HTPC (windows) vs. ATV, Roku, Mac Mini, WDTV etc

SHNXX

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
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I find myself loading my MacBook pro for my movies on my 110" setup and have decided that I need a dedicated HTPC.

I already have:
Apple TV (latest gen)
Roku 3
WDTV Live

Options Im considering:
-Mac Mini
-Windows HTPC
-Just use WDTV Live for my MKV rip watching needs

What do you guys think?
 

StinDaWg

macrumors 6502
Apr 5, 2012
295
0
Windows HTPC if you want to be able to play everything at the highest quality (madVR).
 

phrehdd

macrumors 68040
Oct 25, 2008
3,313
747
I find myself loading my MacBook pro for my movies on my 110" setup and have decided that I need a dedicated HTPC.

I already have:
Apple TV (latest gen)
Roku 3
WDTV Live

Options Im considering:
-Mac Mini
-Windows HTPC
-Just use WDTV Live for my MKV rip watching needs

What do you guys think?
If you want to play back movies with HD Audio, then OSX is out. You can however use a Mac Mini with Windows or Linux. It would be cheaper though to get/build an HTPC than have a Mac Mini purchase. The only good about the Mac Mini might be that you can always return it to being a typical Mac.

Another option might be something like an HD Dune player or Med8tor. HD Dune comes in a few models including ones that have both a hard drive and Blu-Ray player. They can also read files via network and play HD audio tracks.

I have an Oppo Blu Ray player that handles media files via network and USB as well as some "smart" capabilities. I have the goodness I wanted for file playback (except of course iTunes movies which I don't bother with at this time). I also have a Mac Mini with Linux (Ubuntu) and XBMC (free and great as is Plex) and it plays my media files very well and has a nice slick front end. For me, ATV is a great vehicle for iTunes stuff and that is about it. It is akin to when Kodak used to sell "Instamatic" cameras as a vehicle to sell their film.

Consider -

Mac Mini with non-OSX install (Windows or Linux) and use XBMC or Plex
HD Dune or Med8tor - media players that are a bit higher end
Blu-Ray player that has extended capabilities for network play and streaming
 

famous600

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2010
705
1
Mac mini running xbmc with a Direct Attached Storage. Run the plex server in the background and iTunes and all of your other devices will have access. Have an iOS/android device? Plex will serve your media to those devices outside of your network.
 

SHNXX

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
1,835
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Does plex and XBMC play well with foreign subtitles?

Although having a remote controlled interface would be nice, I don't see a huge disadvantage of going with a naked Windows or OSX interface if the video quality is good.
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
Linux HTPC.
Have a look at those 1037U or J1900 Intel boards. They have passive cooling, cost close to nothing (70 bucks or so), are pretty fast, you can find them with dual gigabit, USB3 and 4 SATA ports.
Find a nice case, I like the 43cm stereo-component like cases, put in up to 16TB of hard drives, up to 16GB of RAM, have a near complete silent system (some slight HD rattle).
Basic config with 8GB RAM, 60GB boot SSD, 4TB media drive is about 300 bucks. That is about the same as an empty Synology, way faster, no fans, can be used as server and HTPC at the same time and complete customisable software (also try owncloud.org).

Oh, and DTS-HD-MA is irrelevant. You can't tell the difference of it and its DTS core stream at 1536kbit. No need to pay for Windows because of HD audio. Just grab a nice Linux/Plex/XBMC distro. If you go mini, just leave it OSX. No reason to go Windows or Linux on that mac.
 

phrehdd

macrumors 68040
Oct 25, 2008
3,313
747
Linux HTPC.
Have a look at those 1037U or J1900 Intel boards. They have passive cooling, cost close to nothing (70 bucks or so), are pretty fast, you can find them with dual gigabit, USB3 and 4 SATA ports.
Find a nice case, I like the 43cm stereo-component like cases, put in up to 16TB of hard drives, up to 16GB of RAM, have a near complete silent system (some slight HD rattle).
Basic config with 8GB RAM, 60GB boot SSD, 4TB media drive is about 300 bucks. That is about the same as an empty Synology, way faster, no fans, can be used as server and HTPC at the same time and complete customisable software (also try owncloud.org).

Oh, and DTS-HD-MA is irrelevant. You can't tell the difference of it and its DTS core stream at 1536kbit. No need to pay for Windows because of HD audio. Just grab a nice Linux/Plex/XBMC distro. If you go mini, just leave it OSX. No reason to go Windows or Linux on that mac.
Blanka - we'll disagree I am sure to the end on the matter of audio but give this a try -
Avatar Extended
Matrix
Lord of the Rings Extended (any of them)

I have done some blind testing with friends and they ALL could hear the difference between core and HD on these movies (others as well).

Where it makes little difference is when someone has an unremarkable system. - Low end AVR and speakers. When people have a medium or high end system, the difference can be heard on various blue ray offerings.

For others here -

DVD DTS - 750kbps
Blue Ray DTS core - 1.5 mbps
Blue Ray DTS HD MA - up to 24.x mbps

Most noticeable difference is between DVD DTS and Blue Ray DTS core. Between DTS core and DTS HD MA, it is more a function of your playback equipment AND how the Blue Ray is mastered.

If you have a moderate to low end system, I'd totally agree with Blanka. If you have a medium to higher end system, having HD Audio playback is a nice plus for many a blue ray movie.

-------------
Marantz AVR, Goldenear 5.0 speaker set up with Klipsch 12" sub
 

SHNXX

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
1,835
629
Linux HTPC.
Have a look at those 1037U or J1900 Intel boards. They have passive cooling, cost close to nothing (70 bucks or so), are pretty fast, you can find them with dual gigabit, USB3 and 4 SATA ports.
Find a nice case, I like the 43cm stereo-component like cases, put in up to 16TB of hard drives, up to 16GB of RAM, have a near complete silent system (some slight HD rattle).
Basic config with 8GB RAM, 60GB boot SSD, 4TB media drive is about 300 bucks. That is about the same as an empty Synology, way faster, no fans, can be used as server and HTPC at the same time and complete customisable software (also try owncloud.org).

Oh, and DTS-HD-MA is irrelevant. You can't tell the difference of it and its DTS core stream at 1536kbit. No need to pay for Windows because of HD audio. Just grab a nice Linux/Plex/XBMC distro. If you go mini, just leave it OSX. No reason to go Windows or Linux on that mac.

Hm
I wouldn't want to go with building myself or Linux.
 

SHNXX

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
1,835
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plex was not good for me, with the resolution visibly going down when I was streaming off local content.
 

bearcatrp

macrumors 68000
Sep 24, 2008
1,604
3
Boon Docks USA
Linux HTPC.
Have a look at those 1037U or J1900 Intel boards. They have passive cooling, cost close to nothing (70 bucks or so), are pretty fast, you can find them with dual gigabit, USB3 and 4 SATA ports.
Find a nice case, I like the 43cm stereo-component like cases, put in up to 16TB of hard drives, up to 16GB of RAM, have a near complete silent system (some slight HD rattle).
Basic config with 8GB RAM, 60GB boot SSD, 4TB media drive is about 300 bucks. That is about the same as an empty Synology, way faster, no fans, can be used as server and HTPC at the same time and complete customisable software (also try owncloud.org)..
Sweet. Didn't realize those chips were quad core. Just found my mac mini replacement. Install cheapest windows, install itunes and will be set. Thanks for the heads up. Time to make a shopping list.
 

StinDaWg

macrumors 6502
Apr 5, 2012
295
0
Why not use the WDTV for this? I can stream a 40-50MB/s video file over my WDTV with DTS-HD MA no issues.
madVR gives much better quality than WDTV (for those who care). The ability to use better upscalers, debanding, IVTC deinterlacing, ect.

If you are using a WDTV to stream, then you already have a computer or hard drive you are getting the videos from. Why not just plug that into the tv instead and use something like XBMC?

I also like to browse the web on my tv (doing that as I'm typing this now).
 

darknyt

macrumors 6502a
Sep 17, 2009
599
92
madVR gives much better quality than WDTV (for those who care). The ability to use better upscalers, debanding, IVTC deinterlacing, ect.

If you are using a WDTV to stream, then you already have a computer or hard drive you are getting the videos from. Why not just plug that into the tv instead and use something like XBMC?

I also like to browse the web on my tv (doing that as I'm typing this now).
Interesting - are you referring to the new WDTV live streaming player that has added support for DTS-HD? I didn't see evidence in the WDTV thread over at avsforums that the madVR is that superior, maybe equivalent. Don't know madVR though.

I do use a central computer for streaming, but it's in another part of the house and I'm not going to start lugging it around to the TV.

We use the WDTV's around the house on several tv's to stream from the central PC. I'll eventually go NAS, but this has worked great for several years.
 

blevins321

macrumors 68030
Dec 24, 2010
2,759
78
Winnipeg, MB
plex was not good for me, with the resolution visibly going down when I was streaming off local content.
Sorry to ask the dumb question, but did you adjust your client player settings? By default on the web browser version quality is only 3mbps local streaming.
 

SHNXX

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
1,835
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Sorry to ask the dumb question, but did you adjust your client player settings? By default on the web browser version quality is only 3mbps local streaming.

Ah I see. That could be it but I moved my desktop to work so I can't set it up anymore.
 

StinDaWg

macrumors 6502
Apr 5, 2012
295
0
Interesting - are you referring to the new WDTV live streaming player that has added support for DTS-HD? I didn't see evidence in the WDTV thread over at avsforums that the madVR is that superior, maybe equivalent. Don't know madVR though.

I do use a central computer for streaming, but it's in another part of the house and I'm not going to start lugging it around to the TV.

We use the WDTV's around the house on several tv's to stream from the central PC. I'll eventually go NAS, but this has worked great for several years.
madVR is the reference in the pc world for video quality.
http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=146228
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
Blanka - we'll disagree I am sure to the end on the matter of audio but give this a try -
Avatar Extended
Matrix
Lord of the Rings Extended (any of them)
That is about my suck top-3, so I guess I'm not missing any due to the lack of MA on my mini. I can imagine that with 7.1 and tons of surround effects, 1536kbps gets cramped. I watch a lot of arthouse crap, usually having only some really good 2.0 channel music, and endless boring conversations using the center. That goes very well on 1536kbps core, and sounds on par with my SACD's, so that is really really good.

The only "Hollywood" title I tried and really like is TRON Legacy, and it sounds more than excellent on DTS-Core. Again, I reduced my 5.1 setup to 3.0*, so any loss in surround fidelity goes unnoticed. The Daft punk track and Jeff Bridges talking is excellent and people are astonished when I play it.

* 2x Canton Karat M80, 1x Canton Karat CM40, Onkyo TX-SR701
Reference image:


----------

Intel NUC + Windows 8 + XBMC.
Intel NUC is the same as a separate Q1900 board, only the latter allows 4 full size drives, is even cheaper and is fanless.
 
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