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

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Aesthetica, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. Aesthetica macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    #1
    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
     
  2. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #2
    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.
     
  3. EmlynDewar, Jun 18, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014

    EmlynDewar macrumors member

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    Chengdu, China
    #3
    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.
     
  4. Ghostbuster386 macrumors regular

    Ghostbuster386

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    #4
    Wher could I get the Core2Duo processor to install in a CoreSolo?
     
  5. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #5
    eBay. You want a T7200, T7400, or a T7600. They are Core2Duos ranging in speed from 2.0Ghz to 2.33Ghz.
     
  6. Ghostbuster386 macrumors regular

    Ghostbuster386

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    #6

    Thanks. I just bought a CoreSolo 1.5 and a CoreDuo 1.66 that I would love to upgrade.
     
  7. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #7
    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?
     
  8. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #8
    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.
     
  9. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #9
    Alright, thanks. Looks like a T7600 in in my future.
     
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #10
    My T7600 showed up today. Looks like I have a weekend project for my 1.66 ghz CD. Between the 2.33 C2D and a 128 gb SSD it ought to perform nicely. :)

    Does anyone know if I need to install the TRIM enabler on this little beast?
     
  11. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #11
    For your uses, you shouldn't need to enable TRIM.
     
  12. blanka macrumors 68000

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    Jul 30, 2012
    #13
    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.
     
  13. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #14
    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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  14. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #15
    This thread details how to install the MacMini2,1 firmware: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=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.
     
  15. Cave Man, Jul 4, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014

    Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #16
    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...
     
  16. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #17
    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.
     
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #18
    Hmm, I'm only getting a 2283 geekbench score. I was expecting it to be closer to 3000. Has geekbench changed its parameters? And what's the consensus on Lion update?
     
  18. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #19
    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.
     
  19. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #20
    Yes, version 3. Looks like I'm in the ballpark with version 3 and the 2,1. I'll probably just stay on SL.

    Thanks again for your help.
     
  20. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #21
    Just ordered the 2x2 GB sticks and a DVD SATA HD to notebook PATA adapter (for a 500 gb drive that's been collecting dust) for the mini. Now I'm looking for a USB 802.11ac dongle. Came across this one and the vendor has Snow Leopard drivers on its web page. Any thoughts?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833315132
     
  21. Cave Man, Jul 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014

    Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #22
    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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  22. tallchris macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #23
    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?
     
  23. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #24
    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.
     
  24. tallchris macrumors member

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