New Mac MIni as htpc overkill?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by lrmat, Oct 26, 2012.

  1. macrumors newbie

    I've been vacillating towards building an htpc and i kinda had my parts mapped out: itx mobo, ivy bridge i3, ssd, lian li case, etc. close to $700 in parts and who knows how many hours in putting it together and configuring (something i've done numerous times before but find harder and harder to do as i get older and have less free time to futz around). With
    apple's recent announcement, it hit me. i could get this new mac mini with ivy bridge and 4000 graphics, i have an antec 4 drive encloser with usb 3. I am a relatively recent apple computer convert (the previous mac mini server 2011) and that worked out great.... why not get a mac mini for an htpc? low wattage, small, easy on the eyes (and easy to hide if need be... but really). my question is, is the quad core i7 mini overkill? here is what it would do initially:

    Plex server / xbmc / Boxee (i'm figuring this out, i'm transitioning away from my boxee box)
    some blu-ray to mkv conversion
    with the very real possibility also being a cable box through either homerun hd or ceton's infinity4 (which probably means installing windows, i know).

    it should be able to do all or at least most of these at the same time with out crapping out.

    there's probably more that i'm forgetting but that should give you a general idea.... what do you think? i7 or go with the cheaper i5?
  2. macrumors 6502

    Some data centers are running racks full of Minis, even doing virtual servers with them. They're surprisingly meaty, the new ones even more so. I think you'll be okay.
  3. macrumors regular

  4. macrumors newbie

    I appreciate the prompt replies. and i read the link..... it still didn't answer my question...... but in the end i'd rather bring a gun to a knife fight then bring a knife that just ain't big enough.
  5. macrumors 65816

    What is overkill really? You could get away with less with a low power i3 CPU and a nice GPU video decoder that could handle H.264 as you already intended, if you want to spend less it'll do what you want. It might be a little jerkier for CPU intensive tasks, but it depends on where you're happy to draw the line in the sand. The Mini won't be able to rip Blu-Rays without an external drive though.
  6. macrumors 6502a


    I sugest you build your own PC. The MacMini will be really sad if you only use him as a HTPC.

    Besides, buidling is fun and you can add expansion cards, like a capture card or even a gaming card.
  7. macrumors newbie

    I mapped out a build and I'm just not that into going through all that trouble and trouble shooting. Especially since the build would be itx for form factor. I'm not concerned with the Mac being lonely...... It's a computer. Besides it will be near my other Mac mini. They can commiserate.
  8. macrumors 6502a


    I'm in a similar boat as you (debating to build a pc or buy a mini) and decided to just buy the mini. The i7 is overkill and you can probably get away with the 2011 or 2010 model too for just htpc. the i7 will convert videos faster but that's probably the only thing you'll notice between the two.

    Btw, what is that 4-bay enclosure that you have? I'm looking around for a 4 or 5 bay enclosure
  9. macrumors newbie

    The encloser i am/will be using (right now its off and under my desk) is a Vantec nexstar. I had an hp media server that died and bought the encloser to liberate the data on the drives (every once in a while I'll copy around data trying to consolidate all the data spread throughout three of those drives).

    Back to the mini....... Here's my thing. The i5 is a dual core, the i7 a quad. I want a device that might be doing torrenting while, while recording a few streams of hd tv, while serving out and transcoding to a few iOS devices some hd content...... And maybe throw in converting a blu-ray to mkv.. Can the i5 do this with out choking? Can the i7 for that matter? I intend to have seperate drives for seperate things, ie, a drive for torrents, a drive for movies/tv, one for backups, etc.
  10. macrumors 65816

    I'm using my 2009 Core 2 duo Mini as a Plex Media Server and it works great. Then I use plex on all my devices. In the Living Room I use my Xbox 360 as a DLNA player to play from Plex and that too works fantastic.
  11. macrumors 65816

    Sorry if you already thought about this but why don't you kill 2 birds with one stone by using your older 2011 mini server as the HTPC and then getting the 2012 quad core mini as your new computer? That way you get an HTPC that is still plenty good in terms of specs, and your main computer gets an upgrade too :)
  12. macrumors newbie

    Actually, that was the first thing that crossed my mind. My Mac mini server has the sandy bridge i7 so at first blush I thought the same thing..... But if I think about offloading this pc (which is on 24/7 a lot) with the duties of file sharing (torrents, iOS printer, pms, transcoding, converting, maybe saving to and accessing multiple drives), a little extra horse power doesn't seem like a bad idea. add the fact that using external drives also has to factor as a possible bottle neck w/ its USB connection. The external 4 drive enclosure I already have is USB 3, making it a better/cheaper move to use the newer mini for HTPC duty. Does that logic seem flawed? I've kinda set myself to this idea after months of thinking of building a low power high drive volume HTPC/server. Is my logic sound?
  13. macrumors 65816

    No, that makes sense now that you explain it more. I'd say if you have the means, the mini makes for a pretty great HTPC. I used my 2011 mini server as an HTPC of sorts since in my old place it was located in my TV stand/home theater area because my desk was right next to that.

    The only drawback I really saw with the mini was that under heavy load it could get loud, and that may be distracting in an HT setting. Normally it didn't matter in movie playback but it also seemed dependent on the encoding format of your movies. h264 it was no problem. VC-1 tended to get my mini really hot because the playback software is not as refined and I think it was not multithreaded.

    If you built your own HTPC you could have more flexibility to design cooling, so that it would remain quiet even under load. However no custom built PC is going to be anywhere near as compact as the mini.
  14. macrumors newbie

    ok. i had two lian li cases in mind for my home built htpc; one a diskless case that would have been great for a server with hot-swap-able drive bays and the other a very tiny case that would only fit a slim drive (which i wouldn't use cause i already have an external blu-ray), a 3.5 drive and a 2.5 drive. every pc i've built has outlived its usefulness to me and i end up donating it to someone. they work well. but... i've built enough pc's to come across all kinds of problems and windows always has issues. a pc that is on 24/7 in the windows environment needs to be rebooted regularly to keep it stable (at least that's been my experience). i guess i've matured a little (wellllll), i dont want to ***** around too much, i want things to just work. i dont want to spend to much time figuring things out.... i want them to work. i have had an iphone since the first in 2007 (i used to jump from device to device, to latest and greatest). now i don't care if the os is hasn't changed much or is the same old, same old.... i just want things to work. i want the device to get out of the way and do what ever the task is i put before it. yeah, I could do it cheaper but I've been pretty happy with my mini and apple's OS. And on that train of thought, dell really screwed the pooch, before the mini I had a dell mini hybrid, which was a tiny form factor pc that fit anywhere. I fell in love with the small size and low power usage (which is kind why I went the Mac mini route). Dell gave up on making these stylish, small pc's and the only ones making them on the windows side are underpowered atom based crap. Any way..... After long, rambling rant, I'm kinda comfortable with the whole Mac mini HTPC decision, cause even if I go with the i7 mini it will probably be more efficient then the i3 HTPC I was planning on building.
  15. macrumors newbie

    the cases i considered for my htpc build:

    anyhoo. i pulled the trigger and bought the i7 mini. planned to pick it up but didnt count on how bad things are on account to sandy. no trains, the buses are packed and driving to and parking in midtown is nigh impossible and apple is unreachable on the phone (haven't received my pickup email). i'll try to go tomorrow morning if i dont get called in.

    I've spent some of today going through my media files and organizing/renaming them. is there anything i should know/do? i've already disabled the ir in my mac.
  16. macrumors newbie

    Spec wise yes you may call this as an overkill. But I' m using this things as Windows HTPC since the introducing of Intel CPUs
    I believe 2012 version will be my 5th upgrade. I have one simple reason: there is no DIY case around that my wife can accept in our living room! And this is the most stable and small piece of Hardware you can ever find even with Windows :)

    For my taste closest one was pricey Moncacso 312.(3x3,5" HDD) But I got lost in for 1 week to find proper PSU, CPU cooler, case FAN etc. It' s just not worth it.
  17. macrumors newbie

    #thedenethor, exactly... well... not that its not worth it. it's just that i want to get to the point as quickly as possible. i buy mac mini, set up software, go. tweek, wash, rinse, repeat.

    if i build, the amount of research and figuring out is a little exhausting and keeps me from pulling the trigger. when it comes to a build, you want to measure twice, cut once. then after all the research and ordering and waiting for the parts. you put them together, and hope it all works and if it doesn't hope you have enough spare parts to test and figure out what's wrong. update all of the drivers and then setup softaware, go. tweek, wash, rinse, repeat.

    I think it's worth it to me to cut out a lot of that. at some point when my daughter and son are older, and if they are interested, i'll build a pc with them cause i think its really cool and like i stated earlier (or implied) the home built pc's last longer (to me) are more durable and you know what you've got. but for my current needs.... prefab it is.
  18. macrumors 6502a

    A Core2Duo will decode 1080p video without any difficulty.

    What really excels in the Mac Mini is how much noise it makes. I can't stress how important it is to have as close to silence as possible in a living room based PC.
  19. macrumors newbie

    how much ram is enough to run the mini as a media server/server, player, media converter, etc.? future proof? will 8mgs be enough? is 16 too much? will order from crucial.
  20. macrumors regular

    I grabbed a refurb 2011 mid level Mac Mini and upgraded the ram to 8gb. I'm running Plex and since this is only being used as a HTPC, dont see a need to go higher on the ram
  21. macrumors newbie

    since i have to upgrade the ram anyway, i'm going to buy 16mgs, drop it in my 2011 mini and take the 8mgs in that machine and put it in the htpc mini.
  22. macrumors newbie

    I'm using 8Gb RAM and it is more than enough for HTPC. I used to stick with 4 until I realise more RAM you got, faster Live TV GUIDE/EPG you got :)
    Assuming your system device is SSD. Event with minis I'm still doing some DIY :cool:

    Regarding to noise; for me, Mini 2011 with Radeon is the worst performer across all of my minis. This things blows the fan like a jet engine @%30 total CPU load. Use case; 1080p Plex realtime transcoding, or 1080i DVB-S Live TV real time transcoding. Thats why I going to upgrade it to Quad i7 2012. For the record here is my short history with minis:

    2.0 Ghz Core2Duo Mid 2007 (Upgraded due to poor quality of Intel GMA950)
    2.5 Ghz Core2Duo Mid 2009 (Upgraded due too poor performance for 1080p playback and 1080i de-interlacing)
    2.4 Ghz Core2Duo Mid 2010 with DIY Blu-ray (Upgraded due to poor 1080p/i realtime transcoding still using in other room)
    2.5 Ghz Core i5 / Radeon 6630 /SSD DIY Mid 2011-Current (will be upgraded due to poor thermal specs and noise)

    Hope this helps. I'm dealing with thing for almost 6 years believe me I know exactly what I' m saying ;)
  23. macrumors 68000

  24. macrumors newbie

    While I'm sure that would do the job, that thing looks super big and super ugly. Wow! The new Mac mini I bought sits between my Xbox and ps3, a keeper of the peace. I wouldn't know where to put that thing (my first instinct is outside). I ac say that the 2012 mini seems to handle things better then the previous model. The doesn't seem to kick in, or at least I don't here it. The previous model would start to get loud if I played youtube videos, but the 2012 didn't make a sound. I played a 1080p movie while streaming two different 720p videos of adventure time to my ipd and iPhone..... Couldn't here it. So far so good. Now it's about tweaking and figuring out plex (I'm moving from boxee box).
  25. macrumors newbie

    It's a really sounds great features.

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