ASRock CoreHT 252B Review

by Ganesh T S on 9/2/2011 3:45 AM EST
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  • uncola - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    intel really needs to get their shit together re: dxva and hardware decoding for video Reply
  • vlado08 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    First I want to tank you Ganesh for the article. Keep the good work!

    Would you give us some more information please.

    Can it play 1080 60p?
    There are a lot of camcorders that can record in AVCHD v2.0 (1080 60p 28Mb/s).

    What are the temperatures (CPU HDD) inside during idle and 100% load?
    Why ASRock don't make CPU fan to blow outside the case as in notebooks?

    Can you select RGB or YUV output in new intel drivers?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yes, it does play 1080p60 without issues (even the Clarkdales and Arrandales can do it).

    The 1080p60 streams are part of our test suite. But, yet, you are right .. I should have mentioned it.

    The HTPC outputs RGB, and there is no obvious way to change it to YUV in the graphics control panel. However, the levels (0-255 / 16-235) can be modified with the Quantization Range option.

    I will get back to you on the temperatures in a day.
    Reply
  • vlado08 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Thanks Ganesh, is 1080 60p hardware accelerated? Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yes, it is.

    Both 1080p60 and 16 reference frame H.264 videos were able to get DXVA2 hardware acceleration using the Microsoft DTV-DVD decoder.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Here is the temperature info you requested (measured using the AXTU tool for the mobo and the CPU / HD Tune Pro for the hard disk in Celsiuis scale):

    Idle:

    Motherboard : 42
    CPU : 44
    Hard Disk : 37

    Prime95 + Furmark (after 15 minutes of activity):

    Motherboard : 48
    CPU : 83
    Hard Disk : 39
    Reply
  • tech6 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I bought a previous generation HT100-BD and it was a fine HTPC but the ASRock service was appaling. The unit had two failed HDMI ports in the first 12 months and the second time ASRock demanded payment to fix it (even tough it was under warranty).

    As convenient as it may seem, I would go down the DIY route just for the flexibility of being able to fix it yourself.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    As paying the Windows Tax for a single purpose/ non-gaming machine is a bit pointless, I wonder how well the hardware in this box cooperates with Linux?
    I tried to build a HTPC on an older AMD platform and was continually being thwarted by driver issues (WLAN, sound, graphics), but here there actually may be an advantage, as Intel has a developer that manages libva, so their acceleration might work better on linux than DXVA..

    Also XBMC has a native linux version which is quite nice and should even boot faster in an optimized system than a Windows system.
    Reply
  • Vagn Henning - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    As you might have noticed, the box ships without Windows. You see, that's the difference between your "Windows tax" and other taxes: You don't have to pay it. You are free to install any other OS. If you stopped pretending otherwise, someone might actually answer your question... Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Well, the reviewer only used Windows, hence assuming that one pays for it.
    A Windows-only review is of little help for someone attempting to deploy linux on this box.
    If the reviewer implies the windows tax, by not mentioning alternatives, he is the one accepting it, I am merely referring to his point of view.

    Also, the alternative to the Windows tax is the Linux tax. The latter can often end up being higher....
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    <<Well, the reviewer only used Windows, hence assuming that one pays for it.>>
    That would be true, except for the part where in the table on the first page, he writes:
    "Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)"
    I agree, however, that he could have stated it clearer in the text when he mentioned the software being shipped with the system ("Our review unit shipped with Windows 7 x64 Ultimate and a OEM version of Cyberlink PowerDVD for Blu-Ray playback.").
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Guys, I am keeping track of the developments in the Linux HTPC space.

    As soon as we can get to a point where it is possible to play Blu-rays with menus (we can already playback encrypted Blu-rays with MakeMKV installed, just not with menus -- this was the state when I last looked at it), we will carry out a detailed Linux HTPC article.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Thanks, looking forward to that! Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    I don't care about BD so I'd like to see a review even if BD menus don't work.

    Thanks for all the HTPC articles!
    Reply
  • Miles Prower - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    I'm considering buying this machine too, as both a lightweight desktop PC (hey, why not) and a HTPC. Both solutions running Linux.

    I'd llove to see a review considering XBMC performance and hardware support!
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    "The unit has a noise level of less than 36 dB at full load "

    Not good enough. The system needs to be much better 30dB or less. Then there is the issue of how noisy is the Blu-ray drive. In my AV rack the one aspect which really annoys me is the Sony Blu ray player which is clearly audible at quiet points in movies. So would really like to know how loud the optical drive is (why do case manufacturers no include some dampening?)

    Having said that it is clearly a very good system . Problem is that Zotac have just announced their AD10 nano system. Whilst it is over priced and lacks an optical drive (not a problem for me as store movies to NAS), in a main room it just looks a far better piece of kit, and a lot smaller (and allegedly quieter)
    Reply
  • pvdw - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    "27 dB during Disc Playback" Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Oops missed that in the charts.

    Much better, but I do wonder how much of that noise is due to the Blu ray drive - 22.4 dB on idle and 27 dB on Blu ray playback does not really help me - was this playback from HD or from the optical drive. I can believe the number if from HD, I do not believe the number if from optical drive, but if it is correct then I am impressed. Maybe it is just me, but case manufacturers have spent some time putting vibration dampening grommets for hard disks but never for the optical drives - why? A bit of care might reduce the noise considerably.

    The problem is that we keep getting quoted dB and how something is so quiet it is effectively silent when clearly it is not. The standard I work to is very simple. If I can hear a computer during a quiet section of a movie or a song, than it is too loud.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Disc = optical drive. The extra noise is due to the operation of the ODD. Yes, I agree with your metric that if people hear it, it is noisy. However, different people have different tolerance / hearing levels. So, you do need to have some sort of base metric to compare against. For example, at 2 ft, I find 36 dB quite audible. But, only during quiet scenes in the video. Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    note that the measurements were done at 2 feet and not the more or less standardized meter. I'm not going to make the transformation now, as I'm not to keen to get into exponential scaling at this time of day, but it's always important to keep the context of db(A) measures in mind when comparing values. Reply
  • DocJones - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I've been wanting to put together a media server with an i5 CPU just about down this line. I currently run Mezzmo as the server software since it does a pretty good job at transcribing video on the fly based on what device is requesting it.

    I wonder if this has enough juice to transcribe 1080p and send it over the wire to our media players, and if so... can it do more than one?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    For a server type situation, I would recommend a desktop chipset.

    However, the i5-2520M is very very capable.. Maybe you should ask Mezzmo whether they can take advantage of QuickSync?
    Reply
  • DocJones - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    i5 2405S better?

    http://ark.intel.com/products/55446/...he-2_50-GHz...

    Something this form factor would be nice if it worked. Mezzmo folks pretty much say I need a true 4 core 8 thread CPU to perform transcoding on the fly. I find that hard to believe. Others have noted that a Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 LGA775 'Yorkfield' 2.66GHz 4MB-cache while hot handles the job just fine.

    They use ffmpeg so I don't think they support QuickSync right now.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Being paid software, I think Mezzmo needs to pull up its socks and adopt QuickSync for its transcoding operations. I think they can afford to sign whatever NDAs are required for this purpose (Actually, I don't think they need any because Andrew Van Til (www.babgvant.com) has actually implemented QuickSync support in his DVRMSToolBox program).

    Please hound them about this. I am also personally interested in finding out whether QuickSync is flexible enough for media server software to take advantage of.
    Reply
  • blckgrffn - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I would hope that this guy starts under $500, but seeing the prices on the Core HT100 at greater than $700, my enthusiasm is tempered a bit. Reply
  • icrf - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Agreed, for $500, I'd buy one.

    Since this is mostly laptop parts, what does a similarly spec'd laptop cost? No keyboard, touchpad, or screen saves some costs. What does this add that a laptop doesn't? A token remote control?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Remote control + IR receiver and form factor combined with scale of manufacturing mean that the cost almost works out to be the same as that of a laptop.

    For many, a laptop can double up as a HTPC (even I used my notebook as a HTPC between 2005 and 2007), but PCs like these cater to those who need a quiet unobtrusive unit as part of the living room cabinet. Plus, this is a desktop replacement, i.e, you can schedule recordings with an external TV tuner when you are away from the home (or any other such usage scenario).

    In the end, it is about horses for courses :)
    Reply
  • cknobman - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    ZBOX nano AD10 Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Initial reviews look very promising although probably best to get the bare bones version and kit out with own memory and an SSD.

    When available I am going to get one and play with it to see how well it works
    Reply
  • icrf - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Agreed. It's likely less than half the price, and I can do without an optical drive. I plan to run Windows, so the Linux driver situation around AMD's video decoding hardware don't apply, either (assuming that hasn't been straightened out since I last read about it).

    Still, it is nice to have all that extra CPU power available for whatever the future brings. I'm just not sure it's going to be worth the several hundred dollars more they're likely going to be asking for it.

    In any case, I'd still love to see a review here on the unit, comparing it to this one as a budget alternative. I am a big XBMC proponent (and Hulu Desktop), so I really liked seeing the detailed focus on it, something I'd like to see carried forward in future HTPC reviews.
    Reply
  • casteve - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    page 3, GPU paragraph:

    "However, WiDi is supported by the CoreHT 252B. "

    I think you meant to say NOT supported.

    Great article! Thanks, Ganesh.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Thansk! Fixed. Reply
  • jensend - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    If somebody made a system like this with a 65W Llano, esp. an A8-3800, I'd be all over it. Mobile Llano would be ok as well. (Barebones would be nice- I'd like to put in my own small ssd, and I have no need for Blu-Ray.) Reply
  • Foggg - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I thought there was a chance that ASRock's next level "Vision 3D series" which Ganesh referred to was possibly so-named because of AMD's "Vision" labeling for the Llano's.
    No such luck. That series has mobile i7's/i5's/i3's paired with Nvidia's GT425M. Guaranteed to be pricier than a mobile Llano. And for most, unnecessary, given this uses for this thing.
    Reply
  • smdx - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Following the last comment, is there any news on a possible update for the ZInoHD 410 line? (I guess they will be using Llano on their next lineup)
    Last year model was presented in September 2010...

    Don't know in Anandtech has any feedback on this...
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yeah would be nice. I got one in for a customer and he loves it. I thought it a great bit of kit. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I would like to see performance and power consumption comparisons to a desktop running an i3-2105. I suspect they are close, even though the i3 costs significantly less. My scam radar is going off like crazy here. Since when is a small form factor worth that much? Why not just buy a notebook and use that as your HTPC???? That is a much higher volume product and thus it is highly likely you'll be able to find one on sale for cheaper than this product. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Just saw these on slickdeals:

    Sony VPC EG13FX/B 14" Notebook - i5 / 500GB / 4GB RAM - $549 @ Frys

    (New) ThinkPad Edge E420/ i5-2520M/ Win7 HP 64/ 2GB/ 320GB/ 9-Cell for $488 @ lenovo outlet
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yes, a laptop can be a portable HTPC nowadays.

    As you say, pricing is just a matter of scale. I would expect this to weigh in around the 500 - 600 range. Laptops are mass produced. So, they have an advantage there.
    Reply
  • justniz - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I'm looking for a mythtv frontend.
    But this thing has Intel graphics and you can't buy it without windows.
    What stupid marketing decisions. I think I'll pass.

    I would have bought one if they had a nVidia GPU and a no-OS or Linux option.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    There is a no-OS option. (in fact, that is what will be sold mostly)

    For Linux drivers.. well, let us not go down that road right now.
    Reply
  • martajd - Sunday, September 04, 2011 - link

    Read the article. It CLEARLY says in the specifications chart "Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)"

    That means NO OS IS DEFAULT. It's not Asrock that has the stupidity.
    Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Item#: N82E16856158025, that's pretty high for no Windows or blu-ray software.($87 for PowerDVD). Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    If this is anything like the Vision 3D, I bet the price will definitely go down, or there will be a rebate / combo deal of some sort to sweeten things up. I stand by what I said in the review.. if they get the price down to the Core 100's launch price, I will have no hesitation in recommending the unit. Reply
  • ypsylon - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    External power supply is instant kill for any HPTC system. What is the point of SFF if you have to use external PSU? You can't move the case without moving PSU.

    No thank you AsRock. Small Lian-Li cube will do nicely.
    Reply
  • miahallen - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    "The ASRock CoreHT 252B is primarily built out of notebook components, and it is not possible for the average enthusiast to build such a system with off-the-shelf components."

    Yes it is...I did about 3 months ago (with the H67 version) and I've been quite heppy with it.
    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t228/miahallen/...
    Reply
  • miahallen - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    This is the low cost version w/o BluRay but with an SSD...more similar to what I built.
    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t228/miahallen/...

    At only $400, it's a steal next to the version in this article.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, September 04, 2011 - link

    I only intended to convey that it is not possible for consumers to build a desktop with a mobile procsesor / mobile chipset.

    However, yes, you have an interesting build with a similar power profile. Andrew at MissingRemote also has a similar build reviewed: http://www.missingremote.com/review/intel-core-i3-... : This uses the more HTPC centric motherboard from Intel.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    Should be a better deal buying a E-350 APU/Mobo combo. Why have intel subpar image quality gpu? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    350 is too weak. Higher end Llanos are good, but need some driver work in the common scenarios like 1080p60 AVCHD decode.

    Intel is pretty good for the average consumer. If you are a stickler for image and video quality, go with AMD, and if you want the best of freeware / open source software to do the work for you, go with NVIDIA.
    Reply
  • glypto - Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - link

    "if you are a stickler for image and video quality, go with AMD, and if you want the best of freeware / open source software to do the work for you, go with NVIDIA"

    Ganeshts, what system would you recommend for Linux + XBMC then ?
    Reply
  • Penti - Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - link

    I none integrated solution would be my suggestion. But pure XBMC machine you would probably get by with ION-NG or the like. But for a moment disregarding that. You can't get a decent CPU (still some need for software decoding, or transcoding) and a decent GPU (that can do video decoding and postprocessing or well drivers to handle OGL and VDPAU in XBMX/Linux case, as well as audio properly) otherwise. I'm sure Ganesh can agree on that point.

    That means that there are a lot of options and combinations as well as cases, sizes and so on. But don't expect stuff to be trouble free anywhere when it comes to stuff like this.
    Reply
  • Googer - Thursday, September 08, 2011 - link

    I think hitachi cinemastar hard drives might have been a better pick due to their claim of quieter, lower power, and 24/7 operating abilities. Reply
  • Googer - Thursday, September 08, 2011 - link

    The lack of a TUNER or CABLEcard Slot or even a free pci-e slot for DVR use makes this HTPC a tad less appealing. Reply

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