The ASRock ION 330 is a small desktop PC with a low power Atom processor and NVIDIA ION graphics. The other day I published a fairly detailed review of this nettop, looking at its capabilities as a gaming computer and as a PC for everday use. But as several people pointed out, I didn’t delve extensively into its capabilities as a multimedia device. The short answer? It works pretty well and could make an excellent home theater PC (HTPC) for media enthusiasts on a budget.
Thanks to Flash Player 10.1’s support for GPU-acceleration, the ASRock ION 330 can play HD and standard definition Flash video smoothly on a high resolution display. And if you plug in a USB TV tuner, the nettop has more than enough power to watch and record live TV as well.
The only down side is that the Atom 330 dual core processor is still a relatively sluggish CPU which could be a problem if you plan to spend a lot of time using your HTPC to do processor-heavy tasks such as transcoding video. So if you plan to store a large number of recordings on this nettop, you might want to invest in a large hard drive.
My primary HTPC has a faster Core 2 Duo processor and runs Snapstream’s BeyondTV DVR software. After recording HD TV shows, BeyondTV automatically transcodes the files to DiVX to save space on the hard drive. The process doesn’t take that long on a fast system, but it would take ages on the ASRock ION 330 unless Snapstream or another DVR software maker develops a tool for automatically transcoding files that uses NVIDIA’s CUDA technology the way that standalone media transcoding utility MediaCoder does.
You can check out a video of the ASRock ION 330 functioning as a media center after the break.