Mac Mini 2011 + Drobo best media center setup?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by wally.waldo, Nov 7, 2011.

  1. wally.waldo macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2011
    Hey guys

    Sorry if this has already been posted but I'm just wondering if the base model Mac mini (ie no discrete graphics) will be sufficient to run as a media server? What would be the advantage of getting the upgraded version?

    Also does the base model drobo offer the best storage solution for it's price? Will FireWire 800 be adequate when streaming movies? I'm assuming there would be no need to get the drobo with ethernet in order to stream music and videos to other computers in the house? the mini should be able to share the drobo over the network?

    Sorry im new to this but have been reading a bit about this and it sounds like a great idea and easy solution. If there is a better solution for a similar price please let me know

    Sorry it doesn't really fit the title of this question but also how do people control their Mac mini media centers? Is there a good iPhone app to use as a remote control? I don't really want to use a keyboard/mouse

    Thanks again
  2. telephonepanda macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2011
    Don't know is this answers your question, but...

    My setup currently consists of...

    MacMini 2011 with an external 2Tb drive holding my iTunes library. This is running 24/7 with iTunes permanently open (unless there is something I need to do specifically on my MBP), I have Home Sharing set up on my iPad and Apple TV, which I then control with the Remote app on the iPhone and iPad.

    This works brilliantly for me, never had any issues and movies stream really well!
  3. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    I run a 2.0GHz mac mini 2009 with 4Gb RAM and an FW800 Drobo Pro. This is then attached to the Apple Time Capsule and streams to my iPad and AppleTV wirelessly.

    Never had a problem with the streaming, and the Hard Drives are GreenPower Drives so not exactly the fastest either

    However is effectively just running as an ElgatoTV / iTunes Server, streaming my iTunes Library and ElgatoTV around the home.

    Can even encode a TV Recording into H.264 whilst streaming without issue.

    However I have my mac mini setup as a normal computer and don't use directly to playback, as such I use the keyboard and mouse to use the mini and then the Apple Remote/iPad Remote on the AppleTV as just selecting what to playback.
    I don't connect the mini to the TV directly, so would need input from someone that does for that.
  4. liamski macrumors member

    Jan 14, 2007
    Really useful thread as considering a Mac Mini as my media centre / NAS

    Question though... what about power consumption?

    I thought the main advantage of a proper NAS, ie: synology, was the rock bottom power usage while idling or running low intensity tasks

    As the Mac Mini is a proper computer, is there any way to get comparable consumption and lower the electricity bill?

  5. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I currently use three 2011 Mac Minis for my HTPC setup all running Windows 7 64-bit because live TV via CableCARD is most important and only Windows Media Center has full support for copy protected content. Due to performance requirements of recording three HD shows plus watching one HD from the same disk required enabling AHCI. Therefore, all three 2011 Mac Minis are on 24/7. The power consumption of all 2011 Mac Mini models are equivalent to laptops. Far more power efficient than a full PC.

    Windows Media Center head units at TVs
    Two (2) 2011 Mac Mini 2.7GHz i7 with AMD 6630M, 8GB RAM, 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPs (OS drive), 750GB WD Scorpio Black (recording drive)

    Centralized Media Server
    One (1) 2011 Mac Mini Server 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPs (OS drive), 750GB WD Scorpio Black (media storage)

    *The 2011 Mac Mini base model and 2011 Mac Mini Server have lower power consumption and better TDP than the mid range model with discrete graphics. However, the Intel HD 3000 on Sandybridge processors is affected by the 29/59 frame rate bug. The AMD 6630M discrete graphics handles 29/59 content much better, although not perfect it is acceptable.
  6. liamski macrumors member

    Jan 14, 2007
    Wow - fantastic response. Thanks for the detail

    The Mac geek in me really wants a Mac Mini, and given that all my other computers are Mac / iPhone, it would make sense to keep things consistent
  7. Sdevante macrumors 6502

    Dec 12, 2008
    I originally bought a 2011 Mini and a Drobo for a media server. Within a week, videos inexplicably ended up missing. Restored them from a backup and within the second week, more stuff ending up missing.

    I sent that POS Drobo back and bought some nice looking MacAlly aluminum enclosures and have not had any problems since.

    I would advise you to find a different NAS/DAS than Drobo.
  8. bwrairen macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2010
    Agreed. Drobo is overkill for htpc applications anyway.
  9. RedReplicant, Nov 9, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011

    RedReplicant macrumors 6502a

    Mar 31, 2010
    I've posted about this before but I will lay it out in this thread too:

    I've got a AppleTV 2 that is jailbroken with XBMC installed connected to my TV and wired LAN.

    My server used to be a Pentium 4 2.8C w/ 2GB RAM, 4x 2TB HDDs, 1x 2GB CF Card on IDE to CF adapter running Archlinux. It acts as the download box (SABNZBD) / HTTP test server / syslog box / Time Machine / etc. No lag, cheap as dirt. Just moved to a Intel C2D E6550 and 4GB DDR2 that a friend was going to toss out.

    I tried the Mac Mini route and found it to be a waste of money... maybe I'm just cheaper than most.

    If I had maybe $300 to spend I'd probably end up with a small whitebox connected to my TV that held all of my storage and also served as the HTPC. Probably a Pentium Sandybridge CPU, microatx mobo, 4gb ram, and LianLi or Fractal case..
  10. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A334 Safari/7534.48.3)

    Consistency in appearance is the only reason why I chose to use 2011 Mac Minis. You can custom build low profile low power systems for less, not by much when considering the hardware I upgraded in the Mac Minis.
  11. wally.waldo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2011
    Hey guys

    Thanks for your help. So we've established that the base model Mac mini running plex will be a more than capable hub to the media center. The next thing I'm wondering is whether a direct attached storage would be better or worse than a networked storage solution? If drobo is no good what does everyone else use or recommend?

    I'm not looking for a hugely expensive option and I liked the idea that drobo, from their video on the website, seemed very easy to use and had the ability to easily add drives of different sizes. Obviously there are some bad reviews about this and is also maybe overkill for a media server.
  12. gabicava83 macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2010
    Drobo has redundancy built in.

    DAS, normally doesn't, as it's just 1 disk (depending on solution)

    Depends on your requirements.

    I have a Netgear NVX, excellent device but too loud. It has 4 disks, redundancy built in. I don't use it anymore, noise did my nut in.

    You could just have an external USB / FW device, which you then back up occasionally, just in case it dies.

    Depends on budget too :)

  13. ToothTooth macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2010
    North Carolina, USA
  14. kappaknight macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2009
    I looked into the Drobo and decided to go with a Synology DS1511+ and cat 6 Ethernet cables. Cheaper solutions may exist but we've been able to stream 16 gig movies + use the Synology for Time Machine backups (2 other wireless devices) at the same time with no problems. I'm now thinking about sharing my setup to family in other parts of the country and I'm glad the NAS can handle it all with no hiccups.
  15. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey

    the owc is rock solid with fw800 it works good with esata. it also is good with usb2. I purchased 5 empty ones. World Computing/MEQMH0GBK/

    I have a synology love it purchased a second one.
  16. bobpensik macrumors regular

    Aug 21, 2003
    Calgary, AB
    For my home theatre setup I have a 2010 Mac Mini with 4GB RAM hooked up to an OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 8TB running pretty much 24/7 and for the last year I have had no issues.

    The mini is also hooked up to my TV and the OWC HD stores all my video and audio for my other computers in the house.

    I love the setup and I have never experienced glitches in video or audio. I have the OWC hooked up via FW800
  17. smallnshort247 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 23, 2010
    I for one really like the Drobo. I also like my Mac Mini, and they work great together!
  18. MaxDaddy macrumors newbie

    Mar 20, 2013
    Resurrecting an old one....

    I'm considering moving to a Mac mini with Drobo as storage. Currently using a MacBook pro with time capsule.

    What I want to accomplish is having the drobo serve as the primary storage for the mini. So I would want to restore my time machine backup to the drobo through the mini. Then have the drobo, backblaze and maybe time machine to another drive as backup.

    Does all of this sound possible? How would I go about getting the time machine backup on the drobo rather than on the mini. Essentially leaving the mini for OS and temp storage.

    Do I have to manually move all of my music, movies, photos etc to the drobo?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  19. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey

    which drobo at what price point?

    promise makes some very good gear.

    this will stack with your mini. it can do what you want
  20. MaxDaddy macrumors newbie

    Mar 20, 2013
    After researching a little I was planning on the 5D so I could use the bigger drives. The promise unit looks similar to the drobo mini. But much less expensive because the drives are included. I'll have to take a hard look at that. Thanks for the heads up.

    Are there instructions somewhere on the interweb that would walk me through how to use the drobo/promise the way I want to?
  21. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    For streaming, any connection is OK: USB2, 100baseT, Gigabit, Firewire 400/800. We talk about max 20-30 mbit for FullHD BRrips with DTS-ES.

    To control it, I just use a wired mouse. It is no big deal, as I usually start a show/movie/playlist, and don't touch it again for a bunch of hours. And it works with everything. Mobile phone apps mostly tie to a specific media player only.
  22. utekineir, Mar 22, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013

    utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008
    I've been debating the promise j4 as a thunderbolt hard drive enclosure.

    The big appeal for me over a drobo is that it uses disk utility to form the raids.

    Meaning if the unit itself bricks (without bricking the file systems) the drives could be pulled and and mounted on their own without requiring another proprietary box. Because to me, if a drobo box bricks, there isn't a chance in hell I'm buying another.

    My main holdback has been idea of spending over $700 on a 4x1tb j4 unit when a 4tb seagate usb 3 drive that hits 140+mBs is around $150.

    Far as setup goes, i use a mac mini (also is office room desktop) hosting itunes home sharing and plex media server. Itunes home sharing feeds the apple tvs in the house, plex feeds the away from home uses.

    Right now its a couple usb 3 drives, owc data doubler ordered which will clean up a bit of the drive mess (1.5tb 2.5" and ssd boot drive going internal). After that I would like to migrate to storage volumes in a thunderbolt enclosure, but nothing on the market really fits.

    Drobo is expensive and proprietary.
    Lacie and g raid dont come enclosure only.
    promise is either 2.5" for bare or stocked with over priced drives I don't want in 3.5" sizes
    tb--> esata methods just add another point of failure

    please, someone just release a 4 or more bay 3.5" tb enclosure for around $400, in a workplace environment the thunderbolt premium is easily justified, but not for hosting media at home given the capability of usb3.
  23. Giuly macrumors 68040


    If all you want is streaming some video, the Synology DS413J NAS is the less expensive choice. Works similar to a Drobo, but over the network so you can access your media across all your computers.
  24. MaxDaddy macrumors newbie

    Mar 20, 2013
    I switched gears and actually bought a 27" iMac with the 3 tb fusion drive. So I'll be replacing my 1tb time capsule. I think the J4 looks like a pretty good choice as my time machine source. Unless there's a better solution of speed and redundancy with affordability.
  25. smallnshort247 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 23, 2010
    For my media center setup I'm using the high end 2011 Mac Mini and a regular Drobo that I purchased around Christmas of 2010. My Drobo is connected to my Mini via Firewire 800, and it works great! I never experience any lag or delay. I also downloaded the Plex media server, so that all the computers on my network have access to stream any movie I have stored on the Drobo. As of now, my Mini and Drobo are connected to two 24 inch monitors, but once I get a nice new tv in my room, I plan on connecting the Mini to the TV. Depending on if I get a Mac Pro or MacBook Pro to replace the mini as my main desktop, I'll most likely keep the Drobo hooked up to that new computer.

    I really love my Drobo. I know they're a bit overpriced, but it feels good to not have to worry about running out of space. I have it setup to expand up to 16TB's, and I also have it partitioned to do all my Time Machine backups too. One day I may upgrade to the Drobo with Thunderbolt support..but that'll be no earlier than 3-4 years from now I assume.

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