Manufacturer:ASRock UK Price (as Reviewed): £640 MSRP US Price (as reviewed): Unknown
For those of you who long for a Mac Mini but find the thought of Apple's walled garden a little too difficult to stomach, then ASRock has something else to tease your fruity taste-buds.
The Vision 3D Series could not be more different to ASRock's Blu-ray Nvidia Ion nettop we reviewed last year. The first attempt was essentially a custom motherboard in a cheap steel box with a blu-ray drive thrown in. It was as elegant as a brick through a window, and in action, just as noisy.
Both the front and back have USB 3 ports, and the rear I/O is packed with connections
The Vision 3D is a total change - the single sheet of 5mm-thick aluminium provides a very solid frame and feels fantastic. SilverStone has told us previously how hard it is to construct the perfect curve on its TJ-series chassis - it's not cheap and is prone to error - but we're glad ASRock has gone with it here rather than use a cheap tin can of a case.
The disappointment is the white plastic on the top and back, but primarily the top, as it's easily visible and we can accept that plastic is easier to mould for the many rear I/O ports. It makes for an odd marriage though - why go to all the expense of that chunky aluminium body and then daub it with plastic? A thin sheet of aluminium would have been a more fitting lid.
Even the very small Lian Li PC-Q11 dwarfs the tiny ASRock box
While the ASRock Vision 3D may not be as sleek and small as the the latest Mac Mini, it's certainly a lot more appealing than the all-plastic Dell Zino HD. Like the Dell though, the top pops off and things inside unscrew for some level of upgradability.
The Zino HD or the Asus Eee PC Box is about the limit of what the ASrock Vision 3D can be compared to though - even the small SilverStone Sugo SG07 or Lian Li Mini-Q PC-Q11 are massive compared to the 2.8l ASrock. You can technically squeeze a mini-ITX board into the same 200 x 200 x 70mm (W x D x H) space, but finding a comparable graphics card, cooler and case for that board will be nigh-on impossible. As much as we love to build things ourselves, in this instance we'll admit defeat unless you're a particularly talented modder.
Processor Intel® Core i3-370M Mobile Processor
Memory 2 x 2GB SO-DIMM DDR3-1066MHz (support for up to 8GB)
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GT 425M with Nvidia 3D Vision, Blu-ray 3D and HDMI 1.4 support
Optical drive Slot-loading Blu-ray / DVDRW drive
Storage 500GB 2.5in SATA hard drive
Ports 3 x USB 3, 5 x USB 2, DVI, S/PDIF, eSATA 3Gbps, 4-in-1 Card reader (MMC/SD/MS/MS PRO)
Network Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi
Extras ASRock Windows Media Center IR remote control