Apple TV compatibility with old Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by RyanPlugs, Nov 25, 2010.

  1. RyanPlugs, Nov 25, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2010

    RyanPlugs macrumors newbie

    Nov 25, 2010
    I am soon to get an Apple TV as a lightweight way to get my media content into my living room. I am however, concerned about the fact I will need to have my Macbook Pro on at all times to use it. My MBP is fast running out of space so do not see it being the ideal tool for my media needs.

    I have been thinking of getting an old, always-on Mac mini (Power PC G4 or G5) to run as a headless iTunes pusher, so that my MBP and also the new Apple TV are able to access my media (mainly music and photos, but building up a video collection as well) wirelessly. Will there be compatibility issues with such a gap in the age of the hardware, as I'm aware that the Apple TV can only pull data via Home Sharing, and am not sure if a Power PC mini can support this.

    Is there anyone here that is running the same - or a similar - system?
  2. fpnc macrumors 68000

    Oct 30, 2002
    San Diego, CA
    I have a "headless" PowerPC-based Mac mini (1.5GHz G4 model with 1GB DRAM) running as my iTunes server for a 1st generation Apple TV and it works very well. I can even stream concurrently to both my iPad (using Web Sharing) and the Apple TV and the Mac mini still has lots of bandwidth remaining (CPU utilization runs at only a few percent while streaming content to the Apple TV). It's a bit ironic that you can stream HD content FROM the Mac mini that can't even be played successfully on the Mac mini itself (the G4-based Mac mini can't handle 720p playback -- too many dropped frames, stuttering, etc. -- however, streaming 720p FROM the mini TO the Apple TV works fine).

    You should note the following issues:

    1. The PowerPC-based Macs can't be awaken by the Apple TV, so if the Mac mini goes to sleep it will stay asleep and any subsequent access from the Apple TV will fail. However, there are iOS utilities that can be used to awaken a sleeping Mac so I can use my iPad to both control the Apple TV and awaken my Mac mini (or just leave the Mac mini running in full-power-up mode -- I think my unit runs at just over 20 watts when idle, and that costs about $0.05 per day for electricity). I believe that my entire Apple TV/iTunes system (Mac mini + 1.5TB external drive for content storage, and my Apple TV) runs at about 50 watts so it costs about $0.10 per day to keep everything running (your costs could be higher or even a little less depending upon your electricity rates).

    2.) The PowerPC-based Macs aren't supported by Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.X). Thus, I'm running 10.5.X and the latest version of iTunes. Problem is, I don't know how much longer Apple will fully support iTunes under the PowerPC and Mac OS 10.5 Leopard. Right now iTunes 10.1 (the latest version) lists the following requirements:

    Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5 or G4 processor
    Mac OS X version 10.5 or later
    QuickTime 7.6 or later

    So, I'd say that my Mac mini is just barely making the grade (right now). In another year (or certainly within two years) that could change and it might become a major issue it you are planning on using a 2nd-generation Apple TV. In any case, my 1.5GHz G4-based Mac mini is the fastest PowerPC Mac mini that was ever produced (it was a "stealth" upgrade which I don't think was ever officially announced by Apple -- slightly faster processor and twice the amount of VRAM for the GPU). In fact, you should note that Apple never made a G5-based Mac mini or MacBook Pro -- they are all G4s (at best).

    Other than these two issues, a PowerPC Mac mini can make for a very satisfactory iTunes server. Since my Mac mini is "headless" I use Apple's built-in screen sharing to make changes and to control the mini itself. You can either use another Mac or an iOS device for the screen sharing (controlling) client. The Mac mini's DVI output can be used for output to an HDTV, if so desired. But don't expect to use any G4-based system as a direct HD video playback device -- as I noted earlier, direct HD playback on a G4 doesn't work too well -- but streaming HD content to an Apple TV works just fine.
  3. gkarris macrumors 604


    Dec 31, 2004
    "No escape from Reality..."
    My only concern is the lack of Wireless-N on the old Mini - you may have to use that wired to the router (I have an old PC wired to my router).
  4. fpnc macrumors 68000

    Oct 30, 2002
    San Diego, CA
    That might be an issue if you are a good distance away from your main wireless router or if you have problems running in the 2.4GHz 802.11g frequency band. In any case, I use wired ethernet for all of my AV equipment -- Apple TV, Mac mini, Sony Playstation, SlingBox Solo all connected over a relatively cheap 5-port ethernet switch to an AirPort Express operating in an extended network mode (which then connects to my main wireless access point and my desktop Mac which is located in a different room).
  5. RyanPlugs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 25, 2010
    Thanks for that reply fpnc, that was pretty much all the information I needed. I assume that my MacBook Pro will be able to access the music via Home Sharing at the same time. I wasn't aware itunes 10 only supports Leapard and above, I mit have to look into one of the early Intel minis. If I want this system to last more than two years, then I think that would be my best option.

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