Looking to cut cable at 1080p? Should I try AppleTV or go with HDMI connector and Ma

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by josephkann, May 7, 2010.

  1. josephkann macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2010
    I have recently been looking into purchasing the AppleTV and signing up with Boxee, cancelling my cable subscription, to save some money. We don't watch TV that much, but must not lose picture quality (We have DirecTV HD and love the picture...) I know AppleTV only shows 720P, so should I go with a Mac Mini and HDMI connector for picture quality? We have some local ABC, CBS, and Fox shows that we hate to miss and want the same picture quality we have with DirecTV. I am willing to pay a bigger price upfront to save money in the long run on a subscription. Any ideas? I am open to a lot...
  2. slpdLoad macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2009
    I'm not aware of any streaming services that are going to match the quality of HD Cable. Just because the Mini (which I would recommend over the :apple:TV) can do 1920x1080 doesn't mean the quality of the picture will be that great.

    I think the convenience has to outweigh the picture quality to make such a setup worth it (between Hulu and Netflix I don't watch TV at all).
  3. josephkann thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2010
    Thanks, yet do you know... how to get hulu or netflix, on a 50" TV with 1080P quality than? Even excluding AppleTV and MacMini...
  4. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2008
    Over-the-air for HD network channels?

    Can you recurve any over-the-air channels where you live? I know in the Cincinnati area, the regular networks (CBS, abc, NBC, fox, etc) all broadcast in either 720p or even 1080i for at least some things, like sports. I'm not sure about shows though. While this may not be quite as high of quality as your 1080p satelite service, it is free and would complement your htpc idea. All you would need is an antenna, which isn't too expensive. This is assuming your tv has a digital tuner, which most do.
  5. josephkann thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2010
    I have a local antennae, yet am looking for a tivo type device which can record and stream live TV....(other features of hulu would be a nice addition. The more features available the better.... Picture in 1080i would work... Sound in Dolby 5.1 would be appreciated also... and recorded or streaming performance.
  6. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Local over the air reception is very likely to deliver a higher quality picture than the same delivered via satt. The Satt companies receive the signal, re-process it into a MP4 (losing some quality) and choose pretty tight compression to squeeze lots of other local channels onto the same (always) limited capacity satts in orbit. They may imply they deliver 1080p- and they might on a very select group of (probably VOD only) channels. But the fact is that they can't receive a 1080i signal from your local station and make it real 1080p. Whatever they get is the very best they could deliver (but they don't as they generally re-convert it to fit it into limited bandwidth).

    Bottom line: if you can receive a good stable HD signal via an over the air antenna, enjoy about the best quality network programming you can get that way... for free.

    :apple:TV cannot output 1080i or 1080p, so if better than it's limited incarnation of 720p is desired, you pretty much have to think Mac Mini (or other hardware).

    For DVR functionality, :apple:TV also fails to offer any option, but you can look at products from Elgato to either make your computer become your DVR-like appliance, OR use their products with a Mac Mini if you go that way. If you use your :apple:TV-feeding computer as a DVR via an Elgato-type product, Elgato has fairly good software for rendering the captures for :apple:TV and then putting them into iTunes where you can access them in the :apple:TV menus.

    If you have any cable programming and you go the Elgato, etc way, have that scan for free HD channels that might be available via basic cable. You may find you can get your locals that way- for free- in HD, without having to deal with an antenna. Depending on your cable company, they might also have a few other HD channels unlocked (not in the digital tier requiring one of their boxes). Just try it when you get the Elgato hardware and see what you get.

    1080p is pretty much either Blu Ray or BD rips, with the exception of a few Video on Demand (generally) movies available via Satt or Cable. If you screen out discs and piracy, there is very little buyable 1080p content available.
  7. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't believe DirecTV broadcasts in 1080p, excluding some PPV movies so you're not getting 1080p right now. In fact, I don't believe any network or cable channels broadcast in 1080p.

    That being said, you probably want to look into EyeTV. I don't have any experience with it but have seen lots of favorable thoughts on it from users here in the forums. Gives you the ability to use a Mac Mini as a DVR, receives HD programming from OTA signals. If you are looking primarily at programming from the big networks, this should be right up your alley.

    Of course, with a Mac Mini you'll also have access to Hulu, Netflix, or any other internet streaming, though as others have mentioned, none of these are in HD either.
  8. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Uhh, yes it can output 1080i and 1080p. It just can't play back 1080p video files. There's a difference.
  9. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Perhaps you would help the OP to have explained that difference. Your post could provide some kind of hope that :apple:TV can deliver 1080i video, when in fact, it cannot.

    Showing the media menus in 1080i and claiming it can output 1080i is- IMO- missing the point. So let's clarify: :apple:TV "as is" cannot play back 1080p, 1080i, or even full 720p HD video. The former two should be obvious by simply reviewing the max specs on the Apple website. The latter (720p) is extraordinarily "handicapped" such that it is just enough to (apparently get away with being able to) claim "HD" playback (if there are doubts about this, please look up full 720p specs and compare them to :apple:TV 720p specs).

    The original OP is looking for a way to play 1080p VIDEO (not just see the menus in 1080i/p). It sounds like he wants to go all 1080p, though that is practically impossible if he also wants TV network programming from any commercial source. So, he is asking about whether he can get that with an :apple:TV or something like a Mac Mini. He certainly can NOT get what he is seeking with an :apple:TV.

    The Mac Mini has the hardware to deliver 1080p content to his HDTV. However, it won't solve the problem of actually (and legally) getting 1080p content (other than BD and select VOD (mostly movies) via Satt or Cable). So, if we assume what he is really seeking is maximum quality for cheap-to-free, his choice is probably the Mac Mini route: aiming for 1080i/(full)720p over the air, captured via something like one of the Elgato solutions.

    If he is willing to step video quality down to :apple:TV's "HD" quality level or less, then again he could use Elgato-like solutions hooked to his computer to capture and render for :apple:TV specs, at it's limited incarnation of 720p or less (much of this video will end up as 960 x 540 or less).
  10. northy124 macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2007
    OP the TV is crap in regards to playback of 1080i/p so if that is what you want it for you may as well forget it.

    On the other hand the Mac Mini will do as you can capture Live TV (in HD as well) with something like the EyeTV DTT/Diversity/Hybrid for OTA :) and just use iTunes to buy the TV that you want in HD that you can't get on the OTA.

    I'm not from the US so I don't know if this will work out well for you :)
  11. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Then you’re missing the point. You stated the Apple TV cannot “output” 1080i/1080p when in fact it can.

    Playback and outputting are completely different.

    And the Apple TV doesn’t just output the menus at 1080i/1080p it upscales all the content too just like an upscaling DVD player.

    The Apple TV’s HD playback limit is Progressive Main Profile H.264 720p25@5000 kbps. The OP can find the rest of the specs here:


    Does it playback 1080i/1080p content? No, but it can and does output to those resolutions.
  12. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Again, how is such feedback helping the OP? It's like you are committed to confusing the point... being, I'm pretty sure what he is looking for is highest quality playback (1080i+) OF VIDEO. I don't think he is asking about the resolution of menus nor will it upconvert lower quality video source to higher quality video resolution.

    He's looking for a way to capture 1080p in a DVR-like solution. If he finds a way to capture that video, he is also looking for a way to play that video back. Answers like yours encourage potential confusion. For example, this answer makes it sound like upscaling could be equivalent to 1080i or 1080p. It is not.

    The facts remain the same: if he's interested in watching 1080i/1080p content and the choices are either Mac Mini or :apple:TV, his ONLY choice is Mac Mini.

    If he also wants DVR-like HD capture, the ONLY way that's going to work is with Elgato-like devices hooked either to a master computer or that Mac Mini. The :apple:TV has no DVR functionality, nor DVR add on options.

    I have an :apple:TV and I like it just fine. But clearly if you read what he is seeking, there is only ONE choice for his need. Throwing out "answers" that could breed confusion for the OP is not helpful. If YOU have an :apple:TV and you are happy with it (like me), great. But his need is for things beyond what your & my :apple:TV can handle. We're not putting our own :apple:TVs down by pointing him toward a Mac Mini that can actually cover what he needs.

    So, one more time:
    -If he wants 1080i/1080p video quality playing back, Mac Mini can do it, :apple:TV can NOT do it.
    -If he wants 1080i/1080p HD DVR functionality, Mac Mini with an Elgato like add on can do it, :apple:TV can NOT do it.

    And if I've misread his post and he wants 1080i or 1080p menus, then :apple:TV can manage that. Upscaling of video was news to me, but even if that is true, upscaling lower res video does not result in real 1080i or 1080p video playback, just scaled-up lower-res video.
  13. josephkann thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2010
    I am looking for the best playback quality and I am not very concerned about live tv. But picture quality and show selection are huge, and I would love to cut my cable tv subscription and just increase my internet speed and watch tv and have a computer all in one. Let me know if there are any ideas.
  14. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
    Cable doesn't even have 1080p.

    And resolution isn't the the end all, be all indication of picture quality. It's one variable among many variables.

    It's pretty obvious you can't use an ATV to get 1080p. All it takes is a quick glance at the specs or these forums.

    You'll have to get a Mini or Tivo. However no network or even cable sources that I know of broadcast in 1080p. Technically 1080i and 720p.

    And realistically your eyeball may very well not be able to tell the difference depending on the size of your TV and the distance you sit from the TV.

    Only way to get 1080p is BR. Even then the source material may very well not be 1080p. It may just be upconverted.

    Anyway there are plenty of Mini Home theatre threads in this forum. Check them out.
  15. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    Hobe, I think you've missed the point of what Jaw was saying. His point of contention was that you said that the aTV couldn't output 1080i/p ... which is not correct. It's also true that the aTV is limited to 720p/25fps/5Mbps, but that's not germaine to jaw's point.

    While one can take jaw's statement as nitpicking, I personally feel that when confusing terms/jargon gets thrown around a thread, the best way to prevent confusion is to be accurate in presenting the details.

    BTW, outputting 1080i/p is not irrelevant. Some TV (admittedly not too many) cannot accept a 720p signal. If the OP has such a TV, the implication that the aTV doesn't output 1080i would leave the OP thinking that the aTV wouldn't work on his TV. Also, viewing photos at 1080i/p results in a more detailed experience.

    OK, that's all I got on this.

    Honestly, it sounds like a Mac mini would be a better candidate for your situation. Here's why I feel this way.

    1. More flexibility in viewing options. You can get your locals using a TV tuner like an EyeTV or HDHomeRun. The software for viewing and recording is very mature (EyeTV 3). You have the option of using Hulu, Netflix, AmazonOnDemand, etc.

    2. You have full web-browsing abilities.

    3. If you're a baseball junkie, you can signup for the MLB package and watch every game (blackout restrictions apply) in 720p.

    4. Add a webcam and you have a great iChat/AOL Messenger/Skype set-up.

    5. Add a nice BT keyboard/mouse combination for the 10ft interface. Check out the Logitech diNovo Edge for Mac. Or perhaps Apple will get off their @$$es and make a couch surfing friendly keyboard/touchpad device.

    Downsides ... the only two that I can think of are ...

    1. aTV have more HD movie options than Macs when using the iTS.

    2. the mini is more complicated than the aTV ... some folks prefer their TV components to be "appliances".

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