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Old Feb 11, 2013, 09:43 AM   #1
samcraig
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Which mini do you recommend to act as DVR?

My scenario -

Cut the cable cord. I already have Apple TV hooked up on both TVs. My iMac is currently the "server" feeding both video content from iTunes library.

The only piece I'm missing in my no-cable set up is the ability to record live tv. So I was going to get an EYE TV USB stick (and software) to record live TV from the antenna (and eye tv apparently can transcode directly to iTunes)

Of course I can get a brand new Mac Mini - but also looking at ebay/etc for alternatives.

What do you guys suggest given that this is the ONLY function the Mini will be handling for me. Just record/transcode. And I don't need the transcoding to be super fast.

Thoughts?
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 10:12 AM   #2
paulrbeers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samcraig View Post
My scenario -

Cut the cable cord. I already have Apple TV hooked up on both TVs. My iMac is currently the "server" feeding both video content from iTunes library.

The only piece I'm missing in my no-cable set up is the ability to record live tv. So I was going to get an EYE TV USB stick (and software) to record live TV from the antenna (and eye tv apparently can transcode directly to iTunes)

Of course I can get a brand new Mac Mini - but also looking at ebay/etc for alternatives.

What do you guys suggest given that this is the ONLY function the Mini will be handling for me. Just record/transcode. And I don't need the transcoding to be super fast.

Thoughts?
Here are a few questions:

1. Will you be playing back on the Mini or will you utilize AppleTV's for playback? If using for playback, then you definitely want to go with a 2009 Mini or newer (Nvidia 9300 should be your minimum). Otherwise if it is just recording then technically "any" Intel Mac Mini will be fine (but see next section).

2. If you are going to be playing back on AppleTV's and loading into iTunes (which it sounds like you are planning on), then it's a bit of a mixed bag. Technically just doing the recording, any Intel Mac Mini will work. Even the old 1,1's. It takes almost no processing power to record a digital stream. With that said, the transcoding will take some time. The older (i.e. slower) you go, the longer it will take. You can get the Turbo.264 HD device that plugs into your USB port that handles a lot of the transcoding to make it faster, but at $100 would you be better off by putting that $100 towards a faster Mini?

So anyway. To answer your quesition if AppleTV's are going to be your playback device, than "any" Intel mac Mini will work but be prepared not to be able to watch your shows until the next day especially if you go with an older Mac Mini. You certainly don't need a quadcore for this purpose.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 10:21 AM   #3
samcraig
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Ahh - so sounds like time shifting (same day) won't be an option unless I get latest/greatest or turbo h264.

Will have to debate cost/worthwhileness since Hulu/Hulu+/networks often have shows up the next day or two anyway. Thought was more to have something "available" same day if warranted... hmmmm

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulrbeers View Post
Here are a few questions:

1. Will you be playing back on the Mini or will you utilize AppleTV's for playback? If using for playback, then you definitely want to go with a 2009 Mini or newer (Nvidia 9300 should be your minimum). Otherwise if it is just recording then technically "any" Intel Mac Mini will be fine (but see next section).

2. If you are going to be playing back on AppleTV's and loading into iTunes (which it sounds like you are planning on), then it's a bit of a mixed bag. Technically just doing the recording, any Intel Mac Mini will work. Even the old 1,1's. It takes almost no processing power to record a digital stream. With that said, the transcoding will take some time. The older (i.e. slower) you go, the longer it will take. You can get the Turbo.264 HD device that plugs into your USB port that handles a lot of the transcoding to make it faster, but at $100 would you be better off by putting that $100 towards a faster Mini?

So anyway. To answer your quesition if AppleTV's are going to be your playback device, than "any" Intel mac Mini will work but be prepared not to be able to watch your shows until the next day especially if you go with an older Mac Mini. You certainly don't need a quadcore for this purpose.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 10:43 AM   #4
paulrbeers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samcraig View Post
Ahh - so sounds like time shifting (same day) won't be an option unless I get latest/greatest or turbo h264.

Will have to debate cost/worthwhileness since Hulu/Hulu+/networks often have shows up the next day or two anyway. Thought was more to have something "available" same day if warranted... hmmmm
It all depends of course. Day time shows, sure they would be available that evening, but with a slow processor, you could be looking at transcoding taking 2-4x (and maybe more in HD) the recording time. So a show that recorded at 8:00 and got over at 8:30 could easily not show up in itunes fully transcoded until 9:30 or 10:00. That's also if you didn't have a previous recording (say at 7:30) that isn't already being transcoded. At my house (using another product other than El Gato's), we regularly have 2 shows being recorded (if not 3) during prime time hours and thus using a slow server transcoding all of the shows, we wouldn't see all of them until the next day.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 10:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by paulrbeers View Post
It all depends of course. Day time shows, sure they would be available that evening, but with a slow processor, you could be looking at transcoding taking 2-4x (and maybe more in HD) the recording time. So a show that recorded at 8:00 and got over at 8:30 could easily not show up in itunes fully transcoded until 9:30 or 10:00. That's also if you didn't have a previous recording (say at 7:30) that isn't already being transcoded. At my house (using another product other than El Gato's), we regularly have 2 shows being recorded (if not 3) during prime time hours and thus using a slow server transcoding all of the shows, we wouldn't see all of them until the next day.
Thanks. Now debating an alternative. I have a pretty decent PC laptop that is going unused. Could get a SiliconDust HDHomeRun DUAL High Definition Digital TV Tuner and just use windows media center and/or beyondTV software.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 10:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samcraig View Post
Thanks. Now debating an alternative. I have a pretty decent PC laptop that is going unused. Could get a SiliconDust HDHomeRun DUAL High Definition Digital TV Tuner and just use windows media center and/or beyondTV software.
I use WMC7 and it works like a charm, you can even use XBOX 360's as extenders. The HDHomeRun is a great tuner.

Hint recent ATI video cards allow for easy overscan adjustments, HD3000/4000 not so much. An ATI A6 APU is what I'm using.

EyeTV is fine but guide data is $20 yr and it's poorly geared towards multiple antenna sources.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:06 AM   #7
samcraig
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I use WMC7 and it works like a charm, you can even use XBOX 360's as extenders. The HDHomeRun is a great tuner.

Hint recent ATI video cards allow for easy overscan adjustments, HD3000/4000 not so much. An ATI A6 APU is what I'm using.

EyeTV is fine but guide data is $20 yr and it's poorly geared towards multiple antenna sources.
I don't have ethernet capability where I want to put the HDHomeRun. Issue? I assume you don't need it unless you want to stream to another source?

I guess I could always get another wifi router as a slave...
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:10 AM   #8
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You can just plug the HDHomeRun into the Ethernet port directly. It'll see it.

Another option is a Hauppauge HVR2250 with IR remote kit as you'll probably want an IR remote.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:16 AM   #9
samcraig
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Originally Posted by blueroom View Post
You can just plug the HDHomeRun into the Ethernet port directly. It'll see it.

Another option is a Hauppauge HVR2250 with IR remote kit as you'll probably want an IR remote.
I'm an idiot - for some reason I was thinking the device was USB and ethernet was for streaming. I see now that the device plugs into the PC via ethernet. Thanks!

ETA: looks like I would actually need/be better with the WinTV-HVR-1950 as it does hardware encoding AND is external (this would be for a laptop)
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 12:02 PM   #10
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The HVR-1950 only has a MPEG-2 encoder, it's useless for ATSC as it's already encoded. You don't need an analog NTSC tuner anymore. It's also a single ATSC tuner. avoid.

Does your PC not have any PCI-E slots? Which PC are you planning to use? Many cheap ones will stutter HDTV on playback.

If you're looking for an H.264 encoder in hardware you'll have to wait.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 12:10 PM   #11
samcraig
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Originally Posted by blueroom View Post
The HVR-1950 only has a MPEG-2 encoder, it's useless for ATSC as it's already encoded. You don't need an analog NTSC tuner anymore. It's also a single ATSC tuner. avoid.

Does your PC not have any PCI-E slots? Which PC are you planning to use? Many cheap ones will stutter HDTV on playback.

If you're looking for an H.264 encoder in hardware you'll have to wait.
Laptop. No PCI/PCI-E slots.

Will just get HDHomeRun...
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 12:34 PM   #12
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Do you plan on watching the videos on the Laptop or just using it as a recording device? May I see the specs?

FYI raw HDTV OTA is about 9Gb per hour. Encoding to H.264 will take forever on anything other than a modern CPU without hardware assistance.
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Old Feb 12, 2013, 07:39 AM   #13
samcraig
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So far so good.

Using a laptop I no longer use. It's a dual core Pentium - 3gb memory and I think 2.1Ghz - and has HDMI out.

Got the HDHomerun for $80 and set it up 1-2-3. Using Windows Media Center (and the laptop even came with a wireless remote!). Last night recorded a couple of programs and watched one while it was still recording. So for now - this is great and low cost solution until my needs get bigger/more complex.

Thanks for everyone's input...
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