Best Mac Mini 2011 for HTPC

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by anthonybarro, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. anthonybarro macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2011
    Can I get recommendations for a 2011 Mac Mini that can handle 6 HD Recordings (with 2 HDHomerun prime) running windows media center 7 (preferably in Parallels) with 3 Xbox 360 as extenders . I am on the fence as to get the base model/server or the amd one. Which ever model I get will be upgraded with ssd and 8gb ram. I have been reading other posts and recommendations are mixed. Anyone with a similar setup as the one I want to accomplish? Thanks for your help
  2. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
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    I have the exact setup. I'm using the 2011 mid-range Mac Mini 2.7 Ghz i7 dual core, 8GB Kingston Hyper X 1866MHz, 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS, 750GB 7200RPM WD Scorpio Black. The key thing is to enable AHCI and separate the OS from the recording drive. If you want any hope of watching HBO or Showtime due to the 29/59 frame rate issue, you need to go with the mid-range for the AMD 6630M discrete graphics.
  3. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
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    To amend my previous statement because of Parallels, I recommend the Mac Mini Server and Corsair 16GB 1333Mhz. Basically, the advantage of the AMD 6630M goes away because you will not be able to watch live or recorded TV because of HDCP compliance or lack therefore of in virtual machines. The quad core in the Mac Mini Server with a ton of will be a lot more effective running a 24/7 virtual machine, while allowing the host OS to be fully functional. Enabling AHCI is not necessary and you would want to split the OSX and location of the virtual machine on separate drives OR potentially using RAID 0.
  4. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    I've got a dedicated Win7 MC with two XBOX 360 extenders. It's not a Mac Mini but an AMD A6-3650 with a 2TB drive and it works like a charm.

    I'm using two PCI-E Hauppauge HVR-2250 tuners and wired Ethernet, WiFi just doesn't cut it. A Logitech 300i remote works with both the DVR & XBOX's. You'll need special software to get past WMC's four tuner limitation.

    I don't think Parallels will be up to the task, Bootcamp should be fine though. Having six HD tuners plus pumping out to three XBOX's over a single 100mb Ethernet port might be optimistic (The XBOX's & HDHomeRun are 100mb).
    The SSD seems like a waste on such a setup.
  5. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
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    Gigabit is necessary for the HTPC and HDHomeRun Primes. You can have the Xbox extenders on 100Mbps. The SSD helps handle reboots for appliance like start up time.

    I use Logitech Harmony One remotes for the Xbox and Logitech diNovo Mini for the Mac Mini.
  6. anthonybarro, Dec 8, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2011

    anthonybarro thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2011
    Shortcut3d, Thanks for the response/tip, are you using your mini in bootcamp? not quite understand the HDCP. Issue, I am currently testing my a setup with the base model and it seems to have the power for recording/viewing but it gets choppy on extenders (While in Parallels) so far its been ok in bootcamp. not sure if the mid range model or server will fix the issue, unless there is a setting I can change, haven't done the AHCI hack yet? Everything on my house is cat6 wired to Airport extreme ( latest model )
  7. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Didn't realize the Prime was Gigabit, that'll help. Still that's a fair amount of data over a single port.
  8. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
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    I'm using bootcamp. In fact, OSX is installed on an external LaCie Thunderbolt Little Big Disk. So for all intensive purposes the Mac Mini is a Windows machine.

    The stutter in Parallels is likely due to sharing resources. Can't be for sure which resource, but your are seriously handicapping the Windows 7 in a VM. It will require a lot of IO, memory, and processor to maintain smooth streaming and recording in Parallels.

    Move the HDHomeRun Prime and HTPC off the Airport onto a separate prosumer gigabit switch if you are recording 6 HD streams. You are probably using near a third of the realworld bandwidth of the gigabit switch.
  9. Xavieryz macrumors newbie

    Feb 27, 2009
    I want to share my experience with the base model mac mini 2011 and you can judge as to whether or not it can handle what you require
    although I do not record any tv with it, I do stream media.

    I upgraded the
    2.3 ghz i5 to 8 gigs of ram
    its connected to a giga network
    I installed Plex

    some of my movies are on a nas, and a few are on a usb external drive on the new mini

    for testing purposes

    I streamed a copy of transformers iso in bluray from my NAS to the Mac mini displaying it in 1080p to my projector its was a 25gig single iso file. playback 7.1 DTSHD surround monitors the framerate drop and over he course of the test droped 13 frames

    I then used the mac mini to transcode and stream a 11gig copy of Inception on bluray rip in 1080p wirelessly to my iphone 4s using plex client

    followed by a copy of Aliens in 720p 7gig file transcoded to my ipad 1 located on my nas

    followed by a copy of Mission impossible 2 720p 8gig file to an iphone 4 located on the USB drive on my mac mini

    I then sent ice age 3 1080p to my apple tv using plex transcoding the 10 gig file

    and to top it off I wirelessly streamed a copy of black swan from the usb drive on my mac natively to VLC on my imac

    To summarize I had 4 ios clients streaming movies, the mac mini playing a 25gig iso and a imac playing 720p from the usb drive on the mac mini.

    all the streams had to be processed through the mac mini one way or another

    all streams play with very little buffering, and I was very impressed the mac mini was hitting 100% on all cores and handling the majority of the processing

    My experiment was very extreme and I wouldn't expect those to be real world scenarios however it was interesting to see it was capable to pull off at least 4-5 streams

    I wanted to record it on video as it was pretty cool to see the the devices playing audio but my iphone was being used.
  10. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
  11. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    This inspired me to run a test using my mid-range 2011 Mac mini. I have two SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime CableCARD network tuners for a total of six tuners in Windows 7 Profesional 64-bit. I started recording 6 shows all at once. I watched one show being recorded on an Xbox 360 and had normal smooth playback after everything was tuned and started recording. There was some stutter as the 5th and 6th started recording, but quickly smoothed out after 2-3 seconds. I was able to jump between recordings without issues. The stutter could be caused by weak signal strength because I've noticed using all the tuners drops the signal quality and strength, which is expected since I'm using a splitter for the coax feeding the two HDHomeRun Primes. My complete HTPC configuration and settings are listed below.

    Configuration & Settings:
    2011 Mac mini Dual-Core Intel i7
    AMD 6630M 256MB
    8GB Kingston Hyper X 1866 MHz
    240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS
    750GB WD Scorpio Black 7200RPM
    Windows 7 Professional 64-bit on Vertex 3 MAX IOPS
    Media Center recording drive on WD Scorpio Black
    AHCI Enabled
    Sleep and Hibernate Disabled
    Link State Power Management set to Maximum Power Saving (L1)
    Daily 4:00 AM Windows Media Center Optimization
    Daily 3:00 AM Defragment
    Daily 3:00 AM Windows Update
    Weekly Wednesday 4:59 AM SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime restart scheduled task
    Weekly Wednesday 5:00 AM Windows 7 restart scheduled task
    Logitech Di Novo Mino bluetooth keyboard

    Two (2) Xbox 360 4GB Slim
    Two (2) Logitech Harmony One Remotes

    3TB Time Capsule configured as router
    Airport Extreme configured as access point
    Netgear ProSafe Gigabit Switch
    Two (2) SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime
    DHCP reservations for HTPC equipment
  12. Seydlitz macrumors member

    Mar 21, 2009
    If you only use it for HTPC uses 8Gb is severe overkill.

    You can save money there and you will never notice it. neither Plex, nor XBMC will evert use that much.

    I know people will scream more is better! But as long as that memory won't be allocated it's doing absolutely nothing at all.

    I also strongly suggest going with the smalest HDD.

    the cash saved by both the memory and the HDD can be invested in a simple 1 drive nas from Synology. A 2gb NAS solution is a LOT more powerful and practical.
  13. anthonybarro thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2011
    Thanks Shortcut3d your setup is almost excactly as mine, I went with the server version though because of my intentions of running it in a vm environment, I am still in testing phase. Which guide did you used for AHCI? I was trying to follow the one in ocz forum but got stuck because don't have original bootable disk, lion came preinstalled. Also how did you setup the hdhomerm prime restart task? Didn't know that was possible. Thanks a lot for your imput
  14. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    If you are using multiple extenders 8GB is a good idea.
  15. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I followed the OCZ forum instructions. You only need to do the patched MBR for the Windows boot drive. The instructions are for the drive level not partition.

    HDHR Prime restart command for Task Scheduler

    C:\Program Files\Silicondust\HDHomeRun\hdhomerun_config.exe FFFFFFFF set /sys/restart self

    FFFFFFFF is the device ID. You need to schedule a task for each device. Use basic task and copy the whole string into the application to start field. Let Windows automatically parse the string for arguments and accept.

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