ASRock's mini-ITX form factor HTPCs have been held in high esteem by us, but their second generation refresh left a lot to be desired in terms of being revolutionary upgrades. The CoreHT 252B wasn't that different from the original Core100, except for the move from Arrandale to Sandy Bridge. In the case of Vision 3D 252B, it was a similar disappointment (with the GT 540M being just a overclocked version of the GT 425M used in the first generation version).

ASRock went back to the drawing board and have now come back with a completely revamped HTPC lineup. NVIDIA seems to have gone missing at the high end. We are not sure whether it is because of the 28nm Kepler shortage or whether ASRock just had enough of NVIDIA's rebranding shenanigans. In any case, the Vision 3D series has been renamed as VisionX, and gets a 28nm mobile AMD GPU. The Core series (plain Intel mobile CPU with the high end iGPU) is now rebranded as Vision HT, and gets the same industrial design as the current generation Vision 3D series. The MINI series is a new entrant based on the next-gen Brazos 2.0 platform.

Without further digression, let us take a detailed look at ASRock's 2012 HTPC lineup.

ION 3D Series:

The ION units seem to be surprisingly popular in the entry level market even now. ASRock continues to see demand for the ION 3D and will be continuing to manufacture this even in 2012. ASRock's ION 3D differentiates itself from the other ION units in the market by using a ICH8M chipset (which allows the GT218 ION GPU to operate at PCI-E x4) instead of the usual NM10 (which allows for GPU operation at PCI-E x1 only).

Since this is not a new model, interested readers can just hit up the specifications here.

MINI Series:

Slated to make a market appearance in Q4 2012, these units are based on the AMD E2-1800 APU with AMD Radeon HD7340 graphics. The industrial design is the same as that of the Core100 we saw a couple of years back.

Notable aspects of the MINI series include support for RAID0 and RAID1, XFast 555 (XFast RAM, XFast LAN and XFast USB) and Bluetooth 4.0. The full hardware specifications are provided in the table below:

ASRock MINI Series
CPU AMD E2-1800 APU
Chipset AMD A68M Chipset
Memory 2 GB DDR3 1333 MHz
Supports DDR3-1333/1066 with 2 x SO-DIMM (8 GB Max)
VGA Integrated AMD HD7340M
Storage 320 GB HDD
Supports 2nd 2.5" SATA Drive
ODD BD Combo / DVD Super Multi
Front I/O 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Mic, 1 x Headphone
Rear I/O 1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x D-Sub VGA, 6 x USB 2.0, 1 x SPDIF
LAN Gigabit
Audio 7.1 Ch HD Audio with THX TruStudio
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n Single-Band
Bluetooth 4.0/3.0 HS Class II
Remote MCE Remote Controller
Power Unit 65W/19V Adapter
Dimensions / Volume 195mm x 70mm x 186mm (2.5L)

Vision HT Series:

The Vision HT series is already in the production line, and is expected to hit shelves in early Q3 2012. As mentioned earlier, it replaces the existing CoreHT series. The industrial design gets an upgrade with the rounded edges.

One of the aspects that we haven't touched upon in our pre-built HTPC reviews is wireless performance. I was recently testing out Buffalo's 802.11ac router, and I was surprised to find that none of the HTPCs (including the high-end Vision 3D series) had support for 5 GHz spectrum. ASRock has addressed this issue even before we pointed it out to them, with both the Vision HT and VisionX series having support for simultaneous dual band operation. As expected, we have support for RAID0 and RAID1, Bluetooth 4.0 and an mSATA connector on-board in addition to the space available for the second hard drive. The dimensions of the unit have been slightly changed and the volume has increased from 2.5L (CoreHT) to 2.8L. The full hardware specifications are provided in the table below:

ASRock Vision HT Series
CPU Intel Mobile Ivy Bridge Processors (Dual Core i3/i5/i7)
Chipset Mobile Intel HM77 Chipset
Memory 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz (2 x 4GB)
Supports DDR3-1600/1333/1066 with 2 x SO-DIMM (16 GB Max)
VGA Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000
Storage 750 GB / 500 GB HDD
Supports 2nd 2.5" SATA Drive
mSATA SSD Supported
ODD BD Combo / DVD Super Multi
Front I/O 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Mic, 1 x Headphone, 4-in-1 Card Reader
Rear I/O 1 x HDMI 1.4a, 1 x DVI-I, 2 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA2, 1 x SPDIF
LAN Gigabit
Audio 7.1 Ch HD Audio with THX TruStudio
Wi-Fi 2T2R 802.11a/b/g/n Dual-Band
Bluetooth 4.0/3.0 HS Class II
Remote MCE Remote Controller
Power Unit 90W/19V Adapter
Dimensions / Volume 200mm x 70mm x 200mm (2.8L)

VisionX Series:

The surprise package in ASRock's Computex announcement is the VisionX series. We had been a bit hard on ASRock for not making the Vision 3D 252B revolutionary. The VisionX units are slated to ship in the middle of Q3 2012, and the specifications make us feel that it will be one of the most hotly anticipated products in both the HTPC and gaming communities this year.

The industrial design is the same as that of the Vision 3D series, but the internals have undergone some major rework. We were expecting ASRock to use one of the Kepler GPUs for this model, but they sprang a surprise by going in for the AMD 7850M. Initial specifications indicate that it should have as much capability as a desktop 7750 or more likely, a desktop HD 5770 (it is more of a very underclocked desktop 7770 from hardware and clock specifications). This should enable ASRock to provide much better gaming performance (as much as double the performance of the Vision 3D 252B's GT540M). However, the TDP of the 7850M is much higher (ASRock indicated 45W) than the 540M used in current generation Vision 3D. This results in the power adapter for the VisionX being rated for 120W instead of 90W. Another interesting aspect is that ASRock seems to have gone against AMD's recommended 2GB of VRAM for the 7850M and settled for 1GB. We are not sure yet as to how that will affect the performance of the unit in gaming scenarios. All the other aspects (including the bigger volume) of the Vision HT series are carried over. The VisionX series currently appears to be a slam dunk for a power-packed mini-ITX PC, and we can't wait to get our hands on them to put it through the paces. The full hardware specifications are provided in the table below:

ASRock VisionX Series
CPU Intel Mobile Ivy Bridge Processors (Dual Core i3/i5/i7)
Chipset Mobile Intel HM77 Chipset
Memory 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz (2 x 4GB)
Supports DDR3-1600/1333/1066 with 2 x SO-DIMM (16 GB Max)
VGA AMD Radeon HD7850M (1 GB GDDR5 VRAM)
Storage 750 GB HDD
Supports 2nd 2.5" SATA Drive
mSATA SSD Supported
ODD BD Combo / DVD Super Multi
Front I/O 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Mic, 1 x Headphone, 4-in-1 Card Reader
Rear I/O 1 x HDMI 1.4a, 1 x DVI-I (Dual-link), 2 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA2, 1 x SPDIF
LAN Gigabit
Audio 7.1 Ch HD Audio with THX TruStudio
Wi-Fi 2T2R 802.11a/b/g/n Dual-Band
Bluetooth 4.0/3.0 HS Class II
Remote MCE Remote Controller
Power Unit 120W/19V Adapter
Dimensions / Volume 200mm x 70mm x 200mm (2.8L)

ASRock will be officially announcing these PCs and more at Computex next week.

 

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  • shurik_1 - Thursday, August 02, 2012 - link

    Just cross your fingers that it does not mess up your data as I just described in vision 3D 252 review comments Reply

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