2014 Mac mini as htpc: July 2015

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by FlyingTexan, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. FlyingTexan macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2015
    #1
    I wanted to give a very slight review as I'm typing this on my phone.

    I recently purchased the base model Mac mini for $399 at microcenter in Houston, Tx. My goal was to use the machine as a complete HTPC. It's the dual core 1.4ghz, 4GB ram, and 500GB 5400rpm drive. When purchasing the unit I also picked up a set of TR tools so when I got home I'd replace the hdd with a solid state drive.

    One home I set the unit up and started my install. The first thing I installed was apptui which is an incredible program that makes your phone the best remote control you could ever imagine including for searching the web. Next I then downloaded and installed Kodi (xbmc) and popcorntime. For xbmc I then used YouTube to help me install PULSAR, popcorntime(trying it out), and Genesis.

    For reference I have a MacBook Pro SSD and 8GB. Comparing the two I'm 100% firm in saying anything above the base model Mac mini is a complete waste of money for htpc reasons. People keep saying 8GB is better or buy the SSD but having used it very extensively I can say it's all a waste. The base Mac mini is flawless as a htpc and running the same programs side by side on my 8GB SSD MacBook Pro I cannot tell a difference.

    For those wondering about the performance I too was very cautious and had my receipt in hand if it didn't pan out it I can promise you it's incredible and at $399 from Microcenter a real steal if you're looking for a great htpc. I almost bought a used Mac but for the price and using my Amex I get two years of warranty as well as the AC wifi which matches the range of wireless N but doubles the output. I just "cut the cable" and running this setup with the program's above as well as www.sling.com I'll never go back if I don't have to.

    For those that are worried and debating I hope his gives some piece of mind. The base model works flawlessly.
     
  2. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    Sep 28, 2014
  3. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    #3
    That acronym stands for Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC). It describes a media center computer that can add a variety of features to an entertainment system.

    Kodi is the new name for the X-Box Media Center (XBMC). Running this software can convert an ordinary Mac or PC into a HTPC. :cool:
     
  4. Suzatlarge macrumors newbie

    Suzatlarge

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    May 4, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    #4
    So, just to be clear, OP, did you end up not replacing the HDD with a SSD? You said you bought the tools to do that but it seems like you didn't after all.
     
  5. FlyingTexan thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 13, 2015
    #5
    I'm sorry about that. No I did not. I went home thinking I was going to but decided to try the stock configuration since it was going to be a real pain and void the warranty. With the stock 5400rpm drive still in the operation is completely smooth with no lag. Granted I'm not buzzing through 10,000+ songs but even if I were I doubt I'd see any lag. I think the way the OS utilizes memory is a key factor.

    I bought this to be 100% htpc. With Apptui installed it handles everything perfectly.
     
  6. Khalanad75 macrumors 6502

    Khalanad75

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    Jul 8, 2015
    Location:
    land of confusion
    #6
    This is awesome to hear. All you hear in the forums is SSD or nothing. I plan on doing this very soon as well. I may still go with the mid tier model in case I do more than just an HTPC, but will probably just stick with the platter drive. Hell, none of my macs have an SSD yet and I am fine with it. As they say, patience is a virtue ;)
     
  7. FlyingTexan thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 13, 2015
    #7
    What do you plan on doing with it really? I surf the net, stream tons, use a few programs and no issues. Doing things like office work in any modern day system isn't worth the upgrades. Unlike the old dell $299 systems that could barely boot up these things run great. People focus on one component too often. In the pat two years I've had an old laptop running as a HTPC with SSD and 8GB memory. The system finally died but I can tell you performance wise the current Mac mini handles it all better. Don't let the 1.4ghz fool you either it's better for temps and can increase when needed.

    Remember the newer Mac minis have a different type of memory and newer i5 chips in them. My older laptop was i5 as well. Without digging through all the specs I can't point out everything but I can tell you the newer generation hardware handles everything much better. I don't own anything 4k but I can tell you it can handle all the 1080p you could want (played two at one time).

    Again with my setup one big issue was I wanted something with AC wireless for the increased bandwidth everything else is overkill. I would have gone with a used unit but $399 and getting two years warranty I couldn't pass it up.
     
  8. grcar, Jul 14, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015

    grcar Suspended

    grcar

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    #8
    The low-end 2014 mini performs well in home theater use because it has a cpu/graphics chip, i5-4260U, with special capabilities for video i/o. These capabilities are not on the faster i5 chips in the other 2014 minis, but they are on the i7 chips which are options for the other models. Clever, those Apple designers. I would be wary of using the low-end model for other then entertainment or as a file server.
     
  9. FlyingTexan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2015
    #9
    I was actually glad to get the 1.4 ghz if anything it's peace of mind for heat issues which it does not appear to have any. All office apps etc would run just fine but again this was for a HTPC and with the apptui app and chrome install it's perfect for home entertainment with the speaker system. I'm in the middle of a home remodel but when finished I'll post a little video of how well it all works
     
  10. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #10
    Actually the capabilities are also present on the other i5s. And the other i5s would perform better graphically (Iris 5100 vs HD 5000).
     
  11. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #11
    I love the Mini as an HTPC and I too use XBMC (Kodi). I think you could leave the drive in place and consider either external drives or a NAS unit. In my case, I do both. When I have friends over, they can select the movie and they are blown away when I tell them it is just a little Mac Mini and hard drives doing it all.
     
  12. Trojita macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2009
    #12
    What do you guys use to control your Mac Mini? Do you boot to Plex or XBMC through the remote somehow? I've tried to setup my Harmony One Remote to control my 2011 Mac Mini, but usually it doesn't work so well.
     
  13. Auszero macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    #13
    I disagree with your thoughts on the HD. I got the mid range 2014 Mini with the 1 TB HD. I also own a 2014 15" rMBP and a 2013 11" MBA. I could immediately tell the difference in the UI between the machines, with the mini being the slowest. I run XBMC for my media center then Plex for media streaming. It's also setup as my main iTunes library with iTunes Match. As well as a Time Machine server. All my media is held on external USB 3.0 drives. I often screen share into the machine to make adjustments and load media. I swapped the 1 TB with a 128GB SSD and the changes are noticeable. Everything obviously loads quicker but file transfers and screen sharing is quicker. I personally could not go back to a traditional HD.

    I would imagine a Mac Mini solely running XBMC the base model would be sufficient but even then seems like a waste of a machine. However anything more than XBMC I feel would be benefit by an SSD.

    I primarily use the Apple remote to control XBMC. It's simple and does the job. For other management I'll use a keyboard and mouse or a PS4 controller.
     

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