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ASRock Vision 3D review

Ardjuna Seghers

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ASRock Vision 3D
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  • Blu-Ray HTPC Vision 3D 137D - Black

Summary

Our Score:

8

ASRock's previous home theatre PC (HTPC), the Core 100HT-BD, was one of the best multimedia desktop systems we had ever reviewed. Indeed, it richly deserved its second place in our 2010 Awards. If we had any complaints, it was that the Core wasn't exactly the most attractive box to stick in with your AV gear and that it didn't do 3D, which is becoming ever more prevalent in the home entertainment market. Enter ASRock's new Vision 3D, which fixes these issues and more besides.

The appropriately-named Vision certainly is something to behold. Clad mostly in seamless anodized aluminium, with smooth, curved corners and a slot-loading Blu-ray drive, it's easily up there with the Acer Aspire Revo 100 and Zotac ZBOX in the design stakes, but far surpasses them in build quality. In fact, it's almost playing in Apple's court, and most closely resembles an older, taller Apple Mac Mini. It's available in two colour combinations: a lacquered white plastic top and unpainted aluminium, like our review sample, or an all-black version which will fit in better with most people's AV setup. Either way, it's one attractive little machine.

It might be bigger than a Mac Mini, but it's also considerably better in almost every way. Aside from being the world's first 3D HTPC (it's been out a little while), it offers every connection you could ever need, and its internals are nothing to sniff at.

Heading the cast is an Intel Core i3 370M. As you might have guessed, the M indicates it's essentially a mobile CPU, meaning it will use far less power than desktop equivalents. However, it should still have more than enough grunt for the vast majority of what you might throw at it. Unlike its desktop namesakes, this dual-core Core i3 supports HyperThreading for up to four virtual cores, and hums along at 2.4GHz.

It's backed up by 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM, which is about what you would expect on a high-end HTPC. It's not expandable without chucking the 2GB DIMMs, but you shouldn't need to upgrade this in the machine's useful lifetime. Meanwhile, permanent storage is generously taken care of by a 500GB 2.5in/'laptop' drive, which runs at a speedy 7,200rpm.

The real highlight here though is Nvidia's GT 425M mobile graphics chip. Again it's a low power, low heat mobile part, but should be capable enough for some halfway decent gaming and, more importantly, can output 3D to a compatible screen or television with stereoscopic glasses. This, of course, is where the ASRock gets the 3D Vision part of its name from. Naturally a Blu-ray drive and CyberLink's 3D-compatible PowerDVD 10 are also on hand to let you watch those third-dimensional Blu-ray discs (all five of them, but this will increase dramatically in 2011).

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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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