Mac Mini As A HTPC

gregpod9

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 27, 2007
164
5
I'm thinking of going all digital for movies and music. I would like to know if the highend mac mini with the 2 TB FD upgrade is a good option?. I prefer to not stream music and movies.
 

talmy

macrumors 601
Oct 26, 2009
4,709
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Oregon
I'm thinking of going all digital for movies and music. I would like to know if the highend mac mini with the 2 TB FD upgrade is a good option?. I prefer to not stream music and movies.
There is no reason to have a high end mini if the use is only a HTPC -- any mini made in the at least last 5 years will do (I'm still using a 2009 base model in one location).

There is no 2TB FD, it's 1 TB. A FD (or SSD) will improve startup time but will make no difference while playing. Also keep in mind that once you exceed 1TB you will need an external drive anyway, so internal capacity isn't necessarily important.
 

jjk454ss

macrumors 601
Jul 10, 2008
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I had ordered the 2TB option, but then decided to get an open box base model for $399 and order a Thunderbolt External to go with it. I was going to get the faster mini and sell my Air, but by going cheap with the mini I'll keep my Air. I'm glad because I hate working on photos from 14 ft back from the TV. And I love using the Screenshare so I can remote login to the mini, it's too hard to do anything on the TV screen
 

Mago

macrumors 68020
Aug 16, 2011
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Beyond the Thunderdome
I'm using an base mini '14 (the 500$ model) as HTPC connected to an sony 4K thru HDMI, despite only 30hz refresh its enough to enjoy content at 4K, only issue is the stock HDD I must to upgrade to an SSD. besides that its excellent, insludes IR sensor for remote control, and twice as server for time machine central backup for my other macs as well as general purpose pc.
 
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jjk454ss

macrumors 601
Jul 10, 2008
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I had ordered the 2TB option, but then decided to get an open box base model for $399 and order a Thunderbolt External to go with it. I was going to get the faster mini and sell my Air, but by going cheap with the mini I'll keep my Air. I'm glad because I hate working on photos from 14 ft back from the TV. And I love using the Screenshare so I can remote login to the mini, it's too hard to do anything on the TV screen
So I had called Apple and cancelled, but got notice my mini shipped yesterday. So now to decide, which should I keep? $400 for base model or the 2.8 i5 with 8GB and a 2TB a Fusion drive and better graphics for $1055. I will be doing a lot of Handbrake, but that's the most intensive I would imagine.
 

talmy

macrumors 601
Oct 26, 2009
4,709
267
Oregon
So I had called Apple and cancelled, but got notice my mini shipped yesterday. So now to decide, which should I keep? $400 for base model or the 2.8 i5 with 8GB and a 2TB a Fusion drive and better graphics for $1055. I will be doing a lot of Handbrake, but that's the most intensive I would imagine.
Handbrake will be where the difference is! But for that you would be better off if you can find a 2012 i7.
 

jjk454ss

macrumors 601
Jul 10, 2008
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446
Handbrake will be where the difference is! But for that you would be better off if you can find a 2012 i7.
Yeah, I've looked but can't find a decent deal on one.

I had no idea ordering a "custom" Mac Mini it would gave to ship from Asia. Seems like they would have these in the US ready to ship in most/all configurations.

Last Location:
Departed - Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong, Wednesday, 01/07/2015
 

suzyj

macrumors newbie
Dec 30, 2014
29
1
Agree about Handbrake.

We just bought his and hers mini to use as media machines. We've been ripping all our CDs (Apple Lossless) and DVDs (handbrake). So far we're up to ~320 CDs and ~400 DVDs, in a paltry 600GB.

Our machines are 2.6 GHz i5, with 8GB RAM & 1TB drive (mine is a fusion). Oodles for a HTPC. Handbrake takes 15 odd minutes to rip a typical movie, 20-25 minutes for a series.

My god these little machines are cool. They just swallow media. I've installed myth and kodi (using an old linux machine as the myth backend), and everything works beautifully. I prefer iTunes though for browsing my media collection, as it's so wonderfully customisable.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
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Seattle
As I feel like I post in all HTPC-based threads these days, the Mac mini is no longer a great HTPC, value-wise or otherwise (and take that from someone who had been using minis since 2007 as an HTPC).

Prior to the 2014 minis, the problem was a combination of the chipset and OS. In 2014 with the Haswell minis it's now the OS that's the issue.

To put it simply: No 24p support, and no HD Audio support. For some of you with older 60hz TVs or older receivers, maybe you won't care. For the rest of us? No thanks. Give me nice smooth 24p playback and high-definition audio, thank you.

For HTPC duty, I highly recommend an Intel i3 NUC (Haswell model). It's smaller than a mini, cheaper than a mini, will do 24p (23.976hz) and HD Audio bit-streaming with EASE. The mini is just not good enough these days.

EVEN for DVDs which don't have HD audio, I STILL don't recommend a Mac mini. DVDs play back on DVD players at 60hz, but they're actually encoded at 23.976hz, so again - your DVD-rips = better on Windows than Mac, again - as long as you have a relatively modern TV (120hz, 240hz etc). OS X has never supported 24p properly, which is a real shame.
 

suzyj

macrumors newbie
Dec 30, 2014
29
1
For HTPC duty, I highly recommend an Intel i3 NUC (Haswell model). It's smaller than a mini, cheaper than a mini, will do 24p (23.976hz) and HD Audio bit-streaming with EASE. The mini is just not good enough these days.
By the time you buy a hard drive, memory, and operating system, a NUC is every bit as expensive as a comparable mini.

And I disagree strongly with your comments on OS X. There's no way I'd trust a windows machine to run reliably 24/7, as you want for a media machine. Windows is just too flaky and virus prone.

I tried a variety of linux machines before getting the mini. They were all incredibly frustrating, with software that was infuriatingly almost there, driver issues, and things breaking on updates. My mac is perfect. It plays everything I throw at it perfectly, does AirPlay, is easy to drive and look after, and is the quietest computer I've ever owned.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
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By the time you buy a hard drive, memory, and operating system, a NUC is every bit as expensive as a comparable mini.

And I disagree strongly with your comments on OS X. There's no way I'd trust a windows machine to run reliably 24/7, as you want for a media machine. Windows is just too flaky and virus prone.

I tried a variety of linux machines before getting the mini. They were all incredibly frustrating, with software that was infuriatingly almost there, driver issues, and things breaking on updates. My mac is perfect. It plays everything I throw at it perfectly, does AirPlay, is easy to drive and look after, and is the quietest computer I've ever owned.
You can't disagree with my comments about OS X. They're facts. :)

1.) No 24p support.
2.) No HD Audio support.

There's no argument that can be had here!

A NUC equipped is a little less expensive and is much more upgradeable.

NUC i3 cost $260 ($280 now on Amazon, but they've been a tad cheaper)
4GB RAM cost... less than $50? (and you can upgrade to 16GB... cough cough).
120GB SSD cost about $50, and is easily placed into an NUC, unlike the annoyance of the mini.
Wireless AC/BT card = $30
Windows 7 OS = ~$100, maybe?

It's silent, quiet, far smaller than the Mac mini, and again, you can't argue with points 1 and 2 above.

Don't get me wrong. I love my 2012 mini. It's built out of the box. Done, dusted. That's why it's my much-adored media SERVER now. However, nothing touches the form-factor AND functionality of the Intel NUC with Plex as a media PLAYER. It boots in less than 10 seconds when I turn my media-room setup on from my Harmony remote, and boots straight into Plex Home Theater. I never see the Windows desktop at any point. I don't leave my NUC on 24/7, but I know many, many people that do. For me, it's just a player, so by the time my TV (projector) is come on, my NUC is booted and ready to rumble in silence.

Windows wins here in the media-playback department. I do agree with you about Linux. You can actually set up a Linux-based (i.e. free OS) Plex Home Theater on the NUC, but I'd not even want to try. Too much fiddling. The NUC was so easy to set up.
 

suzyj

macrumors newbie
Dec 30, 2014
29
1
You can't disagree with my comments about OS X. They're facts. :)

1.) No 24p support.
2.) No HD Audio support.

There's no argument that can be had here!
It's not so much that I disagree as that I don't care. I wouldn't have a clue whether OS X supports 24p. In my experience, media is released as DVD or BluRay. I'm in a PAL region, so it tends to be encoded PAL. Ain't no issues whatsoever with playing that on my mac. Smooth as they come.

Same with audio. I couldn't give a stuff about HDaudio as not a single track I own is encoded in it. They're all either in AAC or Apple lossless, having been ripped from my CD collection.

And for the record, I also don't care that my mac doesn't support all the other windows gumph. Most notably .exe files...

Oh, and the nicest thing about my mac: I don't have to even know what 24p or hdaudio even is, as it just works.
 
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WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,086
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Seattle
It's not so much that I disagree as that I don't care. I wouldn't have a clue whether OS X supports 24p. In my experience, media is released as DVD or BluRay. I'm in a PAL region, so it tends to be encoded PAL. Ain't no issues whatsoever with playing that on my mac. Smooth as they come.

Same with audio. I couldn't give a stuff about HDaudio as not a single track I own is encoded in it. They're all either in AAC or Apple lossless, having been ripped from my CD collection.

And for the record, I also don't care that my mac doesn't support all the other windows gumph. Most notably .exe files...

Oh, and the nicest thing about my mac: I don't have to even know what 24p or hdaudio even is, as it just works.
Wow.... just... wow. OK, that's fine. Clearly if the argument is you don't care about a better experience, then fine. I can't argue with that... But just for your info, PAL/NTSC - makes no difference. The experience would be better for you.

There are others out there that want a bit more from their HT experience, remember.
 

suzyj

macrumors newbie
Dec 30, 2014
29
1
Wow.... just... wow. OK, that's fine. Clearly if the argument is you don't care about a better experience, then fine. I can't argue with that...

There are others out there that want a bit more from their HT experience, remember.
Oh but I do care. That's why I don't run windows.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,086
2,546
Seattle
Oh but I do care. That's why I don't run windows.
You imply that OS X isn't bug-ridden....

I've been running my NUC + Windows 7 for about a half a year now. Never given me one moment's trouble. I set them up for several business and friends.

I don't use it for "Windows," or anything other than playing my media in Plex. I don't even have a keyboard/mouse hooked up to it. It powers on and off with my remote, and I never see anything even slightly resembling an OS. At the end of the day, you don't have to agree with me, but there are some MAJOR advantages to using Windows (or Linux)-based media centers.

If you ever get more "serious" about your media/home-theater experience one day, you'll understand. OS X simply cannot do what other media-players can, period. And again, this isn't a subjective analysis of OS X. It's an objective one.

You say that OS X plays the media fine, and yes, it's "fine." But the next time you watch a DVD or an HD movie on your Mac mini, and the image is panning or moving and isn't quite... smooth, - just remember, your Mac mini is doing 3:2 pulldown to display that 23.976hz image at 60hz at all times. On a true 24p display, everything will be that much smoother, just like at the cinema. For me (and others, enthusiast or otherwise), that jerky movement from 3:2 pulldown is an ABSOLUTE deal-killer (aside from the lack of audio options - limiting you to the core tracks of HD audio like TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio).

But, enough for now. Enjoy your Mac mini. While it's been surpassed now in terms of function, there's no arguing it's a reasonable, simple, media player.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,086
2,546
Seattle
I'm not sure what you're on about, but my Mac Mini runs 24p/60p and I have it set to switch depending on the source material I am viewing.

Image
I was waiting for someone to take a screenshot and say this very thing. ;)

Very basic answer:

OS X outputs as 24p = 24.000hz. That's NOT the same as 24p in movies, which is actually 23.976hz. OS X has no support for 23.976hz. You can get "close" with a third-party up called SwitchresX, but I've never seen it done properly, despite wasting many, many hours on it.

What this means is that if you watch a 24p movie at 24.000hz in OS X instead of 23.976hz (which 99.9% of all Blu-rays and DVDs are) you end up with a frame skip every 41 seconds because the movie needs to "realign" itself with the refresh rate of your OS. If you're sensitive to it, you can see the frame skip pretty easily depending on the movie scene (panning or slow-moving shots), and if it happens during the scrolling end credits of a movie, it's really obvious! If you're curious about the math behind the 41 seconds.. :

24 - 23.976 = 0.024 => 1 / 0.024 = 41.6 seconds. That means that in a 2 hour movie it will skip 173 times. Ouch.

You can read this thread to get more info (a thread I partook in for a long, long time, until I got fed up with it simply not working anymore and dumped the mini for an Intel NUC Haswell Windows 7 build).

https://forums.plex.tv/index.php/topic/93849-the-big-24hz-on-mac-os-x-thread/

Now, up until the Haswell chips in the 2014 Mac mini, previous Intel cards couldn't do 23.976hz anyway, not even in Windows. 24.000hz was the closest you'd get. With the Haswell graphics chips, 23.976hz is easily attainable in Windows (you set the refresh rate to 23hz in the Intel graphics settings, which is actually 23.976hz). But..., for Macs, at the OS X level, there's no 24p support, even with the Haswell chips. And that is a major bummer.

If Apple would implement 24p/HD Audio in OS X, I'd love it. But... alas...

For additional reading, here's an anandtech article on when Haswell was released and 24p was tested... much rejoicing. :)

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7007/intels-haswell-an-htpc-perspective/4
 
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WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,086
2,546
Seattle
Unless your player just plays the 23.976Hz as 24.000Hz.

No skip. Imperceptible (even to you) difference in length of film, and the audio is adjusted accordingly. And if the source is film it might even just be correct.

Basic players won't do it, but you don't strike me as a "basic player" kind of guy.

What really bothers me is watching 50Hz TV shows, because, well, most of my TVs don't do that.

edit: Oh yeah, the TV in the screen shot only supports 72Hz, so 23.976Hz wouldn't work anyhow. So 24Hz works out pretty well.

----------



p.s. that statement is incorrect... movies shot on film are 24fps. Not 23.976, which is "close" to 24fps for use with NTSC.

Source: Me. I worked at Lucasfilm for several years.
Hah. OK we can get more technical, and I'm not incorrect. :) 23.976hz = pretty much every single DVD/Blu-ray. Film is different. All we care about here is that for home use it's 23.976hz needed because of the NTSC standard. It's not 24.000hz. :)

I'm a big XBMC/Plex person, and Plex will actually speed the playback of 23.976hz material up to match the 24hz output in OS X (0.1% speed up, which is imperceptible), but it has some pretty nasty side-effects depending on the material - some strange pitches/glitches in audio etc.

Anyway, the bottom line is STILL that OS X + 24p/HD audio = doesn't work. I really wish it did work.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,086
2,546
Seattle
Actually, I think the takeaway from all this is... it doesn't work for you as a HTPC. But it works great for a lot of people, for the reasons they have, which aren't as important to you as the reasons you have for saying it doesn't work.

As Mac owners we're probably all well aware of why we choose a Mac over whatever machine for any given purpose. Trying to explain it to someone who doesn't agree just isn't worth the time. Sort of like someone who chooses a Mercedes for whatever reasons trying to explain that to someone who opts for a Toyota for whatever reasons. Or someone who likes Rolex compared to someone who likes Timex. Or Prada shoes to Hush Puppies. Or... well you get the idea. ;)

----------



Well... you said MOVIES. Movies are filmed on film, or on the digital equipment is truly 24p (not the 23.976p that has taken over the 24p meaning).

But you know what I mean. And I knew what you meant. You didn't mean movies, you meant DVDs or BDROMs.
Oh semantics. :)

Yes, the Mac mini doesn't work for ME (obviously!), but I do think it's important for people to know that even the latest 2014 minis in OS X do not properly display movies in their correct frame-rate or with the lovely high-definition audio alongside. That's the bottom line. Even if they don't care about those features, knowledge is power, no?
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,086
2,546
Seattle
Agreed, but like you said elsewhere about getting carried away and that this is the internet...

And my position will be that movies displayed in 23.976p are not the correct frame-rate. I have a CineAlta digital camera that is nodding in agreement!
Ok. Well you can disagree that 23.976fps is incorrect, but 99.9% of movies AND TV source material (either on TV or on DVD/BD) is 23.976. Probably a good time to get used to it. :)
 
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