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View Full Version : Why a Mac Mini instead of a PC HTPC?




HE15MAN
Sep 22, 2009, 03:19 PM
People keep asking me "why use a Mac Mini and now a Windows computers as a HTPC." My only reasoning really is the fact I love Apple, and prefer to keep my house all Apple products since I trust them, and taking a little more time to learn how to do things is worth not having to look at a Windows screen. Any better answers?



freepeacesweet
Sep 22, 2009, 03:36 PM
OK i was a PC user before i switched and my mac mini was the reason why. I asked myself the same question when wanting a HTPC. In the end i decided on the Mini because of the following:

Small foot print
Silent
Lower Power
Built in remote
Built in wireless and bluetooth
Optical out

These were tha main factors but ultimatley for me to build a small compact PC (or one of those lovly units taht matches my amp) at the time with all the same components was actually costing me more for a similar spec item.

Now i would also say because of:

OS X is great
Sofa Control works perfect
Plex is fantastic

I love my mini HTPC!

Darth.Titan
Sep 22, 2009, 03:38 PM
Frankly the only PC in my house is my HTPC. I use BeyondTV software and therefore only have to see Windows very minimally.

I'd love to have a Mini for my media PC, but there's nothing for Mac that has the functionality BeyondTV does.

... unless anyone would care to educate me? :D

GoCubsGo
Sep 22, 2009, 03:40 PM
OK i was a PC user before i switched and my mac mini was the reason why. I asked myself the same question when wanting a HTPC. In the end i decided on the Mini because of the following:

Small foot print
Silent
Lower Power
Built in remote
Built in wireless and bluetooth
Optical out

These were tha main factors but ultimatley for me to build a small compact PC (or one of those lovly units taht matches my amp) at the time with all the same components was actually costing me more for a similar spec item.

I second the reasons for the mini over the PC but also it is that my entire line is mac so why bother with anything else? Unless you count the nix project I'd like to start soon for a media center in the bedroom to watch porn on.

weddlec
Sep 22, 2009, 03:53 PM
1 month after owning a Mini I literally threw my windows based HTPC out the window. Here are the reasons.

1. Plex-Best compatibility for a 10 foot interface I have used.
2. Mac the Ripper-Rips through scratches for when I am putting season sets on the Drobo.
3. Networking-This is the biggest improvement I saw when switching to Macs. Networking just works. I am constantly finding myself screen sharing 1 computer to transfer disc images and videos to another. I can have music or a video in any computer in my house and can play it without having to actually transfer the files.
4. Mini DVI/DisplayPort out to receiver
5. Optical out
6. Built in IR port.

Really it seems as though Apple decided to design a computer specifically for HTPC but call it an entry-level Mac

Once I got old enough to where time=money buying a Mac became the most economical purchase.

hitekalex
Sep 22, 2009, 04:40 PM
I think Mini Home Theater is great.. and I too prefer Apple ecosystem.. BUT Windows 7 Media Center leapfrogs anything you can do in MacOS by a few years. Apple is not even in the same league:

Engadget HD Windows 7 Media Center review (http://www.engadgethd.com/2009/07/27/windows-7-media-center-review/)

VirtualRain
Sep 22, 2009, 04:51 PM
A PC in the living room just amplifies why PC's suck... they are bulky, noisy, crude, and require way too much setup, maintenance, monkey work with drivers, codecs, etc. They are the antithesis of what a HTPC should be.

Now, you can build fairly quiet, compact PC's with Windows 7 media center that will rival a Mini/Plex experience, but you won't save much (anything?), and will still be battling with drivers, codecs, etc.

I had a Vista HTPC that was no end of trouble. Every NVIDIA driver update would create new problems. :mad:

A HTPC should just work... and that's a Mini+Plex.

Also, there are benefits to a complete Mac ecosystem.

On the other hand, a Windows based HTPC may offer advantages in terms of integration with TV tuners (something that doesn't matter to me).

The only disadvantage for me, and it's minor, is that the Mini doesn't do video+audio over HDMI and therefore no 7.1 channel sound and there's also two cables instead of one. I'm keen to see what Monoprice can do for us in the dept. with their display port + USB sound to HDMI cable.

jaw04005
Sep 22, 2009, 05:49 PM
Pros
Quiet
Low power
Small form factor
Sleek, attractive styling (there's really nothing like it in the PC world)
Built-in Bluetooth, 802.11n and IR receiver
Slot-loading SuperDrive
9400M Graphics (excellent choice for a set top box, supports OpenCL and hardware QuickTime decoding)
Dual video outputs


Cons
Pricing ($599/$799)
Included Memory (1GB on $599 model, 2GB on the $799 model)
Remote sold separately ($29)
VGA adapter sold separately ($29)
No HDMI (and therefore no single audio/video cable)
No Blu-ray option
Front Row development is practically dead (hasn't received a major update since 10.5 Leopard shipped)
No built-in TV tuner/live tv capability (EyeTV software is available for $80 or with the purchase of a hardware tuner, but doesn’t integrate as well as a first-party solution)
Poor display drivers and tools (no built-in overscan/underscan adjustment, overclocking, custom resolutions, color correction, etc like NVIDIA’s control panel on Windows)

Corrode
Sep 22, 2009, 11:26 PM
1 month after owning a Mini I literally threw my windows based HTPC out the window. Here are the reasons.

Pics or it didn't happen.

weddlec
Sep 22, 2009, 11:34 PM
In that case it didn't happen. I had had the Mac Mini for a month and was still using the PC for a tuner. It crashed and was unrecoverable literally 30 minutes before the Lost season finale. It was my only HD tuner. It was a heat of the moment sort of thing so I did not get it on video. In the back of my mind I didn't really care because I knew after a month the Mini would suffice. So believe it or not, those who know me personally know that it happened.

rhett7660
Sep 23, 2009, 01:27 AM
I second the reasons for the mini over the PC but also it is that my entire line is mac so why bother with anything else? Unless you count the nix project I'd like to start soon for a media center in the bedroom to watch porn on.


That is what I am talking about.

alphaod
Sep 23, 2009, 02:42 AM
For an HTPC I'd look into an Ion-powered machine; some of them are quite inexpensive and are worth looking into. For example the Acer Revo not a very powerful in terms of computing, but it is quite powerful as a media center machine. It can decode 1080p videos with no issues. It can go online, etc.

Winni
Sep 23, 2009, 03:42 AM
People keep asking me "why use a Mac Mini and now a Windows computers as a HTPC." My only reasoning really is the fact I love Apple, and prefer to keep my house all Apple products since I trust them, and taking a little more time to learn how to do things is worth not having to look at a Windows screen. Any better answers?

There usually is no rationale behind the decision to buy Apple. There are only few Apple-only software products and one usually gets more bang for the buck with a PC product, thus choosing Apple almost always is a pure emotional choice.

spike8585
Sep 23, 2009, 11:30 AM
For an HTPC I'd look into an Ion-powered machine; some of them are quite inexpensive and are worth looking into. For example the Acer Revo not a very powerful in terms of computing, but it is quite powerful as a media center machine. It can decode 1080p videos with no issues. It can go online, etc.

Yea, I am looking into getting a Revo for a torrent server/media player.
I just want to free up my uMBP17 from torrents, since my ancient AMD torrent server died. A MacMini would be awesome, but I think it is a little overkill for a media server, as it is like $700.00+. Can get a Revo for $400 CAD.

Going to sell my WDTV and get one of those I think.

Hellhammer
Sep 23, 2009, 11:55 AM
Here's a little comparison between PC and Mini as HTPC:

Mac Mini

+ Small, don't take a lot space
+ Quiet
+ Little power draw
+ Easy sharing between other Macs

- Only one hard drive
- Not upgradeable
- Quite expensive

PC

+ Multiple hard drives
+ Upgradeable
+ More options
+ Blu-Ray
+ Much better performance per $
+ More ports

- Big
- Draws A LOT power
- May be noisy
- It's not a Mac

*******

I still can't decide... PC could be used for gaming and other tasks and I'm not stuck with one HD, but I just like Macs and their easiness so...

optophobia
Sep 23, 2009, 11:59 AM
- Only one hard drive
- Not upgradeable RAM and HD upgrades are EASY
- Quite expensive refurbed one for $500
..

For me it is an easy decision.

occamsrazor
Sep 23, 2009, 12:21 PM
Despite being a Mac user I looked at a bunch of small form factor machines. In the end I went with the Mac Mini for one primary reason - Plex - it's just the best media center app by far. I had some concerns about ability to play 1080P but they were totally unfounded.

codymac
Sep 23, 2009, 12:22 PM
I second the reasons for the mini over the PC but also it is that my entire line is mac so why bother with anything else? Unless you count the nix project I'd like to start soon for a media center in the bedroom to watch porn on.

Why reinvent the wheel? There's already a Plex plugin for it.
;)

I did it because it was dead simple to run Plex and the mini was an attractive piece of all-in-one hardware for the purpose.

Gav2k
Sep 23, 2009, 12:26 PM
Tbh I have a Sony cake and a mini well a couple of minis. The cake and mini are both under my sittingroom tv and I use both. I offen find myself picking up the keyboard for the cake as it's an all in one plus I use mediacentre to record all the shows I miss.

Cave Man
Sep 23, 2009, 02:03 PM
The only disadvantage for me, and it's minor, is that the Mini doesn't do video+audio over HDMI and therefore no 7.1 channel sound...

The Mini can do 7.1 over optical. The problem is, there're very few Blu-ray discs with 7.1 tracks or Dolby Digital Plus.

There usually is no rationale behind the decision to buy Apple. There are only few Apple-only software products and one usually gets more bang for the buck with a PC product, thus choosing Apple almost always is a pure emotional choice.

Yeah, right. :rolleyes: Are there any PCs yet that are 6.5" x 6.5" x 2" with the Mini's features? Or do you think form factor is "emotional"?

lannister80
Sep 23, 2009, 02:11 PM
There usually is no rationale behind the decision to buy Apple. There are only few Apple-only software products and one usually gets more bang for the buck with a PC product, thus choosing Apple almost always is a pure emotional choice.
Um, I like the OS better, a LOT better, than XP/Vista/7/whatever. That's not emotional.

wfj5444
Sep 23, 2009, 03:10 PM
I really want a mini for my HTPC, when I buy one. The problem is I can justify it over a PS3.

$299 gets you streaming from any machine (format maybe a bit of a an issue but that easily solved) and bluray. Not to mention you can play a bunch of games on it.

Hard to beat that for $299

rgarjr
Sep 23, 2009, 04:41 PM
I really want a mini for my HTPC, when I buy one. The problem is I can justify it over a PS3.

$299 gets you streaming from any machine (format maybe a bit of a an issue but that easily solved) and bluray. Not to mention you can play a bunch of games on it.

Hard to beat that for $299

Depends on how you look at it. The mac mini is a computer, a real tiny one I might add.

VirtualRain
Sep 23, 2009, 04:57 PM
The Mini can do 7.1 over optical. The problem is, there're very few Blu-ray discs with 7.1 tracks or Dolby Digital Plus.


Toslink optical doesn't have enough bandwidth. The 7.1 discrete digital standards require HDMI.

From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOSLINK)...

Audio Signal: Digital audio bitstream.
Originally limited to 48 kHz at 20 bits. Extended to support all modern formats, except Dolby Digital Plus, TrueHD, and DTS HD audio streams.

VirtualRain
Sep 23, 2009, 05:00 PM
For an HTPC I'd look into an Ion-powered machine; some of them are quite inexpensive and are worth looking into. For example the Acer Revo not a very powerful in terms of computing, but it is quite powerful as a media center machine. It can decode 1080p videos with no issues. It can go online, etc.

It's not much less than a Mac Mini... why would you want to go this route?

tbayrgs
Sep 23, 2009, 06:55 PM
I really want a mini for my HTPC, when I buy one. The problem is I can justify it over a PS3.

$299 gets you streaming from any machine (format maybe a bit of a an issue but that easily solved) and bluray. Not to mention you can play a bunch of games on it.

Hard to beat that for $299

In that case I have a slightly used PS3 that was replaced by a mini (maybe a dozen blu-rays, a couple of hours of gaming, and a few minutes of very poor quality streaming) that I'll sell you for less than that. :)

Seriously though, while having blu-ray is nice, I prefer gaming on Xbox 360 and just wasn't happy with the PS3 as a media player, especially since I already have my DVD library encoded Apple universal for use on :apple:TV and iPhone/iPod Touch. Since I needed a separate computer for my young kids to use, the value I get using a mac mini is that much better--at least that's how I justified it to my wife. ;)

Cave Man
Sep 23, 2009, 08:04 PM
Toslink optical doesn't have enough bandwidth. The 7.1 discrete digital standards require HDMI.

From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOSLINK)...

Well, there you go. That is news to me. :(

Dapness
Sep 23, 2009, 08:50 PM
In that case I have a slightly used PS3 that was replaced by a mini (maybe a dozen blu-rays, a couple of hours of gaming, and a few minutes of very poor quality streaming) that I'll sell you for less than that. :)

Seriously though, while having blu-ray is nice, I prefer gaming on Xbox 360 and just wasn't happy with the PS3 as a media player, especially since I already have my DVD library encoded Apple universal for use on :apple:TV and iPhone/iPod Touch. Since I needed a separate computer for my young kids to use, the value I get using a mac mini is that much better--at least that's how I justified it to my wife. ;)

I also gave the PS3 a try ... for 3 days. But it was back to the Apple TV. I guess I can sacrifice watching 1080p M2TS files. The PS3's GUI is pretty and all but the interface "sucks ass" as my wife put it. I'd get a Mac Mini but I think I'll wait to see what happens with an Apple TV update (not holding breath).

Oh yeah, out of curiosity does anyone know what the cheapest model Mini would be capable of running flawless 1080p with Plex??

Dapness
Sep 23, 2009, 08:56 PM
I really want a mini for my HTPC, when I buy one. The problem is I can justify it over a PS3.

$299 gets you streaming from any machine (format maybe a bit of a an issue but that easily solved) and bluray. Not to mention you can play a bunch of games on it.

Hard to beat that for $299

Streaming from any machine?? Tried it wirelessly using PS3 Media Server. What a joke that was. I couldn't watch a low bit rate TV Show without studder.

I got mine for $270 from Dell and called to get an RMA for it. The rep offered me $60 to keep it. So, I have a brand new PS3 slim for $210. If anyone wants it I'll let it go for $240 ;)

cisco697
Sep 23, 2009, 11:51 PM
I had been researching this for a year now. Last May I sold my apple tv and a few months ago I finally cut cable bought a mini. Hooked it up to my HD home run and Eyetv. It works flawlessly! I love it my wife can record shows and we have about 500 movies in h.264 that we watch in plex.

It doesn't get any better than that! With windows you have to screw around for hours sometimes days to get anything to work right. I setup eyetv and I have never had to mess with it. I also get 5.1!

diamond.g
Sep 24, 2009, 07:02 AM
Does plex or EyeTv support cable cards? I think that is my initial hangup, to watch certain channels I need a cable card. So far it appears that only Windows offers cablecard support and that is disappointing.

brendu
Sep 24, 2009, 11:08 AM
I am an avid mac supporter and have been for my whole life, growing up with a mac plus... I swear by them. With that said. My HTPC is just that a PC. I wanted to build something myself as a project so hackintosh was a possibility but with all the PC hardware available for HTPC's it was just easier to go with win7 (vista sucked). The main reasons I wont sell it now and get a mini are:

-Blu Ray
-100% Upgrade Capable for ALL components.
-Multiple Internal HDD's
-built in TV tuners
-LCD on the front of the case for media information.

There are countless things I can say about the benefits of a Mac Mini, and trust me without the nice surround sound im using, i would find my PC media center to be WAY too loud, but i can easily drown out the noise of the fans. So in the end the biggest upside for me is the years and years and years of upgrade potential I have with this machine, where I would have to get one Mini after the other to keep up to date, which really is less cost effective.

hitekalex
Sep 24, 2009, 11:58 AM
There are countless things I can say about the benefits of a Mac Mini, and trust me without the nice surround sound im using, i would find my PC media center to be WAY too loud, but i can easily hear drown out the fans.

The way to go with PC-based media center is to keep it in the back room or in the garage, away from the view. And only use thin extenders in the living room, bedroom, etc.

This way you get the noisy beast out of sight, and still have all the benefits of Windows Media Center (multi-tuner CableCard support, live DVR, etc) extended to every room.

eidimon
Oct 21, 2009, 06:01 PM
Despite being a Mac user I looked at a bunch of small form factor machines. In the end I went with the Mac Mini for one primary reason - Plex - it's just the best media center app by far. I had some concerns about ability to play 1080P but they were totally unfounded.

Well, i am too thinking of buying a mac mini to use mainly as a media center.
And one of my main concerns is whether there will be any issues with 1080p playback.
It's not the cheapest thing you can buy.
If there is even the slightest problem with the 1080p videos, i think it's automatically ruled out...