Apple TV vs. Mac Mini vs.... ?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by evangw, Aug 15, 2008.

  1. evangw macrumors regular

    Feb 9, 2008

    I have a 720p HDTV that I'm looking to hook a media player up to. I have a number of DVDs I'm planning to rip and put on the media player, as well as a few 720p movies and TV shows in various formats.

    I've thought about getting an Apple TV and hacking it (via ATV Flash) so I can hook up an external harddrive and play media formats not natively supported by Quicktime, but I was wondering if maybe a Mac Mini would be better suited for what I'm looking for.

    I figure a lot of readers out here probably have nice media setups, so I'm looking for buying tips for a media center with a budget of < $500.

  2. Rmafive macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2008
    Richmond, Virginia
    If you like macs your best bet is to go with an apple tv and hack it. Im almost sure that the mac mini does not support hdmi or s video, but you will have to check on apples website. Also, I believe there is another hack for the :apple: tv that allows you to use Safari, so it is almost as good as a mac mini! :)
  3. hyteckit Guest

    Jul 29, 2007
    Go with a Mac Mini. Get one of those DVI->HDMI adaptors.

    I have a Mac Mini and love it. I connect it to my 42" LCD through DVI though.
  4. jon31rm macrumors member

    Apr 15, 2007
    I'm considering a Mac Mini as a replacement for my 40GB Apple TV.

    I'm in a college dorm, and Apple TV's aren't allowed on the network (bandwidth issues), which makes it useless because I stream all my movies from a 1TB external drive.

    The only question I have is this: Is it possible to get 5.1 surround sound from the Mac Mini? If so, how would one go about setting that up?

    BTW: Are the Mac Mini's being updated soon? Is it worth waiting to find out?
  5. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    I have a mini and an Apple TV, both a few years old.

    Yes, the mini supports surround, at least out of the optical out.

    The Apple TV is vastly simpler to use. The mini is much more powerful. I'd say get the Apple TV if it's what your budget allows, or if you want simple access (for example, for kids to use) and the mini otherwise. You can hook a firewire cable between a cable box and the mini and record in HD with iRecord. That's fun.

    And I don't know if they'll be updated soon, but the one I got in 2006 is still going strong. :)
  6. AppleGuy1980 macrumors member

    Jun 7, 2008
    Don't go for either. Get a Power Mac from eBay. Even a Power Mac from several years ago is better suited for your tasks than a Mac Mini. The Power Mac/Mac Pro line has always been designed for graphics and sound power. Even a G4 Power Mac should have more than enough power to handle your tasks, and provides easy access for adding on additional hard drives. One of my friends has a setup with an old G4 Power Mac and it's excellent. I haven't actually looked, but I'm sure that via eBay you could find something in the below $500 price range. If you spend a little more and move into the G5 Power Macs from 2003-2004 (which I think should still be cheap), you'll have something that's actually more powerful than a current Mac Mini. As an additional bonus, you'll have a PPC machine if you ever need one.
  7. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    You're joking, right?
  8. Genghis Khan macrumors 65816

    Genghis Khan

    Jun 3, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    Mac Mini > all Power Macs (except the quad core)

    I'm in the exact same situation as you (except for budget constrictions), and will be getting a Mini as soon as they update them (*looks at Steve Jobs*).
  9. JAWWC macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2008
    Yes you can get 5.1 from a mac mini. You just need to buy a toslink cable with mini jack adapters and the mini's mini jack output will output 5.1.... if that makes sense lol.
  10. nickane macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2005
    Whilst a MM cannot play BR-quality 1080p, or even much 1080p at all, I would expect that most PM G5s could. Expect a dedicated gfx card to whoop the MM in the upscaling to 1080p dept. also. Before HDs got as big as they are now, the main point of an HTPC was to get a decent upscaler, a fact often overlooked now that everyone needs upscaling cos the displays are so hi-res. So AppleGuy1980 would have a point, if the OP had a 1080 display...

    I only interject because I've been waiting for a BR capable mini (or xMac) that can outperform an Oppo for several years. The last bone apple threw me was the 5.1 optical out, but I'm still waiting for stable 1080.


    From what I understand, hacking an ATV makes it almost as useful as a MM anyways, unless you want a fully fledged computer and it doesn't sound like you need anymore than what it can offer as its just for a media centre (safari would be useful, but Rmafive says you can hack that too). A MM might be marginally better at upscaling, but not so much as to warrant the price increase over either model. Besides, as Genghis points out, they're horrendously outdated anywyas and recent rumours point to an imminent (and much-needed) overhaul rather than just an update. If that happens, the mini's will be more devalued than usual, and you would probably be kicking yourself. Besides, it sounds like budget's an issue, so why not hack the subsidized ATV and use the spare cash to buy storage you'll be able to attach once you've hacked it?

    Def. don't get a PM, they can be pretty noisy.
  11. nickane macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2005
    Of course, if you plan to use it as a DVR, I don't think that can be done with an ATV. But then, you can't rent HD movies from a mini.

    You should probably explicitly say what you plan to use the machine for, considering your plan already involves maybe using the ATV for more than it was intended, and you're bound to come up against limitations.
  12. mdgolom macrumors 6502

    Oct 26, 2006
    A Powemac G4 won't be able to handle playing HD content. Yes, a Powermac Dual G5 will, but they're more expensive than a MM and a heck of a lot smaller as well. I have a MM C2D that does HD just fine.

    I would go got the MacMini over the AppleTV, but that's just my preference.
  13. CMD is me macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    I'm in the same boat. I have a 1080i projector with DVI, a AVCHD camera and was looking at the :apple:TV. However, the :apple:TV is limited to 540p @ 30fps with iMovie. I've spent a lot to get a 1080i camera so I hate to only be getting 540p! PLUS, with iMovie > :apple:TV the bitrate is 5Mbps compared to studio DVD's 9Mbps and BluRay's 40Mbps. Taking a 70gb/hr video and compressing it to 2gb/hr I'm concerned the original source will take too big of a hit in quality.

    With a Mini I should be able to export the iMovies at the full 1080 resolution and keep the bitrate higher... I'm researching the topic, but if the Mini will do that, its worth paying a bit more over the :apple:TV to me.
  14. barr08 macrumors 65816


    Aug 9, 2006
    Boston, MA
    I have what I call a poor man's media center. I use a sawtooth G4 connected through s-video. It works pretty well, and I put it together for under $100.

    I'm not saying that this setup is better than a current mac mini (it isn't), but don't close your mind to other less obvious options!
  15. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    A Mini can do high bitrate 1080p just fine, so long as you have a decent decoding program. Right now, the only one out there is XBMC (and it's outstanding).

    You're ignoring the fact that graphics cards are not used by OS X to decode video, only the cpu is. The exception to this rule may be the Apple TV, but certainly not the Macs.

    A "1080 display" is simply one that can handle 24fps at 1920x1080. That's pretty much any 24" display available today.

    Upscaling has nothing to do with it. The encoded video (bitrate, framerate, dimensions, codec) does. The Mini's gpu is perfectly adequate for this.
  16. Apple Ink macrumors 68000

    Apple Ink

    Mar 7, 2008
    Hmmm... an I tought people asking about MBA v/s MBP were confused:p (kidding)

    I'd opt for the mini! It can do evrything that ATV does and better! Surf, rent, watch (various formats), play, listen....... and so much more!

    So Why would you opt for an ATV?
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    You can't rent HD movies with a Mini, and no Mac will autodetect AC3 Dolby Digital. HDMI is probably a non-issue, but component is something some may want/need. Plus, there's that thing about price...
  18. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    User Interface!


    IMO, it all boils down to the feature-set that you want. If you're looking for a full-fleged Mac that oh, by the way, is hooked to your TV, then the mini is probably the best choice.

    If you're looking for a way to get your iTunes content to your TV, then the elegance of the AppleTV is perfect. With some easy hacking, it'll handle most video content.
  19. Apple Ink macrumors 68000

    Apple Ink

    Mar 7, 2008
    Im quite certain about 'other' sources of renting HD movies!;)

    And I havent skimmed through the thread but Im sur the OP wouldnt mind missing DD in a dorm room!:p
  20. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    On the same note, if his main 'want' is just to watch video, what's the point of the 'and so much more' that the mini gives him, esp. if he's on a budget of $500 or less?
  21. Apple Ink macrumors 68000

    Apple Ink

    Mar 7, 2008
    All right.... Ive edited my post to BOLD things up a bit!

    But after all you've told me.... I still think that ATV's an accessory and definitely not a 'need'! Except the price point (already mentioned above)..... every other reason... HD rentals, DD, UI, HDMI (though both DVI and ATV's HDMI do perform equally well) and everything else, my opinion remains the same!
  22. AppleGuy1980 macrumors member

    Jun 7, 2008
    Not at all. THe Power Mac really is a solution. As mentioned it's going to be a lot noisier than a Mac Mini or Apple TV, but people who say an older Power Mac will underperform are just plain wrong. Certainly on some tasks, the Mac Mini would suit you better but in the video department the Power Mac is superior. I've looked around eBaqy a bit and the older G5s are priced within the OP's range, and I might add even the original G5 has superior specs to a Mac Mini.

    Furthermore, Power Macs were designed to be ore upgradeable, and they are. I'm not going to say that they're the perfect solution, but they are a good one.
  23. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Geekbench scores:

    Power Mac G5 2 GHz dual core = 1799 (this was the best of the 2 GHz dual cores)
    Mac Mini Core 2 Duo 2 GHz = 2591

    Considering the Power Mac's score will be inflated because of dedicated gpu and better hard drive, the Mini is clearly the superior machine for the OP's needs.

    And a PM G4 is really out of the question.
  24. BarryWeber macrumors newbie

    Aug 14, 2001
    Use iPhone Remote as control

    I used my G4 1Ghz Dual computer / improved with a new ATI Radeon 9800 card with S-Video out. I put the computer behind a desk on the other end of the room without any keyboard or mouse. I had intended to try that Front Row Anywhere hack on it, but then I discovered that the free ap from Apple for the iPhoto called REMOTE allows me to play movies or control anything that I have in iTunes friendly formats. By using quicktime and downloading the fip4mac, divx, and other codecs I'm able to re-encode almost all the AVI and DIVX formats into the M4V Apple TV (iTunes Friendly Formats).

    Since I have OSX 10.5 on this computer I can use any computer on my network with the Remote Screen Control to move files around, encode them to itunes, etc.

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