Lowest/Oldest Mac Mini for HTPC?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by jhkaplan, Nov 4, 2009.

  1. jhkaplan macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    #1
    I'm looking now at buying a Mac Mini to run a HTPC, mostly through Plex/Boxee w/ Handbrake for encoding and possibly playing some MKV files. What is the oldest/worst specs I should look at for the machine? I dont want to spend over $500 total, and I've heard that the Intel Core Duo's would work, but what else?

    Would something like this work okay?
    http://cgi.ebay.com/APPLE-MAC-MINI-...ewItemQQptZApple_Desktops?hash=item27acc129b5

    I know the RAM is low and it's cheap/easy for me to upgrade the RAM. But what about everything else? Any suggestions on the best machine for the money to do this?

    I know I'm playing w/ fire here, but what about a PC (non Mac) for this, running Boxee and Windows Media Center? That way I can plug my OTA antenna and get free HDTV w/ DVR. Wouldn't that work better?
     
  2. joshuarobi macrumors regular

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    Sep 7, 2009
    Location:
    Arcata, CA
    #2
    I just ordered a mini for a HTPC and got the 4gb RAM model because it will also serve as a living room desktop. All my nosing around this site has said at least 2gb RAM for playing .mkv files. I guess if you plan on opening up that mini it would be a good start.
     
  3. jhkaplan thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 29, 2008
    #3
    I figured I'd buy one with a low amount of RAM and just upgrade it myself. Not sure if that machine that I referenced or not would be able to upgrade to 2GB of RAM or not, I guess i'll have to check that out more. I was just wondering in general if that machine was gonna be enough, except for the RAM. Or if a Media Center PC would be better.
     
  4. rgarjr macrumors 603

    rgarjr

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    Southern Cal
  5. Patriiick macrumors member

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    Feb 13, 2008
    #5
    To work as a htpc, i fail to see how this would help.

    I run a 1.83C2D but with total 4go ram, dvi to hdmi and it plays anything i throw at it, flawlessly, any bluray repacks and so on..

    Anything less would probably choke on heavy-duty mkv files but this my setup is probably the lowest spec one where this works.
     
  6. bigdaddyp macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    #6
    I have a 1.8 ghz core duo (not the core 2 duo) that has 2 gb ram and I really believe that is the lowest you would want to go. Mine will play almost anything but stutters on 1080 content. Using Plex it seems to play 1080 stuff ok but you can tell its at its limit. If all you were playing is sd tv rips and ripped dvd's it might be ok but that is pretty limiting imho.
     
  7. BEEFc58 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    #7
    I have a 1.83 and added 4gb RAM myself for like $40. Works great with everything, even doing a shared screen, streaming to aTV, playing music remotely. The only time that I find a problem is when I am ripping using Handbreak, and trying to play a HD movie, or even a movie streaming from Netflix.... I just pause Handbreak and it works great!

    Two thumbs up! Best machine on the planet.
     
  8. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #8
    It really depends on the bit-rate and encoding of your files and the player you use.

    I found that a 2GHz C2D 2009 Mac Mini could easily handle 20Mbps H264 encodes (MKV's up to 16GB) in Plex (maxes out at 140% CPU utilization). I'm assuming a dual core means you have 200% CPU to work with in Plex.

    One thing to be aware of is that Plex has issues playing back 24fps content (which all Bluray rips are) when your refresh is set to 60Hz... (which makes sense) you will see stuttering, jitter, dropped frames, jerky video, whatever you want to call it. Many people might misinterpret this as not enough CPU power to playback the file, but that's not the case. Setting your monitor refresh to 24Hz clears this up and with most Bluray rips, a 2GHz Mini will be at about 100-120% CPU utilization in Plex with most 1080p content.

    The bottom line is that I suspect a 1.8GHz would have no problems with most bluray rips in Plex. I think you are asking for potential issues with a 1.66GHz machine though... so my recommendation would be to buy a 1.86GHz CPU or higher. :)
     
  9. rgarjr macrumors 603

    rgarjr

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    Southern Cal
    #9
    Yeah that's normal since handbrake ripping/encoding taxes the system a lot.
     
  10. lannister80 macrumors 6502

    lannister80

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    Apr 7, 2009
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    Chicagoland
    #10
    I have a 2006 1.66 Core Duo and it handles 720p with 0 trouble, and 1080p with almost 0 trouble (little stuttering here and there) when using Plex.
     
  11. jhkaplan thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 29, 2008
    #11
    Yeah I guess I'm still not sure what to do. I wanted to spend no more than $500, so do I get an old mini or build a PC based HTPC? I still am unsure of what is the best/most cost efficient way to do this.
     
  12. rgarjr macrumors 603

    rgarjr

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    Southern Cal
    #12
    Just get a 2.0GHz, last gen mac mini dude. These little machines are just great for HTPC's.
     
  13. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #13
    Some retailers like Bestbuy etc. around here are blowing out the early 2009 Mac Mini 2.0 GHz mini's for around $550 Canadian... surely you can find one for $500 USD in your area?
     
  14. gdeusthewhizkid macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 14, 2008
    Location:
    NY|NJ
    #14
    The mac minis must have picked up in popularity. I cannot find one with those specs anywhere. and for that price...
     
  15. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

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    Jul 24, 2009
    #15
    As posted above get a 9400 model. Reason being it handles HD files better with lower CPU utilisation.
     
  16. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    #16
    Last I checked - the Apple Refurb store was selling the 2.0 C2D off for $429 + tax. They only come with 1gb ram but that's easily remedied by a Newegg upgrade. Whilst you're at it you may as well do the HDD (unless you're planning on using an external for storage in which case don't bother) too which would put you above your $500 budget - but not by much.
     
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #17
    That would only be certain containers with H.264 video with Quicktime. For all other uses, cpu speed is king. A 2 ghz GMA950 Mini can play most Blu-ray rips just fine; if you transcode those to 14 mbps m4v/h.264 it plays all of them fine.
     
  18. BORIStheBLADE macrumors regular

    BORIStheBLADE

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2008
    #18
    One thing to consider here is the older mini's do not have the optical digital (S/PDIF). So you will not get 5.1 surround with it. Unless one of those usb to optical out will work.

    The first models that came with it from the wiki.

    Two new Intel-based models were announced on February 28, 2006,[9] replacing the older line:

    * 1.5 GHz Intel Core Solo (T1200) processor, 60 GB SATA hard drive, and Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) for US$599 (MA205LL/A).
    * 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo (T2300) processor, 80 GB SATA hard drive, Double-Layer SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW), US$799 (MA206LL/A) – the SuperDrive is a MATSHITA DVD-R UJ-846.

    Both models include:

    * 512 MB of PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM, SO-DIMM (200pin) form factor, with 2 RAM slots (expandable to 2 GB).
    * Integrated Intel GMA950 GPU, which uses at least 80 MB of main RAM (128 MB on Windows XP with Firmware 1.0 or newer), with 64 MB actually made available for graphics and video processing
    * Four USB 2.0 ports
    * One FireWire 400 port
    * combination optical digital (S/PDIF) and electrical analog audio input and outputs via Mini-TOSLINK/1/8" (3.5 mm) mini-jacks
    * DVI video output
    * 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit) Ethernet
    * Built-in AirPort Extreme (802.11g) and Bluetooth Version 2.0+EDR
    * Apple Remote and Front Row
    * Intel VT (VT-x) enabled
     

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