1.66 / 1.83 C2D Minis as HTPCs with 1080p content?

Aesthetica

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 18, 2014
40
14
So after months of putting off turning my old PC into an HTPC, I've come to realise that for the cost of buying a nice high end case and adding WiFi, I could just buy an old Mini, surprised to see the 1.66 / 1.83 Ghz Core2Duo models can go for as little as £80 on eBay.

Does anyone have any current experience of running one of these as a media centre with Plex or XBMC and using them to play small 2GB or so 1080p movie encodes? How do they perform? I would run either Lion or Windows 8, still undecided

Anyone anecdotes in this area would be very useful!

Cheers
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
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They work very well. Something else that you can do is get an older MacMini1,1 CoreSolo or CoreDuo and upgrade its CPU to a Core2Duo up to 2.33Ghz. A Core2Duo CPU doesn't run very much anymore seeing as they're around 7 years old. Then flash the MacMini2,1 firmware to be able to use an additional 1.3GB of ram. Depending on your skill set and costs, this may be a cheaper alternative than getting a Core2Duo Mac Mini.

They handle most 1080p media well, but they can show their limitations very quickly if trying to do things in the background. If WiFi isn't a requirement, you can install a Broadcom Crystal HD h264 decoder card in their mini-PCIe slot.

Windows 8 may be a bit much for them, as they are limited by the Intell GMA950 GPU. If you do get a older MacMini1,1 model then upgrade it, you'll have to edit Lion's SupportPlatforms.plist before you can install or boot Lion from it.
 

EmlynDewar

macrumors regular
Aug 17, 2011
131
65
Chengdu, China
Just bought a BCM70015 for my 2ghz C2D, but not got round to installing it yet.
Will be downgrading to Snow Leopard and getting that installed next week when I have time.

The ancient Mac Mini is probably my most used machine still, have it plugged in to the TV, sharing iTunes library and playing media. :)
Mine has always seemed alright with Lion and 720p content, haven't tried 1080p, but I imagine it would buckle and die without the CrystalHD.
Opinion on these forums is that Snow Leopard will work better, and I don't think the CrystalHD works with Lion... :(

Edit: Did the right thing and binned OSX, running Windows 7 with the BCM70015. Pretty sure the only thing that'll stop me running this machine is motherboard failure.
 
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Ghostbuster386

macrumors regular
Jun 12, 2014
123
12
Orlando, FL
They work very well. Something else that you can do is get an older MacMini1,1 CoreSolo or CoreDuo and upgrade its CPU to a Core2Duo up to 2.33Ghz. A Core2Duo CPU doesn't run very much anymore seeing as they're around 7 years old. Then flash the MacMini2,1 firmware to be able to use an additional 1.3GB of ram. Depending on your skill set and costs, this may be a cheaper alternative than getting a Core2Duo Mac Mini.
Wher could I get the Core2Duo processor to install in a CoreSolo?
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
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I see a lot of these as pulls from other computers on the bay. Do you have any experience with using these? Or have you only used new replacements?
I've installed many used CPUs from eBay in the past. They're a mostly inert stable part that's hard to kill. The worst I've gotten is one with a few bent pins. Those were just fixed with a mechanical pencil. The used CPUs are still going very well, even after 6+ years at near max usage.
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
It will be a half-baked solution anyway. Although C2D around 2.4Ghz can decode 1080p, you do want the GPU to take care of it as the GPU can do it with the fans at low speed.
So for HTPC needs, try to get a 2009 model or better. The 9400M runs circles around a C2D when it comes to HD decoding. Even a Raspberry Pi will offer smoother HD playback and do it complete silent at 35 bucks.
 

Cave Man

macrumors 604
OK, I'm in business. The 2.33 seems to be running fine and the SSD is nice and snappy. Questions, though, where do I download the Mac mini 2,1 firmware and is it just a matter of double-clicking on it and wait for it to do its thing upon reboot? I'd like to get the 2x2gb sticks ordered. Also, are there any kits to replace the Superdrive with a second SATA hard drive?
 

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Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
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This thread details how to install the MacMini2,1 firmware: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/1197875/ The 2005-2007 Minis use a PATA optical drive interface. You can use any optibay/datadoubler designed for a PATA Macbook in a 2005-2007 Mini without a problem. They even make ones that have a built in SATA adapter than uses the Marvell chipset.
 

Cave Man

macrumors 604
Perfect, thanks. I have the computer up to 2,1 so I'll order the RAM. It appears to me that one could put a 15mm drive (e.g., 2 TB SATA) on top of the SSD and even have a bit of space; however, it will require modifying/cutting the plastic housing. One step at a time...
 
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Intell

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Jan 24, 2010
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Some people have put a taller 2.5" SATA drive in one of those Minis. It does inhibit the flow of air and can result in a warmer than designed Mini.
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
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What version of Geekbench are you using? Versions 2 and 3 result in different scoring based on how they test. Lion runs acceptably on 2007 Minis, but not as fast as Snow Leopard. If you install it on a Mini that was once a CoreSolo or CoreDuo, you'll have to edit or remove the SupportedPlatforms.plist or it won't boot/install.
 

Cave Man

macrumors 604
Ok, the two 2 GB sticks, drive caddy and 802.11ac USB wifi adapter arrived and I am quite happy to say they are all working. Thanks much to Intell for his help on getting this together. Final specs are:

2.33 ghz Core 2 Duo T7600
240 GB OWC SSD on the SATA bus
640 GB WD SATA hard drive in the drive caddy (PATA to SATA)
3 GB RAM (Mushkin 2x2GB)
Edimax 802.11ac wifi
Snow Leopard 10.6.8

It boots in about 12 seconds and the wifi is really fast on my Airport Extreme Base Station (802.11ac). I really had no idea that Safari could be as fast as it is on this little beast.

And yes, it plays high bit-rate 1080p content without stuttering using VLC (but the fan comes on, as expected).
 

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tallchris

macrumors member
Dec 11, 2010
71
1
This thread has been very helpful to me, especially your posts Intell.

Just finished a upgrading a Core Solo Mac Mini I got a for £65. I installed 2GB of RAM (£8), and a 1.83GHz C2D T5600 (£6). So far i'm £80 in, and I'm going to try and get a small SSD aswell

With 2GB of RAM I was able to turn it into a '2,1' and install Lion.

I was wondering a couple things.

- If I stick in 4GB RAM, will there be much graphical improvement, as they use integrated graphics?

- The best processor it can take is a 2.33GHz. How much of a 'real world' difference would this make over the one i installed?
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
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You'll see very little to no gain with 4GB (actual 3.3GB) of memory installed. The big limitation factor will still be the poor performing Intell GMA950 GPU. The gains from the Core2Duo 1.86Ghz to the 2.33Ghz isn't as big of a jump from the CoreSolo 1.5Ghz to a Core2Duo 1.86Ghz. Unless you are often severely limited by the CPU, you won't seem much gains going from 1.86Ghz to 2.33Ghz.
 
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