Introducing the ASRock ION 3D

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.

Unboxing Impressions and Connectivity
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  • jabber - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    Pretty much, just a refresh really.
  • icrf - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    It seems one of the most recommended boxes from the XBMC community is from the Acer Aspire Revo family. It sounds like $350 gets you something similar, the biggest loss is BD, but it is over $100 cheaper.

    Any plans on one of these finding their way into your testing labs?
  • vol7ron - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    It says it has Component A/V, but I don't see any; but I do see DVI.

    About the USB3 Comment:
    They probably included it for marketing, even knowing it isn't full USB3. The more people you can mislead, the better your sales.
  • krumme - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    "And indeed, the Brazos platform decimates Atom in single-threaded apps, still manages to beat it decisively in more parallelized programs, and embarrasses it in anything having to do with graphics"

    All for less money. How obvious can it be.

    As stated before go to:

    What was this review about anyway?
  • silverblue - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    Until Cedar Trail, Atom isn't a viable platform. I'm interested in seeing how Cedar Trail performs, though, especially if it performs as rumoured.
  • pirspilane - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    I have a Core 100HT, and it has proved problematic. When I turn off the TV, the HDMI audio stops and a reboot is required to bring it back. Playing a Sony PS3 through the same setup, I don't have this problem.

    I don't want to run my 600w plasma just to listen to iTunes. It defeats the purpose of having a low power HTPC.

    The problem I suspect is with the HDCP handshake. While the PS3 recovers its sound after the TV is switched off, the ASRock's Intel chipset/drivers can't.

    A workaround is using the Toslink output. But even then, the ASRock sometimes hangs when the TV is switched on again. Today, I had to power it down with the front panel button. But when I restarted it, the Bluetooth transceiver didn't come on and I had to get a USB keyboard to get the thing working again. So it took me about 15 minutes to get a youtube video to play.
  • thewhat - Saturday, January 15, 2011 - link

    "USB 3.0 devices may not be needed by the target users of this device"


    I was under the impression that you can copy files to/from this device. How is a fast transfer speed not needed?

    I'm personally hesitant to get anything that stores data without USB 3 nowadays.
  • Spacecomber - Saturday, January 15, 2011 - link

    I skimmed through this article, but I didn't really see what I was looking for, which is some idea of how well this would work for handling live streams of video of off the internet. Just playing around with different computer set ups that I have in the house, I've been surprised at how much processing power this kind of content seems to use. For example, I'd have thought that Pentium 4 @ 3.4 GHz or an Athlon XP at 2.3 GHz would do a better job. I'm getting the impression that a dual core is needed for these online flash video streams.

    Any thoughts on what the minimum amount of processing power is that would be needed for this kind of work (leaving aside GPU acceleration, since I find that rather iffy and perhaps best not counted on at this point)?
  • Jello1o - Sunday, January 16, 2011 - link

    I have an older Atom dual-core (the 510) server running and while it is capable of playing back standard-def flash, there will be a bit of choppiness in the video. Without GPU acceleration I would not recommend any Atoms for flash playback at the moment. Even my Core 2 Duo(technically Pentium) E5200 desktop is usually at %60 with flash video and sometimes up to %80 with the high quality flash video.

    I'm using my Atom D510M0 based system as a web/email and DLNA server. It seems to be adequate for those uses.
  • schlos - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    i just wanted to check and confirm that, you can still send TrueHD and other DTS variations via the SPDIF optical out, and an AV receiver can decode it instead, correct?

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