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.

Motherboard & Chipset : mini-ITX Intel HM65

The motherboard used in the CoreHT series is based on the Cougar Point Intel HM65 chipset. The CoreHT server series uses the HM67 chipset, and we will take a look at that unit in another review. ASrock's mini-ITX motherboard used in the CoreHT 252B is the HM65-HT. The 2 SATA 6 Gbps ports are available as headers on the motherboard, while one SATA 3 Gbps port is made available as an eSATA3 port. Another SATA port is available as a header on the motherboard (it is connected to the Blu-ray drive).

The mini PCI-E slot is taken up by the Atheros based AzureWave WLAN module. The two sides of the CoreHT chassis are used as antennae. The two DIMM slots are on the right side of the board, next to the CPU.


CPU : Intel Core i5-2520M

The Core i5-2520M is a 35W TDP processor belonging to the 32nm Intel Sandy Bridge family. Clocking in at 2.50 GHz, it is capable of going up to 3.2 GHz for a single core and 3.0 GHz for both the cores in turbo mode. 3MB of Intel Smart Cache is shared between the two cores and the integrated GPU.

GPU : Intel HD Graphics 3000

The integrated GPU in the Sandy Bridge processors come in two varieties, namely, HD Graphics 2000 and HD Graphics 3000. The Core i5-2520M uses the latter. It has a base frequency of 650 MHz, and is capable of going up to 1.3 GHz in stressful conditions.

It supports full 3D video capabilities, QuickSync and WiDi. However, WiDi is not supported by the CoreHT 252B. WiDi makes sense for laptops, but not much for SFF HTPCs. So, we don't fault ASRock for avoiding this feature.

DRAM : ASInt 2 x 2GB DDR3-1333

ASRock has used a relatively new memory vendor in ASInt for the CoreHT 252B. The memory chips operate with a 9-9-9 CAS latency.


Hard Disk : Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB 7200 rpm 2.5"

The 500GB Scorpio Black is one of the best reviewed hard disks in its class. It has been reviewed to have upto 120 MBps sequential read speeds.

The hard disk is a good choice with respect to the price - performance ratio for the ASRock CoreHT 252B.

Optical Disk Drive : Philips Lite-on Blu-ray / DVD RW Tray Loading Drive

The ASRock CoreHT 252B ships with the Philips Lite-on DS-4E1S BD Combo Drive.

We would have liked a slot loading model, but ASRock reserves that for the high end Vision series. The slot loading model has a considerable cost premium, so we are not really complaining.

MCE Remote

One of the shortcomings of the ASRock HTPCs when compared with something like the Zinos from Dell is the absence of a wireless keyboard / mouse combo. However, ASRock does take care to ensure the presence of an IR receiver in the system and also bundle a MCE remote.

Compared to the MCE remote used in the Core 100, we see a step up. The remote bundled with the unit is the same as the one bundled with the Vision 3D.


Unfortunately, the quality of the MCE remote is a big letdown. The keys are quite small and the unit feels cheap in the hand despite being pretty decent in appearance.


In the next few sections, we will take a look at the performance of the ASRock CoreHT 252B.

 

 

 

 

 

Unboxing Impressions Generic Performance Metrics
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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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