Review Price £611.56
ASRock Vision 3D
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).