Though you can buy models that are ready to go out of the box from certain retailers, ASRock supplies the Vision 3D without an operating system, so you’ll most likely need to install your own. To support all the machine’s features, Windows 7 64-bit is the obvious choice, and indeed ASRock provides a driver disc for just this OS.
The disc is quite well presented, though we wish there was just a single option to install all of the drivers in one go, rather than being forced to install each one separately. Of course, if you have access to the internet, it’s best to just download the most recent ones from relevant websites. Overall, the entire installation process is very simple and shouldn’t take you more than an hour at most.
Connectivity is also sublime. At the front, unobtrusive cut-outs in the thick aluminium surround reveal an IR sensor, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, two USB 3.0 ports and a card reader (that takes MMC, SD/HC and MS/Pro), alongside the tiny orange hard drive activity LED and blue-backlit power button.
Around the back, you’ll find a third USB 3.0 port, addressing one of our main issues with the Core 100HT-BD (though we would still have preferred two of these at the back and one at the front, rather than the other way around) and another five USB 2.0 ports. eSATA II is also on hand, giving equally fast data connectivity for older SATA 3Gb/s devices and exceeding USB 3.0’s transfer speeds with true 6Gb/s drives. Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi N take care of wired and wireless networking respectively.
Where video is concerned you’ll find both DVI and HDMI, the latter being version 1.4 for full 3D and audio return channel compatibility. On the audio side of things, if not using HDMI (which supports HDMI Bitstream for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master audio) there is digital optical, and 7.1 analogue – both enhanced by THX TruStudio Pro processing.
That’s pretty much every connectivity option we could want on a PC. Bluetooth is the only absentee you might still wish for, but that’s easily added with a £5 miniature USB dongle. There’s also no TV tuner, but in the unlikely case your TV doesn’t have one or you’re using this with a monitor, again it can be added through USB (unlike the Tranquil PC iXL there’s no expansion card bracket for installing one internally).
Accessories include a DVI-VGA adapter and SATA power plus data cables. The Windows Media remote is a very different beast to before, and although it’s now slimmer and more stylish, we’re not overly enthusiastic about the change. This slim remote requires cell batteries, so you can’t use rechargeable ones like before. Its buttons are smaller, more difficult to press and crowded together, and it doesn’t lie as comfortably in the hand. Still, it’s far from unusable and can easily be replaced with something better.