Home Theatre set-up: Apple TV and DVD player or a Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by duncyboy, Jun 29, 2008.

  1. duncyboy macrumors 6502a

    Feb 5, 2008
    OK, I currently have a Shuttle PC running Windows MCE as my HTPC. I used to use it for everything: DVD's, recording/pausing TV, playing movies (DivX & Xvid), music, pictures, websites. Bit by bit I've used it for the above less and less and I now find myself using it just for playing back movies and TV shows off the web and DVD's.

    It's a noisy little swine and a little cumbersome and having switched to Mac for my main computer a few months back I'm now considering the same move for my HTPC set-up- but what should I get?

    Should I buy an entry-level Apple TV (£200) and an upscaling DVD player (£65)? Total = £265.

    Or an entry-level Mac Mini? = £400.

    I know Apple TV's can be hacked and cracked to play just about everything including the DivX's that make up the bulk of my stuff. But it could be a bit awkward, it voids the warranty and you're only a software update away from your whole set-up crumbling.

    A Mac Mini, though more expensive, would be easier to set-up, I could access and control it over my network without any cracks, it'd be easier to update, it's more flexible and it can play my DVD's too but it's £150-ish more expensive.

    What would people advise?

    I'm an advocate of nice, clean, minimalist set-up and the Mini appeals to that side of me. If I bought a Universal Remote to go with it all I'd only have one remote too.

    My home theatre set-up is a 40" Samsung LCD (720p), Logitech Z-5500 speakers (optical, coaxial) and a Nintendo Wii. I'd stream any content over wired Ethernet (already in place) or simply copy files straight to it (easier on the Mini than the Apple TV).

  2. cazlar macrumors 6502

    Oct 2, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    As you'd mainly be using the mini for media playback, you could go for an older model if money is an issue. I'm not sure if Apple has a UK refurb store or not, but an official refurb, a decent second-hand mini, or a previous "closeout" model from a reseller if you can find one, would all save you some money.

    I bought my core duo mini refurb and it is great as a front row machine, plus I can use it for streaming (hulu.com/abc.com) and also downloading and viewing tv torrents. The advantage of the mini shines in this latter situation, as I've got it pretty automated (tvshows.app->transmission->movies2itunes->itunes->front row), so don't have to involve transferring to and from a different machine at any time, just a self-contained box that can magically get content :)
  3. hvfsl macrumors 68000


    Jul 9, 2001
    London, UK
    I would personally get another PC, but maybe a quieter one and a BluRay drive. Seems a waste to have a HD TV and not take advantage of it.
  4. duncyboy thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 5, 2008
    Money's not so much of an issue up to £400 but I'll keep an eye out for a refurb or older model. (The UK does have a refurb store- maybe I could get lucky if/when a new Mini comes out?)

    I've looked at some of the apps available for the Mini and it's becoming the more appealing option purely from the standpoint of being so flexible and there being dozens of 3rd party apps to do what I want. Being able to control it through Leopard from my iMac seems really tempting too.

    I shall have a think but the Mini's looking more and more likely all the time. Cheers for the advice. :)
  5. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    Here's a different suggestion for you. Buy a Sony PlayStation 3. I own one and it is absolutely fantastic at getting media from my computer to TV, from discs to my TV and in the future, Sony intends to sell movies online through the console itself.

    Using Medialink you can stream files from your Mac to your PS3. It works with music, photos and most importantly many, many formats of video. DivX and XviD work fine, as do MP4s including those in WMV containers. You can actually copy files to the console itself or stream them.

    Plus, since you're from the UK you'll benefit from a new add on which Sony is launching in September called PlayTV. It connects to the USB port of the PS3 and gives you the full line up of Freeview channels and because it includes two tuners it allows you to record up to two channels at once or one channel while watching another. PlayTV video preview @ BBC. Apparently it will cost £79.99.

    Most importantly for you though, you'll have the ability to play back both DVDs and Blu Ray Discs, which will look awesome on a big screen HDTV like the one you have.

    And last but not least you gain access to a huge library of video games which are all in HD, like F1 Championship Edition, GTA IV, Call of Duty 4 and Metal Gear Solid 4.

    You can get a Bluetooth remote control for the console (meaning you don't need to point it at the machine for it to work) which might come in handy. I've found browsing media using the gamepad just fine myself though. You will probably want to get a bigger hard drive for it. I got a 250GB drive for mine for about £50. It takes regular SATA laptop hard drives and it's about a 5 minute process to replace it. No warranty voiding will occur either as it's under a plastic flap on the bottom and Sony provides a guide on how to do it.
  6. kellen macrumors 68020


    Aug 11, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    I went the mac mini route. Great for browsing the internet and the occasional program that comes along to run. Also like that I can use it later for a computer if my needs change. Granted its more, but it has more potential.
  7. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    You've just reminded me. PS3 also has a built in web browser with Flash support.
  8. duncyboy thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 5, 2008
    Thanks for the post- that's a good point- I can always use a Mac Mini as something else down the line- a media server, a firewall or even- God forbid!- a computer :D

    And to the above, thanks for the suggestion of a PS3 but no.

    Not interested in games, not interested in Sony, very disinterested in Blu-Ray.

    I should've pointed out in my original post- not interested in Hi-Def. I know I have an LCD TV (not quite true HD) but I've no interest in HD fullstop. 0 interest in Freeview and recording TV either- I download the programs I like off the Net and watch football live on TV. That's it. I hardly ever watch television. I just watch movies. My two main TV shows- Top Gear and Match of the Day- are always available for download. You can keep the commercials and the Push-The-Red-Button BS thanks.

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