Mac Mini 2012 as HTPC

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by pawnslinger, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #1
    Currently I am using a WD TV Live as my HTPC. I have all my movies loaded on a DLNA server in my home, and the WDTV picks them up and plays them quite well. But, as you might guess, there are limitations -- mainly relating to internet content that is only avilable on a PC (such as ESPN3... my ISP, Cox, offers it, but it only works thru a real PC).

    So I have been thinking of upgrading to a Mac Mini 2012 to replace the WD TV Live. Hopefully, the Mac Mini will be able to access my DLNA server (I run a Servio server off my router). I am not too worried about that, the Mac Mini should be fine for that purpose. But I am worried about the 5.1 surround sound. How does that get from the Mac Mini to my AV receiver? The WDTV Live has an optical port, and it passes thru the AC3 audio quite well. How does the Mac Mini do this without a digital audio port?? I know that some older Mac Mini's do it thru a Toslink to Mini plug converter -- will this work with the new Mac Mini too? I know the new Mac Mini passes the AC3 audio on the HDMI cable, but my AV receiver is old and doesn't pickup the audio from the HDMI...

    So I am holding off my purchase until I can figure this out. No sense dropping a wad of cash on a new Mac Mini, if it won't play the AC3 5.1 for me.

    Also, many of my movies have a spanish track, the WDTV can switch between these tracks (and VLC can too), can iTunes do it? It would be nice, as I do need to play the spanish sound track sometimes, the english at other times.

    Thanks for any advice or help you can give!
     
  2. macrumors 6502a

    ljonesj

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Location:
    Kingsport TN
    #2
    the make i think an optical line cable that has the 3.5 mm plug that goes to the optical cable style in that goes into the receiver i think and does your receiver have a hdmi on it if it does just run a hdmi cable from the mini to the receiver then the receiver to the tv with hdmi
     
  3. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2011
  4. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #4
    As I wrote, my AV receiver only processes stereo signals on the HDMI. So if I must use the HDMI, I have to purchase a new AV receiver -- makes the total price of going to the Mac Mini about $300 more expensive.

    I know about the Toslink to mini plug that you mentioned. Again, I wrote about it in my query above. But I am unsure if this will work with the new 2012 Mac Mini... since the multi-channel is now on the HDMI (which I can't use).

    ----------

    I can't use it, because my AV receiver only processes stereo signals on the HDMI... my receiver requires the 5.1 to be on an optical cable or LPCM (which the Mac Mini doesn't have).

    Do you know if the Toslink to Mini plug setup will work with the 2012 Mac mini, like it does with the previous model?
     
  5. macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #5
    Get an 2010 or 2011 Mac Mini. Then get a new receiver. A 2012 Mac Mini just for a HTPC is a little overkill IMO. Any of the older HDMI Mac Mini's have plenty of power for an HTPC.
     
  6. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    #6
    Mini-plug to Toslink works fine on my 2011 Mini...not sure if anything changed on the 2012 though.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #7
    IMHO the whole idea of an HTPC is overkill. I love my WDTV Live, but some stuff requires a PC, not a media device. As long as I am going to buy a Mac mini, I think I want the latest one... just for GPs.
     
  8. macrumors newbie

    locomotive282

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Location:
    Carson, CA
    #8
    The new Mac mini has an optical out port, it is integrated with the analog audio output. There proper cable is available most places not just from Apple and it will output AC3. In the future when you upgrade your receiver you can utilize the HDMI out.

    Although I use my Mac mini in a home theater set up. I dont have it set up as a HTPC. I use as a PC for web browsing, games, photo and video editing. When I want to watch Hulu or Netflix I switch over to my Apple TV.

    As for switching between audio tracks the Mac Mini can do that too.
     
  9. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #9
    Yeah, I got that far. I was hoping someone here had tried this with the new ones. But I guess most folks have newer AV receivers.... I just hate to throw out a perfectly good piece of equipment, just because it needs a Toslink feed!!
     
  10. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    #10
    iTunes can switch between subtitle tracks, but it's awful for navigating with a remote from the couch. Take a look at Plex or XBMC...they have 10-foot interfaces that are easily controlled by remote and also allow switching between subtitle tracks.

    ----------

    Well, both show "Audio line out/headphone minijack (digital/analog)" in Apple's tech specs, so since it works with the 2011 you should be good with the 2012, unless something else changed :eek:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/SP659
    http://support.apple.com/kb/SP632
     
  11. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #11
    Actually I watch Hulu and Netflix thru my bluray player. My WDTV has that available too, but my family seems to use the bluray player most often, so we just use the Hulu/Netflix there. Actually in my setup, I think almost all of the devices have those 2 services, including my Tivo. Anyhow, the only device I am thinking of replacing is the WDTV... which is just used for movie playback from my local media server. I use Servio as a DLNA server and it feeds to all my devices, including cell phones, tablets, game consoles, WDTVs, etc, etc. I really like Servio (if you can't tell <grin>). At any rate, I wouldm't change anything, but last year I cut the cable, and now just Tivo off-air, plus of course my media server, and the other online servers. Well, it has worked pretty well, but then the college bowl games!! Almost none of them are broadcast this year. So I am forced to watch on my desktop, where I can get ESPN3, thanks to Cox, my ISP who provides ESPN3 free to their high speed internet customers. But it is online on PC, nothing else. Therefore, the need for an HTPC.

    So, yes, it is overkill. But I want to watch the bowl games on my large screen TV, not on my desktop. So I feel forced to spend a lot of cash to scratch my bowl watching needs.
     
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2011
    #12
    Maybe you could sell your old receiver and upgrade. Hdmi is ubiquitous now. It's going to be a good investment going forward.
     
  13. macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #13
    I do this on my iMac 2008 now. I have a long TOSLINK to 1/8" plug I got from Monoprice that runs between the iMac and my HDTV. Works great for 5.1 decoding. I use Plex for my interface and have been in love with it for some time now.

    I just happened to get a Yamaha RX-V671 for Christmas and am in the process of reconfiguring everything for a little easier use (for my wife). The current problem is my iMac outputs DVI and optical audio, and my receiver is HDMI crazy! Had to figure out the best option for this and am going with DVI to Component+Optical.

    My old receiver was a Sony deck that didn't have HDMI, so I can feel the OP's pain on a good quality receiver that is just a touch out of the modern age.
     
  14. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #14
    My AV receiver does have HDMI and I use it quite a bit, but it is old enough that the audio over HDMI is rudimentary, so I use Toslink for all my audio... my system has 3 or 4 of them running around, so it seemed strange to me to see a piece of equipment that doesn't have an optical connector. But it seems the Toslink to mini plug deal will work. Eventually I will buy a new receiver, but I bet that will be a real pain in the butt when I do.
     
  15. macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 3, 2010
    #15
    The current-generation has digital audio out with AC3 support:

    "The headphone/line out port accommodates digital optical audio output, analog audio output with a 24-bit, 44.1-192 kHz D/A converter, digital audio output up to 24-bit stereo and 44.1-192 kHz sampling rate and supporting encoded digital audio output (AC3 and DTS). For analog headphone / line output, use a standard audio cable with 3.5mm metal plug. For digital audio, you can use Apple iPhone headset with microphone or a standard TOSLINK cable with a TOSLINK mini-plug adapter."
     
  16. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #16
    Perfect! Thank you. Exactly what I'd hoped. I have been looking at these cables online and have noticed quite a few available that actually don't need a mini-plug converter, they already come with one end with the Toslink mini-plug and the other a standard optical plug. I have been reading reviews from folks using them with iMacs and MacBook pros... even older gen Mac mini. But this is the confirmation that I was hoping for, that this would also work with the new 2012 Mac mini. Thank you, again!
     
  17. macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 3, 2010
    #17
    Here's a link to the source (Apple's Mac Mini Ports page in Support):

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5539
     
  18. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    #18
    Now that I have the audio situation settled (in my mind)... another thing came up in my recent research into the Mac mini 2012 (someone suggested I go with a 2011 model, but I want the latest greatest).

    Anyhow, here it is -- has the HDMI video problem been solved? I know that Apple released a software update to fix the flickering problem, but I haven't heard or read anything about the blown-out light colors. The only suggestion I have seen is to use the Thunderbolt port with a MDP-converter to HDMI and run it that way... i.e. the color problem is only on the HDMI port itself.

    What is the latest on this?

    Can I get audio thru the Thunderbolt port using an MDP-converter? I know some Macs do provide audio this way, but I don't think older Mac minis do. Does the new 2012 Mac mini send the audio thru the Thunderbolt port as well as video?

    I know, I research this stuff to death before making a final buying decision... my relatives all have good laugh at this, but when they need advice, they come to me <grin>.

    ----------

    I just answered my own question. Using the link provided 1 message above, the specs do say that the Thunderbolt port will provide audio, given the proper 3rd party adapter cable. No problemo, I've seen a bunch that do this trick.

    Thanks to whomever posted that link, a lot of good info there.
     
  19. macrumors newbie

    locomotive282

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Location:
    Carson, CA
    #19
    I have not had the problem since the the the last update. I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  20. macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 3, 2010
    #20
    3 Minis tested on 4 recent-vintage flatscreen TVs, no flickering noted.
     
  21. pure3d2, Jan 4, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013

    macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    #21
    You don't need a new receiver. I'm using an older receiver hooked up to a 2012 Mac Mini via an optical cable (one end is a miniplug, the other end going to the receiver is a toslink plug).

    For the video, I'm using the miniDisplayPort to HDMI adapter ($8 shipped from monoprice). I was having bright flashes when watching TV through Win7 Media Center. Going to the intel display management center to disable the "Adaptive Contrast Enhancement" option fixed the problem. More info here.

    I went with the adapter because the contrast does appear to be better compared to using the native HDMI port. The adapter did introduce a new issue with Media Center, though. Whenever I powered on my TV, there's a delay before the Mac Mini will detect it. If Media Center is launched before the TV is detected, it will display at 1024 x 768. The solution to this was to ensure that the TV was on before opening Media Center.

    This adapter that I bought supports audio pass-through, but I'm not using that functionality because I'm using the audio/optical port on the Mac Mini to send 5.1 to the receiver.

    I'm using one of those Harmony remotes that turn everything on and off at the same time.
     
  22. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2011
    #22
    I have been using the HDMI port to output to my TV since purchasing the mini (not too long ago) and never experienced the HDMI issues that were reported. I wouldn't worry too much about the issue, but in any case I'm sure you would be able to swap it out.
     
  23. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2012
    #23
    Just so you guys know, the blown out colors on the Mac mini can easily be fixed. There is a calibration feature in the display section of settings if you select the advanced setting and follow the instructions, you can get a good video output. I have zero issues with my 2012 mini and it looks really good after calibrating
     

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