Best Media Center PC?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by TJunkers, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    TJunkers

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2007
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #1
    I love my Apple TV. But I essentially want and Apple TV with over 1TB of space. Any suggestions? As for hooking up an external drive: I'm looking for other solutions.

    Thanks!
     
  2. macrumors 6502a

    mathcolo

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    #2
    Instead of an Apple TV I'd buy a Mac mini and hook it up to your TV. Stream iTunes, movies, and all of your media from it. That'll be a better solution that Apple TV. In retrospect, Apple TV is pretty restricted.
     
  3. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    #3
    I was boucing the same idea around before I bought my :apple:tv however to do it with a mini it will cost alot more...basically your gonna have to buy the Mini if you don't already have one which would be 600-800 depending on what you want, some people say get the most expensive one you can afford. Plus a keyboard and mouse (60-150 depending on what you want wired vs. wireless) because if i would do this, i would want to reap the benefits of it being an extra computer and not just a media center. a DVI to HDMI cable (10-20 bucks I believe and assuming you have an HDTV since :apple:TV doesn't work with CRT's) Your also going to need one more piece of equipment which I cannot seem to locate but in a nut shell...DVI does NOT transmit audio therefore your gonna need an additional adapter and I believe your gonna need a HDMI cable as well (I've seen it talked about on this forum before but cannot located any threads that do) so your audio can be transmitted.

    When I started pricing these things out, I came to roughly 900 bucks out the door for the mini and everything to make it a functional media center as well as a computer. However I think I did choose the more expensive model :apple:TV $229.....

    The best selling point a mini vs. :apple:tv has is the the mini has the ability to play alot more media types than :apple:tv but when I rip stuff it always goes to mp4 format.....I hate the quality of avi files. Just a personal pet peeve.

    Here are some threads I found interesting on the issue.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=424585&highlight=Mac+Mini+HDTV+audio

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=546055&highlight=Mac+Mini+HDTV+audio

    ALSO...Check out my posts in this thread.....alot of people say the size issue on :apple:tv is a downfall but this is how i overcame that situation.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=576010

    This is a more in depth step by step process on how i achieved it, look for my posts.
    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=576714
     
  4. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    #4
    Mac Mini

    Best Mac related Media Center?

    Mac Mini. Currently you need the horse power of at least a Mac Mini if your going to be playing 1080i, and 720p blu-ray titles. (granted aTV can play some 720p)

    For software you have the option of running frontrow, XBMC, or Boxee.
    You can still rent, purchase movies of iTunes and other sites such as Jaman.

    DVI to HDMI cable for the connection to your TV.
    I would purchase an external USB 5.1 dobly digital sound card to hook up to your amp.

    For the future, you can always buy an external blu-ray drive.

    Who needs a keyboard/Mouse...Just use the standard apple remote.
     
  5. macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #5
    The 2 gHz Mini can also play Blu-Ray rips with the right software.

    Plex is the best of the lot, IYAM.

    Why not optical cable - that'll get you up to 7.1 and only cost $10 or less.

    The current Mini is not HDCP compliant, and even if it were the DVD to HDMI cable would break that.
     
  6. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    #6
    Thanks for your feedback Cave Man. Could you please explain the following points to me further please.

    I assumed the optical cable only gave you stereo sound.
    What does the surround sound decoding?
    Do you have any additional information on where you learned this? I have a few friends asking the same question, and would like to pass on the links to them.

    What is the advantage of having a HDCP compliant Mac Mini?
    Do you mean DVI to HDMI cable?

    Thanks.
     
  7. macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #7
    The optical port of the Mini will pass along the digital audio from whatever file you're using, provided you're using the right software (e.g., Plex, XMBC, VLC/Perian - Quicktime is ok with Dolby Digital AC3, but not DTS). If your receiver can decode that file (e.g., Dolby Digital, DTS), then you will get audio in that format. The specification of Toslink (i.e., optical cable) is up to 7.1 surround sound.

    The receiver to which your Mini (or any other current Mac, for that matter) is connected. I have an Onkyo 5.1 system for my setup.

    Have a look here.

    The Blu-ray disc specification requires that the drive, video card and display are all HDCP compliant. If only two are, then you cannot play your Blu-ray discs on that system. Right now, none of the Macs are officially HDCP-compliant because of their video cards, but it's evident that the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro are, and likely the iMacs as well. It is also likely that the new MacBook with the NVidia chipset is compliant, but the white MacBook and Mini are not.

    Oops. Right. DVI to HDMI cable. DVI does not support the HDCP specification (however, DisplayPort, found on the new MB/MBP and probably future Macs as well, does). Thus, with the advent of DisplayPort the hardware issues of HDCP should be complete for Macs.
     
  8. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
  9. macrumors 65816

    wvuwhat

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2007
  10. macrumors regular

    serpico

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #10
    As someone stated above, they preferred mp4 to avi for quality. I'm thinking of picking up an AppleTV this week to hook up to my new hdtv in the family room. Since I have a lot of avi movie files, is there a way to convert those to mp4 to make it easier to share through itunes or save them to my AppleTV harddisk?
     
  11. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2001
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    #11
    The mac mini is the worst bang/buck computers out there. It just barely plays 1080p and will stutter on anything with a higher-than-normal bitrate. Not to mention you can't put a big HD in there, so you will have to get an external anyways.

    A couple months ago I got a fantastic-looking hp slimline with a 2.6 core2duo, blueray, 4GB on RAM, and a TB HD for $500. It was the **** in every respect except that it had windows. After wrestling with the drivers and networking ******** for weeks, I sold it for a profit. If you can make a PC work, the hardware you can get for you money is astounding. I never tried putting OSX on it.

    What I'm running now is an iMac connected to my TV with a long HDMI cable from monoprice. Does everything I want. When I watch movies I have plex blank my iMac's screen so you can only see the TV.
     
  12. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2001
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    #12
    See if you can find an old copy of visual hub. It's been discontinued but is a fantastic piece of software.
     
  13. macrumors regular

    serpico

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #13
    Thank you. Too bad it was discontinued. I'm sure some other developer will bring something new for us. I'll try and locate a copy.
     
  14. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    TJunkers

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2007
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #14
    Yeah the mini seems to be the way to go for a mac related media hub. I need a lot of space so I guess I'll hook up my external to it and just hide it so it looks clean as can be! I'm gonna wait till they update of discontinue the mini. If they update it, it'll run even better, if they discontinue it, I'll get it in clearance for a lot cheaper!

    Thanks for all the info!
     
  15. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    #15
    I have been a HTPC enthusiast for years. I spent so much time, money and effort trying to build the perfect htpc for all the rooms in my house. What a waste of time!

    1) First I started with Microsoft media center.. crashes a lot, interface okay, slow, required frequent rebooting of the computer, lots of drivers/firmware and hardware upgrades.. slow, left me wanting more...

    2) Then I ran into SageTV. It is by far the best software, with media extenders which require little electricity and able to play awesome 1080p mkvs files. However, samething, it required a pc (although there is a mac version now), which would require frequent reboots, lots of firmware updates, lots of hardware investment, and the interface is plain fuggly. It is nothing like appletv's interface. In fact, you will NOT find anything like appletvs interface. So I dumped that too. (although if tv, and videos/music/pictures, in ONE box is really that important to you, I recommend Sagetv by far).

    3) Still searching for the perfect setup, and being fed up with some shows being recorded or others not being recorded, I ran across TIVO. Yep Tivo. They had just released their new software so that multi room viewing was possible (transferring show from lets say living room to the bedroom),and also it was possible now to transfer shows to the pc/mac to put on your iphone/ipod/dvd. I found this interested so gave it a try. What were the results? The best DVR I have ever had period. I sold all that HTPC junk and have had TIVO for a year now, and couldn't be happier. The only thing is you pay a premium price for what you get.

    And what about all the movies/pictures/music? Appletv is THE best media streamer for the price, and functionality I have played with to date. Podcasts, renting high def movies, buying music, viewing movies/music by art.. its the best, and can simply be modified by your itunes on your mac. I do tend to leave my mac on 24 hours, but it isn't necesary, just load up your appletv with what you want then you are done.

    So my suggestion after years of playng and wasting money with all that crap, TIVO and appletv in combo.

    Thanks
    Mo
     
  16. macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #16
    Works just great for my Blu-ray rips, even h.264-encoded at more than 30 mbps. Have you tried a Mini, or are you just regurgitating what others say?

    It'll take any 2.5" SATA drive, currently up to 500 gb. After all, the Mini is a desktop made of notebook components.

    Can you provide a link to this, because it does not appear that HP's online configuration will permit such a computer for $500.
     
  17. macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #17
    Forget about VisualHub. Download the latest Handbrake snapshot. It handles AVI files and has a really nice Apple TV preset.
     
  18. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2003
    #18
    Not the latest for long. New one is going to be better. Especially the ATV preset (can you say crf ? )
     
  19. macrumors regular

    serpico

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #19
    Thanks, didn't know handbrake did this too now. I'll grab the latest version and give it a try.
     
  20. macrumors P6

    ~Shard~

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2003
    Location:
    1123.6536.5321
    #20
    I just bought a new home theater and am looking at complementing it with a media center PC/Mac solution - there is some good info in this thread, so thanks. :)
     
  21. macrumors regular

    serpico

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #21
    I agree, I just got a new hdtv and now starting to look at the AppleTV. I'll be picking one up soon along with a hdmi cable.:D
     
  22. macrumors P6

    ~Shard~

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2003
    Location:
    1123.6536.5321
    #22
    I am going to search the Forums for info on this, but my only concern with the AppleTV is how restrictive it is with respect to formats. If I download AVIs, MKVs, WMVs, etc. from the Internet for example, can I still play them on AppleTV? Do I need to/can I install Perian, Flip4Mac, other codec packs in order to accomplish this? This to me would be the only drawback of using an AppleTV...

    I'll do my own research on this, but if anyone wouldn't mind posting a quick answer to this it would of course be appreciated. ;) :)
     
  23. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2003
    #23
    Only if you a. Hack it. or b. Reencode those movies to mp4.

    if you want to have it play all of the formats you list above, then you have to hack it.
     
  24. macrumors P6

    ~Shard~

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2003
    Location:
    1123.6536.5321
    #24
    Good to know, that's what I figured, thanks. :)

    So what can I use to convert to MP4? Will any quality etc. be lost in the conversion? I know that Visual Hub is a good tool, however I have heard it has just been discontinued.

    Otherwise, maybe I'll have to look at another solution (i.e. a Mac Mini running VLC etc?) hooked up via HDMI... I'll have to do some more research to figure out what makes the most sense...
     
  25. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2003
    #25
    http://forum.handbrake.fr/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=7230
     

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