Home Network Setup

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by evan.sams, May 24, 2012.

  1. evan.sams macrumors newbie

    May 11, 2012
    Hi All

    I'm currently building a house and am going to be moving from a 1bedroom apartment with 1 tv to a house with 3 tvs. I'm looking at various options to wirelessly (as much as possible) stream my current video content between the different rooms, and am looking for a little advice. Here's what I'm looking for:

    1. My media is currently on 2x 750GB HDD which are near capacity. I'm looking to upgrade to around 6GB or so, which I would like to connect via USB to my network. Most of my files are .avi and .mkv, so iTunes isn't an option (and there are WAY too many to attempt converting them to iTunes)
    2. I'm currently Mac-friendly, and would like to keep it that way as much as possible. I have a MacBookPro, an iPad2 and 2x iPhone4's in my house. I'd love to be able to control my media centre from my Apple devices.
    3. I don't want a computer to need to be connected/turned on to my network in order for it to run. I've looked at some non-Apple options such as the WDTVhub. This doesn't seem like the optimal solution.
    4. I want to have my main living room to also be my wireless network, with a data point connecting to my modem/router which connects to my network streaming device (mac mini is my current thought), which connects to my tv via hdmi. I'm then thinking of using Plex as my interface.
    5. I'd like to stream my media from my living room to other tv's around the house (3 in total, including the living room). In a perfect world, I'd like to be able to watch one video on one tv while another video is playing on another tv.
    6. My thoughts are the macmini controlling the network, with the HDD plugged in. This would connect to my tv, which would run Plex (can I do this without a computer connected or constantly on?). I'd then have ATV (2 or 3? and do they need to be jailbroken to do this?) on each other tv to receive the media from the macmini.

    Is this the best way to go about this? Are there other simpler/better/cheaper options? The main points are
    • can play all my media, not using iTunes
    • no computer connected
    • stream to multiple tvs simultaneously
    • best interface possible, and even better if can use iPad or iPhone to control (even if that's just for the living room)

    Any thoughts?
  2. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    I don't have any ideas for you regarding your gear ... but I do have advice as to your network set-up plans.

    Go with as much CAT5e/6 as you can. I would run a pair of CAT5e/6 to every room that you might think could one day have a TV. Also run coax (RG59/60) to every room with TV potential. Don't rely on wireless.

    Both CAT5e and CAT6 are sufficient for gigabit ethernet. In the event that your wireless network is robust, then those wires could be used for other purposes. Throw a couple of baluns on them and you have yourself a super-long HDMI cable.

    If you're building the house now and the drywall isn't up, then running the cables is cheap. Go hog-wild right now and you won't regret it. You're better off having the wires in the wall and not needing it, than needing it and having to fish wires through one by one.

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. ant69 macrumors regular


    Feb 2, 2009
    I agree with the Ethernet cabling! Much more reliable that wifi.

  4. DavoteK macrumors 6502

    Jan 5, 2012
    Agree on running the ethernet cables in, especially if its a new build. Best way for HD media IMO, especially at fixed locations like TVs. If you got 3 TVs and the three of them stream a 1080p movie on a wireless-n network, its gonna fall on its ass.

    You mentioned the WDTVhub which is the device that has a 1TB drive built in, I'd just look at the WDTV Live, which is essentially an Apple TV (streamer only) without all the issues with file compatibility or the need to have an iTunes library running.

    The WDTV Live device is cheaper than an Apple TV and far more robust. Got two of them. There's even an iPhone app to control it via remote.

    For your storage, I'd look at a multiple bay NAS storage unit, like a Synology. I'm running a 4 bay at the moment and can have up to 12TB (3TB 3.5" hard drives per bay, but you can mix and match) and all the content will be available to every device on the network, including your computers and the WDTV Live Streamers. There are 2 bay solutions which are cheaper and that can go up to 6TB (2 x 3TB 3.5" drives). And yes, it doesn't need a computer on to have its contents accessible over the network.

    The Synology also have numerous app for browsing your files be it on the network or remotely while out and about via your iPhone or iPad.

    I also do all my time machine backups (iMac and Macbook Pro) to it.

    Can't rate the Synology highly enough, and it does far more than I've listed.

    Anyway, this is what I've ended up with after numerous other devices purchased previously to solve my issues of storage and playback, but I've come to this solution and it solves so many issues that I will always recommend it. But, I'm sure there are plenty of other solutions that will fit your needs.

    But definitely get the wired network on the go. Even if some aren't used, worth it for the ones that are.
  5. sbeezy macrumors newbie

    Feb 12, 2008
    St. Louis Area
    I agree with everyone that you should try to go with Cat-5 cable if possible. Plex will play fine on wireless, but since you have the luxury of having your home being built out I'd go with a nice clean look and have your Cat-5 drops pre-ran before drywall is put up. Actually, most contractors run Cat-5 for the telephone drops so you may be able to get away with just changing the wallplate and doing a little re-wiring.

    I think Plex is the way to go for your setup. I have a somewhat similar setup in a one bedroom apartment. If you have Cat-5 ran, you could even get away with putting your Mac Mini and hard drives in the basement or a closet so it is always out of site. You can always connect to the mini from your other mac computers. Every now and then you might have to reboot it or take it out the closet and hook it up to a TV (HDMI) in case you can't connect via screen sharing, but that's been rare for me.

    You will have to leave at least one computer on to run Plex Media Server however. Plex is now broken out into Plex Media Server and Plex Client. All of your Plex clients can be turned off when not in use. That is why I suggest getting a mini or perhaps a low power consumption Windows or Linux machine to serve up all of your content. Plex will give you versatility when choosing your clients too. Your iPad and iPhones already have apps written for them. Google TV and Android devices have an app. LG TVs have built in clients and there is an app for more recent Samsung TV models. I have read promising things about the Roku and the Plex app for that as well. There are a few other platforms/options for Plex clients too.
  6. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    Do you already have the TVs? If not, many new ones are DLNA-compliant with an ethernet jack built in, just need a DLNA-capable server (or NAS) to host the files. A NAS is storage that connects to the network like a computer, many are expandable through multiple "bays" to add extra drives and can act as a media server.
  7. Crazy Badger macrumors 65816

    Crazy Badger

    Apr 1, 2008
    Agree with the CAT5/6 cabling although it can generally be achieved with powerline adapters where you've already built the house.

    My set-up below:

    - Mac mini running Plex server (connected to Airport Extreme)
    - 2TB USB drive connected to Mac mini
    - 8TB ReadyNAS connected to Airport Extreme
    - Powerline adapter connected to Airport Extreme

    Living Room
    - Philips LCD TV (not DNLA compliant, although would probably still use aTV as like interface)
    - aTV2 connected to TV and powerline adapter

    Use Plex on aTV for streaming content on NAS and Firecore Media Player for streaming content on USB drive.
  8. Gjwilly macrumors 68030

    May 1, 2011
    SF Bay Area
    The ATV, unless jailbroken, will only stream from a computer runnng iTunes so you're going to have to have a computer on all the time.
    You can use NAS after jailbreaking but there is no jailbreak yet for the ATV3.
    It's not what you asked for but like someone already said, many TVs and many more DVD and Blu-Ray players now have streaming capabilities built into them so rather than buying a dedicated streaming receiver you might just want to look for stream-capable components.
  9. DavoteK macrumors 6502

    Jan 5, 2012
    If you do go the route of using the TV as the streaming unit, ensure that the TV is compatible with all the popular file formats, nothing worse than going to watch something and it ends up being non compatible and you end up having to convert it. This is why I prefer the streaming unit option because it will play anything you throw at it. When I first had it, slight issue with certain WMV files but that was patched with a firmware update in a week, along with new features.

    While the in-built TV media player option is in a perfect world the ideal option (no extra device to connect to it), how well supported is that media player going to be? Is it gonna be a case of make it and forget it by the manufacturer, or will they be hands on and release regular updates?

    Power Line adapters are pretty good, although you may get some issues with transfer speed when going across different ring mains. Messy option IMO especially if you have the chance to get the ethernet cables put in during build.

    I'd still also look at a NAS solution over the Mac Mini. I'd recommend any of the Synology multi bay options (DS212J or DS411J) and Mr Badger above is a ReadyNAS user. QNAP is also an option.
  10. evan.sams thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 11, 2012
    Thanks for all the great replies - very helpful!!

    I'm going to follow the advice on the pre-wiring CAT5/6 to all possible TV rooms. Seems to be a good backup. Having said that, won't cable be more or less redundant in the next few years? Surely we're moving to an age of technology that won't necessitate the need for messy wiring (even wiring hidden in walls).

    Can I please just take a step back to clarify a couple of points, and ask advice from there?

    1. Let's assume my entire network is going to run without a computer.
    2. Simply HDD connected to something (macmini, NAS, WDTVhub, whatever). This will all sit in my family room, hidden in a cabinet under the tv, so it needs to be relatively small (hence my trepidation in using a bulky NAS)
    3. This streams (via ethernet or wireless) to other TVs in the house.
    4. My videos are not compatable with iTunes (far too many to convert).
    5. I live in Australia, and am unsure if Plex is available here (can I simply download it?)

    First area - hardware:
    Thoughts? I like the idea of the macmini to ATV setup. Small, looks good, good interface. However, how will this eventually sit with my lack of iTunes?

    Second area - software/interface:
    Thoughts? I'm not looking at Netflix or anything like that - not really available in any decent format in Australia yet. My main concern is having an user-friendly (and good looking) interface that can read directly from my HDD to my TV (via macmini or whatever). I like Plex's use of metadata to display everything with movie posters, actors, genres, blurbs etc. And my OCD is at a high enough level that I don't mind renaming thousands of files to meet the requirements of whatever I use.

    What do you guys use, and what are the pros/cons?

    Thanks again!!!
  11. worstwriter, Jun 8, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012

    worstwriter macrumors newbie

    Jun 7, 2012
    Our setup

    Here's what we setup when we moved to our new 3 floor apt in 2011. We are in Germany, btw, so there's no Netflix here.

    - 2x ATV2 (1x bottom floor, 1x top floor)
    - Dedicated MacMini connected via HDMI to flatscreen (middle floor)
    - connected to MacMini is 2tb firewire for movies and media
    - Airport extreme for wireless! (middle floor)
    - 2x 2tb (raid 0) USB drive connected to Airport Extreme for backup, extra storage and smb shares

    I agree with most here about using ethernet cables but we have a strange shaped 180sq/ft apt on three floors. Other than hanging the wires through windows around our building, ethernet cables are not possible. That's when I got the airport extreme and it works brilliantly serving 2x ATV2s, a macbook pro, 1x iPad2 and 2x iphone 4s.

    We moved from a chaotic windows based media server to Apple in 2011. The move was tough but it eventually worked out. What I discovered was, even though it's work and time-consuming, it's really not that difficult converting your media to iTunes. If you gonna go Apple this is really the best long-term solution. For movies I used iVI (4,99 in the app store), which converts everything flawlessly and puts it directly into your iTunes library. Since my entire music library was FLAC I either converted it to 320bit MP3 or lossless AAC. For a while I had jailbroken one of the ATV but returned to the standard configuration. I used Seaonpass and it was fairly straightforward. But, like I said, after putting the effort into converting everything to iTunes, there was no need for Plex or XBMC. Although I have to admit that sometimes I wish I had 1080p instead of just 720p - but if you get the new ATV you won't have that problem.

    Our MacMini and firewire drive are on 24x7. It's the 2011 (cheapest) MacMini so it's fairly energy efficient. I did have to up the RAM to 8GB, btw. With the size of our media library this MacMini can do little else. If I had to do it again, I would get a higher spec MacMini or get rid of our TV on middle floor and replace it and our iTunes server with an iMac. Also, I control the MacMini via my MacBook Pro and OS X Lion's remote management and screen sharing.

    Good luck.
  12. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030


    Jul 7, 2009
    I'm going to second everything everyone else said. BUT I'll add a few more points.

    1. When running CAT 5e/6, run it to EVERY WALL in EVERY ROOM you could potentially want Internet, including the kitchen! I would have it run to a box and then just cover the box with a plain faceplate if you're not using it. Or, potentially just leave it uncut through the drywall until you need it (in the latter case just center it in the wall so it's easy to find later). Since it's a new house, you may not know what the layout will be like (or if your re-arrange later). Nothing sucks more than having the CAT 5e outlet on the opposite wall then you need it to be on. :(

    2. Look for a cheap all in one PC or an old used Mac Mini (about $300 now for a Core2Duo) and run iTunes on that as a server. I use an ATV1 with OSX installed on it. I can feed multiple ATV streams at a time even on this very slow machine. PC options aren't bad either, I'd just be worried about noise.
    Dell Zino HD
    Acer AspireRevo
    ZOTAC mini

    3. Find a good location in the house for the Router, closet in the garage, or basement and run all the CAT 5e/6 there. Make sure this location also has COAX direct from the cable line coming into the house. No splits (or should I say, this would be the first split), this way you'll get the best power and thus not suffer from packet loss due to poor signal.

    Good luck!
  13. Outrigger macrumors 68000


    Dec 22, 2008
    Simply put, in the foreseeable future (10+ years), wired will always be > than wireless in terms of bandwidth. I currently play 1080p movies via Plex to my TV via Mac mini and it always chokes on wireless and that is with the Asus rt66u router running Fios 35/35 no less. I will always go wired whenever possible.
  14. d21mike macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2007
    Torrance, CA
    My house is wired but I put the wires where my phone cable was not where my TV was in 1996. I.E. On the opposite wall. So best to have on at least 2 walls.

    WiFi is great for things like your iPhone, iPad and Laptop. I.E. All things portable. Everything else should be Wired if at all possible.

    I did make an effort to go wireless at one point by putting multiple 802.11N Wireless Access Points in my home. I have a 2 story 5 bedroom with 3100 sq. feet. I have tried using 3 and 4 access points. You can make things work "ok" with wireless with enough access points but Wired will always be better IMHO.

    Also, something to consider. You can run Ethernet over COAX (MoCA) now and that is a pretty good solution as well. Not as good as Gigabit Ethernet but better then Wireless. I have Verizon FIOS and installed 3 adapters at points I did not have Ethernet Wired and they work pretty well.

    Maybe the new 802.11ac will be better but will not be better the Wired Gigabit Ethernet.
  15. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    Maybe a good rule of thumb when building a house would be to have CAT-6 run anywhere you also plan to have TV (alongside the COAX for TV) and run 2 CAT-6 anywhere you would put a phone line, one for phone and one for network.

    If you need more than one connection in a spot, get a cheap network switch and short (3-6 foot) patch cords. A spot where that may be needed is your TV as many TVs now have LAN ports, as do DVD players and some receivers.
  16. d21mike macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2007
    Torrance, CA
    This would have worked for me.
  17. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    I should also note that for best WiFi coverage, you should try to locate the AP as close to central as possible. In my case (900 sq. ft. apartment), I didn't need to do this. You should also plan a location for your network equipment when building, including any needed patch panel.
  18. DavoteK macrumors 6502

    Jan 5, 2012
    While PC's or Mac Minis are probably great for being a media server, I'd rather not have the hassle of updating it or maintaining it, which is why I'd recommend NAS over them. Each has their own preference, I'm on the NAS side of the fence.

    The units are not big at all, but then I'm not sure what space constraints you'd have or why you'd want to put it under a TV, because you can put it anywhere in the house as long as its connected on to your wired network, and then be accessible by any device on the network be it wired or wireless.

    Media extenders, again, I'd recommend something other than the AppleTV, purely because you'll have to have everything running in iTunes on a PC/Mac that has to be running to access the files, unless you jailbreak, but then you are relying on something that might not happen, case in point the latest generation Apple TV that supports 1080p hasn't been jailbroken yet. While I am pretty sure it will be, what happens when there's another update with some features you wanna use, you have to compromise again. Not for me thanks.

    WDTV Live - http://www.amazon.co.uk/WD-TV-digit...X33K/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1339588638&sr=8-3

    EDIT: Thats the UK link, US Link - http://www.amazon.com/Western-Digit...1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339588712&sr=8-1&keywords=wdtv

    NAS, Synology DS212J - http://www.amazon.com/Synology-Disk...id=1339588795&sr=1-1&keywords=synology+ds212j

    Stick two hard drives in there for either up to 6TB storage or up to 3TB raided. There is also the DS411J which has space for 4 hard drives.
    Supports Time Machine for backing up your macs on the network. Quick as well if its a Gigabit network.

    Anyway, these are just suggestions, I know there are other media players and NAS solutions, but thats what I would recommend and use myself after much messing about with other solutions.

    (currently using a DS411J with 3 x 2TB hard drives, and also 2 x WDTV units, an iMac & MacBook Pro all Time Machine'd up to it as well all my media and other files stored on it)
  19. evan.sams thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 11, 2012
    Thanks for even more responses! I'm definitely getting closer!!

    So based on everything here, plus a little more research I've done elsewhere, I'm now thinking ...

    Converting all of my various video files to iTunes friendly using iVI. Have done this for a couple of tv shows and it works great, plus I love the easily manipulatable meta-data!! This also means that I can keep everything Apple, which I'm happy about.

    I also want to keep all of my videos on my HDD, not on my MacBookPro. I'm closing in on 3TB of files, which is far in excess of my MBP. I also don't want to have my laptop running in order to watch a video. From what I understand, this is not possible using an ATV, but maybe with a MacMini?

    If I connect my HDD to MacMini to TV, will the MacMini read from the HDD automatically (for the converted files) or will I need to mess around with their location? Is this possible with just ATV or do I def need a MacMini to avoid the need for a running computer?

    Once I get this part sorted, I can easily work the rest out.

    Any last help?

  20. slothrob macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2007
    If you play video from a Mini to your TV, you'll still need to keep a computer running to watch video at any time: the Mini.
  21. Crazy Badger macrumors 65816

    Crazy Badger

    Apr 1, 2008
    I can play video on my aTV2 (jailbreak) from my NAS without any computers switched on.
  22. DavoteK macrumors 6502

    Jan 5, 2012
    If you've got a Mac Mini, I'm sure you can set it so that its in sleep mode until network activity wakes it, but essentially, you would have to have that on continuously, much like a NAS solution btw.

    If you do have a Mac Mini, depending on which one you have (HDMI port) I wouldn't even bother using an Apple TV on the main set. Use one elsewhere in the house, but whack the Mac Mini straight in to the main TV and let everything else serve off it and the external storage you'll have to have connected to it.
  23. whoiare macrumors regular

    Aug 30, 2011
    I dont fully agree with this. If you have an ever expanding library then you are going to need some type of pc/mac to maintain/update the library itself.

    My setup as example:

    Mac mini - core 2 duo unibody in basement. my main and Only computer in the house. used as a server as well as general computer use.
    3Tb WD external via firewire 800
    mac mini hardwired to airport extreme

    ATV2 on main 42" TV on first floor hardwired
    ATV3 into 8' projector in media room hardwired

    mac mini runs all day everyday. The uni body design is one of the most efficient computers out there. Not to mention how little power the atv's use. And like others have mentioned...if the device isnt moving then there is no need to run it wireless so everything is hardwired except for ipads and ipods

    3TB hard drive serves as itunes server as well as XBMC server. i have my itunes library located on it with all my music sorted properly. So both apple tvs can pull the music as well as various ipads and ipods on the home sharing. I have airplay speakers and a receiver throughout the home allowing me to turn the whole house on or off with music.

    Movies and tv shows:

    all run to jailbroken atv2 via XBMC. Files include various avis, mkv, mp4...you name it. i use tvshows 2 to DL latest show episodes, i use media manager to organize everything properly. tv is 42" about 13' away from viewing so even DVD files dont look too bad

    since atv3 outputs 1080p and is hooked into 1080p projector there is no point in trying to play dvd ripped avi files or anything for that matter with bad quality. any file worth playing is in mkv. So any mkv file i have is remuxed on subler (5 mins), then itunes metadata with iDentify(1 min) then added to itunes(1 min). Then it can be seen by the atv3.

    all of this is done on my mac mini which is always running. i dont worry about my electricity bill one bit and all of the sorting/maintaining/updating takes maybe 10 mins tops.
  24. DavoteK macrumors 6502

    Jan 5, 2012
    While your setup serves your needs, what was there to disagree with?

    Yes, you'll need a computer for a NAS setup, but you don't need a computer on to serve the files to the network, including streaming.

    Having a separate computer to serve the files requires that computer to be maintained along with the other computers that you'd use on a day to day basis. If that's your main computer, then all good. Otherwise, why create that extra ballache.

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