The small form factor (SFF) HTPC market has been steadily growing over the last few years. As mobile processors become more and more powerful, it is becoming easier for users to be satisfied with their performance even in desktop configurations.

The DIY HTPC crowd has a marked preference for mini-ITX motherboards and cases. However, the excessive TDP of desktop CPUs resulted in complicated thermal designs and noisy results. Thermal designs for systems with mobile CPUs with 35W TDPs are fairly straightforward and not very noisy. In fact, it is even possible to create systems which are fully passively cooled.

ASRock has three HTPC families catering to the entry level, mid-range and high-end markets. While the ION based HTPCs form the entry level, the Core series serves the mid-range and the Vision series caters to the high-end. Today, we will be looking in detail at the CoreHT 252B, the second generation Core series HTPC from ASRock. First off, let us take a look at the configuration of the review unit sent to us by ASRock

ASRock CoreHT 252B HTPC Specifications
Processor Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5-2520M
(2 x 2.50 GHz (3.20 GHz Turbo), 32nm, 3MB L2, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 2 x 2GB DDR3-1333
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000
650 MHz / 1.3 GHz (Turbo)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM 2.5" HDD
(Western Digital Scorpio Black WD5000BEKT)
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11b/g/n (2T2R Atheros AR5B97 in AzureWave AW-NE121H mini-PCIE card)
Audio Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (optical SPDIF/HDMI)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)
Extras THX TruStudio Pro Audio Certification
IR receiver and MCE remote
Pricing TBD

ASRock has three configurations of the CoreHT series available. Two of them have the Core i3-2310M processor (one with a Blu-ray drive - CoreHT 231B, and the other with a DVD drive - CoreHT 231D). The review unit is the CoreHT 252B with the Core i5-2520M processor. This comes with a Blu-ray drive.

 

Unboxing Impressions
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  • 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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