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Some Mac advice, please?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by MikieMikie, Sep 10, 2007.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    I need a recommendation for replacing our Macbook Pro as the "workhorse" of my media server.

    My wife uses this machine daily and it runs hot, normally, but it's well within normal ranges. I want to have her "own" the machine, and not have to share it with our media serving and converting needs.

    When I get home from work, I'll typically use MacTheRipper to rip a DVD to an external drive using the MBP. When that's done, I'll start up Handbrake, select the :apple:TV preset, have dinner, retire to the living room, solve the mysteries of the universe, cure cancer, and then head off to bed. On the way, I'll meander back to see how Handbrake is doing. This might be as long as 5 hours from the time I started it.

    Well, it's not done, and it can have as much as 3 or more hours to go. I hold my hand, palm down, over the area where the power cord attaches and get a nice 2nd degree burn. I let it run and head off to the bed for blissful sleep.

    On awakening the next morning, I see that Handbrake is done! Hoorah! (Are those people or fairies dancing in the street in celebration?) It finished sometime in the wee hours of the AM. While having coffee, before heading off to work to earn the money to support this habit... er... hobby, I start up MetaX, select some nice tags, and leave for work. When my wife gets to the machine, it's like a pancake griddle, with a cow bouncing in the dock.

    See, she's a touch typist. Only its so hot, she can't touch to type.

    I figure it this way: hardware is not all alike, and this machine (MBP) is excellent for light housekeeping, dusting, moving from room to room, etc. But as a 24/7 workhorse? I think not.

    My friend just bought an :apple:TV after seeing mine, and convinced himself to buy an iMac 24" 2.8ghz with 2gb RAM. He seems to run handbrake with great speed... but speed isn't the issue since running HB overnight to get the H.264 is fine with me... as long as it doesn't spontaneously combust.

    So, I ask you: what should it be?
    A MacMini running its little rubber feet off?
    A MacPro doing HB conversions in 3.2 seconds?
    An iMac 20"?

    Is RAM more important than clock speed for Handbrake?

    I would surely appreciate some feedback, opinions and a good slapping around.

    -- Mikie
  2. macrumors member

    A lot depends on your budget.

    If funds are unlimited, then I would go for the mac pro. If you only have say a $2000 budget, then the iMac 24" 2.8ghz would be fine.

    If you have the money for a mac pro, don't forget that you will want to bump up that ram. 4GB is the minimum I would recommend. The more the merrier.

    Also, you will want to get the best video card out there that you can. 8 core is way overkill though.

    Also, the Mac Pro is due for an upgrade very soon. So if you go this route, I would wait to see what is coming out.

    Here are the specs of what I would get. Ram and hard drives I would buy elsewhere. This price includes the monitor:
    Mac Pro
    Subtotal $3,726.00
    Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
    1GB (2 x 512MB)
    250GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB (2 x dual-link DVI)
    Apple Cinema HD Display (23" flat panel)
    One 16x SuperDrive
    Both Bluetooth 2.0+EDR and AirPort Extreme

    iMac 24" screen
    Subtotal $1,799.00
    2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 1x1GB
    320GB Serial ATA Drive
    SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
    ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB memory
    24-inch glossy widescreen LCD
    AirPort Extreme
    Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  3. macrumors 6502a


    Ain't that the truth. It sounds like you're saying to forget the Mini and go for brute force power? And the more RAM the better? If so, I can save up a little... I'd rather buy something right than compromise and be disappointed by the results.

    I wasn't even looking at the 24" since the screen size would be wasted on a "server." Are these iMacs "industrial strength?" I know the processer and HD bump at the high-end 24" model. That's what my friend bought... his 1st Mac, no less.

    So, does RAM matter with video processing, or is it all processor speed? In a fantasy world where 8GB could be put into a Mini, which it cannot in reality, would performance be equivilant to a faster machine, like a 2.4 Ghz iMac with only 1GB ram? In other words, is it safe to say, Processing power is most important. Assuming the power, the more ram the better, too?

    I own a dual G4 mirrored door that now makes a fine doorstop, so based on my positive experience with the dual processor setup, I would not be afraid of doing the Mac Pro.

    Thanks for the heads up on this. I knew the iMac lineup was new... but had no idea about the product cycle on the Mac Pro.

    Thanks for the info.
    -- Mikie
  4. macrumors member

    Well, let me back up a second because I just re-read your post and now I realize that this is only to be the workhorse of your media server?

    Will you be using this for other than Handbrake?

    I was basing those 2 recommendations thinking you would be using the computer. :eek:

    If you are using it strictly as a Handbrake server type thing with no thought of using it to process your own videos/photos, then I want to correct my initial post:

    The mac mini should fit this bill just fine.

    Subtotal $749.00
    1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x1GB
    80GB Serial ATA drive
    Combo Drive

    These were just updated to the Core 2 Duo and should do the job just fine. Granted, I still have a powermac G5, so I can't verify this for you.

    But, if you ever wanted to edit your own videos or photos, then the mac pro or iMac would be the way to go.
  5. macrumors member

    Well, you definately wouldn't be disappointed by the Mac Pro. But I can't say that about the Mac Mini. But you would be spending $2000 more for it at the minimum.

    Are they industrial strength? I would think so, but then I'm not sure if you mean by construction-wise. The iMacs are metal enclosed, so they aren't fragile.

    For Handbrake, I think there are a few factors involved:
    1) Processor speed
    2) the disk drive speed (Mac Pro can read DVDs at up to 16x speed with the option of 2 optical disk drives, iMac reads DVDs at up to 8x speed, & the mac mini reads at 8x)
    3) ram - I may be wrong, but I think possibly they put some in the cache,so the more ram you have, the better.

    But for other applications (such as Aperture and Final Cut Pro), a big chunk of the workload is done by the video card. So the bigger/faster is better.

    Good question and I would have to get back to you on that one. I would have to ask others. But there are other factors involved like the front bus speed.

    Mac Mini - 2MB or 4MB on-chip L2 cache
    667MHz frontside bus

    iMac - 4MB shared L2 cache at full processor speed
    800MHz system bus

    Mac Pro - 4MB of shared L2 cache per processor (8MB total)
    128-bit SSE3 vector engine
    64-bit data paths and registers
    Energy efficiency optimization
    1.33GHz, 64-bit dual independent frontside

    I believe so, but I'm not sure.
  6. macrumors 6502a


    Just streaming. Run iTunes, connect external HDs, Rip & Handbrake all day, all night, whatever is necessary. Stream to :apple:TV.

    Thanks. I can use the MacBook Pro for all photo processing necessary -- it's fast enough for Photoshop, etc. I just don't want to grind it into the ground doing Handbrake, staying on 24/7 as a "server," etc.

    Seems like as soon as I get my $100 store credit from :apple: for my iPhone, I'm off to the :apple: store!

    Thanks, again, JohnR
    -- Mikie
  7. macrumors member

    Oh, and since you want a headless mac, here's what I would get:

    Mac Pro
    Subtotal $2,299.00
    Two 2.0GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
    1GB (2 x 512MB)
    250GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT 256MB
    Two 16x SuperDrives

    Subtotal $3,397.00
    Two 3.0GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
    1GB (2 x 512MB)
    250GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT 256MB (single-link DVI/dual-link DVI)
    Two 16x SuperDrives

    Or even this one
    Refurbished Mac Pro Quad 2.66GHz Intel Xeon
    Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors
    1GB (2 x 512MB) memory
    250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s 7200 rpm hard drive
    16x SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
    NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics with 256MB memory
    Your price: $2,199.00
  8. macrumors member

    Then a Mac Mini is the way to go! Glad I could help.
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Thanks very much, JohnR. I appreciate it.
    -- Mikie
  10. macrumors member

    Hey it is said that apple is going to announce the Leopard .
  11. bgd
    macrumors regular

    I use a mini to do just what you describe. Takes about 15 hours.

    It is a powerpc with only 512 ram, though.
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Still, 15 hours!

    That's a long time to make soup.

    Maybe I should think about the Mac Pro, bite the bullet, use it for my music writing, programming (Windows) and have it do the work.

    Now, all I need is a mask and a gun... :D

    -- Mikie
  13. macrumors regular

    Or a brick. (linky)
  14. macrumors 6502a

    LOL. What were these guys on? In & Out in under a minute??!?!

    Thanks for the link. :D

    -- Mikie
  15. macrumors member

    Mike, the reason why his takes so long is because it's a single processor.

    The new Mac Mini's are Core 2 Duo's which are not only faster in ghz speed but are DUAL processors.

    Handbrake is dual processor aware.

    My dual 2ghz G5 powermac takes about 2 1/2 hours to rip a DVD. I bet the new mac minis are the same or even quicker.
  16. macrumors 6502a

    Thanks for pointing that out, John. I figure I have about a month to decide what I want to do. I have a Mac Dual 1.8 G4 (IIRC) with 1.g GB, sitting in storage, that we put there when we were on the road. Now that we've settled back down, we're sending for our things. I wonder how this dual G4 will do with handbrake? If I decide to keep it, use it as a workhorse-server, I'd still need to upgrade the OS -- it's still back at 10.3 somewhere.

    My guess is that over the next month, I will be looking closely at the top-end Mini as well as a Mac Pro workstation. Since I program, and am stuck in the MS Windows world for my living, I want to see if I can swing a Windows development environment on a Mac Pro without breaking the bank (or robbing one) and maintaining a decent work environment.

    If I can get the Mac Pro, and get it to work as a development environment, then I will use it as a media server, too. I also write symphonic music, so I could happily use the "audio rendering" power of a Mac Pro. Still, I am looking into buying the Mini for the server, and then a mid-range iMac... ay yi yi.

    As you can tell, I am still thrashing a little about this, but I have a little time yet before the money frees up. Since my discretionary income might be considerable next month, and with the launch of 10.5 in October, I have some time. I'll just have to be careful Handbraking on the Macbook Pro in the meantime.

    -- Mikie
  17. macrumors regular

    I'd go with a mac mini.
    I have the 1.8ghz core 2 duo model and to rip a dvd and encode it in handbrake on the Appl-tv preset takes about 3-4 hours total for a normal movie length dvd.
    You can also rip many dvd's at once and queue them up for encoding overnight so you can do 10 or so a night if you feel so inclined.
    For simple encoding iTunes and streaming the mini should meet your requirements admirably.
    If you want you can also up the ram in it to 2 gig just for fun.
  18. macrumors 6502

    I think you are either exaggerating the length of time to encode, or the number of movies you can encode in one night. Or you sleep for 30-40 hours a night.:eek:

    A Mini will do the job nicely though, the newer high end one has about the same specs as my MBP (maybe better even) and that works nicely. Just add RAM
  19. bgd
    macrumors regular

    Don't let my experiences put you off the mini. My thing limps along compared to the new intel versions. Mini is a nice size for a media centre. Mine is hidden in the hifi cupboard with no screen and keyboard. I access it via VNC.

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