AppleTV or Airport Express?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Ruahrc, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    I just moved into a new place and have to re-think my home entertainment setup.

    Previously, I had my mac mini hooked in to my home theater system because it was physically located in the TV stand. It was easy to run an HDMI cable out to the TV as well as connect the digital optical audio out from the mini into the TOSLINK in of my small receiver.

    Now, in my new place, my mac mini is located in a different room. I'm most concerned about getting audio streaming from my mac mini to my home theater speakers because I often use the speakers to listen to podcasts and music. Getting video output from my mini to my TV is not as big a deal since I really only used it for watching blu-rays that I ripped with my USB blu-ray reader, and I am considering simply buying a dedicated blu-ray player instead.

    Now I know in the past the solution would have been to use an Airport Express, which has an audio out port (it's even toslink optical). But what about the AppleTV? What is different about it, and can it stream video from my mac mini to my TV? Even if my media files are mkv and not in iTunes? Can I show my desktop on my TV wirelessly using the AppleTV, as if it were plugged in using a DVI or HDMI cable?

    Basically I'm not sure what the best solution is for my situation. Do I just go with the Airport Express (also handy because I can take it with me on trips and have a small portable router) which can plug directly into my Time Capsule via ethernet (it's still located in my TV stand) or do I go with the AppleTV? That is a wireless connection only right?

    I also want to point out that I really would prefer having a digital audio (toslink) connection to my home theater system because I have also integrated an Astro Mixamp into my setup which means I can take any optical digital audio stream and pipe it into a pair of headphones attached to a wireless receiver and I can listen to that audio anywhere in the house (especially useful if I am in another room doing dishes or cleaning, etc. I listen to podcasts a lot while doing this)

    Thanks for any advice you can give! I hope I have explained my setup well enough- it is a little confusing but I have found a combination of devices which really worked perfectly for me in the past. I just need to tweak it slightly now to accommodate my new living situation.

  2. DefBref macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    The Apple TV has a TOSlink optical output, it also has a ethernet port, but I don't think you could connect your time capsule directly to it, its for connection to a router.
  3. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    The AppleTV will stream iTunes content from your Mini. As such the Video's would need to put into your iTunes Library before could be streamed.

    Depending upon the model of mini, then could potentially use AirPlay to output your mini's display to the AppleTV. Will need a Sandybridge/Ivybridge so mini 2011/2012 only I believe. That way could play movie on mini and Airplay the display to the ATV. You wouldn't need to convert into iTunes

    I have an ATV1 and a mini 2009 so not an option for me. I just convert everything to iTunes format and stream from the mini that way. My models don't do Airplay.

    You could use Airport Express as AirTunes speakers to playback Audio but won't do any Video.

    Time Capsule box from Apple is a Router so you can plug either device in via Ethernet into the LAN side of the TC. You would then wireless across to the mini from the TC.

    Personally I would move the TC to your mini location then connect either the Airport Extreme if pure Audio Stream, or Apple TV if video as well required wirelessly to the TC providing your Wifi in the home.
  4. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    As noted, the AppleTV also has a toslink digital output.

    Overall, the ATV is a far more flexible device as you gain access to all sorts of media plus the audio features of the Airport Express. Airplay is especially convenient if you have any iOS devices from which to control things.

    That said, for strict audio playback, I think the Airport Express is a little bit better. First, it is a little bit quicker to pick up the audio stream - just a couple of seconds vs. 10+ for the ATV in most case. Second, it can be managed completely over the network, vs. having to manage the ATV through a television interface. Third, the ATV does not pass content through at the native 44.1khz, but upconverts to 48khz. This is probably not important unless you are concerned with 'bit perfect' output.
  5. Ruahrc thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Thanks I didn't know about some of that stuff. Good to know that the ATV has toslink in it, that solves that. Also that it has display capabilities. My mini is the 2011 sandy bridge server so I guess I could use air display with that. Is it possible to test air display with another mac? I have a 2009 macbook pro as well it would be fun to play with it and see how it works.

    mcnallym- why specifically would you suggest moving the TC next to the mini? Is there some performance consideration I am not aware of? The way I have it now, the TC is in a more central location of my home so I think the wireless coverage would be better and more consistent, whereas my mini is more towards one end, so putting the TC over there might mean I get subpar reception in some rooms. However, as of now my TC is only set to 25% transmit power and I still get fine signal everywhere in my house, so maybe putting it to one side and boosting the output means I can still get plenty of coverage.
  6. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    To be clear, streaming video from your Mini to the ATV has some limitations.

    Anything that is in your iTunes library will be available natively by using Home Sharing.

    Anything that is not in your library gets a little bit more complicated. AirDisplay from the Mini is not really well suited to video streaming; it works fine as a display mirror, but not great for video or gaming. If you have an iOS device, a work-able solution is using a 3rd party app like Air Video which runs on the Mini and transcodes video on the fly, controlled via the iOS device and transmitted to the ATV. This actually works pretty well, but you will have some quality loss and I don't think it can transmit Dolby Digital.
  7. JesusChrist1973 macrumors newbie

    Apr 15, 2013
    AirPort Express or Apple TV

    At home now I am tethering my iPad to my TV via HDMI cable when I want to transfer info from one to the other. I know AirPort Express and or Apple TV does the same but wireless so which is recommended for just streaming from iPad to TV? Any help???
  8. linds15 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2012
    Great White North
    from what i'd gather i'd go with the ATV, allows you to do much more. i had the same issue with itunes compatible files, but found that just taking a couple weeks to let the mac at night convert everything was easiest, from there everything is home sharing ready
  9. cheesoid macrumors newbie

    Mar 14, 2012
    Just got my parents an Apple TV so that they can Airplay from their iPhones to the TV and receiver. (Getting them into 21st century! :D).

    Works quite well, I like that the Apple TV wakes from sleep when chosen for airplay. But like zhenya said, a 5-10 second delay.

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