appleTV or mini for home theater?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by flatfoot99, Oct 20, 2012.

  1. flatfoot99 Guest

    Aug 4, 2010
    I have an apple tv 3 wired to the router and am getting my music from iTunes on my PC. I occaionally rent a movie and in the future may do some blu-ray ripping and store on some type of external harddrive.
    Thinking about getting a new Mac mini solely to store iTunes and pictures on. The mini will be in range to connect directly to my HT via hdmi, so now I'm wondering if I really even need the appleTV any more (I can move it to a different room).

    My questions are:
    -Do I keep using my appleTV or can i bypass it and now let the mac mini take over the appletvs duties:
    play music directly from iTunes
    rent movies from iTunes
    play ripped blu-rays

    -Will the macmini interface be as simple as the appleTV (never had a Mac before).

    -I've heard appleTV up converts audio. All my music is ripped from CDs and stored as apple lossless. I'm doubting I will hear a difference, but still a concern.
  2. orestes1984, Oct 20, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2012

    orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Jun 10, 2005
    If you're going to run a Mini and want a similiar experience to the Apple TV your going to need a front end such as Plex, or XBMC. Take a look at both and see if you like either, they both run on Windows as well. The other issue is if you use Airplay, you won't be able to simply stream content from your PC to your Mac Mini. You can set up network shares and share wirelessly if you want, but the process is a bit more of a pain in the backside.

    What you get with an Apple TV is a simple device that just works, you can configure a Mac Mini but overall its a little more work. The bonus of a Mac Mini is format freedom and being able to output the full compliment of HD Audio formats over HDMI to a surround sound receiver. You won't have to bother about remuxing and you'll have access to more than just stereo, Dolby and Pro Logic sound output. A mini will actually handle DTS and etc
  3. flatfoot99 thread starter Guest

    Aug 4, 2010
    Thank you. I definetly like the ease of use of the appleTV. I've also dabbled with the remote app and if it's as simple as it is with the PC, I would be ok using that to control the mini for now for iTunes and rentals (don't have any movie rips yet to worry about).

    Another concern is, the wife will still need the PC in our system (just for her work stuff). I know we don't have any specs on the new rumored mini, but will I be able to run a hdmi to my receiver AND have it output to a monitor (don't need it to run at same time)? I believe I need something called a KVM switch since we will be sharing the monitor, keyboard and mouse.

    Is this doable?
    Any recommended switches?
  4. StinDaWg macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2012
  5. flatfoot99 thread starter Guest

    Aug 4, 2010
  6. StinDaWg macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2012
    You mean you're done with Windows? Mac Mini is still a pc. Hell you could even install the direct boot to xbmc in Linux if you hate Windows so much (not sure why).
  7. Primejimbo macrumors 68040

    Aug 10, 2008
    I have a Mini and use it like what you want. What I did was bough the cheapest one and got a 2TB external hard drive for it. I have all my iTunes on the external hard dive and just use the mini for my entertainment.
    I also got "RIPIT" for ripping movies. Yes i can use Handbreak, but I wanted something that my wife can use that was very easy to rip movies and it is.

    I have an Apple TV3 in the bedroom and use it for Netflix, Hulu, and streaming movies from the Mini. I love it, and very easy to use.

    Now the 1 issue about the new Mini's is you don't have an optical drive, but they are so cheap to buy.
  8. Cinephi1e macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2012
    Northwest Ohio
    What you are proposing is what I have set up. The Mac Mini serves as the iTunes and media server with several attached external hard drives. It runs 24/7 and serves media to the three ATV's in the house. I have hooked it to the receiver in our family room with HDMI, so I can bring up Mac Mini screen on the TV if needed. The thing is, we almost never use this because it is not convenient to use keyboard and mouse with the TV. We much prefer using the ATV. I use screen sharing on my MacBook to control the Mac Mini.
  9. northernbaldy macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2010
    the north, UK
    Me too, but with a mac mini server and it all works flawlessly

    I'll have to try ripit, handbrake doesn't seem to work properly on mountain lion
  10. flatfoot99 thread starter Guest

    Aug 4, 2010
    thanks... that's what I need. I wonder if it can hook up to a monitor as well as a receiver through hdmi. doesn't need to run same time.
  11. mtondreo macrumors member

    Mar 21, 2011
    Can I ask what you guys are using as an interface for the mini hooked directly to the tv. I am getting rid of our imac and getting a mini to do media sharing only. are you all using plex (i ask because I have had issues with Plex, admittedly got frustrated so I gave up).
  12. marc11 macrumors 68000

    Mar 30, 2011
    NY USA
    I think you may have a a few other options if you do not want to invest in a dedicated HT Mini. First, if you buy iTunes Match all of your music will be available on your Apple TV no computer needed. Next, keep in mind any movie or TV show you buy or rent through iTunes, regardless if you do so on your computer or through your Apple TV is available for streaming direct from your Apple TV, no computer needed.

    So then the only other issue is your ripped media. What I do is have my media sitting on an external hard drive connected to my AEBS via USB linked all to iTunes. When I want to watch a movie or show from a ripped source I just need to turn on my computer and just leave it where it is, I think use the Apple TV and home sharing to find, select and watch the movie. (I used Handbrake and Subler to rip and capture metadata) For me, since I also host a Minecraft server, my MBP is almost always on anyway. Being a laptop its ideal as it has a screen so I can use it as is, keep it running as a media server, and its still a functional PC.

    Plex with the Plex iOS app works great too, with it you can find and airplay your ripped media, no iTunes needed and you can also watch and airplay online media content.

    Sure, it means when you want to watch ripped media your computer needs to be on, but for your needs, it doesn't seem like a dediated HT PC is needed at this point IMHO...and really even a low end PC or older Macbook would work just fine for your needs; use the ATV as your window to your media, no need to connect it to the TV.
  13. Primejimbo macrumors 68040

    Aug 10, 2008
    Ripit isn't free, but I love that I pop a DVD in, launch ripit, and click on "compress" and that's all.
  14. TinHead88 macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2008
    If you're going to run a Mac Mini as a media centre I would recommend XBMC over Plex. I've tried Plex and really wanted to like it but always ran into problems that either took ages to resolve or were never resolved. It seems the smaller team at Plex focuses more on extraneous features while core functionality is broken.

    XBMC will give you better results as a media centre.
  15. Cinephi1e, Oct 21, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2012

    Cinephi1e macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2012
    Northwest Ohio
    My receiver can take multiple HDMI inputs, with a single output to the TV. I have the Mac Mini and the ATV as inputs and I can switch between them to get the interface on the TV. If your receiver does not have multiple HDMI inputs you can buy inexpensive HDMI switches to do this.

    You can also use the switch to split the HDMI signal from the Mac Mini between the receiver and the monitor. Also, the Mac Mini has a mini display port (Thunderbolt), so you can hookup a mini display port monitor directly to it.
  16. Hrududu macrumors 68020


    Jul 25, 2008
    Central US
    I used a Mac Mini along with an EyeTV for about 2 years. When the logicboard died a 2nd time in the Mini, I replaced it with an AppleTV and I'm glad I did. Overall, the price was the main decision maker, but I'm really pleased with how the AppleTV handles the video playback and ease of use from the couch. I primarily use it for MLB.TV and NHL Gamecenter Live, and found that video from those mediums was ALWAYS better than from the Mac Mini. I still have a PowerMac G5 hooked to the TV with the EyeTV for recording shows or just loading up video on the HDD, but its not worth the money for another Mac Mini. Not even a used one for me was a better option. If you do go with a Mini, I would suggest buying a used one. Get one that supports 3GB of RAM or more and use that if you must, but I wouldn't say its worth getting a brand new one for that type of use. Mine was a Core Duo 1.83 with 2GB of RAM and it had plenty of CPU power I felt, but RAM was easily used up. Just my thoughts since I've done both before.
  17. IronWaffle macrumors 6502


    I'm interested in this kind of setup too, but don't have a MacBook or iMac (or a budget for one). I do have an iPad 2, though. Can that be used to control the mini or access its OS interface.

    I'm a real newb, so I appreciate any tips and apologize for my... uh... newbnessness.

    My current setup is:
    Apple TV 2 ->HDMI-> 5.1 Receiver
    ->Receiver->HDMI->Oppo 93 Blu-ray player
    Also on Wifi network: iPad 2<->iPod Touch 4g

    I run iTunes on a Windows 7 laptop but would rather move all my media files to (at least) one external drive (and/or mini) for easier streaming and to consolidate my media activity pretty much with Apple and make my Win machine pretty much for productivity.
  18. Cinephi1e macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2012
    Northwest Ohio
    Yes, you can do this with a VNC app for the iPad. In fact screen sharing on the Mac also is through the VNC protocol. The app I use for this on my iPad is iTeleport:

    It takes a little getting used to, but it works really well. You can use it to bring up and control the interfaces for both Mac and PC from the iPad.
  19. IronWaffle macrumors 6502



    That reminds me of Splashtop ( I had to use the app briefly last year. Do you think that might work? If not, I may grab iTeleport now since its heavily discounted. Either way, I also assume I could throw the interface onto the HDTV via AirPlay as I often do with other apps.

    Now, if I can continue to bug you, I'd like to go with the base mini and use an external, but would that be enough for streaming audio on a home network? I see there is also a "server" model.

    Thanks in advance for further input. Just include "good luck" in your response and I'll know to stop asking or do more googling:)
  20. Cinephi1e macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2012
    Northwest Ohio
    A lot of what I know about the ATV, encoding, etc., I picked up on this forum. Now it is my turn to give back. So ask away!

    I think the server model of the Mac Mini is an overkill unless you want to run a webserver, e-mail server and the like. A basic model is good enough for an iTunes server. However, I do all my ripping and encoding on the Mac Mini and for this I would recommend that you get one with a decent graphics card and at least 4GB of RAM, preferably 8GB. A faster chip would be nice as well for this.

    I tried Splashtop and iTeleport earlier and at that time iTeleport provided a much better experience so I settled on that. I have not tried Splashtop since then and it is possible that it is much improved now. Since they are both reasonably priced you can buy both of them.
  21. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    Graphics cards are not involved in ripping/encoding. Processor speed/# of cores is most important.
  22. Cinephi1e macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2012
    Northwest Ohio
    That's true, but often you need to playback files to check encoding and quality. Also, if I am not mistaken, OpenCL allows the harnessing of the power of graphics cards for other tasks.
  23. Hammie macrumors 65816


    Mar 17, 2009
    Wash, DC Metro
    I use Splashtop 2 on my iPad. I upgraded and can actually control my Mac Mini while I am out and about over cellular. This is helpful in the event I need to access something when I get the call from my wife that she cannot watch something. I connect in, see that iTunes crashed maybe or whatever. I fix it and then she is usually good to go. This has only happened once and that was when I was on Snow Leopard and I had just upgraded to iTunes 10.7.

    I have a Mac Mini as a media hub with a 4TB and 2TB FW800 drives connected. I also have an external DAC for high-resolution music directly into my media room's processor. Additionally, I have one ATV3, two ATV2's and one ATV1 all accessing the files on my Mac Mini. I do have a dedicated HDMI cable connected to one of my home office monitors, but I rarely ever use it. My iPad does about 98% of what I would need access for.

    Good luck!
  24. purd002 macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2008
    After a year or so of fiddling(and I love to fiddle) with a mac mini as a HTPC I gave up and went back to the ATV. Tried and tried to get it reliable enough to work everytime it was turned on. Purchased remotebuddy and got plex setup fairly easily, but continually had issues with either video or audio not being sent out correctly through the HDMI port. Only way to fix that was to bust out a mouse or VNC and change it in settings. Got to the point that even I was avoiding using it let alone it never being wife friendly. I could see it being much easier to handle if you were a cord cutter and it was your primary and only source. I have 4 sources that we use regularly and the back and forth played havoc on the HDMI connection.

    Other issue at the time was Plex could not handle any purchased iTunes media which was irritating and forced me to exit Plex just to play that content - all the while the ATV could handle both purchased and ripped content and have them in one menu.

    Final straw was the stuttering that was introduced with one of the updates to Lion over HDMI, who knows that may have been addressed but after waiting and waiting for a fix it never came before I gave up.

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