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ASRock Core HT HTPC (Sandybridge) Review

Many people have been discouraged from buying a small form factor PC in the last year as many of them have been based around Intel’s low performance ATOM platform. Thankfully, a handful of manufacturers have been aiming higher up the food chain in recent months, basing new systems around Intel’s excellent Sandybridge platform.

The ASRock Core HT HTPC is a fantastic system which is generally very responsive, thanks to the capable Core i5 2520M processor which is clocked at 2.5ghz. While the Intel HD 3000 graphics is certainly not going to win any performance awards, it does offer video/media hardware acceleration and it can cope with non demanding gaming engines at 720p resolution, ideal for casual gaming in a living room environment. As long as there are no expectations that it will power demanding games such as Total War Shogun 2 at 1080p, then we think a wide audience will appreciate the overall balance.

ASRock have avoided a potential pitfall, by not compromising with the inclusion of a slow 5,400 rpm 2.5 inch hard drive. While the Core HT system doesn’t come equipped with a Solid State Drive, the inclusion of a nippy 500GB Western Digital 7,200 rpm hard drive ensures high storage, combined with reasonable performance. Performance freaks can easily slot in a Solid State Drive later and use the 500GB Scorpio for file storage and backup.

Aesthetically, we have no problems with the Core HT, the piano black finish will appease enthusiast users who want to house this system next to a plasma or LCD HDTV. The only downside is that the shiny surface attracts fingerprints and dust, really quickly.

Additionally, there is a stunning level of connectivity on offer which will cater to the widest possible audience, such as USB 3.0 (both at front and rear) and even eSATA3 for fast access to external storage. With this system you will never struggle to find an unused port to connect a new device.

ASRock have managed to keep noise levels to a minimum, and while CPU temperatures can get a little high under load, we placed the system under an intense prime stress for several hours and didn’t experience any instability.

UK pricing is competitive, with the version we tested today on sale at £599.99 inc vat.

DABS are offering a £20 reduction to Kitguru readers, bringing the price down to £579.99.

Pros:

  • very small footprint
  • quiet
  • connectivity is fantastic
  • HDMI out
  • Core i5 is fast
  • video hardware acceleration support for HD media

Cons:

  • gets covered in fingerprints quickly
  • not ideal for gaming

Kitguru says: A good value, quiet system, that will look great in a living room.

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Rating: 8.5.

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