As we saw in the performance tests, the ASRock ION 330HT-BD isn’t much of a performer, which is why we see Atom processor based systems in thin and light Netbooks and not Notebooks. When paired with the NVIDIA ION “chipset” the ATOM makes the perfect HTPC. Very light on power use, nearly silent operation, and good enough performance to do exactly what you need, enjoy your movies and music after a long day of work.
The argument could be made about the somewhat steep price of such a barebones system. Coming in at $509.99 + $6.99 shipping the ASRock ION 330HT-BD isn’t the cheapest way to get into a HTPC. For a little more money you could build a Core i3 Mini-ITX system that would consume just a bit more power but be complete overkill for a HTPC but would offer support for audio Bitstreaming.
There are three different ASRock ION 330 models to look out for, each of which comes with a 1-year warranty from ASRock. Here is a break down of what each model offers.
ASRock ION 330HT-BD: This is the top of the line product that we’ve reviewed here today.
ASRock ION 330HT This is a slightly lower model without the Blu-ray drive and is priced at $369 + $4.99 shipping. Simply deleting the Blu-ray drive knocks $140 off the price, and suddenly this little machine is a good deal for HTPC enthusiasts. To me this would seem to be the best deal for anyone not in need of the Blu-ray player, or streaming rips from a server.
ASRock ION 330 PRO: This model cuts out the Blu-ray drive along with the MCE remote and the wireless b/g/n adapter which cuts the price to $349.99 + $11.18 shipping. For just $13 more the remote and wireless adapter in the HT model seem like a better deal.
Don’t forget that since these are barebones systems you will need to purchase and install the Operating System (OS) and all the drivers and software that you want. We have a guide on how to do that on the ASRock ION 330HT-BD with Windows 7 here.
Over the last year we have seen standalone players like the WD Live TV, Patriot Box Office HD, and Seagate Free Agent Theater+ that are all around $99-$120 in price. While these are good attempts at HTPC’s and have very compelling prices, they will still lack the flexibility of a PC for the different file formats it can handle and overall usefulness. For some that is worth the extra cost. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which device will better fulfill your needs.
Legit Bottom Line: The ASRock ION 330HT-BD is worth a long hard look for anyone searching for a new HTPC. With two very complete models to choose from, one of which at a great price, it’s hard to go wrong. Nearly silent in operation, this is a nearly perfect HTPC with very little compromise.