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View Full Version : Will an Apple TV suffice, or do I need to go for a Mac mini?




rogersmj
Nov 10, 2007, 08:48 AM
I'm trying to figure out what to do for video streaming with my upcoming entertainment center overhaul. Currently I used a hacked original Xbox running Xbox Media Center -- which is an awesome system, but not ideal for the HDTV I'll be buying. I'd like something with a little bit better integration as well.

I've kind of been able to piecemeal information together about the Apple TV by reading various threads on here, and I think the answer to my question is "yes" but I just want to make sure.

I want to be sure that the Apple TV will be able to handle what I need it to (with hacks, of course). Of primary concern is codecs...I'm a video packrat, and I have around 1.5 TB of video comprised of just about every codec you can shake a stick at. What's the general rule here...if I can find a plugin that will make it play in QuickTime, I can patch the :apple:tv with that codec? Can someone clear this up for me on what codec limitations are? Thanks.

My second big question is about where my videos are streaming from. I use a Linux server with Samba shares; I get these to work on Front Row on my iMac by symlinking the mounted volume inside my ~/Movies folder. Does the same principle apply with an :apple:tv?

My third question is about the processor power and running OS X on it. If I do ultimately put OS X on it because I feel the native software is too limited, does everything work properly? I mean can I install codec plugins and all that jazz like I normally would on OS X? Can I use a wireless keyboard with it if I plug in a USB dongle?

Thank you for your help.



tronic72
Nov 10, 2007, 10:02 AM
I'm trying to figure out what to do for video streaming with my upcoming entertainment center overhaul. Currently I used a hacked original Xbox running Xbox Media Center -- which is an awesome system, but not ideal for the HDTV I'll be buying. I'd like something with a little bit better integration as well.

I've kind of been able to piecemeal information together about the Apple TV by reading various threads on here, and I think the answer to my question is "yes" but I just want to make sure.

I want to be sure that the Apple TV will be able to handle what I need it to (with hacks, of course). Of primary concern is codecs...I'm a video packrat, and I have around 1.5 TB of video comprised of just about every codec you can shake a stick at. What's the general rule here...if I can find a plugin that will make it play in QuickTime, I can patch the :apple:tv with that codec? Can someone clear this up for me on what codec limitations are? Thanks.

My second big question is about where my videos are streaming from. I use a Linux server with Samba shares; I get these to work on Front Row on my iMac by symlinking the mounted volume inside my ~/Movies folder. Does the same principle apply with an :apple:tv?

My third question is about the processor power and running OS X on it. If I do ultimately put OS X on it because I feel the native software is too limited, does everything work properly? I mean can I install codec plugins and all that jazz like I normally would on OS X? Can I use a wireless keyboard with it if I plug in a USB dongle?

Thank you for your help.

Unlike many posters, I actually have a Mac mini & an Apple TV. I recently set up the mini (which a client traded in) as a media centre to answer that exact question.

Bottom line is, the Apple TV does what it does at a much cheaper price than the equivalent Intel Mac Mini (with extras required). If you NEED a computer as well as a media centre then the Mini is a good way to go but keep in mind you'll be paying a lot more than the price of the Apple TV. If you save you money and go for the 40 GB Apple tv the savings are even bigger. Personally I think the larger hard drive is not required unless you have a slow or flaky network. Although I purchased the 160 GB Apple TV. I don't even both syncing it with my Macs iTunes because it streams anything I want to watch or listen to after a wait of no more than 5 seconds.

The main draw back of the Apple TV is it doesn't "currently" support 5.1 surround sound. This is a major deal breaker for many people. I love my Apple TV but the lack of surround sound means I have to reconnect my DVD player if i want to make use of my other 4 speakers.

My 2c

Cave Man
Nov 13, 2007, 09:48 AM
The main draw back of the Apple TV is it doesn't "currently" support 5.1 surround sound. This is a major deal breaker for many people. I love my Apple TV but the lack of surround sound means I have to reconnect my DVD player if i want to make use of my other 4 speakers.

The ATV does Dolby Pro Logic II, thus can deliver 5-channel signal to your receiver, provided the receiver can decode the DPLII signal. It's missing the LFE because of software, not hardware. The chip in the ATV is capable of delivering 7.1 signal through the optical port, but, for whatever reason (file size?), Apple does not implement it. Probably a problem with Quicktime's encoding abilities and licensing issues from the audio labs, as well. Hopefully, with the seemingly imminent availability of movie rentals and HD content (fingers crossed), this will be implemented.

Until then, the Mini is the better way if you want HD and 5.1 surround through its optical port.

peeaanuut
Nov 13, 2007, 10:05 AM
the flipside is that with running a Mini you have to remember that you are running a computer and not a dedicated media device. While with a Mac that isnt that big of a deal because they run so good, but you still have to deal with computer problems vs dedicated device problems. While the list is short, you do have to remember that you are running a computer and not something like a DVD player. I think the user has more to do with that. I wouldnt be able to hook up a mini and give it to my mom as a media server but she could use an aTV no problem.

rogersmj
Nov 13, 2007, 11:21 AM
I did decide to go with an ATV, especially since I got one for only $200. It should be arriving today, and I've been reading up on all the hacks. It should fit my needs perfectly. I'll probably even do the FireFox and keyboard/mouse hack so we could browse on the TV if we really want to, but a full-blown computer would have been overkill.

Cuckoo
Nov 13, 2007, 12:09 PM
I did decide to go with an ATV, especially since I got one for only $200. It should be arriving today, and I've been reading up on all the hacks. It should fit my needs perfectly. I'll probably even do the FireFox and keyboard/mouse hack so we could browse on the TV if we really want to, but a full-blown computer would have been overkill.

Congrats!!!! hope you enjoy the ATV

I really like the machine... and there are some great how to's out there to guide you threw whatever process you're looking for!

(and these forums for help)

kjr39
Nov 13, 2007, 02:48 PM
I did decide to go with an ATV, especially since I got one for only $200. It should be arriving today, and I've been reading up on all the hacks. It should fit my needs perfectly. I'll probably even do the FireFox and keyboard/mouse hack so we could browse on the TV if we really want to, but a full-blown computer would have been overkill.

Where'd you get it for $200?

rogersmj
Nov 13, 2007, 02:58 PM
Where'd you get it for $200?

Here on MacRumors, in the marketplace from another member. :D

tronic72
Nov 14, 2007, 05:20 AM
The ATV does Dolby Pro Logic II, thus can deliver 5-channel signal to your receiver, provided the receiver can decode the DPLII signal. It's missing the LFE because of software, not hardware. The chip in the ATV is capable of delivering 7.1 signal through the optical port, but, for whatever reason (file size?), Apple does not implement it. Probably a problem with Quicktime's encoding abilities and licensing issues from the audio labs, as well. Hopefully, with the seemingly imminent availability of movie rentals and HD content (fingers crossed), this will be implemented.

Until then, the Mini is the better way if you want HD and 5.1 surround through its optical port.

Caveman. Why are you quoting those details, when the fact remains that the is no media that can currently produce 5.1 surround sound on the Apple TV. There are hundreds of posts from people who've tried. A great source of these is at the HandBrake Site. Quoting those sorts specs simply confuses people and gives out the impression that the Apple TV will play surround sound when it only produces stereo sound.

That sort of quote, and there have been dozens similar, it the same as saying that the Mac Mini can product 9.1 surround sound. It's possilbe but it's currently not able to be done.

I know you said the Mac Mini is the way to go but i find quoting those specs confuses many people

Edit: Caveman. What method is used to play 5.1 from the Mac Mini. Is it just an optical cable? I just dont understand why the Apple TV can't do this.

My 2c

kresh
Nov 14, 2007, 05:29 AM
I faced the same dilemma but I chose the Mini with Turbo.264. The kicker for me was I decided to use the Mini to rip DVD's and re-encode videos (and as a file server for me, wife and kids' computers) while it's not be being used for video play back, thus I don't tie up my machine.

I use ARD to control it headless while the family watches tv.

netdog
Nov 14, 2007, 05:30 AM
You might want to wait until the new AppleTV is released. Somebody here posted a screenshot yesterday of a page they came across at Apple.com that seemed to be legit that showed new models with a new 2nd generation remote. You may want to see what differences there are in terms of video standards and locks against hackers.

I couldn't find the post for you and am wondering if it was taken down. When I first saw it, it did look real and I could therefore see Apple legal asking to have it yanked.

tronic72
Nov 14, 2007, 05:35 AM
You might want to wait until the new AppleTV is released. Somebody here posted a screenshot yesterday of a page they came across at Apple.com that seemed to be legit that showed new models with a new 2nd generation remote. You may want to see what differences there are in terms of video standards and locks against hackers.

I couldn't find the post for you and am wondering if it was taken down. When I first saw it, it did look real and I could therefore see Apple legal asking to have it yanked.

Hey Netdog. Was there any details about the inclusion of true surround sound (that we can actually use).

Sorry, I know I sould like a broken record but I've ripped all my DVDs to my Apple TV and I'd love to here them in 5.1 surround

netdog
Nov 14, 2007, 05:52 AM
Hey Netdog. Was there any details about the inclusion of true surround sound (that we can actually use).

Sorry, I know I sould like a broken record but I've ripped all my DVDs to my Apple TV and I'd love to here them in 5.1 surround

I don't think so, but am not sure. The OP of this had a screenshot that cut off at a certain point, so not all of the details were in view.

egsaxy
Nov 14, 2007, 07:52 AM
are you still happy with the apple tv? I'm not sure if it will meet my needs when i get an appartment or put my mini in the living room.

Cave Man
Nov 14, 2007, 09:31 AM
Caveman. Why are you quoting those details, when the fact remains that the is no media that can currently produce 5.1 surround sound on the Apple TV.

I never said you can do 5.1 on the Apple TV, only 5-channel (DPLII).

That sort of quote, and there have been dozens similar, it the same as saying that the Mac Mini can product 9.1 surround sound. It's possilbe but it's currently not able to be done.

It can do passthrough of the VOB audio through its digital optical port.

Edit: Caveman. What method is used to play 5.1 from the Mac Mini. Is it just an optical cable?

The Mac Mini can passthrough with its digital optical port. Connect a TOSLINK cable between your Mini and a receiver with such an input (my Onkyo has one) and DVD Player will send the DD or DTS signal to your receiver, which can decode it provided it has the software to do so (almost all x.1 receivers do). This only works with DVD Player, not Quicktime files with 6 audio channels (as far as I know).

If you rip your DVDs to your hard drive (e.g., MacTheRipper), you can play them through DVD Player from within Front Row if you install DVD Assist. It's essential, though, that you rip the DVD with its original VOB files intact. You cannot transcode them to a Quicktime file (e.g., H.264) and expect to get x.1 surround.

I just dont understand why the Apple TV can't do this.

The Apple TV uses Quicktime for its playback, not DVD Player. Currently, there is no way to encode DTS or DD into a Quicktime file; Quicktime encodes in its own format which no receiver on the market can decode.

Well, this is my understanding, anyway.

peeaanuut
Nov 14, 2007, 10:03 AM
Here is the way I look at it. if you have an extra mini than just use the mini, if not and you want to purchase something than get the aTV. if you computer is in the same room as the TV than just use the TV if not get an aTV. I know that a large amount of people use their aTV for movies but the audio restrictions are a pain. I have given up on movie viewing through the aTV because of that. However, the placeshifting of music, TV shows, home movies and TV shows is amazing and really what I got the aTV for. For movies, I still have a DVD player. I dont know anyone that tossed their DVD player when they go their aTV so its not that big of a deal. The aTV simply is not their for the complete DVD experience, which is fine and we can all hope for it to improve. Sometime soon I am sure.