Considering getting mac mini solely for media hub... Tips?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by JS77, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. JS77 macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2008
    Hi guys, I'm considering getting a new mac mini to be a media hub at home, connected directly to my TV via hdmi (and running plex).

    Before I do this, are the any tips or "gotchas" I should be aware of? Would you recommend getting the apple remote? (would it even work in plex?)

    Thanks for your input :)
  2. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    There is tons of info available in both the Mini and Apple TV/Home Theatre forums about this but I'll hit a few points that pop immediately to mind:

    - While a new Mini will work great as a HTPC, it isn't necessary, even for viewing high bitrate 1080p media. I'm currently using an early 2009 model (MB463LL/A, 2.0 GHz C2D) and it works beautifully--serves my media to all my iDevices and 3 :apple:TVs as well as the living room TV to which it's connected. I have no experience but have read that the older Intel C2D and I believe even the Core Duos will get the job done as well. If you want to watch blu ray rips (.mkv) without encoding, you will want to stick to more recent models but if you plan on encoding with something like Handbrake to .mp4 (smaller file size, lower bitrates, you can save a few $ and pick up either a refurb from Apple or check out eBay for an earlier model.

    - PLEX is great, for everything except an video purchased from iTunes (damn DRM :(). Unfortunately Apple removed Front Row (native media interface in OS X) from Lion but if you run Snow Leopard on an older Mini, you can use that for iTunes purchased content and can even launch it from PLEX.

    And yes, an Apple Remote works just fine but is not necessary. You can program a universal remote (Harmony remotes work great) or use any number of apps (tons for iPhone/iPod Touch, probably a bunch for Android but again, no personal experience), include PLEX's own apps. As mentioned, I use my Harmony One but have also used Hippo Remote and Rowmote (personal choice) on my iPhone. For the times I'm actually navigating around OS X outside of PLEX, I use Air Mouse in lieu of a mouse/trackpad or keyboard.
  3. JS77 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2008
  4. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    One improvement I wish could be made is for Netflix to release a "real" desktop app for Netflix. Plex right now just pulls the browser stream and it's quite clunky in my opinion. For your own media though, Plex is fabulous.
  5. TheBaconKing macrumors regular


    Dec 2, 2010
    Northwest Arkansas
    I guess its a little off topic, but has anyone jailbroken their aTV 2 and installed the plex client? how did it go, and does it work well?

    I have my Mac Mini and love it as a Media server. I just downloaded and installed plex (AWESOME!!). I have the Mini hooked directly to the main TV, but still have 2 other aTV 2s in other rooms.

    So I guess to answer your question and not go too off topic. I got the 2011 Mini solely for a Media server. The reason I went with the 2011 over a previous generation (cheaper) Mini, is that I am planning on using it to rip most of my movies as well. The i5 is alot faster at this than the Core 2 Duos.

    Its funny though. I have a Macbook Pro and an iPad, but when I installed the splashtop server on my Mini all I use is the iPad. If I need a computer I just remote in. So I guess I am getting more out of the Mini then I had planned when I bought it.
  6. mattdeezy macrumors member

    Jul 3, 2011
    I use Boxee instead of Plex. For whatever reason it seems to play back blu ray rips smoother.

    I have the 2011 i7 server
  7. telephonepanda macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2011
    Literally set up a new Mac Mini as my media/file server last night. Relatively painless process...

    The Mac Mini hosts all of my music, movies etc as well as running iTunes. (plus general files and music samples etc etc.) and I've pointed my MacBook Pro iTunes to the same iTunes library as on the mini, so that a) I can add new music etc to the iTunes library on either the mini or the pro and b) it makes it possible to sync media to my iOS devices, which I couldn't do if it was using Home Sharing.

    I use the home sharing to access my media from my atv and iOS devices, but the mini is not directly connected to a TV at all.

    This all took no time at all to set up and works really well - not sure if it's any help, but that's how I spent a cold Thursday night in Aberdeen. Sigh.

  8. JS77 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2008
    Thanks to everyone for replying... :)

    Yeah, I think I'll go for the new 2011 models mainly because (1) I like to buy shiny new hardware :) and (2) The previous Mini's are still holding their value relatively well so I'd rather just pay the difference for a new 2011 model.

    I considered that approach too, but for now, I think a Mac mini running Plex connected directly to my TV will serve my needs best. Thanks for the reply!

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