A decently priced board with plenty of features to boot, ASRock's latest effort is a little beauty.
The latest-generation Intel Core CPU has proved to be a tasty little chip, with the budget versions surprisingly speedy for their friendly price tag. With this CPU's video decoding abilities showing the GPU makers a thing or two, it's no surprise that MicroATX motherboards are in high demand among HTPC builders. This ASRock board aims to cater to their needs without breaking the bank.
Fear not data lovers, while this motherboard does indeed use Intel's troublesome H61 chipset, it's the B3 stepping. Unlike the original version of this chipset, Intel has resolved the nasty SATA corruption issue that plagued the first. It's cooled by a passive heatsink, so you won't hear the fan buzzing during quiet scenes. Being such a small board, it's limited to dual DDR3 1333 memory slots, and has a single PCI Express 2.0 16x slot for your video card. Next to this reside a couple of PCI slots, but it's a tight squeeze - fill these and you'll have difficulty fitting in a decent video card.
Given that HTPC owners often make use of USB slots for external hard drives, the inclusion of dual USB 3.0 ports (courtesy of the ASMedia ASM1042 controller) is a most welcome feature.
If you do choose to use the new chips for all video processing, the H61M has all your bases covered, with D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI outputs ready for your big screen TV.
It's doubtful that you'll make use of the overclocking features in a HTPC, given the additional heat load, but it includes all the necessary options. If you do, the ability to mount LGA775, LGA 1155 or LGA 1156 coolers means you won't need to upgrade your expensive Noctua cooler.
It might not look like much, but ASRock has your HTPC covered all with this little beauty. Throw in the cheap price and it's hard to resist. Available from ASRock, retailing for $109.APC rating: 9/10 (Editor’s Choice)