The CoreHT 252B represents a quantum leap in both CPU and HTPC related GPU prowess over the Core 100. As such, we have no hesitation in recommending the CoreHT if the Core 100 was ever in your radar. Of course, pricing is an important aspect. We are assuming that this mid-range HTPC will debut around the same price with which the Core 100 was launched.

Our recommendation, however, doesn't come without reservations. Both ASRock and Intel have areas in which they can improve. Throughout the review, we have covered the positive aspects of the CoreHT 252B.
In this concluding section, we will identify aspects which can be improved.

ASRock:

  1. The performance of the HTPC could have been improved by using a SSD for the boot drive. ASRock indicates that a second 2.5" hard drive can be attached to the underside of the ODD/HDD chassis. It should be pretty straightforward to use a 32 GB SSD as the second drive without having an exorbitant rise in the unit's price.
  2. The supplied MCE remote is basically a marketing checklist item. Instead of that, a mini wireless keyboard / touchpad combo would have also made up for the lack of a wireless keyboard and mouse in the package.
  3. Minor industrial design updates to make the chassis more attractive would be nice. For example, the ASRock logo could be shifted to the lid and even made bigger in the process. Similarly, the power LED can also be shifted to the lid (similar to what is in the Zino HD 410)

Intel:

  1. Intel's DXVA implementation is a very big mess for all the open source DXVA decoders (MPC Video Decoder and XBMC's DXVA2 implementation). Intel should step in and work with the developers to make sure those decoders work perfectly with the Intel GPUs. Intel GPU based system purchasers are forced to shell out more money for commercial decoders in order to get the benefit of reliable hardware acceleration even for local file playback.
  2. It is not possible to get hardware acceleration for decode as well as madVR rendering with Intel GPUs and open source / freeware decoders. Intel's GPU shaders are also not powerful enough for consistent madVR. We hope that the GPU in Ivy Bridge will be powerful enough for madVR so that we can contemplate running some benchmarks for that.
  3. Needless to say, the video post processing algorithms can use some improvements to get to the quality provided by the AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.
  4. Intel needs to make the custom resolution feature user friendly (at least as good as NVIDIA's). It must not be restricted by the EDID from the display (for the advanced users, at least)

Despite the above issues, we were able to configure the HTPC to serve the average user well. As that is the intended goal of this mid-range HTPC, we have to say that ASRock has succeeded in putting out a capable successor to the Core 100.

Miscellaneous Concerns
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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

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