 different programs in order for the box to do its job. Rather I (and presumably almost everyone else) wants a nice interface that can handle all the tasks the box it built for, preferably using only the remote control, and the occasional keyboard/mouse when performing tasks that are PC-centric.
    So my suggestion is to make a large article with HTPC software, where you look at the features it offers, ease of use, and naturally and in relation to my first point, the output quality of them.

    Lastly, I'm really looking forward to seeing some reviews of more dedicated (smaller and cheaped) streamer boxes, such as the WDTV live, A.C. Ryan Playon!HD or the Popcorn machines and naturally also a comparison with the gaming consoles as the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 and how they fare in comparison, regarding codec support, and of course in the area of picture quality and ease of use.
    These last are at the moment those that interest me the most, as I just want a box that can play my movies from an external HDD or a NAS/Home Server, without all the extra stuff (although it is of course nice to have), and I suspect a great deal of people have similar demands and can use another PC to rip their movies.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link


    I will do more research on how to perfect the picture quality testing metrics.

    For your second point, we do have a HTPC software article coming up (end of August) :)

    Third, we just posted a review of the WDTV Live. Reviews of other boxes are coming up :)
  • BSalita - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    I congratulate Anandtech for holding out a comprehensive HTPC suite to quantify the performance of new gear. The industry has been lax in creating a consensus of how to properly test HTPC gear. I hope other review sites will likewise use this kind of test suite. Let the media server wanabees know what their systems must do to find a minimal level of acceptability. Only by holding out such a thorough test will we finally have the means for raising out of the quagmire of incomplete codecs, firmware and lightweight product comparisons. Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, August 15, 2010 - link

    1. No tv tuner
    2. No gaming
    3. 700+ dollars?!

    I agree with everyone else. I really see no appeal in this system. Something without a tv tuner and that doesn't function as a gaming system will never be worth more than 200, maybe 300 if the features were really nice.

    I don't understand why people can't just use their laptops/desktops? I use my desktop on a 37" HDTV. Gaming, video encoding, internet browsing, torrenting, youtube, hulu, DVR, 2TB of storage internally in RAID!!!! Seriously, it's baffling why anyone would accept less when you simply don't have to.
  • vanderwijk - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    I was very surprised to read that because HDMI port on the unit is 1.3a the maximum resolution is only 1920 x 1080. This would mean that my Dell 2408 would not be supported because its resolution is 1920 x 1200 :(

    A quick check on WikiPedia shows that HDMI 1.3a is capable of at least 1920 x 1200, so what's the deal here? Is this an error in the review or is it really not possible to display more than 1080 vertical pixels?
  • blacksun1234 - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - link

    Yes, it can support 1920x1200. Reply
  • blacksun1234 - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    Dear Ganesh,
    Can it support BD 3D playback with Samsung 3D LED TV?
  • mega999 - Sunday, January 16, 2011 - link

    Can it support BD 3D playback with Samsung 3D LED TV? -or do I need the new asrock visiond 3d one for that because of it's hdmi 1.4?


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