Help deciding on a media center

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by vwDavid, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. vwDavid macrumors regular

    Aug 20, 2007
    Hi Folks,

    I've been following this forum for about 6 weeks now trying to pick-up on the in's and out's of apple TV.

    I need to purchase a media center, and it has to be wireless capable. We have on iMac, one macbook, one iphone and use a linksys N router. It currently is not possible to hard wire ethernet at the TV.

    I was just about set on purchasing an apple TV off craiglist- but netflix and hulu and other streaming media/TV on demand video intrigues me.

    Here are the big requirements:
    -must be wireless capable
    -we enjoy the option to rent itunes video
    -appreciate itunes/apple integration

    Here are the consideration:
    -Apple TV, hacked: still does not provide netflix/hulu type media, but dead simple integration, rental capable.

    -Mac Mini HTPC with software? not sure about this as I haven't read much yet but I'm making the assumption I can do a lot more that ATV with streaming websites, local storage, itunes rental capable etc...

    -PS3 probably a robust media center, has some mac integration, no rentals streaming video on demand??

    -XBox? need more info

    -other media center on the market now or in max 6 weeks time?

    I'm kinda stuck as to where to go from here. Apple TV sounds simple and almost ideal but it sounds cantankerous when run wirelessly and won't do over the new On demand video.
  2. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    Regarding PS3:
    • Wireless: has only 802.11b/g (no 802.11n) and in my experience, inconsistent when streamed higher bitrate contents.
    • iTunes video rental: sorry, this won't work. Only Apple products can do this. You can rent stuff from Sony PS store or stream from Netflix. Of course, there's the built-in BD/DVD drive that can play rented discs.
    • iTunes/Apple integration: it's workable in that you can stream or copy files over the network, but there is no sync and not all the metadata and formats are supported.
  3. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    I found streaming video from my Mac onto a PS3 (using Medialink) to be very patchy. Some files would play sound only. It does play more formats than an Apple TV, but the interface on the PS3 is horrible.
  4. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    Any of the mentioned choices have wireless capability, though for the xbox you do need to purchase an additional adapter.

    If the video rentals MUST be iTunes, then you choices are aTV or a mini. If you just want to be able to rent movies online, you can do that with a PS3 or Xbox via their own services (which all offer roughly the same catalogs).

    Netflix streaming is available on Xbox, PS3, or the mini.

    On the PS3 or xbox you can get Hulu via programs like PlayOn, which stream the content from a PC (runs fine via Parallels/Fusion).

    I have almost all of the above (no 360) and they all have their benefits and drawbacks, so it depends on what is really important.

    The AppleTV is wife friendly and cheap. It can, however, be tempermental. It's a lot better with the most recent iTunes update and v3 software, but it may cause you the occasional headache with random syncing issues. If all you're doing is renting the occasional movie this is probably your best bet.

    The PS3 can do Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix, online rental/purchases via the Playstation store and you can add on a fairly basic Hulu/streaming video capability via PlayOn. PlayOn requires a windows partition running your network, and the interface isn't super fancy, but it does work. It's also fairly cheap. It can be wife friendly, as long as you get either the blu-ray remote or the Harmony adapter for your harmony universal remote. And hey, video games! If you want to have a more simplified one machine to do your movies on (streamed or physical) and the possibility of light Hulu viewing, this would be a good choice.

    Xbox can do all the above, except Blu-ray. Netflix is easier (due to licensing PS3 and Wii have to access Netflix via an inserted disc).

    Since the Mini is just a computer, it can do pretty much anything you can think of (except Blu-ray). So it has the highest versatility but also the highest price (roughly two to three times the price of the others). You can add TV tuners to the mini and make it a DVR. The wife acceptance factor is lower than the others, as you have to kludge together different programs and interfaces and do training on how to use the remote to jump from EyeTV to Hulu to Plex and back. And every now and then, one of them (Plex lately in my instance) will crash and drop you onto the desktop. Which tends to throw the wife into a confused wail. If you want a swiss army, do everything under the sun with one box, the Mini is the best choice for you.

    tl;dr Online rentals only: aTV; physical & streamed media only: PS3/Xbox; Live TV/streamed/DVD/everything box: Mini
  5. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    In what format do you have most of your video content? If you have a lot, and it's not in a format acceptable to Apple TV, you're going to have to re-encode it. Other media centers can play a broader range of formats.

    As regards wireless behaviour, the ATV is fine. Where most people trip up (as did I, and there are quite a few threads in here on the same topic) is access to content from the host. To sync or stream content, the host Mac/PC has to be awake. If the CPU goes to sleep, the connection is lost and the Apple TV will give a generic, unhelpful error message saying that the content is in a format that cannot be played. As long as your host's CPU is always on, you will have no problem with the Apple TV operating wirelessly (I have 4 of 'em, 2 of which are wireless and there is virtually no difference in performance from the 2 that are wired).

    FYI, for rentals/purchases etc., the ATV connects to the internet directly through your network, not through your Mac/PC.
  6. vwDavid thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 20, 2007
    I'm starting fresh, I have virtually no purchased itunes content (videos) but like the simplicity of itunes rentals and have done that in the past.

    Is it correct that v3 ATV OS + hacks cannot get you netflix/hulu type streaming content on atv?

    My iMac is always on so that won't be an issue and I'd plan to hack an atv so I can play avi/mkv etc...
  7. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    Netflix can not be done on an aTV (just not fast enough).

    Hulu is available via the Boxee beta, at least it is today. As soon as Hulu figures out a way to block it again, it will be gone (though with Boxee's current implementation it may be fairly difficult for Hulu to block it)
  8. B.A.T macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2009
    If you hack an atv can you surf the net with Boxee or look at videos at
  9. vwDavid thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 20, 2007
    After spending a good bit of time on the ATV flash forums it appear to me that hulu on atv was basically, currently dead and that only a hand full of people were blessed to actually get boxee to connect to hulu once in a blue moon.

    Can someone explain to me the difference/relationship of boxee/hulu. Hulu is a website that will show you TC in flash and boxee is cross platform software that gives you access to a variety of streaming web content?
  10. vwDavid thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 20, 2007
    OK, so I've started looking closely at vs. ATVFlash and find it is very difficult to compare the different features and even harder to discern the limitations.

    I'm wondering if its better to just use a mac mini instead and have the possibility to do anything...

    atv vs htpc mac mini? any suggestions?
  11. prostuff1 macrumors 65816


    Jul 29, 2005
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    I am always a fan of having more options, and in this case it means the Mac Mini.

    I am looking to upgrade my original xbox running xbmc to an other device. I am probably going to go with a Acer Aspire Revo single core atom based machine. They use the Nvidia ION chipset and can paly 1080p content no problem using XBMC.

    The only downside to this is if you have a lot of content from iTunes that is DRMed as I am not sure if it can play that stuff.
  12. elcid macrumors 6502

    May 5, 2007
    Mac mini and plex. Use the iPhone as a remote. Dont get an aTV.

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