Apple TV, Mac Mini or Others?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Alpha Cluster, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. Alpha Cluster macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2010
    I am thinking about ditching cable and going the with buying digital copies of my media (or possibly blu-ray depending on the shows). Now I have been trying to come up with the best way to pull this off. Currently I have three different methods.

    1) Apple TV (new one)
    Using this I was thinking I would use it to stream iTunes videos from a computer. Now with this I have an issue with the fact that I do not use a mac as my main storage point in my house. Instead I use a Windows Home Server (doesn't have iTunes on it). I have not messed with Appple TV's but would be able to play iTunes videos stored on a windows network or does it have to sync with iTunes directly? Also I am bothered by 720p but for a $1 rental this doesnt seem to bad.

    2) Mac Mini media center
    Basically loading up a Mac Mini with Plex and utalizing iTunes but also video from other providers (I think Amazon VOD works?). I am leaning more towards this method but my fears here mostly revolve around if i can get the value out of it. For example is it possible to plugin a blu-ray drive and watch it via the mac mini?

    3) Xbox 360 + Amazon Video (using current hardware)
    This method is my cheap route as i got a 360 and could use the home server or other PC. I run a mixed computer network so it would work. The other thing I heard is Amazon does offer 1080p on some videos but i cannot find confermation of this (the videos i tested were 720p). The other problem here is i have an iPad and would really like to have my video everwhere this method doesnt seem to really facilitate that.

    So basically here are my thoughts. I am curous as to what direction people would recommend. I do enjoy the Apple ecosystem but really dont want to replace my storage setup for awhile and would like to have a usable system. Also the number of companies not doing iTunes TV rentals along with the fact that Apple doesn't discount season purchases seems kinda discuraging. What do others think?
  2. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    We have a Mac Mini as our HTPC. We also have a dedicated netflix player built in to our samsung blu-ray player. Lastly we still have a Comcast cable dvr. The dvr gets used all day long. The samsung gets used monthly and the mac mini gets used quarterly. I would imagine we could dump comcrap and use the Mac Mini for everything but we haven't gotten around to it yet.
  3. iancheyne macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2010
    Colleyville, TX
    I too have a Samsung BD player that streams Netflix but rarely gets used. I want to us a Mac Mini / Elgato Eye TV to replace my Acer MCPC / Hauppauge HD DVR set up which I've used about twice in 18 months with mixed results. The biggest reason I haven't: no BD drive or BD support on the mini. For me this is a deal breaker, until Apple get some sense and build a BD drive into the mini I will not buy it, I have a large BD collection and I love to watch them. Paying Apple $5 to stream every time I want to watch Spiderman at 720p, when I have it on BD at 1080p is completely out of the question. Jobs must think that consumers are fools and that the rental income stream is a never ending bucket for Apple to dip into. I do rent, but only movies I have never seen and will take a chance on, but if I like them I inevitably buy the BD, so no second rental from me.
  4. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    If you have a BD player already, then just use that. Why would you need a BD player in a mini? I realize that it's nice to have everything in a single box (and maybe that's your goal).

    As for paying $5 for a "rental", I agree that's high, but it's the same as all of the other "stay at home" "on demand" renting options. Also, Apple does give you a choice ... you can buy that movie (if available) for $15 ... but at that price, you might as well buy the BluRay disc.

    Perhaps the aTV, at this point, isn't for you. Maybe in a few months, when they get their act together, it'll be more compelling. Or maybe not.

    EDIT - my bad, you were talking about the mini, not the atv.
  5. Alpha Cluster thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2010
    I have the same feeling. I really think that it would be best if i could have a blu-ray drive in it since i would rather get a TV show after the season is finished on blu-ray and just get ones that they only sell on DVD on a streaming/download service in HD (i dont get why they dont release blu-ray but for some reason they dont).
  6. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    Mac Mini + Plex all the way!

    I've got this setup running at home for half a year now and it's running great.
    My media sits on a large fileserver connected via gigabit ethernet.

    I've chosen the smallest Mini available (2.26GHz, 2GB Ram, 160GB disc) and replaced the hard drive with a 40GB Intel SSD. The SSD doesn't add any performance (which isn't required anyway), but makes the system more reliable and inaudible. This system is more than capable of running 1080p.

    Best HTPC I can imagine.
    I'm not sure about direct BluRay support though. AFAIK it should be possible to run an external BR player and directly play movies.
    Just take a quick look in the Apple TV and HTPC section of this forum.
  7. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    If the reason you're ditching cable is money, the :apple:TV will allow you to likely save the most $. This depends entirely on how much TV you watch and of that, how much will be available via the new $1 scheme. I'm guessing there is something comparable to EyeTV for the Windows world so you could presumably record OTA TV on your Windows system, encode it and stream it to the :apple:TV, saving more money. Downside is sports programming will be limited to local OTA broadcasts.

    The Mac Mini/PLEX route is the most robust but will also take you the longest to recoup any savings considering the cost of hardware. A refurb Mac Mini (current base model) is going for $599 at Apple while an EyeTV is about $150. You could obviously try to save a bit and look for an older Mini and previous version EyeTV. This will again allow you to record OTA broadcast TV. You could also purchase a blu-ray ROM drive ($50-75) to rip and encode blu-ray disks at your choice of resolution--just can't watch the disk natively through OSx. Again, you're looking at additional cost for the drive and for the likely External HDD you'll need to store media as the 320 GB on the mini will run out pretty quick. This route carries the same downside regarding sports programming although you now could have access to ESPN3.

    I have no experience streaming to an Xbox 360 so I'm not going to pretend to be able to offer any advice. Assuming again you could record OTA programming on your Window system and can stream it to your Xbox, likely pretty cheap route. Only limitation I guess would be availability of content, movie wise, that is.
  8. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    To me, for the aTV $1-rental plan to work as a cableTV replacement is that Apple needs to get more cable content on board. Having Viacom bail is a blow to Apple's plan, but let's see who else jumps on board. Right now, with only ABC and Fox, the reasons for using the aTV as a cable replacement are not compelling for most.

    Apple needs a backup plan ... perhaps it's getting Hulu Plus on board. This could go a long way in the aTV's status as a cable replacer. The only problem is that Hulu could make deals with all of the other hardware vendors, so the aTV gets lost in the shuffle. The only differentiator would be the individual deals that Apple could make and the iTunes integration.

    To me, to be a viable cable tv replacement, Apple needs to open up codec support for MPEG-2 ... at the very least. That way, folks who are dumping cable, but have an OTA tuner could view their recorded shows could be viewed without transcoding or reencoding.

Share This Page