AppleTV vs Others

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by gvegastiger, Apr 23, 2008.

  1. gvegastiger macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    #1
    So I'm contemplating purchasing something to act as a media center. What are my options (obviously ATV is one of them) and what are the pros and cons of those options.
     
  2. Avatar74 macrumors 65816

    Avatar74

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    #2
    There are all kinds of media center solutions out there... and it would take too long to go through every feature and benefit of every one.

    The question really is... what do you want a media center to do, exactly? Then people can make suggestions based on your criteria.

    For example...

    Do you want it to also play games?
    Will you be connecting it to a surround sound system?
    Do you want to stream content wirelessly over your network?
    Do you want on-screen access to internet content? What kinds of internet content?
    Do you want to rent or purchase movies, music, etc?

    Think about these and other types of questions to narrow down what your criteria are and then provide a list so we can help you figure out the right media center.
     
  3. MikieMikie macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Newton, MA
    #3
    In addition, I would ask:

    Is your media centrally located?
    Do you currently use iTunes as a distribution server?
    Do you own a lot of physical media and want to serve it up, a DVD/CD at a time?
    What kind of space do you have, and are willing to devote to a solution?
     
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #4
    The best thing out there is free. well at least the software is, disk drives and so on still cost money. Take a look at Myth TV.
    http://mythtv.org/modules.php?name=MythFeatures
     
  5. MikieMikie macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Newton, MA
    #5
    Chris,

    Where's the "play music" option?
    Where's the "view iPhoto images" option?

    I looked, but this seems to be little more than an interface to using your computer as a DVR. Aren't you then limited as to the output quality, too?
     
  6. oli2140 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    #6
    I am also looking for a similar product to Apple TV, ones I have found of interest are:

    PopcornHour - A new product which is very capable and at a low price too, might be worth waiting for the bugs to be fixed though..
    http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/

    Pixel Magic HD Mediabox - The forums don't seem to be too kind about this product but it looks as though it should work...
    http://www.pixelmagicsystems.com/products/media_players/hd_mediabox.htm

    XBMC X-Box Media Centre, This uses an old Xbox and is open source and updated regularly, it has been ported onto Mac here: http://www.osxbmc.com/

    These three can play a huge number of different files however to be honest, I don't fully trust that all of the bugs will be fixed. If you are looking for something much more stable, you could have a look at:

    Netgear Digital Entertainer Series
    Buffalo Linktheater

    I have also seen Slingcatcher from SlingMedia which is not out yet but looks as though it has potential - http://www.slingmedia.com/go/slingcatcher

    I do think that although Apple TV is very easy to use and has neat menus, I think there are better options which can play a variety of different formats.
     
  7. Oilbrnr macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    #7
    The real question is how much do you want to spend? ;)
     
  8. gvegastiger thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    #8
    Ok, this is what I'm looking for.

    I would like to primarily use it for serving up my movies. I want to convert my DVDs to digital content and play directly from a "box" whatever that might look like. I also would like to stream music to it, or store music on it and play from there. It doesn't matter that much to me however I do have a lot of iTunes music that of course only plays through iTunes so it'd have to either be capable of running iTunes or be able to have iTunes stream music to it.

    I don't have a server, just an old Powerbook but I don't think I want a media PC bc of all the upkeep, components, size, and expense. Something in the $200 - $300 range would be good. I don't need it to be a DVR bc I already have TiVo for that. It'd be nice if it could also display photos.

    I care very much about image quality and format so I don't want it to be too restrictive there. I dont really care about renting movies through it.

    I think that about covers it.
     
  9. MikieMikie macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Newton, MA
    #9
    The device you're describing is an Apple TV. It's even in the price range.

    I bought mine for the purposes of:
    Listening to all of my music without having to swap CDs
    Watching my DVDs without having all of the media in my living room.

    Having the photos from iPhoto available turned out to be a nice bonus that I have used more than expected. In addition, I am also surprised at the amount I've been using the Apple TV to access podcast content directly.

    Since you have an old Powermac, you will need a lot of time to convert a DVD to an iTunes/Apple TV friendly format. You should look through a few relatively recent threads about encoding/conversion times to get an idea as to what you're looking at.

    I ultimately upgraded my Mac to an iMac 2.8 Ghz Core 2 Duo just to escape the pain of > 12 hour long encodes. You won't stress your CPU much more than setting it to encode videos.
     
  10. gvegastiger thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    #10
    What formats does ATV play? Isnt it just mpeg4?
     
  11. MikieMikie macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Newton, MA
    #11
    So I assume you're interested in using some sort of conversion program to go from DVD to Apple TV?

    For film/videos/TV Shows, Apple TV plays H.264 streaming format (MP4, M4V) files.

    See the many "Handbrake" and "MacTheRipper" references in a multitude of threads. Handbrake now provides Dolby Digital soundtracks if your equipment can handle it.

    As far as audio goes, basically, if you can hear the content in iTunes, you can hear it on Apple TV. Photos are ok as long as the format is jpg, etc.
     

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