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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  • DocJones - Friday, September 2, 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 2, 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 2, 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 2, 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 2, 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 2, 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 2, 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 2, 2011 - link

    ZBOX nano AD10 Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 2, 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 2, 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

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