AppleTV vs. Mac Mini ?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by pwn247, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. pwn247 macrumors 6502


    Aug 30, 2008
    West Virginia, USA
    With the cost of satellite service here so high (only one provider, so it's a monopoly), we've decided to dump the service and go for an all-internet media environment. So with the continuing success of my mac pro and iPod touch, I decided to shell out for a home media system using a cheaper Apple product.

    So aside from an LCD HDTV, I've been looking at the Mac Mini to use as a little media center, and simply load up Boxee to watch shows, news, Monk, and so on. The way I see it, with ~$100 going to the satellite service each month, the Mac Mini pays for itself in less than half a year.

    But then again, I also took an eye to the Apple TV. There's a quick little "hack" out there that allows one to load the same Boxee service on the Apple TV (which is considerably more cheaper than the Mini).

    So my question is: Mac Mini or Apple TV (+ why), and what extra cables would I need (if the LCD HDTV doesn't have DVI).

    Big thanks, -Eddie
  2. liquidtrend macrumors 6502


    Jul 26, 2008
    if boxee and front row are all you need...then apple tv is perfect.
    if you are in search of some other functions, like having a dvd drive...then you can get the mini...but i dont see why appleTV isnt right for you.
  3. pwn247 thread starter macrumors 6502


    Aug 30, 2008
    West Virginia, USA
    Sounds good so far.

    I'm also looking around to see if I can get the CNN live feed on the :apple: TV as well. If not, then I might reconsider the Mini.
  4. liquidtrend macrumors 6502


    Jul 26, 2008

    with apple tv, you have an hdmi hookup, so you can use that sweet lcd hdtv.
    the apple tv has 802.11n and the mac mini is on 802.11g (could be wrong if they have updated)

    for me, in my media experience...the g vs. the n router has made a difference. and hdmi is a must.

    as for cnn live...i think you might encounter a problem.
    boxee does have a cnn channel, which is updated quickly and regularly...
    but it is not live on-the-spot news.
  5. nsps macrumors newbie

    Aug 2, 2007
    Here's the big question for me: How easy is it to transfer files from my MacBook Pro to a makeshift Mac Mini media center versus an AppleTV?

    To me, the appeal of AppleTV is that I can easily put movies on it by loading them onto iTunes (and my impression is that the Boxee hack makes it pretty easy to transfer over the not-officially-supported file types it plays), then easily access and play these from my couch using my remote—no mouse or keyboard. If anything requires too much effort, I might as well save money and keep plugging in my laptop. Obviously the reason to go Mini would be for extra functionality, but I'd rather lose the functionality than face a hassle.

    So is it possible to rig the Mini to make it work like an ATV, or would I be better off with the ATV?
  6. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    DVI to HDMI cables are cheap. The principal issue is the Mini only has one audio port. So it goes to your TV or to your receiver, but not both.

    The Apple TV only has 100 mbps ethernet, while the Mini has gigabit. So if one is hard wiring, then the Mini has the advantage.

    They're equally easy. But the Mini offers far more playback options for video (e.g., m2ts, mkv, vc-1, mpeg-2) and audio (e.g., DTS) codecs, and can do 1080p.

    You can only play 720p video with the ATV's Front Row software, not with Boxee/XBMC.

    The same is true for the Mini as it has the same remote.

    The Mini can do a lot of things the ATV cannot do, and the ATV can do a few things the Mini cannot do. It just depends on one's needs and willingness to pay more.
  7. purplesaber macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2008
    Caveman -- when you say that the mini is just as easily controlled by the remote as the ATV do you mean Front Row specifically? I've seen you praise Plex as an alternative -- is that as easy to control with the apple remote?

    I guess what I'm getting at is if non-tech people want to watch movies (i.e., wife and kids) how easy would it be for them to push a button on a remote, get the appropriate program running on the mini, and be able to get the video they want? Do you leave the mini on all the time running Plex? Or would you leave the computer on and call up Front Row with the apple remote when needed?

    What about if you want to use the mini for other things -- iTunes music or watching Hulu for example -- is there any easy way to control these things and still open Front Row (or Plex) easliy? I assume wireless keyboard and mouse would work, but anything more "family room friendly"?

    Thanks for any advice. Like the OP I am still trying to make a final decision on mini vs. ATV. I'd like the rest of the family to be able to easily use whatever I pick, which why I'm asking about how to make the mini as user friendly as possible. If only Apple would update either one this would be an easier decision!
  8. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Yes, Plex works with the Apple remote. Plex has a bit of a learning curve for setup, but it's not too terribly bad, especially what you get in return.

    My 8 year old can handle Plex, my 6 year old can't. I suppose the wife could too, if I could ever get her down to the basement. ;)

    Always on, but not always running Plex. Eye TV and iTunes run all the time, then Plex when we watch movies on the big screen.

    You can run any OS X app from within Plex - that's one of the features that makes it so nice.

    Those all work, but require a little more effort at set up. I really only use my Mini for high-def movies. I use the Apple TV for the other things.
  9. nsps macrumors newbie

    Aug 2, 2007
    Thanks, Caveman. So, to be clear, I would be able to easily sync and automatically update the media on my main machine to the mini? Would I need any extra software to do it?

    Obviously the mini does a lot of extra things, but besides n vs. g, what else can the ATV can do that the Mini can't?

    In terms of the remote, I can of course pull up Front Row with on the Mini, but to open other software, I'd have to first go into the machine and open it before being able to open it with the remote (at least that's the experience I've had with my MBP). I installed boxee on my MBP to get an idea of how it works, and it seems I can only open boxee with the remote at the expense of other remote-operated apps.

    EDIT: Sorry—your last post wasn't there when I started writing this (had to run out for a sec while writing it). I guess I need to look into Plex.
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    The Mini will have iTunes on it and if you turn on iTunes sharing on you laptop it will show up on the Mini as well, thus accessible from the Mini's Front Row software, just like on your laptop.

    The ATV has three audio ports, vs one for the Mini.
    The ATV is HDCP-compliant, the Mini is not.
    The ATV can play HD movie rentals, the Mini cannot.
    The ATV has the potential to deliver high-def audio (True-HD, DTS-HD) through its HDMI port, the Mini can only do 7.1 compressed (DD or DTS). (I doubt we'll ever see HD audio on the ATV, but who knows?)

    I'm sure there are others.
  11. beafer macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2008
    Sorry to mini-hijack this but with using the apple remote on an iphone/ipod touch, can you control atv music playing and also does it control music being streamed from another box (server :D)

    Airport express in there too?

    Again, sorry for the mini hijack but cave man seems to be on point with the info.
  12. veedow macrumors newbie


    Dec 19, 2008
    Chicago suburbs
    I guess everyones situation is different. I see the benefits of the Mini instead of the ATV, but after using the ATV for over a year, I really like it. Especially for the cost, I now have 2 ATVs, for well under the price of the Mini.

    If you want, you can check out my rant on this topic:

    Most of the features I miss not having the Mini are solved by the addition of Boxee on the ATV.
  13. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I think it's better in some respects and worse in others. The ATV FR has more functions, but the Mac FR doesn't require keeping all your content inside iTunes.

    You wouldn't have to have another iTunes library on the Mini. Its Front Row (and Plex) would see the iTunes library on your office Mac and stream that content just like the ATV.

    The Mini also has digital optical out, and can do DTS (unlike the Apple TV).

    Not if your content is high-quality (i.e., high bit rate) HD. It will stall on ff/rew. In addition, you're limited to 720p on the ATV.

    But you're only getting 100 mbps transmission (probably more like 85 to 90 if you take into account the overhead).

    It also works with the Mini.

    Sounds like you should get out more with the family. :)

    Otherwise, I agree with your points.
  14. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I don't know since I don't use the Apple iPhone remote much. I have Harmonies.

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