Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ASRock ION 3D - A Next Generation ION HTPC

We originally reviewed ASRock's initial ION offering, the ASROCK ION 330 back in august of 2009. To summarize the review of this device: the ASROCK ION 330 was like most devices that use ION as a platform, it was good at performing standard HTPC duty, and it featured good build quality. Although the fan proved to be somewhat noisy and it had no front ports, it was a pretty capable little machine.
Fast forward a year and a half, and we have the new Next Generation ION on the scene; now ASRock has a whole series of mini PCs. This series primarily utilizes Atom processors, but they also have offerings capabile of utilizing processors as powerful as the Core i7. We have reviewed several of these HTPCs including the 100HT-BD and the high-end Vision 3D HTPC. The Vision 3D HTPC earned a place as the best SFF HTPC that we have reviewed at AnandTech; we applauded the small form factor and low power consumption, and we were impressed with the industrial design and attention to detail.

Today we are looking at yet another ASRock MiniPC, this time the ASRock ION 3D Series. Outwardly, this device looks very similar to the 100HT-BD—in fact our ION 3D 152B model includes the same Blu-ray combo drive and front USB 3.0 ports—but instead of a powerful Core i5 processor we have the Atom D525 dual-core processor paired with only 2GB of DDR2 RAM on the mobile Intel ICH8M chipset.
While the processing components of this board may look meager compared to the 100HT-BD, it features a more powerful graphics processor in the form of an NVIDIA GT218 NG-ION. One of the complaints we had with the 100HT-BD was the poor driver support for Intel HD Graphics for certain features (i.e. the absence of 23.976 fps support and certain deinterlacing and noise reduction features). In this review we will attempt to see if the ION 3D is capable of keeping up with its bigger brothers the Vision 3D and the 100HT-BD in the role of an HTPC.

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