Home Media Center: Mac Mini Server or Mac Mini Standard?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by deckerinn, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2012
    Location:
    Denmark
    #1
    Dear Members.

    I have decided to setup a new Home Media Center with Mac Mini using XBMC or Plex. I have tried Apple TV, used TVIX (PC) HD before and different kinds of media player without being satisfied due to file format supporting issues. I have checked out several solutions like Acer Revo, Asus E and some other etc. but in the end I have decided to go for Mac Mini. The only question and therefor would I like to get your input on and opinions is the question: Is better to buy Mac Mini Standard or Mac Mini with Lion Server? The CPU is smaller in Mac Mini Server but it has also some other advantages like possibly hosting our private webpage and etc.

    Which Mac Mini would you members recommend? Mac Mini Standard or Mac Mini with Lion Server as a Media Center?

    Best regards, Deckerinn
     
  2. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2007
    #2
    If you have the budget then the Server version gives you a better processor and the dual hard drives. If you're hooking up an external hdd the dual hdd option isn't that big of a deal at that point. Either should work just fine, it just depends on your budget and what you value most in the solution you choose.
     
  3. thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 15, 2012
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    Denmark
    #3
    reply

    Is the processor better even though its 2GHz instead of standard Mac Mini is 2,3 or 2,5? I do have external HDD (NAS) of 4TB which I would link to the mini mac or router as it has FTP support via USB built in. But I am also thinking about hosting private homepage but is that possible via standard Mac Mini?

    br, deckerinn
     
  4. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2007
    #4
    The processor in the mini server is a quad core processor while the others are dual core.

    You could probably get Apache or nginx installed on the non-server mini to use as a web server. I'm not familiar with OS X Server to know if it makes it easier or not vs regular OS X.
     
  5. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    #5
    Mac Mini Server

    I chose the server for my media center. The biggest differences between the server and the plain Mac Mini are as follows: Server has a 2.0 GHz quad core i7 as opposed to the dual core i7 on the regular mini. Geekbench tests reveal that the quad core 2.0 GHz i7 beats the dual core 2.7 GHz i7. So don't let the CPU clock frequency confuse you. So if the CPU power is important to you, server is better. However, server has the Intel HD 3000 graphics processor as opposed to the AMD Radeon HD 6630 on the regular Mini. So, server has a lower performing graphics processor compared to the regular Mini. Trying to play some high bit rate mkv files, I noticed that the CPU power was more important as opposed to the graphics card's power. So, to me CPU power is more important. Playing games is not what I do with my media center. Last but not least, the server Mini comes with 2 hard disks as opposed to one disk on the regular Mini. If you configure a top of the line regular Mini with 2.7 i7, it will cost $899. By the time you add the price of the second hard disk on top of this, you will have to spend another $100 for the disk plus $70 for the missing cables from OWC which will bring the price to $1069. The point is, for the amount of hardware you are getting, the server is a better value. This is of course when money is no object. If you wish to configure a still capable yet a more price conscious Mini, then the 2.5 GHz standard Mini will save you $200 and won't be disappointing at all. I chose the server because I wanted the most powerful CPU I could get and needed the 2 hard drive option because I replaced the boot drive with a 120 Gb SSD for speed and use the second drive for media content.
     
  6. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2012
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    Denmark
    #6
    reply

    Ok, now I understand the difference. Thanx.

    ----------

    Ok thank you for good input but now I am thinking about the graphic card as different codec/format uses CPU more and other Graphic Processor more so the question is: Does Intel HD 3000 graphic card deliver full HD 1080P picture to the Plasma TV via Amplifier which I have which is Full HD (new one). Is it good enough and does it handle for an example blu-ray rips (movies) which are maybe 10 GB? I know that like you said the Radeon HD is better but is the Intel HD 3000 enough and has it HDMI output? Br, Deckerinn
     
  7. macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    #7
    For what it's worth, I'm running the regular dual-core i7 with XMBC. In addition to that, it does all my web browsing, etc.

    It's driving one montor at 2560x1440 with DisplayPort and the other at 1080p with HDMI.

    Never a hickup, even when processing video and the CPU goes up to 100% - and this is with all of my media files located on a Windows PC's external USB 2 drives.

    Most of the files are MKVs at 1080p with DTS, usually 10 GB or so in size.

    I went back and forth in making my decision and decided in the end to go with the more powerful GPU because my other needs are mild. Processor use right now while watching a movie, download 6 files, web browsing and RDP into the Windows machine is 24%.

    This is not to say that the server version will not work equally well or better. I just don't know.
     
  8. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    #8
    All Minis have the HDMI output and capable of 1080p output. I use VLC for most of my media files as it decodes anything you throw at it. I am not 100% certain if VLC uses hardware acceleration or not but it seems to me, from the CPU usage, it relies on the CPU to do the decoding. Also, I honestly don't know how does the Intel HD 3000 compare to the Radeon in real life. These bench tests are all fine but it is just like comparing Ferrari with Lamborghini when all you do is commuting. If having a second HDD is of no concern to you and all you wish is to output 1080p to your plasma, I'd say start with the 2.5Ghz i7 plain Mac Mini and see how it meets your demands. You can return it in 14 days and have it exchanged for a different Mini. Better yet, you can order both a server and a regular Mini, put them to tests side by side and return the one you don't need it in 14 days for a full refund with no questions asked. Can't have it better than that.:)
     
  9. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2012
    Location:
    Denmark
    #9
    reply

    Thank you but then I could also host personal websites and web-store via Mac Mini Server which is maybe more complex on standard mac mini. This choice for media center is quite difficult for me to be honest! br, Deckerinn
     
  10. macrumors 68020

    d21mike

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Torrance, CA
    #10
    I thought the desktop MAC OSX can also be used as a web server (maybe limited, have not used it). I am typing this on my MacBook Air and under Settings / Sharing there is "Web Sharing". See below for description. I turned it on and got the following page.

    It works!

    ---------------
    Web Sharing allows users of other computers to view webpages on this computer.
    ---------------
     
  11. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2010
    #11
    if i were you i wouldn't go this route. i would just built a htpc from scratch. i went the route your thinking and i have had nothing but problems. i got the basic Mac Mini last week and upgraded the ram up to 8gb so everything would work fine. i have been using plex and xbmc and both have been fantastic. now the issue here is sound. if you use anything like a surround unit, receiver, sound bar you are going to have sound issues. for some reason the Mac mini doesn't like to play nice with any of these. i have been fighting with it for 3 days now and just put my order in with new egg on a htpc i will just put together.
     
  12. macrumors 68040

    maturola

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    #12
    Standard
    (You can always add the server functions later if you want)
     
  13. macrumors 6502a

    JasonR

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2008
    #13
    I'm pretty sure there's a way to get good sound out of a Mini (???).

    And you could just buy a USB soundcard...
     
  14. thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Denmark
    #14
    I do have a high-end Yamaha 7.1-5.1-2.1 surround amplifier HD 1080P with HD out to Plasma TV. Is the soundcard in the Mac Mini only stereo maybe?
     
  15. macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    #15
    It supports multi-channel through HDMI (definitely) and DisplayPort/Thunderbolt (I think).
     
  16. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    #16
    I use an optical toslink cable from my mini to my surround receiver and it works perfectly, always has.

    Why do you assume everyone will have sound issues because you did? I don't doubt you had problems, but it's more likely something unique to your setup, no?
     
  17. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2010
    #17
    why should you have to use another cord for sound when HDMI is suppose to do everything?

    also if you do some research/google you will see that i am far from the only one out there having issues with sound and the mini;)
     
  18. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    #18
    Because there's no HDMI port on my receiver. :p I just used the toslink cable because that's what my receiver supported.
     
  19. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2010
    #19
    well that's your receiver. guess you shouldn't assume that everyone doesn't have HDMI :rolleyes:
     
  20. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    #20
    I never assumed anything about anyone else's sound setup, unlike you:

    All I've said is I haven't experienced these problems using a toslink optical cable for surround sound. Based on your research, do ALL users with HDMI have sound issues as you're representing?
     
  21. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2010
    #21
    like i said google or do research and you will see that tons of people are having issues.
     
  22. macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #22
    I run a Mac Mini Server 2.0 i7 Quad to play 30GB BluRay rips at 7.1 DTS surround with no hiccups at all.
     
  23. macrumors regular

    TinHead88

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2008
    #23
    I've been using a Mac Mini as a HTPC for some time now and it works very well. I use the optical out to my surround receiver as it does not have HDMI. This works perfectly except that Plex has, for a very long time now, not been able to play files with AAC surround. This is why I've switched to XBMC which has taken care of all my HTPC needs. I will start a new thread discussing the best settings for XBMC and a base mac mini as it has been a lot of trial and error to get things working smoothly, but I'm very happy now.
     
  24. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2012
    Location:
    Denmark
    #24
    ??

    If the budget doesnt matter which hardware version of Apple Mac Mini do you think is better as an htpc concerning the heat of the computer. Do you think the dual-core in the standard eill become hotter than the quad-core in imac server?

    br, deckerinn
     
  25. macrumors 68040

    MovieCutter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #25
    My quad core gets hot, but only when doing huge file transfers (my media library is about 12TB, so when I'm backing up, it gets hot). I'd go with the server since quad core CPU is more valuable for HD playback than a GPU at this point.
     

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