Buy a 2011 or 2012 Mini for HTPC

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by noahmateen1234, May 7, 2013.

  1. noahmateen1234 macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    I am interested in buying a Mac Mini to use as an HTPC. I will hook it up with HDMI (2011 version can pass sound right?). I have 2 external HDD's (2TB and 3TB), both are USB 3.0, that I store all my movies/TV shows on. Other than that I will use Hulu and Netflix as well.

    So my only question is, would it be worth getting the base model 2011 version for around $350-$400, or the 2012 version for around $500. I know the differences between the two (USB 3.0 and Intel HD 4000 graphics).

    I was just wondering what you all think, as far as real life performance goes. The main reason I want the 2012 is for the USB 3.0, for when I download movies and want to transfer them to my external's. But I am just trying to decide if the price is worth that much. I would want to keep this computer for at least a few years.
  2. Che Castro macrumors 603

    May 21, 2009
    If I was you I would get the 2010 mini
    If is only for watching movies and tv Shows hooked up to the tv, plus you get the optical drive for your old DVDs
  3. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    Will you be coding movies for the htpc? If so, the 2012 obviously has a better CPU, particularly the quad.

    I have the 2012 2.6 as a htpc at the moment and it replaced a 2011 2.0 quad. There is no major difference other than faster coding in handbrake, quieter fan, and USB 3.0. The USB is important to me because I have over 4tb of movies that need to be backed up regularly.

    Both models still max the fan on 100% CPU but the 2012 is slightly quieter due to the new design oh the fan.

    I don't notice any diff between the 3000 and 4000 GPU.
  4. noahmateen1234 thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    No I don't encode my movies, as they are already in .mkv. However, I do transfer them to the externals from the HTPC so the USB 3.0 is really the deciding factor. As far as noise goes, can you hear the 2011 version when you are watching a movie on the couch?
  5. blanka, May 8, 2013
    Last edited: May 8, 2013

    blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    I run a 2009 Mini with 750gb internal 7200rpm + BR drive. It works perfect. External storage is done over gigabit, much faster than USB2, not as fast as USB3, but perfectly suited for network volume playback in say XBMC. Anything from that machine with 9400M and up is capable of all the BR/HD264 decoding.

    Audio over HDMI is irrelevant for me, as that has to go to the surround amp with a 4$ optical cable, not to the display. I have nothing else connected to the screen, so the amp is just always on the same sound input and does not have to switch any video. Even with separate HDMI/optical you can use your amp to switch sources if that is necessary. Just less pretty in the back of your cupboard as it is 2 cables now ;)

    You won't hear any Intel C2D or later mini. Only maybe if VLC hangs with a spinning beach ball, but don't use VLC anyway. Terrible media player. And an USB external probably makes more noise than the mini too. That's why I use a network machine.

    Oh, and even USB2 is fast enough. Just download directly to the drive. Download speed never exceeds USB2 capacity.
  6. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    No noise on either the 2011 or 2012. But I watch mp4 or mpvs in iTunes so I do not code on the fly. I under stand XBMC or plex or similar might do it that way so it might speed up the fan if the CPU gets hot but I am not sure about that. I have seen some posts on it. Running pre-doded mkvs, avis etc in vlc or mpvs in iTunes does nothing to my CPU. It doesn't even blink.

    The 2012 is far quieter for me because the new fan system (or controller?) only speeds up the fan when it gets to around 80'c or so. In other words it remains on lower fan speed for a wider range of temps up to about 80'c. Even then it only hits top (loudest noise) at around 95'c or hotter. It is designed that way. There are threads on this in the forum.

    The 2011 on the other hand seems to raise the fan speed as the temp gets hotter. I.e. direct correlation. So I find it is slightly noisier because the fan cuts in earlier.

    The ivy bridge can handle hotter temps than the 2011 sandy, and the fan in the 2012 is upgraded. So while the 2012 can run warmer, the fan is more conservative down low.

    I should note though that with either model, I really do not hear the fan in either the 2012 or 2011 unless the fan is really running close to say 75% of its speed range. I don't give rpm's there because they are different on both models. The 2012 runs from 1800 rpm on idle (90% of the time) to 5500 when the CPU is running above 95'c. The 2011 runs from 2300rpm (from memory?) to I think 4500rpm.

    Conc: I would say either model is totally fine and don't worry about the fan noise. But if you code on the fly, then do some homework on that one because the fan can run hard I believe.
  7. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Performance?? We've got two base model 2010 minis that are used for Plex, iTunes, and streaming via Safari. They work just fine.

    Yet another mini is used as a file server and has all the music, movies, photos, etc.
  8. AbyssImpact macrumors 6502a

    Aug 6, 2010
    Get the newest model. Do not settle for less.
  9. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    Playback on USB 2.0 is fast enough for movies. Unless you have gigabit fiber optic internet, your drives on USB 2.0 will be able to keep up with your download speeds. The transfer will take a little longer, but I'm not sure if thats worth the extra cash because you are only saving time on the initial transfer. Another thing to consider is that USB 3.0 is capable of about 10x the speed, but that doesnt mean you'll get it. Most normal non-RAID external drives today write at about 80-100 MB/s, compared to USB 2.0's speed of around 40 MB/s, so your performance might be double.
  10. AQUADock macrumors 65816


    Mar 20, 2011
    Thats bad advice, why should you pay more if you gain little returns?
  11. tmanto02 macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2011
    I have a 2011 - while usb3 would be handy for transferring lots of movies simultaneously I get around the day to day hassle of slower transfer speeds by setting my torrent client to download my movies directly to my external drives.

    Which exact models are you considering? Cause my 2011 has a dedicated gpu which is an advantage for htpcs
  12. noahmateen1234 thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    It would be the base model. I wouldn't use it for anything other than playing music/movies on my TV/sound system. I just use VLC, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and stuff like that.

    I didn't even think about setting my torrent program to download direct to my hard drive. Guess that would be a good idea.

    I am thinking just to save money I will go with a 2011, unless I find a 2012 for a good deal. I'm in no rush, just wanna get it sometime this summer.

    Thanks for the advice.

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