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Apple TV vs. Mac Mini for Family Room

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by macshui, Mar 7, 2007.

  1. macrumors newbie

    I'm considering purchasing an Apple TV for the Family Room. However, I'm curious whether it might be worth it to spend a few hundred dollars extra to purchase a Mac Mini to hook up to the TV (my TV has a computer input). I would like to play movies, TV shows, and music through iTunes, as well as display photos.

    I currently have a new Airport Extreme-n wireless network that can accommodate a hard drive on which to store most of my media.

    The added benefits of the Mac Mini are obvious (fully functioning computer). What functionality, if any, though, will I be missing out on by not having the Apple TV?

    Thanks for the advice.
  2. macrumors newbie

    *Bump* to see if anyone has any insight, now that the product has been released.
  3. macrumors 604


    -Better GPU
    -Faster Syncing(if one has a wirless N router)
    -Easier set up

    Mac Mini
    -Full Computer
    -Can add DVR if wanted
    -FrontRow, which is still pretty nice/

    I'd go AppleTV unless DVR is a must for you
  4. macrumors G3


    Mini is hooked directly to TV, faster than any sync.
    What kind of GPU in ATV? i didn't find any info on that, but to play a Movie(and non-HD), what good can a better GPU (if it is) do?
    Mini is really easy to set up too.
    I only agree ATV is cheaper than mini, but it only does 10% of what mini can.
  5. macrumors 6502a

    I've given this thought myself and have come to the following conclusion:

    I'd get a Mac Mini. Why? It's a full computer and does everything ATV does and more. It's capable of Full-HD (ATV isn't) so browsing the web with a BT mouse and kbd would be great from the couch. I imagine playing WoW from a big screen would be an experience as well. Hook up an Eye-TV and you have a DVR. The possibilities are endless. Sure, the ATV has a really nice interface but that doesn't stop anyone from coding a similar one for the Mac.

  6. macrumors 6502

    Be warned that the VGA input on your tv may not be plug-and-play with the Mac Mini. It's quite possible you'll plug it in and get no picture at all because the mini isn't sending the right resolution/timing to the television. If this happens, you'll need to set up a VNC session to your mini from another pc and manually change those settings with something like displayconfigx or switchresx until you get it right - may require a lot of tweaking!!!

    Just fyi (btw - I have a Pioneer SD533HD5 - component and VGA input only)
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Quite right. Also an important thing to consider is whether or not the TV is capable of 1:1 pixel mapping. A surprising amount of TVs are not capable of that. That means that if you have one of those weird resolution (1366x768) TVs, they are not able to display that resolution through HDMI, VGA or both connectors. Some will only display 1280x720 scaled to full resolution, some will only display 1024x768 (while 1:1 it still leaves bars on the sides as it is a 4:3 resolution). Gotta be real careful these days when purchasing a flat screen TV.

  8. macrumors 604


    The Mini isn't easier if all my Media is on my main Mac, I'd have to move all of it...much easier to sync it with over Wi-Fi.

    Better GPU makes for some nice effect...its not all that important, but still cool.

    The set up on an AppleTV was easier...all I had to do was sync with my Mac. The Mac Mini would involve setting up features, getting all your data on it ect.

    The AppleTV does everything the Mac Mini does for a media center...other then support for DVR, which some have/don't need, and since its half the price it well worth it, if your looking for an iTunes solution for your media center
  9. macrumors G3


    tell me again what GPU is in ATV? I just couldn't find any info on that :confused: :confused:
    u can enable file sharing on ur main mac, and then u can stream the video to mini too, I did this alot.

    truth to be told, mini is more than a media center, much more, and even as a media center, what ATV can do and Mini can't?

    EDIT: Never mind, I find it, its a nVidia G72M with 64MB DDR2 video memory, also the whole system has a Intel 1G CPU +256MB memory, its strange combination, I don't know how to comment on this.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    I've kind of been wondering the same thing recently.
    I'm in the market for an HDTV and I was thinking about getting a mini for it and hooking up my eyetv and 500GB external HD and using that as my entertainment hub.
    However, with :apple:tv out, I was thinking about going the cheaper and easier route of just getting that.

    If I'm purchasing everything from scratch, would it be easy enough to get a TV that plays nice with the mini and going that route?
  11. macrumors 604



    Streaming is a fine...but I'd rather having the main things on its hard drive. What can the ATV do that the Mini can't

    1) Sync and download up to 5 iTunes Library(having on the harddrive is much better then streaming, no lag, network problems don't effect it.

    2) Can't check top Movies, Music Videos, TV shows and Music in Media Center(in Front Row on the Mac...you'll need a mouse and keyboard)

    3)HDMI/ Component out...Mac Mini only does DVI/VGA out unless you buy an adapoter

    Plus its 1/2 the price, and since it meets my Media Center needs so perfectly, I feel no reason to put out another 300+ for a Mac Mini...of course I don't a have a problem if someone does
  12. macrumors G3


    the thing is u need to ask yourself if ATV is good enough for you, since now we know what it can do, and what it can't, if its good enough for you, then go for it, if not, u might want to go the other way.
  13. macrumors 6502

    Not the current mini, but maybe the next one. It's quite likely there would be at least a small upgrade in GPU. The GMA950 is really the only weakness of the mini that cannot be bypassed... Obviously we'd all like Core 2 CPUs as well (without having to do it yourself).
  14. macrumors G3


    thats what i feel strange, ATV's CPU/Memory isn't good enough for HD content, so i wonder how much difference would VGA/HDMI make for the videos.

    about checking top movies, etc, I assume those are all the features in iTunes, are they? sure interface on ATV will be easy to use, but mini sure can do it.

    ATV only has 40G harddrive, while mini has 60G at least....
  15. jsw
    Moderator emeritus


    I've got an Apple TV and a 1st gen mini core duo connected to my 37" 1080p HDTV.

    If it were me, and you're not sure, I'd go with the Apple TV. It's less than half the price - you need to bump RAM on the mini - and it gives you most of what the mini does from a media center point of view.

    I love my mini. Love it. Love being able to record HD from my cable box with just a Firewire cable using iRecord (a plus for the mini). Love "real" OS X on it.

    But... the keyboard and mouse are often a hassle in the family room. And you can't see the full resolution well from the couch anyway (maybe a 60" HDTV would be much better). And there's the need-to-login bit, etc.

    The Apple TV just plugs in and works - assuming you have another system with the media on it to stream/cache. If you have another system, get the Apple TV and save up for a much better mini in six months or so.

    If you don't have another system with media on it, then get the mini. It is better in almost all respects... but it's more awkward to use purely for media, it's more expensive, and it needs a KB and mouse.
  16. macrumors 6502

    I'm not sure where you got that it wasn't good enough. Besides, that's more of a function of GPU anyway. I'm no expert on this particular NVIDIA chip, but if it has all the right support in hardware, CPU/memory won't matter much...
  17. macrumors G3


    Ok, now i re-write this part.
    I think HD content ask for CPU and Memory, as well as GPU, not a "more GPU function".
    Here is Apple quicktime's HD playback system requirement
    Which means the current ATV can't handle HD-content above 480p.
  18. macrumors 6502

    You'll have to quote the specs you're referring to, but it's likely they are referring to systems with GPUs that do not have hardware h.264 acceleration. AppleTV's NVIDIA GPU does.
  19. macrumors G3


    I just modified my post, and improved my own knowledge too, check it out :D
  20. macrumors 6502

    Like I said, specs for systems that do not have hardware acceleration for h.264.
    This GPU does have it. As for how much it helps, who knows. All we really know is that it does have a measley CPU, but can still accept and display 720P, and even upscale to 1080i. It might even do more if Apple decides to upgrade via firmware later on...
  21. macrumors G3


    well, lets just wait and see if HD video of >700p will be there for this thing soon, right now its kinda empty talking, all videos in itunes are 480p only anyway.
  22. macrumors 604


    Yes, you can do it in iTunes, but then you need to have a mouse and keyboard, wireless(adding more to the price) plus its not as quick and easy.

    Also the ATV has wireless N, make its perfect for streaming..if it has to. The Mac Mini either you need to constantly be adding files to it, or streaming them with wireless G, which is ok, but N is much better
  23. tg3
    macrumors newbie

    You can only sync (download to the ATV HD) from only one computer. You can stream from up to 5. ;)
  24. macrumors 604


    Well since my 1.66Ghz Mac Mini slows my 1.8Ghz iMac G5, I'm not sure how true that it. Also I'd take a 1.6Ghz iMac G5 w/ 2Gb of RAM over a 1.8Ghz iMac G5 with 256Mbs of RAM
  25. macrumors 68020


    You posting of the QT specs for playback of HD content via a stand-alone computer is totally meaningless in this case. :rolleyes:

    ATV is acting as a client displaying streamed content from another computer on the network basically acting as a iTunes server. Much of the processing is being done by the server. Thus, the specs required on the client will be lower. Geeshh! :p

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