Apple TV or used Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Dr. McKay, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. Dr. McKay macrumors 6502a

    Jan 20, 2010
    Belgium, Europe
    I'm thinking of getting an Apple TV (either wait for ATV 4) or buy a ATV3 for a reduced price.
    I've also come across a used Mac mini, an early 2009 model :

    However, it has had some upgrades. This is what the seller advertises :

    Model Name: Mac mini
    Model Identifier: Macmini3,1
    Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
    Processor Speed: 2 GHz
    Number of Processors: 1
    Total Number of Cores: 2
    L2 Cache: 3 MB
    Memory: 4 GB
    Bus Speed: 1,07 GHz

    - The original HDD has been replaced with an Intel SSD 80GB
    - The superdrive has been replaced with a Samsung Spinpoint 1TB HDD
    - The original superdrive comes with it (an affordable enclosure should get it operational again, I assume ?)

    It also comes with the original packaging and accessories, and install DVD's.
    An Apple alu keyboard and mighty mouse are also included, as is an Apple remote.

    Price is 300 euros (but I'm sure I can get it down) ; for comparison, a new baseline Mini now costs 649 euros.

    Now, an ATV3 (and I assume the new ATV4) costs 109 euros. I can hook up an external HDD to the mini, which I cannot do with an ATV. I'd also have to buy a minidisplay to HDMI cable.
    The seller has always used it as a media center and is going to replace it with a NAS.
    Question is if this mini with it's relatively slow processor is capable of handling 1080p footage. Also, is USB2 fast enough to stream 1080p footage from an external HDD ?
  2. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    Remember that bit rates have to be divided by 8 to get them on the same comparision to hard drive bandwidth (bits to bytes).

    So a bluray rip that's at 16Mb/s, divided by 8 means it only requires 2 megabytes of actual bandwidth, plus a little more for audio (but still less then 1 megabytes). So to answer your question, a harddrive only has to be able to supply several megabytes of data per second to stream HD content. Which is very much fine for USB2....USB2 can easily transfer 20-30 megabytes per second.

    This is why the argument that the AppleTV is bad because it only has a 100Mb/s network connection is not a valid argument. It does not need a gigabit connection to do what it's supposed to do.

    As far as using an AppleTV versus a Mini. It just depends on what you plan on using it for. The Mini will be able to surf the web. You can play more types of video files, including those with HD Audio. But it will also have all the overhead of a full blown operating system. The AppleTV will be limited to media only, but the interface is clean and butter smooth. Personally only having AC-3 is fine for me. I do encode DTS-HD onto a third track if the movie has it just in-case someday AppleTV supports it. But AC-3 still sounds fine for movies.

    The AppleTV is silent and barely generates any heat. I already had a server that was running iTunes and has all the movies/music/pictures on it. So the lack of storage was non-issue for me.

    Even if you have local storage on the Mini, You need to ask yourself what will be the goal of your storage capacity. Are you going to be happy with 1TB? Or do you see yourself amassing a huge library of hundreds of films and TV shows with good picture quality? At that point your looking at several Terabytes. Now you have to think are you going to have all this storage (and the noise and heat) next to the Mini or will you move it to a server of some kind located elsewhere. At that point, your coming back to an AppleTV setup.
  3. Dr. McKay thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 20, 2010
    Belgium, Europe
    To be honest, I don't really know. I love the concept of the ATV but then again, I start thinking that a mini would offer so many more possibilities…

    The fact that you always need a computer that's always on running iTunes (in my case a Macbook Air) doesn't appeal to me all that much.
    My internal SSD is only 256Gb so I'd have to hook up my external HDD to my MBA and then stream to the ATV.
    With a mini, I could put my music and photo library on the internal drive and a whole lot more. I wouldn't have to convert video files to be able to run in iTunes. I could even use the mini as the main computer in the house, and hook up my Time Machine drive to it and just sync my MBA with the Mini.
    The only inconvenience is that I would need a keyboard and mouse to hook up to the mini because I couldn't possible do everything with the simple remote. A Bluetooth solution springs to mind, ideally a keyboard with integrated trackpad. Don't know if that exists and/or is useable and practical...
  4. unplugme71 macrumors 68030

    May 20, 2011
    I used to have a Mac Mini connected to my TV. I always liked the idea of having the ability to play music and movies, and browse the web, use apps, etc.

    Then AirPlay and mirroring came out. Now I can mirror my iPhone, iPad, or MacBook through the Apple TV onto my TV. This is amazing because now I don't need to have another Mac Mini always on using more power than the Apple TV. No need to always deal with another machine to backup, manage, etc. The Apple TV is so much simpler.
  5. takeshi74 macrumors 601

    Feb 9, 2011
    Or a NAS. There's more than one way to skin that cat.
  6. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    A NAS is just another computer that's always running.

    The correct answer of course is that you need a used Mac mini *and* an Apple TV. :)

    I have an old mini running Snow Leopard Server acting as my data hub. It runs a copy of iTunes and shares all it's contents with my Macs and two Apple TVs. I share the "Automatically add to iTunes" folder, so whenever I have new content I just drag and drop it to the server and it's available to all devices. The mini is headless, if I need to talk to it I use Screen Sharing.

  7. Dr. McKay thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 20, 2010
    Belgium, Europe
    Hadn't thought of that... sounds very interesting !
  8. s15119 macrumors 65816


    Nov 20, 2010
    I also have both a Mini and an Apple TV. They make a great combination.

  9. linds15 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2012
    Great White North
    a mini is a good start for future expansion. i have all my media on my mini, serving content to three apple tvs, that way anyone in my household can watch whatever wherever

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