When we heard of ASRock launching a new nettop system, or actually, a home theater PC as ASRock would like it to be called, we were pretty excited to get our hands on the unit. Knowing what they had done in the past with the successful ION 330 and ION 330HT models, we expected big things from the new Core 100HT-BD HTPC.
And, we are happy to say, big things we got. Not only does the Core 100HT-BD get a fairly big upgrade in the processor department moving from an Intel Atom to a dual-core and four threaded Intel Core i3 mobile processor, but it also tacks on some other important things such as USB 3.0 for much faster external data transfers and impressive 7.1 channel HD audio with THX TruStudio Pro and bitstreaming support that works really well. The package is also very solid with a good quality MCE remote control and batteries thrown in as well as even the small things that all count, such as a multi-point screw driver and a Core i3 sticker to show off if you are so inclined.
If you were to have a quick glance, you may mistake the new Core 100HT-BD for one of the older systems from ASRock. But hey, why change something that works? All that has been changed is the addition of two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the system as well as headphone and microphone jack. The lack of USB ports on the front of the system was one of the only drawbacks we had with the previous generation nettops from ASRock and they've just gone and fixed that now.
So, that leaves me thinking (and I always try and find a drawback with every product I test), what is wrong about the ASRock Core 100HT-BD? Well, we have checked off great new features, impressive performance, bitstream audio support, surprisingly good overclocking support and a good bundle. But, there has to be something wrong with the product. I think we found it. The cost of the unit is set pretty high, it is currently running for around 700 USD over at Newegg. That's pretty rich for a nettop system, but hang on, I think ASRock might be right. They have moved away from the slow and aging Intel Atom processor and put a 'real' processor in there (sorry Intel, but it's true!). So, maybe we cannot call it a nettop anymore, we should be calling it a home theater PC. Sure, it's not a high-end HTPC, but it sure does provide enough boost to get the job done really well in terms of very solid video playback and super impressive audio.