ASRock CoreHT-252B HTPC ReviewnVidia_Freak - July 28, 2011
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Closer Look (BIOS):
The CoreHT series utiliz the UEFI BIOS, which aims to improve upon the standard AMI and Phoenix BIOS interfaces by making the BIOS an interactive GUI, much like that of an operating system or program. Indeed, it's an inviting and easily usable interface, particularly since it allows the use of mice, wired or wireless. Despite its superficially different appearance, its layout is much the same to that of the Phoenix BIOS, and as such, is easy to navigate. If it is to become the next BIOS standard there shouldn't be any issues.
The 'Main' tab shows very basic information concerning the type of installed processor and amount of RAM. In the case of this CoreHT-252B, it correctly reports an i5 2520m with 4GB of RAM. The 'OC Tweaker' tab provides controls over the processor and RAM, much like those that might be found on any high-end desktop motherboard.
With options to change voltages and timings, even enthusiasts that need an HTPC can have a little fun. Of particular interest are the GPU EZ OC and GT Overclock settings, which allow for the speed of the onboard Intel HD Graphics to be selected as either 1.4, 1.5 or 1.6GHz. Selecting a speed via EZ OC will dynamically control the speed of the graphics processor, much like Intel's SpeedStep will dynamically control the CPU speed according to need. Selecting it via GT Overclock will permanently keep the graphics processor at the selected speed. Additionally, manually selecting the speed will also provide an option to manually override the processors voltage control for maximum stability. At the bottom of the 'OC Tweaker' tab are profile save buttons so that up to three different configurations can be easily saved and accessed without needing to manually set them.
The 'Advanced' tab contains all the settings for the more advanced hardware features of the CPU and motherboard. Power states, onboard components, power-saving features, they're all available. Of notable mention is the 'On/Off Play' feature of the on-board audio. What this allows one to do is have the CoreHT in a powered off S5 state whilst still being able to use it to play music using the onboard audio jacks as pass-throughs. Though it may seem easier to simply unplug the speakers from the rear of the CoreHT, since a TRS interconnect is included, it is marginally more convenient.
The 'H/W Monitor' tab provides basic temperature monitoring of the processor and internal ambient temperatures, voltage monitoring, as well as control of the fan speeds. The controls for both the exhaust and CPU heatsink can be set to automatic, full, or manually set to attempt to keep the temperatures at a set value. At full blast both fans are rather noisy and the temperature is only lowered marginally. Using the controls in the UEFI BIOS, the best settings in my experiences were the manual temperature settings to keep the CPU at 60°.
The 'Boot' tab is straightforward and looks like any other such menu on other BIOS styles. Full control of drive priority and order are given. Passwords to access the BIOS can be set easily, and should any problems arise, settings may be reset at the click of a button. Although barebones systems aren't the first choice for most enthusiasts, those that will go for the CoreHT line of HTPCs will be pleased with the amount of options and control provided by ASRock to make the user experience as unique as possible.