ASRock Core HT
As multimedia technologies and uses become more prolific and part of our daily lives, consumers are looking for products that fill more than one role. Historically, small motherboards with integrated chips and graphics have typically been, well, garbage. They were geared to consumers that had small expectations and a small budget. Technological progress being what it is, things are now at the point that small form setups can accomplish a wide range of tasks and give consumers a healthy dose of value for their money at the same time.
The ASRock Core HT is one such product that seeks to be more to the mainstream consumer, both in the terms of physical design but also in versatility. It is designed in an extremely compact layout and takes up a positively tiny footprint. In terms of performance, the Core HT can’t run with the big dogs but it’s not intended (nor priced) to do that. What it does, it does extremely well.
The integrated chips are very robust, and the Sandy Bridge CPU is particularly impressive, easily able to perform typical HTPC tasks with no noticeable lag or stutter. The combination of low power, low heat, and low noise is the golden trifecta for an HTPC setup, and the Core HT certainly has each of those in spades. And the UEFI BIOS and AXTU software are also both excellent, akin to its fuller featured desktop motherboards.
The convenience of a remote is also a welcome addition to the package, and the Wi-Fi is a very convenient feature that we love. The construction and quality here is also outstanding, and the entire package shows that ASRock has really paid attention to the little details that make a difference to consumers.
There are a couple of downsides here though. The first is the price. Intended to launch for around $700+, the Core HT doesn’t come cheap by any stretch. And remember that doesn’t include an operating system. It is indeed expensive, and you certainly pay a premium for the convenience of an all-in-one package that’s positively tiny. In fact, the price rivals a full desktop system, provided you were to do it on the cheap by building it yourself.
The second issue is related to performance. While the new Sandy Bridge chip gives the Core HT a substantial performance boost over its predecessor that featured the ION platform, AMD’s new Llano A8-3850 APU that we recently reviewed offers substantially better performance at a very enticing price. Of course, there aren’t any tiny HTPC boxes like this based on Llano, so again we go back to the tradeoff of convenience for price.
For someone with a healthy budget though, the ASRock Core HT would make for a perfect little system, capable all the daily uses one would expect, in additon to some robust HTPC work as well. Packed into a beautifully small and sleek box that runs silent, cool, and barely draws any power, the ASRock is an impressive product and should be seriously considered by anyone looking for an all-in-one HTPC system.