ASRock HT100-BD review

£553
Price when reviewed

Although best-known for its output of motherboards, ASRock has also added laptops, set-top boxes and mini PCs to its armoury in recent times. The Core 100HT-BD is the first product from the range we’ve seen, and it makes a good first impression.

ASRock HT100-BD review

In the mould of the recently reviewed Tranquil iXL, the 100HT-BD is intended to be a front room PC for the consumption of music, TV and video, squeezing its wares into an even more compact chassis. In fact, it measures just 194 x 186 x 69mm (WDH) – not much larger than a Nintendo Wii.

As with the Tranquil this machine is powered by a laptop-style brick power supply, but this isn’t just the same old PC in different clothing; there are a few critical differences. First, it’s a bit more of a build-your-own affair: the 100HT-BD comes without an operating system installed, so if you want Windows 7 you’ll have to budget an extra £70 or so.

Second, where the Tranquil is powered by a desktop-class processor and memory, the ASRock is more akin to a laptop. The processor is a mobile 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M, the 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM comes in the form of a pair of SODIMMs, the Blu-ray drive is low profile and the hard disk is a 500GB 2.5in Seagate model.

The downside of this is there isn’t as much room for expansion as there is in the Tranquil. You can add a second 2.5in hard disk, but not a half-height graphics card. You’ll be stuck with the on-CPU integrated Intel HD Graphics, which means gaming at high resolutions and detail levels is out. Unusually for a media-centre PC, the 100HT-BD doesn’t come with any kind of tuner built-in, so you’ll have to add an unsightly USB model if you want to watch and record TV.

ASRock HT100-BD

The ASRock also isn’t passively cooled like the Tranquil is. Instead, two small fans – one on the rear of the case and the other attached to the CPU – keep the temperature down and air flowing through the case. And neither is this small box the epitome of design chic. Although the build feels sturdy, its glossy, painted finish has a dimply, orange-peel effect.

Luckily those fans are pretty quiet, so you won’t notice the whirring most of the time, and elsewhere the 100HT-BD is a capable media PC. Although there’s no discrete graphics processor, there’s plenty of oomph for the sorts of tasks you might ask of a media PC from day to day. And while it scored a middling 1.10 in our application benchmarks, it will play HD BBC iPlayer content without breaking sweat. It also comes with an infrared remote and a Blu-ray reader/DVD writer combo drive out of the box. Beware, though, there’s no Blu-ray playback software included so you’ll have to fork out another £34 exc VAT or so to actually watch your HD discs on it.

Connectivity is excellent, with an eSATA port on the rear and a pair of USB 3 sockets on the front offering plenty of scope for ramping up your high-speed storage capacity. Plus, the rear panel is bursting with outputs and inputs, with six USB 2, D-SUB and HDMI, optical S/PDIF, five 3.5mm audio sockets and Gibabit Ethernet. Inside, that even extends to 802.11n Wi-Fi via a single-band mini-PCI Atheros AR9287 adapter.

The ASRock’s biggest attraction, however, is its price. Even taking into consideration the need to add the cost of Windows 7, the necessary TV tuner and Blu-ray playback software, it will still end up coming in nearly £300 cheaper than the Tranquil iXL. Aside from the lack of passive cooling and the less powerful processor, then, we reckon the Core 100HT-BD is decent value: it’s reasonably quiet, powerful and comes with a Blu-ray drive as standard. If you’re looking to build or buy a home theatre PC, it’s worth considering.

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 500GB
Screen size N/A

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i3
CPU nominal frequency 2.13GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
Processor socket N/A
HSF (heatsink-fan) N/A

Motherboard

Motherboard ASRock HM55-HT
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55
Conventional PCI slots free 0
Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots free 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0
Internal SAS connectors 0
Internal PATA connectors 0
Internal floppy connectors 0
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 0
Memory sockets total 0

Graphics card

Graphics card N/A
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting N/A
Graphics chipset Intel HD graphics
DVI-I outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 0
Number of graphics cards N/A

Hard disk

Hard disk Seagate Momentus 5400.6
Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 466GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Cache size 8MB
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical drive Slimtype BD E DS4E1S
Optical disc technology Blu-ray reader/DVD writer combo
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A
Resolution screen horizontal N/A
Resolution screen vertical N/A
Resolution N/A x N/A
Pixel response time N/A
Contrast ratio N/A
Screen brightness N/A
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers N/A
Speaker type N/A
Sound card VIA HD Audio
Peripherals Media Center remote control, Atheros AR9287 802.11n WLAN

Case

Case format Mini ITX
Dimensions 194 x 186 x 69mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 6
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 5

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 2
Front panel memory card reader no

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard None

Operating system and software

OS family None
Recovery method N/A
Software supplied N/A

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.10
Office application benchmark score 0.91
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.29
Encoding application benchmark score 1.13
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.09
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

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