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ASRock Vision 3D - Performance, Value and Verdict

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Unlike the Acer Aspire Revo 100, ASRock's Vision 3D uses a full-fat processor, and it shows. The Vision 3D's 2.4GHz Core i3 370M comfortably outperforms most similarly-sized HTPCs: it simply obliterates the Zotac ZBOX (Intel Atom) and Revo 100 (AMD Neo), and even stays a fair margin ahead of ASRock's previous Core 100HT-BD, which used an older, 2.13GHz Core i3. The only recently-reviewed machine of a similar size that beats it is the Tranquil PC iXL, thanks to a 3GHz Core i3.

Regardless of Nvidia's marketing claims to the contrary, its GT425M mobile graphics card is not adequate for gaming enthusiasts, and won't let you play many titles in stereoscopic 3D. However, it's certainly a lot more competent than the solutions used in most HTPCs. We threw Stalker:COP at it on full blast, a test we usually reserve for gaming PCs, and the Vision 3D still managed an almost playable 22 frames per second (fps). Lowering detail and resolution achieved a perfectly playable 36.7fps average.

Unsurprisingly, the ASRock performs very similarly to Acer's Aspire 5745DG here, as both machines sport identical processors, graphics cards and amounts of RAM. As with that Nvidia 3D laptop, If you did want to try stereoscopic gaming, undemanding titles like TrackMania are still the way to go.

Intensive games aside though, the ASRock Vision 3D will handle anything you can reasonably demand from an HTPC – and do so without excessive noise pollution, getting too hot or weighing in too heavily on your electricity bill. Even under load, the machine never became more than lukewarm to the touch, and its soft fan-whir puts it among the most silent systems we've tested (though nothing beats the passively-cooled iXL in this regard).

Thanks to the exclusive use of mobile parts, it's also very energy efficient. ASrock claims the Vision 3D will use under 60W even under the heaviest loads, and shouldn't go far over 40W during Blu-ray playback. Indeed, 40W was the most we could get it to use during gaming or under a normal load. Think about it: even when you're playing games or watching 3D films, this PC uses no more electricity than an average incandescent light bulb!

It's when it comes to value that this HTPC hits its first significant snag. The reviewed configuration with a Blu-ray drive demands £660, or it can be found with a DVD-Rewriter for £605. Throw in a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium with the former, and you're looking at well over £700. Suddenly, the £500 Aspire Revo 100 is starting to look like a bargain.

Of course you do get a lot more for your money with the ASRock Vision 3D: far superior build quality and more premium looks; slightly quieter operation; better upgradeability, expandability and far more connectivity; and a generally more powerful machine which can run undemanding games. It's actually decent value for what it provides. However, for many the Revo will be powerful and fully-featured enough, and includes that sweet touchpad/touch-keyboard remote…

Verdict

ASRock's Vision 3D home theatre PC is undoubtedly impressive. It's compact, well-built, and offers every connection you could ever need. It's powerful enough for most tasks, including light 3D gaming, while a mostly aluminium shell and slot-loading Blu-ray drive give it that premium touch. In fact, as an overall package it's probably the most desirable HTPC we've seen so far.

However, you do pay for these luxuries, and there are cheaper alternatives that will perform similarly in core tasks like Full HD video and 3D Blu-ray playback.

Michael G

January 18, 2011, 1:55 pm

Looks good, but completely disagree regarding the design. The look is spoiled primarily by that ugly extruded logo, which completely disrupts the flow of the design. In fact, I find it so annoying were I to ever buy this, I'd be knocking it off as soon as I could.





The design isn't helped either by the ports. I know having cut-outs is all the rage right now, but do them properly. These are ugly because there's no real sense of continuity, the power button for example is a completely different shape and size to the rest.





It would look so much better if the USB ports and memory card reader were hidden behind a small flap, either hinged or removable.





It's possible that design being my trade I'm just being a picky snob...

AOD

January 18, 2011, 4:32 pm

If you don't want to go to the expense of an OS, it would be interesting to see how well XBMC Live (which uses a stripped down Linux install) runs on this and the Revo 100. It can be run from a CD or USB stick without having to be installed first.





You can run it without having to install it to the machine

KultiVator

January 18, 2011, 5:17 pm

@Michael G - I think a lot comes down to personal taste and preference.





However, I think you'll find that the power button has to be a different shape and size, than say a USB socket or 3.5mm headphone jack, to accommodate the average sized adult finger tip ;-)





Hinged flaps are all well and good for ports that a rarely used - but often look really ugly for ports that are actually in use - as you end up with extra clutter around your connectors & cables.





This is still probably the best all round pre-built HTPC launched to date - looks included.





For me though, I like using PCI dual TV-tuners - so will stick to bulkier self-builds for the time being.

DanielNB

January 18, 2011, 6:32 pm

Hmmm very interesting looking product. I'm currently toying with the idea of building a new HTPC but this might be a viable alternative and personally I think it looks very neat and tidy.


It's available online in the US in its i5 guise for $980 and I'd guess it's small enough to be cheap to ship with someone BundleBox {which TR featured a while ago}. Any idea whether the i5 would allow it just a little extra gaming grunt over its i3 sibling or is the GPU the only bottleneck?

TechVegan

January 18, 2011, 9:55 pm

@Michael G:


Tastes differ, but after extensive experience with hinged flaps I'm very much with KultiVator on this one. Obviously it would look better initially, but only as long as they weren't in use.





@DanielNB:


Unfortunately, upgrading to an i5 wouldn't help gaming much, the GPU really is the main limiting factor here.

Matt

January 19, 2011, 12:00 am

Good hardware spec, but a disgraceful rip off of the old Mac mini. Obviously, being almost identical it looks pretty good, but it's not a smart way to establish a brand image and build a reputation for design. Also, the mini looked better, without unnecessary headphone and mic ports on the front, and an exposed IR receiver. I also agree with Michael G that the badge would look better as a transfer or something. On the other hand, a mini with an i3, reasonable GPU, USB3 / eSATA ports and Blu-ray as an option would be nice.

KultiVator

January 19, 2011, 1:35 am

@Matt - I agree - It is a very close imitation of something very small & stylish!





A Mac mini (or iMac for that matter) that could play BluRay would be nice too - can't believe Apple haven't the technical expertise to put this in place - just wonder if the will is there when physical media is perhaps seen as a threat to iTunes Store revenue.

Matt

January 19, 2011, 4:52 am

@KultiVator





Adding a BR drive would be trivial technically, so the reason can only be that Apple don't want to add one. I'm not even sure it is so much because they are worried about people buying discs rather than buying videos from iTMS. Anyone who wants a BR player can buy one anyway, for £100. iTMS and similar services are ideal for renting (much less hassle than Blockbuster or Lovefilm), but when buying movies, optical discs appeal with their ultimate AV quality, no worries about DRM (as in, transferring to future computers etc. - just put it in any compatible player), better suitability as gifts, and the greater reliability of physical media vs. files on a spinning platter. So the two can co-exist.





I think Apple's choice is more of an aesthetic one - they just believe that physical media are outdated and downloads are the future. Which they probably are, but we don't quite live there yet. It's a bit like not having ethernet on the Air - one day the world will be totally wireless, sure, but currently wired is a lot faster. It's nice to have the option. It's the typical Apple 'elegance/simplicity vs. functionality/options' debate that polarises people so much.





Though it wouldn't kill them to add USB3 to their machines.

Moggy58

January 19, 2011, 12:00 pm

@Matt ... aside from the Asrock name plate i prefer the look, one of the things that put me off buying an original Mac Mini was that there were no front ports and that the power switch was round the back which was a no go for me as it would have been in an enclosure/stand.


@KultiVator ... Steve Jobs has categorically stated that BluRay has no part in the Apple product line.


Maybe this will force Apple to up the stakes with the Mac Mini though its not (the Asrock) that widely available despite being released sometime ago or has it been widely reviewed.

Kaiser202

January 19, 2011, 10:48 pm

I would like it if this review talked more about gaming competitive-ness. I mean, I'm looking to buy a relatively budget gaming PC in the next few months (For Deus Ex and Skyrim) but nothing you have put here convinces me one way or the other whether I should buy this.

ChaosDefinesOrder

January 20, 2011, 6:07 am

@Kaiser202: Try the review on Bit-Tech (used to be a sister-site of TrustedReviews way back when) http://www.bit-tech.net/hardwa...

Leebod

January 20, 2011, 8:44 pm

You'd be mad to spend money on this or a mac mini or anything else that tries to be an all in one for home theatre. Anyone who is into film will already have all the kit they need except for the box that can bring it all together. Thank you boxee box - even my wife and daughter love you. Ok you can't play blu-ray but as I said most people into film will already own one. Everything could be considered temporary until wireless and broadband speeds allow bluray quality streaming and then you will really will only need one box for media (apart from the 8tb raid system).

KultiVator

January 20, 2011, 11:42 pm

@Matt / @Moggy58 - Good points. But if Apple want to get more Mac minis under the TV in people's living rooms, BluRay playback capabilities don't seem out of place on such a premium product.





If it had been BluRay equipped, the Mac Mini would have been my first trip into Mac OS X land - via the spare TV in the 'play room' (that place I go when the wife is watching soaps & false-reality TV).

Borek Bernard

February 1, 2011, 12:40 pm

If you want to play MP3 files from this device while a television is turned off, how / where do you display song info? Can another small display be attached in addition to the standard HDMI output?

acamp76144

February 2, 2011, 3:54 am

I've found it very hard to track down a solver vision 3d as reviewed. All suppliers told me that they weren't available with the exception of Scan who said they will source one for me within a few weeks. Is on order now. Black ones don't look half as good IMHO

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