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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Thinking on buying a Blu-Ray player? Maybe you will be making a better deal buying the ASRock Core 100HT-BD, a tiny complete computer with a Blu-Ray player, being smaller than a commercial player and you get a full working computer for your living room. Let’s see if this idea makes sense.

The ASRock Core 100HT-BD is not a barebone system: it is a complete computer. It supports any PGA988 CPU, meaning Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 mobile processors, but the model currently being sold in the USA comes with a Core i3-330M processor, 4 GB DDR3-1066 memory, 500 GB hard drive, IEEE 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity, and, of course, the Blu-Ray drive. It also comes with a remote control.

We were impressed by the reduced size of this computer (7.7 x 2.8 x 7.3 inches or 195 x 70 x 186 mm, W x H x L) and its nice overall looks, with its case painted with a shiny black automotive paint. In order to achieve this impressive size, the Core 100HT-BD uses a mini-ITX motherboard with an external power supply.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 1: ASRock Core 100HT-BD

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 2: ASRock Core 100HT-BD

At its front panel, the Core 100HT-BD has two USB 3.0 ports, a headphones jack, a mic in jack, infrared sensor for the remote control, the power button, and the front of the Blu-Ray drive, which is also a dual-layer DVD recorder.

At the rear panel, the portrayed HTPC comes with both VGA and HDMI outputs, six USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port (the product also has wireless IEEE 802.11b/g/n connectivity, as mentioned before), one eSATA-300 port, one optical SPDIF output, and five jacks for analog audio. As the system supports 7.1 audio, if you have a 7.1 analog speaker set you will have to “kill” either the mic in or the line in jacks, but if you have a 5.1 analog speaker set this problem doesn’t happen. Since you are likely to connect this computer to a home theater receiver using either the optical SPDIF output or the HDMI output, the shared 7.1 analog jack isn’t a real problem.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 3: Rear panel

The system is cooled by a 50 mm fan, which is located at the rear panel.

In Figure 4, you can see the external power supply of the Core 100HT-BD, manufactured by Lite-On, which can be connected to any AC power source from 100 V to 240 V, either 50 Hz or 60 Hz. It outputs 19 V at a maximum current of 4.74 A, meaning that this is a 90 W power supply (P = V x I, therefore P = 19 V x 4.74 A).

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 4: Power supply

The remote control that comes with the ASRock Core 100HT-BD can be seen in Figure 5.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 5: Remote control

[nextpage title=”Inside the ASRock Core 100HT-BD”]

To have access to the interior of the ASRock Core 100HT-BD, you have to remove two Philips screws and remove its top panel.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 6: Inside the ASRock Core 100HT-BD

In Figure 7, you can see the interior of the ASRock Core 100HT-BD with the disk drive bays removed.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 7: Inside the ASRock Core 100HT-BD

The motherboard that comes with the portrayed HTPC is an ASRock HM55-HT, a socket 988 mini-ITX motherboard based on the Intel HM55 chipset, a version of the H55 chipset for mobile computers. This motherboard has two DDR3 SO-DIMM sockets, three SATA-300 ports, one mini PCI Express slot (used by the wireless network adapter), and the connectors already discussed in the previous page.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 8: ASRock HM55-HT motherboard

[nextpage title=”Components”]

As already explained, the system accepts any PGA988 CPU, but the model currently sold is based on the Core i3-330M processor, which is a 2.13 GHz dual-core CPU with Hyper-Threading technology (i.e., the operating system will recognize “four” cores), with 3 MB L2 cache and 35 W TDP. The video controller is integrated in the CPU. You can upgrade the CPU, if you can find a PGA988 CPU for sale.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 9: Core i3-330M

Each memory module included in the Core 100HT-BD are 2 GB DDR3-1333 parts from ASint, for a total of 4 GB, which is perfect. It is interesting to note that the Core i3-330M officially supports memories only up to 1066 MHz.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 10: Memory modules

The wireless network module is from AzureWave, model AW-NE121H (which  isn’t listed at the manufacturer’s website), available as a mini PCI Express card. It is based on an Atheros AR9287 chip, supporting the IEEE 802.11b/g/n standards. The addition of the “n” standard was a nice touch, allowing a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 300 Mbps.

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 11: Wireless card

The hard disk drive that comes with the Core 100HT-BD is a Seagate Momentus 5400.6 with 500 GB, which is a model targeted to the mobile market (SATA-300, 5,400 rpm, 8 MB cache).

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 12: Hard disk drive

And, finally, we have the optical drive, a Phillips/Lite-On DS-4E1S. This unit isn’t listed at neither Phillips or Lite-On websites, and ASRock doesn’t say anything about the supported speeds. Researching on the net we found out these specs (SL standards for single layer, while DL stands for dual layer; “DVD” means all variations, like DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R, etc, the same goes for “CD”):

Media Read Write
BD SL 4x
BD DL 2x
DVD SL 8x 8x
DVD DL 4x 4x
DVD-RW 4x 4x
DVD-RAM 5x 5x
CD 24x 16x
CD-RW 16x 10x

ASRock Core 100HT-BDFigure 13: Optical drive

[nextpage title=”Programs”]

The Core100HT-BD doesn’t come with an operating system installed. This can be easily seen as its main drawback, because of its price (USD 650 in the US). So, on top of the price of the product, you have to add the price of the operating system (e.g., around USD 175 if you pick Windows 7 Home Premium).

The CD that comes with the product includes Norton Internet Security 2010 OEM, Cyberlink DVD Suite (trial), and an overclocking utility from ASRock, plus drivers and manual.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASRock Core 100HT-BD home theater PC include:

  • Dimensions: 7.7 x 2.8 x 7.3 inches or 195 x 70 x 186 mm (W x H x L)
  • Net Weight: 4 lbs (1.8 kg)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-330M (2.13 GHz, dual-core, Hyper-Threading, 3 MB L2 cache, 35 W TDP)
  • Memory: 4 GB, two 2 GB DDR3-1333 SODIMM modules from ASint
  • Optical Drive: Phillips/Lite-On DS-4E1S
  • Hard Disk Drive: Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500 GB (SATA-300, 5,400 rpm, 8 MB cache)
  • Motherboard: ASRock HM55-HT
  • Socket: PGA988
  • Chipset: Intel HM55
  • Serial ATA: Three SATA-300 ports, one eSATA-300 port
  • USB: Six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports
  • Integrated Video: Generated by the CPU, VGA and HDMI outputs
  • Integrated Audio: Generated by the chipset with a VIA VT2020 codec, optical SPDIF output
  • Integrated LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, IEEE 802.11b/g/n wireless network using an AzureWave AW-NE121H mini PCI Express card
  • Extra Features: Remote control
  • Programs that come with the product: Cyberlink DVD suite (trial) and Norton Internet Security 2010 OEM
  • More Information: https://www.asrock.com
  • Average Price in the US*: USD 650.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

We liked the concept of the Core 100HT-BD a lot: it is a very small home theater PC (HTPC) computer that may be an option for users that are willing to buy a Blu-Ray player and may want to buy this unit instead in order to have a complete PC hooked up to their home theater setup.

The problem, however, is its price. At USD 650 it is somewhat expensive, especially because it doesn’t come with an operating system. If you decide, let’s say, to buy Windows 7 Home Premium, you will spend at least USD 175 more just to put this computer to work, for a total of at least USD 825.

To put things into perspective, consider that an Acer Aspire AS7741-7870 laptop, which is currently sold for the same USD 650 and comes with the same amount of RAM and same hard drive size, comes with a more powerful CPU (Core i3-370M) and comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit already installed. It is true that this particular model doesn’t have a Blu-Ray drive, but on the other hand it comes with a 17.3” screen. Of course we are comparing products with different purposes, but you get the idea.

Compared to laptops that come with a Blu-Ray drive and same amount of RAM and same hard drive size, the ASRock Core 100HT-BD also loses, when we factor in the price of the operating system. For example, the MSI FX-600-003 comes with a more powerful CPU (Core i3-350M) and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and is sold for USD 775, and the Sony Vaio E Series VPCEB35FX/WI comes with the same OS and a Core i3-370M and is sold for USD 800.

Once again, the focus of the Core 100HT-BD definitely is not the same as a laptop; the above comparisons are just for you to keep in mind how expensive the product is. If you don’t mind the price, we believe the Core 100HT-BD is a nice home theater PC, especially for its reduced size and nice looks.

Strong Points

  • Ultra small
  • Nice looks
  • Configuration compatible with usage model

Weak Points

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t come with operating system