Buying an older Mac Mini as an HTPC -- how to ensure future compatibility?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by macintologist, May 12, 2015.

  1. macintologist macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2004
    So my current 2006 Mac Mini is really starting to show its age as an HTPC. Youtube videos are choppy and even some HD quicktime files sometimes don't play their full fps.

    I've been looking at the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Mac Mini models, hoping to buy a used one off of craigslist or ebay.

    The 2010 model has the Nvidia GeForce 320M using 256 MB of DDR3 SDRAM.
    The 2011 model has the Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 288 MB of DDR3 SDRAM
    The 2012 model has the Intel HD Graphics 4000.

    I know that based on our current environment, any of these should be able to play HD video files and Youtube no problem whatsoever, but looking ahead to future incarnations of Airplay and other potential HTPC applications, not to mention future versions of OS X, what should I be keeping in mind? Do only some of these models support OS X technologies like OpenCL and hardware based encoding? How much longer do you think the 2010 model will be supported by the latest version of OS X?
  2. g33k macrumors member


    May 12, 2015
    The models that you selected will do you perfectly, if you're so unsure you could try and find a new 2014 Mac Mini base model, cheap at a different website, I've seen them go for 439.99 - 469.99 which is pretty good. If you don't want to hunk out that much, a 2009 Mac Mini with the Ram upgraded (max is 8GB) it should be plenty speedy for Netflix and YouTube. I've been looking around for a HTMM and I think I go for a 2009 Mac Mini. They go for ~$200 on eBay. Hope I can help, I mean what you're asking for is a bit specific and complex.
  3. brdeveloper, May 14, 2015
    Last edited: May 14, 2015

    brdeveloper macrumors 68020


    Apr 21, 2010
    The 2010 Mini doesn't play Netflix under Silverlight so nice. But this is solved on Yosemite, which enables the HTML5 player, way smoother than the Silverlight plugin. CUDA is officially unsupported on 320m/9400m/legacy-gpus since Mavericks, but you can unofficially re-enable it by installing nVidia drivers after editing a file inside the installation package. Pretty simple. There is a topic in the Macbook Pro area covering the driver trick.

    The 320m has the advantage of supporting CUDA (although unofficially) and has nearly the same performance of a HD3000 and even the HD4000 in some tasks. A quad 2012 Mini is roughly 4x as faster as a 2010 Mini (cpu wise) while a 2011 Mini is twice as faster as a 2010 Mini. GPU wise there is only some gains with the HD4000 over the others, but nothing exceptional which could enable 4K@60Hz playing on YouTube.

    My Netflix plan is 480p, and I don't find any reason to upgrade to HD resolutions. Video compression washes out fine textures and details, so gains in resolution don't mean you get actual gains in detail.

    EDIT: The Silverlight issue is only perceived under Windows. Let me explain: my 2010 Mini has a Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit installation which I use mainly for HDTV playing with a USB adapter (it is only supported on Windows). Sometimes I also play Netflix on Windows, but it lags. On the OSX side, I still use Mavericks, and Netflix plays well even with Silverlight.
  4. marzer macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    If your concern is predominantly future-proofing, always buy the latest-greatest hardware you can afford. All three of those machines have graphic chipsets optimized for HD playback (decoding), so no worries there. As for encoding, I don't think any of those have any special encoding capability. However, the cpu's are powerful enough to encode anything you throw at them for home media needs.

    Now if you can find a 2011 with the Radeon 6630, you'd probably have a machine that would graphically out perform even the newest Mac mini's. I think that was the last time a discrete GPU was offered in a mini.
  5. macintologist thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2004

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