Introduction - I got my Mac mini yesterday afternoon and have setup most of what I wanted it to do so far. I wanted to give an early review and impressions for anyone on the fence about the Mac mini in a HTPC application. Its not just about the Mac mini, but the ecosystem and setup as a whole. It's a little long, I apologize, but I wanted to provide a complete overview into the setup incase anyone else wants to try this. I previously posted a separate topic a few days ago asking for any insight on my HTPC plan before purchasing everything. Once I got the 'blessings' from MR members that I should be good to go, I went ahead and placed my order. Goal I really wanted to have a setup that played local media from a NAS without much hassle. I tried a WDTV Live a few months ago, and was disappointed in the UI and finicky functionality. I was debating between a Mac mini setup or the Boxee Box that was slated to arrive 'any week now'. I went ahead and decided to wait for Boxee to release their product, as it was a much lower cost than a Mac mini ($200~). When the Boxee box was delayed to November 2010, I started to strongly consider the Mac mini, despite the additional cost. My main goal is to have the Mac mini pull local video files in various formats (.mkv, .avi, .mp4, etc) and resolutions (480i to 1080p) from the Drobo FS as well as from online sources such as Hulu and Netflix. This content will be displayed on the TV with a easy to use interface. I want this to be as 'hands off' as possible. Meaning I don't wanna fiddle with settings to get a show playing. I just want to turn on the TV, use the remote, and get to watching content like a STB. Hardware Equipment Here is my equipment that I used to help set this up along with a little bit of feedback on its importance in my setup. You may have similar equipment that you can use in place (an iPod Touch instead of iPhone for example). I'll try to explain why each one is useful. Mac mini (required) MacBook Pro (Highly recommended) iPhone 3GS (Nice, but not needed) Apple Remote (Highly Recommended) Drobo FS (Highly recommended, very important) Airport Extreme (A router is very important) The Mac mini is great. Its a bit wider, but definitely shorter than I had originally thought. It fits right into the living room just fine. Hookup and setup was a breeze using HDMI connected directly to my TV. There really isn't much to say about the Mac mini itself that hasn't been discussed in other threads. One thing I haven't seen anyone else post, is that when connected to HDMI, you don't have the option to control the volume from the Mac mini. This means you have to lower the sound using the TV or A/V. Fortunately Plex allows you to adjust the volume of the content played back, so you still have some control when using the remote. I ended up purchasing the 2.4GHz Mac mini from Amazon.com. - Link Here This is a better deal for most people than buying from Apple directly as its nearly $30 off (currently $669) and Amazon doesn't charge sales tax in most states. Depending on where you live and your sales tax, it can save nearly $100 instead of purchasing from Apple. I opted for the 2.4GHz model as there was no immediate benefit to opting for the Server version that couldn't be handled with an upgrade. The CPU difference is negligible, and the RAM is easily upgradable (I do recommend upgrading to 4GB). The additional storage capacity is not needed as all of my content is stored on the NAS, which has much more capacity (currently 4.5TB) and drive failure protection than the Mac mini Service. To give you an idea of how much storage I'm using on the Mac mini, since all the media is stored remotely, the Mac mini is only using less than 13GB with everything installed and has over 300GB of free space available. If you plan on storing content locally, then you may want to consider the Server version. I found myself using the MacBook Pro in this setup much more often than I thought. I had forgotten about the ability to do 'Screen Sharing', which allows me to remotely control the Mac mini. If I ever need to do any configuration changes or anything that requires much input, I just 'Screen Share' with the Mac mini, and use the keyboard and trackpad on the MacBook Pro to handle everything. This has come in extremely handy when configuring the Mac mini. I never touched the keyboard and mouse I plugged into it upon initial setup. As a matter of fact, there is no input device directly connected to the Mini right now. The iPhone isn't needed but its nice to have when bundled with the Rowmote application. I thought I'd end up using this more, but its not important. See more about Rowmote in the Software section. I originally bought the Apple Remote just to try it out, but didn't think I'd use it that much. I had originally planned on controlling the Plex interface with the iPhone Rowmote app, but I found the lack of tactile feedback was less than desirable. I liked using the remote, so this is my primary way of controlling the Plex UI. Using Remote Buddy (See software below), you can configure the buttons to perform certain actions, which makes it quite useful. The Drobo is an important part of this setup as it the source of all of the media for the Mac mini. This would be serving content over the network remotely to any computer in the house, and any connected device can upload/modify storage. I have approximately 4.5TB of storage available on the NAS, and its also backed up incase a drive fails. This is a lot more storage than you could add locally, and much less risky than putting this on single drive. If that drive fails without any backup, you've lost all of your media, which could be hundreds of movies and TV episodes. The Airport Extreme is the hub for this setup. I think any router would work in its place, but the AEBS does the job well here. Software Plex (Highly recommended) Remote Buddy (Highly recommended if you have the Apple Remote) Rowmote iPhone App (Nice, but not needed) Plex will be the main UI in the HTPC environment. There are other options such as Boxee, but I ended up using Plex as it is generally rated higher. Plex is still a little buggy, but its free and honestly, quite beautiful. Once your media and library are all setup I haven't seen anything quite like it. Remote Buddy is a must have if you plan on using the Apple Remote. You can configure the remote to perform different tasks in various applications. You also have some limited control over the computer as well using the remote. You can call up an onscreen keyboard, open and close applications, and have it control the mouse pointer. It is a bit too slow to be a standard input device, but it works well in a pinch. Each button has approximately 2 commands. This is done by using a different command for pressing and holding each button. The older white plastic remote had 6 buttons, the newer aluminum remote has 7. This can allow up to 12-14 different commands, depending on your configuration. Rowmote is completely optional in this and while I originally thought I was going to use it a lot to control the Mac mini, I've found its not necessary. This application allows you to use your iPhone/iPad/iTouch as an input device. It offers the same functionality as the Apple Remote, while also offering a track pad and a keyboard. This is great if you need to type something in a pinch, but I've found that I can navigate through the Plex UI without ever needing Rowmote. I prefer the tactile feedback of Apple Remote instead of the touch screen on the Rowmote application. Network and Physical Hookup I went ahead and created a little network diagram on what I envisioned the setup to be. Again, I've found myself not really using the iPad/iPhone remote setup, and instead using the MacBook Pro 'Screen Sharing' function with the Mac mini when it comes to text/mouse inputs while using the Apple Remote to control the Plex UI and media playback. Setting up Plex and Remote Buddy Plex can be a little tricky to setup. I won't go into detail on how to setup the program as a whole, but I have a few things I'd like to share based on things I've learned. The Drobo didn't appear as a source at first. It took me a while to figure out how to get it to show, but once you access the drive in finder, it'll show up under the list of sources. When adding the source, you'll need to select the folder with the specific type of content you need. So for example, I have a general 'Media' folder. I cannot just add the Media as it has shows as well as movies. Instead you need to add each of the sub folders separately, so you can specify what type of content is in there. Be sure your media is named properly. Plex prefers movies to be in folders that are setup as "Movie Title (Year)" (ex: "Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)"). If you don't have your movie's setup this way already, then start doing it. It took me quite a long time to get setup. Once the titles are set, it searches IMDB based on that title. It often finds a few alternatives (making of, bonus films, etc), so be sure to select the correct program. Once it finds the data, it'll automatically pull the plot/description as well as a thumbnail for poster art. I found a lot of the poster art from IMDB wasn't great, so you may need to find an alternative picture/poster Shows need to be setup as well. This can be time consuming based on how your media is already setup. The show needs setup a certain way in the folders. Plex likes 'Show Name > Season # > Episode #' format. The episode numbers need to be in a 01x01 or S01E01 setup. (Ex: "Jericho > Season 2 > Jericho - S02E03.mp4"). Plex then uses this setup and 'links' the show based on the Season and Episode number to a database which then allows each episode to have content. There are a number of databases, but I found myself using TVDB which contains plot information, thumb nails, and fan art for each show, season, and episode. 'Special' episodes are in 'Season 0', and the episode number can vary. For example, Battlestar Galactica had a mini series and a few movies. All of these shows would be in "Season 0', and the episode number may vary. By using this TVDB link, I would know that the BSG special, 'The Plan' would be S00E22. I'll repeat this again since we're in the Plex section, but when connected to HDMI, the Mac mini doesn't allow the option to control the volume. This means I have to lower the sound using the TV or A/V. Fortunately Plex allows you to adjust the volume of the content played back, so you still have some control of volume when using the Apple Remote. You can find this within Preferences > System > Audio > Link System Audio. Remote Buddy is also pretty easy to setup. There are just a few things you need to keep in mind. There is a global command, which uses that same command no matter what program you're in, and there are application commands which is specific towards that application. I mentioned this before but each button has approximately 2 commands. This is done by using a different command for pressing and holding each button. The older white plastic remote had 6 buttons, the newer aluminum remote has 7. This can allow up to 12-14 different commands, depending on your configuration. You can then configure each of these commands to do something specific. It will take a little bit of trial and error to get what you want, but in my setup, I can navigate the whole UI, adjust volume and access the playback menu's when playing content, and call up the main Remote Buddy window. I haven't found a situation yet where I can't do anything in Plex using the standard Apple Remote. One problem I ran into though, was that pressing up or down on the remote wasn't responding in Plex (despite having a command) and every other button would. Also the up or down would work in Front Row just fine, so there was some issue with Plex or Remote Buddy. To get around this, I changed the setting for the up button from 'Up' to a keyboard command of 'Cursor Up'. This provides the same behavior, but for some reason 'Up' just doesn't work. Conclusion and whats next Overall, I'm thrilled about the setup. I've been trying to get something like this for the past 2 years or so using a PS3, but never got anything I was really satisfied with. There is a bit of trickiness to get everything up and running, but once you've configured it, it really is a solid and impressive setup. I ended up spending a lot of time having to rename my content to match the TVDB and IMDB databases, but once done, its well worth it. Moving forward I'll need to be sure I use this standard file naming format so it works easier with Plex. My next steps is to bump up the Mac mini to 4GB of memory from the standard 2GB. The RAM modules should be arriving this week. I also still need to figure the online services such as Hulu and Netflix, but for now, I'm enjoying the local content and interface alot. Hopefully this helps out with your setup and installation.