ASRock VisionX HTPC 321B Ivy Bridge mini-PC Review 5

ASRock VisionX HTPC 321B Ivy Bridge mini-PC Review

General Use & Performance »

A Closer Look - Inside

After popping the shiny plastic top, I was a bit surprised to find a metal cage looking right back at me. A simple button-press was all that was required to remove the first part, but removing the metal cover was only possible after removing many screws—four per side and a few more at the rear. Once that was done, the hardware inside revealed itself, and I was actually pretty shocked at what I found.

I continued to disassemble the ASRock VisionX 321B HTPC down to its smallest components, which allowed me to take in the great overall design ASRock devised. It even includes an outer shell of heavy metal rather than thin metal panels, which allowed AsRock to create a unit that is very small but strong. All the sensitive bits inside are, as such, well protected.

The memory consists of some standard SODIMMs, 4 GB each in size, with what appears to be some ASRock self-branding. The included 750 GB Momentus HDD, a good size to store decent amounts of media as well as any of your other favorite software, is built by Samsung,.

The drive connects to the rest of the system through a combined proprietary power plug and data cable, with two separate ends that connect to the board itself. There is a small fan that attaches to the inner metal cage. It blows over the HDD to help it stay cool in hotter environments.

The included slot-loading BluRay drive built by Lite-On is actually used pretty commonly. It also uses a proprietary plug to attach to the rest of the system.

With the board out of the VisionX 321B HTPC casing and cooling still attached, it's pretty obvious that what we've got here is basically a laptop crammed into a Mini ITX form factor, cooling included. There's stuff here, there, and everywhere, and many components are built onto the underside of the board since space is quite limited. AsRock did a pretty good job of the layout in that everything is pretty easy to access should you want to add an extra drive, or upgrade some of the other parts. That is, except for the MXM graphics card; it requires ALL cooling to be removed before you can get it out, including the CPU/PCH cooler.

Once I got the MXM card out, I found the board's HM77-MXM branding and the mSATA port that is right at the front of the unit when the board is still mounted in the shell.

Next to the mSATA slot is the Intel i5 3210m, just a small bare die sitting snugly in its socket. A tick above that is the Intel HM77 Express PCH. The CPU and PCH both use the same cooler, shown above, with the copper plate on the right sitting over the CPU and the aluminum part over the PCH. The heatpipe takes heat from the CPU and directs it to a grouping of fins sitting over the aluminum bit.

The AMD 7850m MXM card is a neat little unit with memory and the GPU itself on one side and all sorts of surface-mounted stuff on the other. Its cooler is made of a copper plate that sits over the GPU and the memory, with a heatpipe that takes heat from the GPU directly to a passive aluminum radiator near the unit's exhaust port.

The VisionX HTPC comes with a socketed BIOS chip like a fully sized overclocking board, while monitoring is provided by a rather diminutively sized Nuvoton NCT5573D Super I/O.

LAN connectivity is provided a Broadcomm part, and audio is delivered via a high-end Realtek ALC898 audio CODEC.
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