Review Price £536.51
Opening the Core 100HT-BD up is a very simple process, though it does require a cross-head screwdriver. Removing two screws will allow you to slide out this miniature computer's top panel smoothly, giving access to the optical drive cage. This in turn needs to be removed (another two screws) to get at the hard drive and memory. Everything is quite neat and there's very little wasted space inside this case, probably thanks to ASRock's enviable position of being able to custom-design motherboards to its own specifications.
As you would expect given its tiny size, nearly all the components in the Core 100HT-BD are laptop-based. Thus both the Blu-ray drive and hard drive are of the 2.5in, low power variants. With a 500GB (albeit of the slower 5,400rpm rather than 7,200rpm variety) capacity installed you're unlikely to run out of room any time soon, but if you did need more storage or wanted a fast SSD as your primary boot drive, there's still room for a second 2.5in HDD and a SATA connector to spare. Nor will you have to transfer the OS in this case, as the Core 100HT doesn't come with one as standard. Considering how easy Windows 7 or recent Linux builds are to install, it's not much of an issue even for relative novice users.
Memory is also of the SODIMM variety and both of the HTPC's slots are filled, but with 4GB of DDR3 on board you're unlikely to need to upgrade any time soon. We would recommend going with a 64-bit OS to make full use of the available memory.
Located directly underneath the hard drive cage, the CPU is cooled by a unique low-profile contraption, with a finned tunnel leading the heat from a cooling block to a small and quiet fan at the case's front. It's a clever system that certainly works well in practice.
If you go for the bare-bones option of this case you can fit anything from a mobile Core i3 to Core i7 processor, but in this pre-assembled model you're stuck with a Core i3 330M - not that that's a bad thing though, as this dual-core CPU runs at a speedy 2.13GHz and supports hyper-threading to provide four virtual cores. While not quite up to desktop counterparts as used in the Tranquil PC ixL or DinoPC Mini Carnivore, it provides plenty of power for the most demanding home cinema enthusiast and won't break a sweat handling an average daily workload. ASRock's versatile BIOS also allows for some overclocking, though for most users there really won't be any need.
Predictably, it's Intel's low-end graphics integrated onto the CPU that form the weakest link in this otherwise more than adequately powerful PC. They cope fine with helping the CPU in intensive video tasks, but they most certainly do not make for an even half-way decent gaming machine. At our standard test settings, the Core 100HT-BD managed an atrocious five frames per second (fps) in Call of Duty 4, which is an old and undemanding title. Even knocking the resolution down to 1,280 x 720 without anti-aliasing resulted in a still unplayable 9.2fps, and of course there's no option to add any form of discrete graphics to this HTPC.