Current Mac mini capable as HTPC?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Apocrathia, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. Apocrathia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Location:
    University of South Alabama
    #1
    So I really need to replace my current HTPC and I'd REALLY like to get a mac mini for the job. My current box is a celron based system, which worked fine while I had a 480i set but now that I have an HDTV and want to stream HD content, it struggles. The system can barely run XBMC @ 720p and even trying 1080p is a joke.
    So are the current mac mini's able to handle 1080 content without skipping a beat? All of my media sits on my linux server and streams over smb/afp, all I would need is room to store DVR content and that's it.
     
  2. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #2
    I play Blu-ray rips in glorious 1080p with DTS or DD 5.1 surround through the optical port with my 2 gHz Mini. The key to success is Plex.
     
  3. Apocrathia thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Location:
    University of South Alabama
    #3
    I've read about plex before, it's essentially an XBMC fork for OS X, right?
    I'm guessing most of the same XBMC features like library mode still exist. Does anyone know of a better front end that does the same library information retrieval, and that possibly supports tv recording? I'm thinking of getting an Elgato EyeTV to record television as well. I'd like to have some sort of all in one interface. I'm guessing a launcher to plex from frontrow might work, but i really don't know if that's possible. My current setup is running xubuntu.
     
  4. wakerider017 macrumors 68000

    wakerider017

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    US of A
    #4
    What software and drive do you use to rip blurays?
     
  5. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #5
    It's much more elegant that XBMC, and designed with the Mac in mind.

    I haven't used XBMC for quite some time, so I don't know how they compare. But it does not support recording, like Eye TV does.

    You can launch other apps from within Plex.

    See this thread for how I do it.
     
  6. jw2002 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2008
    #6
    I'm still a bit leery of the Mac Mini for 1080p. The Intel GMA 950 in the Mini just isn't all that capable. There have been a lot of postings debating the Mac Mini's 1080p capabilities, so it's definitely not a settled issue.

    In my case I have a 1.42 GHz G4 Mac Mini serving as HTPC, so I can't even render 720p videos without bringing the computer to its knees! If there ever is an update to the Mac Mini, it should be safely in 1080p territory. I'll probably update my HTPC if a new Mac Mini ever comes out. No way would I buy the current Mini, given its mixed results for 1080p.
     
  7. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #7
    BS. The 2 gHz Mini (I have no experience with the others) plays 1080p content just fine, provided you use the right software (Plex, XBMC). It has nothing to do with the gma950 since all the work is done by the cpu. (Other than the Apple TV, no Mac computer uses the gpu for video playback.) All the video chip has to do is display 1920x1080 images at 30 fps and it is perfectly capable of that. I have more than 30 Blu-ray rips, some with peak bitrates of over 40 mbps, and all but two play just fine on the Mini. If I transcode those two troublesome videos to 14 mbps m4v containers with Handbrake, they play fine, too. The Mini even plays 720p at 60 fps without any trouble.

    Then you've been missing out on the best HTPC out there. ;)
     
  8. Apocrathia thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Location:
    University of South Alabama
    #8
    I really think the mini is just made for purposed systems like a home server or htpc. It's such a perfect machine. I'm thinking about getting one and then getting another one whenever the mini finally gets updated, and just using the slower one as a replacement to my home server. (just buy a drobo to go with it).
    I agree with what your both saying about the gma950. the current versions of OS X don't rely on the GPU for anything other than a basic output, but what about snow leopard? which is supposed to take full advantage of the gpu. It's perfectly logical to not want to update, but what will you do if plex quits supporting 10.5? I think that while it is capable now, it might not be later. Now, the lifespan of a purposed system is 5x time life span of a normal use computer, but I really think that the mac mini is nearing the end of it's lifespan for anything that requires any real power. we can all tell that HD is going nowhere. so we need the mini to be able to process HD and then some. It can for now it seems, but would it be able to if processing were put on the GPU? I doubt it.
     
  9. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #9
    Snow Leopard relies on OpenCL using hardware CUDA, which is not found on any of the Intel gpu chipsets, only NVidia. You'll never see SL supporting hardware acceleration on the current Mini or MacBooks with X3100 gpus.

    There will always be Plex for 10.5 because it's already been done. You don't see it for 10.4 because it was started after 10.5 was released.

    But it's not necessary. Right now, cpu works just fine. When SL is available it will not install OpenCL onto any Mac with Intel gpus (maybe not even ATI gpus). Until we start seeing 4k HD, 1080p will be the standard; and I don't see 4k coming to the home anytime soon (if ever). We're near the saturation point, IMO. The only potential problem at the moment is if Apple decides to support Blu-ray Disc playback because that will put two more layers of processing to the discs (HDCP and decryption) and the Mini's gpu is not HDCP-compliant.
     
  10. jw2002 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2008
    #10
    I wasn't saying that 1080p can't be rendered on the Mini, but it most definitely is a mixed bag. First you have to jump through a few hoops application-wise, and second the video decoding of the GMA950 is weak, forcing the cpu to take on a rather heavy load. The cpu load issue is a significant one, and depending on the what else the user has going on in the background, the 1080p video could be quite choppy (as has been and continues to be reported frequently). I am happy to wait for a newer model that delivers 1080p straight out of the box. Anyways, there isn't much 1080p content out there yet. A lot of it is maybe 800p (definitely better than 720p) but still not as resource consuming as full 1080p.
     
  11. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #11
    True for any Mac, not just the Mini.

    The gpu has never done video decoding since the transition to Intel cpus. The iMac doesn't, the MacBook doesn't, the MacBook Pro doesn't and the Mac Pro doesn't. They all rely upon the cpu for video decoding. The only exception to this rule is the Apple TV with Take 2 software.
     
  12. Apocrathia thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Location:
    University of South Alabama
    #12
    No offense to anyone here. I don't see bluray lasting. I have a ps3, and an hdtv, but I don't own a single bluray. digital media is the way i do EVERYTHING. I watch a bit of cable tv (i get free ntsc at my apartment, so i dont care). for the most part though, my little xubuntu box running xbmc chugs along playing SD content @ 720p. All I really need, is a box that will effectively do 1080p.
    My ubuntu server is still running an old 1.8ghz athlon xp and it kicks ass for the job. I'm thinking I'll get a couple of mac mini's and a drobo to act as my media setup (front end, backend + storage).
    I really want to be able to take advantage of the opencl, so I'll probably wait for snow leopard to get the mac mini for the htpc. the servers specs are pretty much null.
    I honestly don't think that the current mac mini's can last the test of HD digital content as HD develops. It may be chugging right now for 1080p, but what about when we get greater compression algorithms for HD content? Let's keep in mind that we've gotten DVD content down to the size of a CD over the years (ie. divx & xvid), but it's taken more processing power to keep a steady pace. Think about this, could your mac mini do a equivalently sized, high compression, rar operation & play the 1080p at once without skipping a beat?
     

Share This Page