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  • ProDigit - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Looks interesting at first, but I don't much like nvidia graphics cards, and the WD drive.
    WD drives are known to break right after their warranty expires when using them a lot.

    The only good about the nvidia card is that it could be set up to work with CUDA (CPU + GPU in parrallel); although cuda now also supports most ATI/AMD cards.

    The price of this setup is quite on the high end. If it wasn't for 3D vision, I'd say this computer would go for no more than $699. With 3D, I'd say $799 max.
    I personally don't care if it supports 3D or not, since I have no monitors that support this resolution. So for me it's only worth $599.
    Reply
  • ProDigit - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    They should have gone with a Toshiba drive instead. Yes, WD has faster continuous write and read speeds, but Toshiba is much better in IO performance.
    An OS like Windows 7 would boot faster with Toshiba, than with WD, and would run significantly cooler too!
    WD is absolutely NOT the best drive they could have chosen! The cheapest perhaps yes.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Looks like the WD Scorpio Black is as good as the Momentus XT from Seagate (except for the Disk Capture benchmark):

    http://www.storagereview.com/western_digital_scorp...

    So, from a price-performance ratio, it makes sense to go with WD.

    I have also mentioned in my review that a mini-PCIE SSD for the boot drive would have been good :)
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    The best notebook drives were made by IBM, and now Hitachi. Whether that still is the case, who knows. Reply
  • Zok - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    CUDA is not supported on ATI/AMD cards. DirectCompute and OpenCL are, however, supported by both. Reply
  • LtGoonRush - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Studies of both operating disk populations and drives sent in for data recovery show that no brand of drives is measurably more or less reliable than others, with the notable exception of the Seagate model ranges affected by their firmware bugs. It's also been conclusively proven that drive usage doesn't affect failure rates; lightly loaded and heavily loaded drives fail at the same rate. It's true that a failing drive will have its death hastened by heavy load, but you shouldn't be using a drive that's failing anyway, it should be replaced with the first SMART error it logs. The WD Scorpio Black drives in particular are the fastest notebook HDDs available, balancing high throughput with excellent seek times (Seagate drives have always had abysmal seek performance). It's also a little silly to complain about heat when we're talking about drives with sub-4W PEAK power draw. Reply
  • chrnochime - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    great job for correcting him without making it more obvious how wrong he is. I would've not sugarcoat it as much as you did though heh. Reply
  • lexluthermiester - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Seriously? Not liking Nvidia, well that is just personal preference. You not having a TV/Monitor that supports what this system can put out is not the fault of the maker or the system itself, it your problem. But bashing WD? They make the finest hard drives in the world and there are certainly worse hard drive makers. Now I'm not going to be low class and name names, but really? And if you don't like this little system, then don't buy it, but don't bash something that certainly has usefulness to a certain audience of users and at a very fair price. Reply
  • Parhel - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    False. WD drives are not "known" for high failure rates. All drive manufacturers compare about evenly in most areas. WD is one of, if not the, best choice out there. Reply
  • Samus - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    I was a WD fan in the 90's and after the 7200.7's came out and they ditch the wetsuits I became a die-hard Seagate fan because of the 7200.7's legendary reliability, low cost, 5-year warranty and 'decent' performance. These were all big selling points during an era where the Deathstar 75GXP rocked the storage industry with what some circles were calling a "definitive" failure rate within the warranty period.

    The Seagate drives just worked. However, recently I've had a lot of Seagate 7200.10 and 7200.11 drives giving me SMART errors, specifically reallocated sector counts. They also run hot compared to my new WD Blue 1TB drive and they're all mounted in the same cage. A few years ago I had a 1.5TB Seagate I had to flash to CC1G because of the firmware 'recall' which was definitely a quality control concern. I didn't loose data, but I know somebody who did, one day their drive was just blank. We flashed the firmware and his data was back, but the drive failed after a few months without warning, just spun up and clicked. Tried freezing it. No dice.

    Seems like WD is taking the quality/reliability crown, where as they've always had the performance crown...but performance wasn't as important to me as making sure the drive would work for 3-5 years without any issues.

    I'd consider a Hitachi in the future, but will probably continue to stick with Seagate and WD drives. Considering how many dead Samsung and Fujitsu drives I've pulled and replaced from friends' desktop and laptop's over the years, it's a no-brainier to stay the hell away from those. Toshiba I have mixed feelings about because over the past 20-years, I just didn't care much for their laptops. Hypocritically, I love Thinkpad's but when IBM had those 75GXP failures, I didn't change my mind about their laptops, and still think they make the best laptop's out there. Ironically things are different now, because Hitachi makes the hard drives and Lenovo makes the Thinkpad's. IBM has little to do with either now.
    Reply
  • firewall597 - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Thats not very fair to say "to me its only worth $---"

    The product was built with 3D and high end in mind, if this isnt what you need then you shouldn't buy it. Doesnt make it worth any less. There was a fairly accurate breakdown of costs early in the article that laid out how narrow their profit margins could actually be. I would assign this much more value then, say, anything from apple with a similar price tag. If you know what I mean.

    If you're only going to need $599's worth of the parts, then buy a lesser box for $599.
    Reply
  • andygallo - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Everyone has a different experience with drive manufacturers. For me WD has always been reliable. I still run the original 36GB Raptor that I got 5 or 6 years ago and it's still fast as hell and have no issues at all. I have a couple of other WD's that are older than that running great in my storage server. If I were to blanket generalize my experience, however, I would say Seagate and Maxtor are crap.

    CUDA is NOT CPU+GPU in parallel, CUDA is simply an API that allows GPU computing. The "parallel" in CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) is simply referring to the fact that a GPU is a massively parallel processing unit. What that means is, for certain specific tasks (like HD video encoding/decoding or fluid dynamic models), you can just dump to the GPU for the processing since it is far and away better at running these types of tasks than a traditional CPU. The CPU pretty much does nothing if CUDA is being called.

    Also CUDA is NOT supported on AMD/ATI cards, CUDA is specifically for Nvidia. Last I heard, AMD/ATI's solution was called Stream, but I dunno if that's still the case.

    From my experience with HTPC builds, Nvidia is definately the way to go. HD video acceleration (DXVA/DXVA2 for Windows or VDPAU for Linux) has MUCH better support on Nvidia cards (VDPAU doesn't even support ATI cards, so if you wanna use XBMC, use a Nvidia card). I've had quite a few h.264 encoded HD videos that couldn't be accelerated on an ATI card that worked flawlessly on an Nvidia. I have yet to see the opposite (and don't get me started on Intel's X4500 "video acceleration"... what a joke). From what I understand that stems from how the video was encoded and that ATI is far less forgiving than Nvidia. Could be a driver issue, but I've seen this disparity since I started playing with h.264 and even today am still able to reproduce the issue (at least 3 years).
    Reply
  • humba - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    I believe there's one bit missing from the article - a comparison to some of the competing models that could server as a HTCP. I've been using a mini with Win7 and external Blu-ray and I'm very much interested in the Vision 3D. But I'd like to know how it compares in terms of upgrading (Macs are a PITA in that department - especially the 2010 variety - and I'd much rather have a 240GB SSD than a 500GB slow noisemaker), and noise (even under significant load the device stays very quiet).
    Also.. since this is HDMI 1.4 - can you now drive 2560x1600 over HDMI? Dell claims their 2008 30" model does that resolution over HDMI.. and it sorta works (movies are fine... windows look messed up but I suspect the supposedly dual link capable DVI to HDMI adapter may be at fault)?
    Reply
  • Tros - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    I am also interested in a comparison. Especially with that kind of price-tag.

    Also: Is that a newer mac-mini, or and older one? I'd understand the newer one being hard to upgrade, but the older ones not much harder (ifixit.com) than this Vision3d model.
    Reply
  • humba - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    I have the older mini. I agree, it's not that hard to upgrade - however, it's not something for the faint of heart. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    As we review more SFF HTPCs, we will present what you want :) We will have the Zino 410 reviewed soon.

    From HTPC viewpoint, a Mac Mini simply doesn't make sense even though a lot of people use it. There is no HD audio bitstreaming, no native BR drive support. I don't think we ever will reivew a Mac Mini in this space (although Anand reviews them from the general PC perspective, with a section for HTPC).

    These PCs from ASRock are primarily targeted towards the DIY market (slowly moving to the layman consumer). As such, they are very easy to upgrade. The HTPC comes with a brochure outlining steps to replace anything and everything you want inside (Even the MXM card!).

    Yes, HDMI 1.4a and DVI dual link port can both drive 2560x1600 according to nVidia. We didn't test it out personally, but we have no reason to doubt nV's or ASRock's claims in that department.
    Reply
  • humba - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Couldn't you just have the software player decode TrueHD / DTS MA to PCM and stream that over the DP / HDMI port? And there's an aftermarket BR upgrade - again not for the faint of heart, but until not so long ago, there weren't any viable alternatives. Reply
  • Aikouka - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    I didn't even realize that Dell released a new SFF PC for media purposes until I read this article, so naturally, I was curious enough to check it out. I saw the initial price of $299 and was intrigued... is a non-streaming HTPC for a decent price possible? Well, it seems Dell brought my hopes up and subsequently squashed them like a bug. The biggest problem I found with the Zino HD410 is that if you want something decent, it's going to cost you....

    When I customized the HD410 to an acceptable level, it cost $699. The biggest problems seem to be my need for Windows 7 Professional and the Radeon 5450. I use Windows 7 Professional, because I prefer being able to remote into my HTPCs rather than having to turn the TV on just to make a simple change. Home Premium does not allow incoming RD connections, but does allow outgoing. The issue is that Dell charges $100 to upgrade from Home Premium to Professional... the same "upgrade" on NewEgg is around $40. You also need the 5450 to support bitstreaming, but the only way to get the 5450 is through the higher-end models which start at $499. I also find the requirement of a 500GB HDD in the higher-end models fairly useless... I don't need that much space on the drives and would rather reduce the size to save money.

    For that price, I'd probably just consider building a PC using Thermaltake's ElementQ case. It's about the same width (~8" vs ~8.5"), but the Thermaltake case has 5" more depth to it, which shouldn't be an issue in an entertainment center.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Clarification, the customized price on the Dell Zino HD410 is $599, not $699. My bad! Reply
  • Zap - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    That "thick copper bar" on the MXM copper plate is a heatpipe. If it really were a "thick copper bar" then it would probably overheat before you finished booting into Windows. Heatpipes do not have to be round. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Thanks, fixed :) Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    A Seagate Barracuda Momentus XT 500GB would do much better job than WD Scorpio Black. Reply
  • LtGoonRush - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    A Seagate Momentus XT 500GB would cost nearly twice as much as the WD Scorpio Black 500GB ($130 vs $75 at retail), and the performance difference is rather unimpressive. In the tests where the Seagate can make use of its SLC cache it can take the lead, but in most tests the Scorpio Black is faster, especially when seek times or write performance come into play, since those are Seagate's major weaknesses. Reply
  • BansheeX - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Cool box but LOL at the THX logo being slapped on it. They used to put that on heavily compressed DVD mixes, not all of them good either. Consumers don't care anymore. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    Personally, I don't care too much about the THX either :) If you are using HDMI for audio, it doesn't even appear in the picture.

    The internal audio codec is advertised with THX, so the HTPC using it gets the additional marketing point too :)
    Reply
  • tobrien - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    you guys did such an excellent job with this review! thanks for all the hard work and effort you guys put in! Reply
  • Shiitaki - Sunday, October 03, 2010 - link

    I'm not seeing the value here. A thousand dollars to stream content, and play blurays? One of the previous replies you stated that there was no native bluray support for the mac mini, true. And there is for a machine running windows? Tacking on Cyberlink is not native support.

    That is way too much hardware for what it does, which illustrates how badly Windows is for a platform. You could do much better with less hardware. Which is the real problem with a htpc, the software, the operating system, and various codecs, and getting it to all work together. Too much complexity. Most of the processor is wasted on layers of software instead of doing actual work. Most of the effort is expended to compensate for lazy and inadequate programming, as well as DRM.

    I understand the concept, I had a htpc for a couple of years, but after the frustration of trying to get surround sound to work in Cyberlink for Blurays, and the tech support to keep Windows working, I gave up. In fact it was specifically windows deciding to rebuild my music library from scratch every time I opened media center to play music. I want an appliance on the other end of the remote, having to search forums and break out a mouse and keyboard to trouble shoot something that worked the day before just fine should not be step two after pressing the power button.

    In the the article, there is no details as to how much or little work it took to make the software environment to work. Did settings hold, did you have to do reconfigurations, update drivers, load codecs? I seriously doubt it worked out of the box. Working out of the box is the great failure of the pc industry. On the video quality you are hedging, saying that video quality will get better with driver updates? So it's not finished eh? That's the sad reality with the computer industry in general, nothing ships as a finished product.

    The only thing this device seems to offer are endless possibilities to reward owners with a sense of accomplishment having solved issues preventing operations promised by the vendor. You can buy a nice bluray player, wd live, and still have 700 dollars for something else.

    The real news is if you took it out of the box, plugged everything in, did a setup once, and spent the rest of the time using it. No drivers, patches, settings that reset themselves, or promises of a future update for something to work So what did it take to make it work like it's supposed to, what issues does it have? Did you listen to two channel, or full surround? How many error messages did you have to deal with?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    What you are looking for is a player like the upcoming Netgear NTV550. That would put it in the media streamer section. That would be like $700 cheaper than the Vision 3D, but, with the NTV choice, you are at the mercy of Netgear for firmware updates in case something you want doesn't work, and it also doesn't support 3D -- which is what this product is targeted towards.. For the Vision 3D running Windows, you have a number of open source developers who can enable core features like HD audio bitstreaming etc. -- Try getting open source devs to get those sort of features working on a SoC based device.

    The fact with the HTPC scene is that you do have to do some setup of sorts and deal with error messages and what no. However, sometimes, slapping on the latest XBMC build solves most problems. Our test suite is designed to give problems to various softwares, so deriding drivers / softwares on the basis of the difficulty in getting it to work is not the purpose of the review.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Everything you state is true but, unfortunately, that can be said of computers in general. It's not limited to HTPC.

    You're also missing one of the major points of the HTPC: Its ability as a computer.
    You don't get that from a standalone device.

    You don't specify what version of MCE you were using, but if you weren't using the Windows 7 version it's not really a valid arguement.
    I never tried the Vista version, but the Win 7 version has certainly come a looong way from the XP version.
    And if you happen to be someone on a budget that wants to do it all with a single device, the price of the ASRock system is pretty attractive, even after adding the cost of the OS, monitor and BD software.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Pretty sure the hybrid Seagate Momentus XT is the fastest 2.5" drive they could have chosen. To all the other people talking about this egregious error, WD and Seagate are the only mechanical disk hard drive manufacturer's even worth looking at. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Momentus XT is a hybrid and not a pure hard drive. In any case, I have already linked to a StorageReview.com comparison of the 500 GB WD Scorpio Black and the Momentus XT. There are benchmarks in which the Scorpio Black turns out better.

    http://www.storagereview.com/western_digital_scorp...
    Reply
  • troystarr - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    I'm curious how fast it can load blu-ray discs, such as the time from blu-ray disc insertion to the BD-Java main menu, speed of interacting with BD-Java menus, etc. I have a Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player that's about 2 years old now, and while it plays blu-ray discs great, it's pretty slow to load them and navigate their menus. If I try to use any Internet-based content via BD Live, it's downright painful. I would love to see comparisons in load time between this device, a typical consumer Blu-ray player, and a Sony PS3.

    Thanks for the review!
    Reply
  • michael.gulde - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Was there a cable card for cable tv hd encrypted channels? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    The ASRock Vision 3D is high end from the viewpoint of supporting the latest standards such as 3D which are yet to go mainstream.

    Also, the system has been designed taking the world market into consideration, and people outside the US just don't use CableCard.

    You can always use the upcoming SiliconDust HD Tuners with CableCard functionality if this is something essential :)
    Reply
  • cknobman - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    this is just too expensive to justify for most consumers.

    I dont do alot of actual computing from my media room so therefore when I think HTPC I want something that can access my network and stream content and play games.

    Those things can be done by already existing equipment in my house or even other new equipment for much cheaper.

    PS3 - $299
    Xbox 360 - $299
    Blu Ray player - > $200
    Media Streamer - $50 - $150

    True this impressive little unit is also a full blown computer but as someone with 4 other pc's in the house already I dont really need a full blown computer as part of my media room.

    I think this would be perfect for someone who dosnt really own a gaming system and/or blue ray player already and would like an all-in-one solution.

    Otherwise I think that is really is priced too high to be of any real value to most consumers.
    Reply
  • vlado08 - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Hi Ganesh, thanks for the good article. I have several questions.

    1 What was the HDD tems when the GPU was under load? Because the HDD is sitting above the GPU I have some concerns.

    2 What does the DPC Latency Checker shows? Are there any latency problems? In the sreen shot of the MPC-HT there are some spikes in the green line?

    3 Do we need to disable Intel speed step for latensy free playback?

    4 Is it possible to put a HDD vertically mounted to the side wall of the Vision 3D? This way you can have 3 HDD inside - two on the side and one under the DVD/Blu-ray.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    1. I never received warnings about HDD temperature when running Furmark. The only time there was a warning was when I was copying around 100 GB of data from the USB 3 port (so much higher write rate than even through GbE network) into internal hard disk, at which point the temperature reached 52 C towards the very end. As long as you are doing normal HTPC activities, I don't think this will be an issue.

    2/3. I did DPC latency checks for the Core 100, but found no issues with playback even though the checker reported issues. I have come to the conclusion (with help of other editors here at AnandTech), that there is no necessity that there is an issue even if the checker reports it. In all, even though I saw the spikes in MPC-HC, I didn't notice any issues in the playback of Blu-Rays or any of our other test streams, even with SpeedStep enabled.

    4. No, there is no space for any more components within the Vision 3D chassis :(
    Reply
  • vlado08 - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Thanks again for the quick reply and for your enthusiasm. Reply
  • junkles - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Hi, Ganesh.

    So which HTPC functions have you found to be lacking with a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    For starters, Blu-Ray disc playback and HD audio bitstreaming (even for stand alone files)

    I just wish we had a Linux program capable of playing back Blu-Rays (particularly considering the fact that all standalone BR players run some version of Linux at the core).
    Reply
  • strolfey - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Thanks a bunch! Based on this, there's no major hangups so I'll be looking to get one as soon as it's available from newegg. Reply
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link

    Bit like the Apple TV article, we are moving closer to the ideal living room HTPC but not there yet.

    A decent SSD rather than a HD would be better, less noise, reliability not an issue, less heat.

    Noise is the issue for me. This is improving (and would be less noisy than my current cable box) but still not perfect (total silence would be perfect but impractical).

    I do wonder whether an optical drive is really necessary. Seems to me that there may be 2 HTPC markets. One for a streaming device that can play games and another where the device is also the sole Blue-ray/DVD player on an AV system.

    I would be happy to ditch the optical drive for a TV tuner. Even more so if it could replace the cable box
    Reply
  • blacksun1234 - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    Dear Ganesh,
    Is its BD playback video quality better than consumer BD 3D player?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    I didn't do a side by side comparison, but I would believe that you have lot more tweaks available at your disposal on the HTPC to do some post processing if you desire (compared to the options in a consumer BD 3D player).

    The only advantage of a consumer BD player I can foresee is the ease of use factor. HTPCs are inherently not designed to cater to the lowest common denominator yet. (Yes, we have Win7MC + PDVD / ArcSoft integration, but you still need to do some configuration like AutoStart / Start Maximized / configuration of 3D display etc. etc. to make sure it acts like a consumer BD 3D player).
    Reply
  • SirMeili - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    With my current HTPC, I can have distinct On and off Codes. so my question is this:

    You said you can wake the HTPC via the remote, but can you

    1) put it to sleep with the remote, and
    2) Turn the computer on with the remote (from an off state)
    3) program additional codes for the IR Receiver (for instance, I have a button on my universal for alt-f4)

    Neither are ultimately important, but I like my setup as it is now (especially since I can train specific on and off codes for my IR Receiver for the HP)
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    1 and 2 are definitely possible ( 2, when AC power cord is still connected, but you already knew that :) )

    As for 3, I will ask ASRock. I haven't personally tried out.
    Reply
  • The Jedi - Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - link

    If this were an Asus brand product I might find it more attractive, but I think ASRock has issues with its reputation. I mean they make some innovative and low cost mobo's, but from reading around they seem to have quality control issues. Last time I visited their website they had imperfect English so I think I'll just stay away. Reply
  • mutarasector - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    Can't wait to see a Llano powered version of this thing. I believe one might see a mini based on it by the 'Fruity computer Co.' in the not too distant future. Reply
  • borekb - Tuesday, February 01, 2011 - link

    On these screen-less HTPC devices, how do you display things like MP3 or volume information while you're playing musing and the TV is turned off? I'm thinking about attaching a digital picture frame but would that be possible to output the signal to both HDMI (-> A/V Receiver -> TV) and to the frame? (I don't own any digital picture frame at the moment so I'm not sure what would be required on that front.) Reply
  • mpogr - Thursday, June 02, 2011 - link

    Got one of these. They sell them here in Australia without memory and HDD, purchased both from the same store, the total price was ~940AUD (should be ~970-980 USD now)..
    Assembly was quite easy and all was working fine at first. Installed Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bits, SageTV client and PowerDVD 11 (planned primary use: TV and, occasionally, 3D Blu Ray playback). Because of TV being used by the children, the computer was always on (but not always playing back media). The unit died after ~5 days. I wasn't at home when this happened, but it just powered itself off. After that, upon disconnecting and reconnecting power, it came on and then off straight away. Resetting CMOS and pulling the BIOS battery out helped a bit, so now it doesn't power itself off after reconnecting the mains. The blower spins and the power led is lit, but no video output and no HDD activity. Disconnecing HDD and ODD didn't help.
    So it's just dead. It can be the unit itself or the memory, as I don't have any spare SODIMMs to test. About to send the unit back to the retailer for investigation.
    Reply
  • jacksuper - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    The machine looks beautiful and performs great. However, it died within a week of it's use. It would not power on! The power adapter was ok - something must have happened to the power supply. I was quite disappointed though. Had to return back to amazon.com for a refund. Reply

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