Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price £611.56

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.

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