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View Full Version : Performance of Mac Mini home theater with new AEBS




Cave Man
Feb 21, 2007, 05:43 PM
Rec'd my new 802.11n AEBS yesterday and connected an external drive to it as a movie server. I have both MPEG4 (from Handbrake) and ripped DVDs on this drive. In my home theater I have a Mac Mini Core Solo and use Front Row with DVD Assist for playing ripped DVDs. The Mini is connected through its 802.11g Airport card.

The MPEG4 files play just fine, without any dropped frames. However, starting the movie and using the ff or rew buttons results in a stall of several seconds - presumably from Front Row re-caching the data? It's annoying, but othwise the movies play fine (DVD size at 1000 bitrate).

However, playing ripped DVDs is unacceptable using either Front Row or DVD player - lots of dropped frames. On my other Mini, a Core Duo connected to the AEBS by ethernet cable, it plays the DVD files just fine. If this drive is connected to the Mini by firewire, it plays DVDs just fine. I suspect the Solo is having issues with the wireless transmission, thus I'll likely be running an ethernet cable to my basement. It's too bad they do not have the n card - maybe in the next Mini update (along with C2D).



bankshot
Feb 21, 2007, 06:15 PM
That's interesting. I've been toying with the idea of a Mac mini as a home theater PC, especially after I found out about DVD Assist. I loaded several DVDs onto my old Power Mac G4, in a folder that's shared via AFP. I have gigabit ethernet wired out to my family room, so I plugged in the Macbook there and tested it out, pulling movies from the shared folder and displaying them via Front Row on the Macbook. Over ethernet, there obviously weren't any hiccups. What surprised me was that I didn't find any hiccups over 802.11g (using an Airport Express as the base station).

You'd think that the 802.11n base station would perform at least as well as the 802.11g Airport Express, even considering that the client computer is only running 802.11g. That kind of makes me wonder if there's any further degradation when using 802.11g on that base station, or how it shares the attached hard drive. My G4 Power Mac is no speed demon, but it's more than capable of serving the required files fast enough to keep up. I wonder where the bottleneck is in your case?

I'm still torn as to whether to look for a deal on a used Mac mini for this application, or wait for Core2Duo models to come out for better HD compatibility in the future. I'm in no hurry, so I guess I'll wait and see. Will be interesting to get the first reports on Apple TV once people start getting theirs. I'd pretty much dismissed it as an option, since it didn't seem to have the capabilities I'm looking for.

JAT
Feb 24, 2007, 05:41 PM
Isn't the G wireless the biggest bottleneck? I have no issues with my Mini from either internal or external drive, even at 1080p, but wireless is too much. The Mini antenna issues probably don't help. So if you are waiting for C2D for N wireless, ok. But don't bother waiting for the processor itself.

It is an excellent choice for an HT (quiet and tiny), but I would recommend wired access to the storage solution. The laptop internal drives are not big enough for ripped movies, so you probably do want an external something. And wireless is not going to be perfect. I'd say try to position it for an ethernet cable if your media server is another computer. I just use a Firewire MiniStack as my main drive, so the Mini is the server.

Cave Man
Feb 27, 2007, 02:44 PM
Isn't the G wireless the biggest bottleneck?

Yes, I'm sure it is. Just posting so that others are aware in the event they're considering going this route.

I'd say try to position it for an ethernet cable if your media server is another computer. I just use a Firewire MiniStack as my main drive, so the Mini is the server.

This is precisely what I'm going to do. Two MiniStacks with 500 gb drives each, formatted as a single 1 TB drive and connected to the AEBSn. I'll run the ethernet cable to my basement for the HT, yet still be able to serve up the MPEG4 movies to wireless-g and Apple TV (hopefully) devices.

JAT
Feb 28, 2007, 10:24 PM
Why make it one drive? Doesn't that cause more issues if one dies?

Cave Man
Mar 1, 2007, 09:06 AM
Why make it one drive? Doesn't that cause more issues if one dies?

Mostly for convenience with Front Row. I realize there's a risk that if one drive fails, effectively both fail. However, I already have a 500 gb drive that has about 400 gb of movies on it, so I'm quickly running out of room. The 750s are still too pricey for me. I'll have an alias of my "Movies" folder on the dual drives, where all the movies are. If one fails, I'll have to reimport the movies.