Mac Mini As A HTPC

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by gregpod9, Jan 6, 2015.

  1. gregpod9 macrumors regular

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    #1
    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.
     
  2. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #2
    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.
     
  3. jamesdmc macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Actually there is on the $999 model. It was an option that was quietly added after launch.
     
  4. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #4
    Ah, I didn't see it. Anyway it's all overkill for a HTPC.
     
  5. jjk454ss macrumors 601

    jjk454ss

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    #5
    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
     
  6. Mago macrumors 68000

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    #6
    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.
     
  7. jjk454ss macrumors 601

    jjk454ss

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    #7
    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.
     
  8. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #8
    Handbrake will be where the difference is! But for that you would be better off if you can find a 2012 i7.
     
  9. jjk454ss macrumors 601

    jjk454ss

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    #9
    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
     
  10. suzyj macrumors newbie

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    #10
    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.
     
  11. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #11
    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.
     
  12. suzyj macrumors newbie

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    #12
    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.
     
  13. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #13
    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.
     
  14. suzyj, Jan 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015

    suzyj macrumors newbie

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    #14
    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.
     
  15. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #15
    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.
     
  16. suzyj macrumors newbie

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    #16
    Oh but I do care. That's why I don't run windows.
     
  17. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #17
    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.
     
  18. dyt1983, Jan 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015

    dyt1983 macrumors 65816

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    #18
    edit: To remove personally identifying info not relevant to the conversation.
     
  19. WilliamG, Jan 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015

    WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #19
    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
     
  20. dyt1983, Jan 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015

    dyt1983 macrumors 65816

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    #20
    edit: To remove personally identifying info not relevant to the conversation.
     
  21. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #21
    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.
     
  22. dyt1983, Jan 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015

    dyt1983 macrumors 65816

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    #22
    edit: To remove personally identifying info not relevant to the conversation.
     
  23. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #23
    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?
     
  24. dyt1983, Jan 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015

    dyt1983 macrumors 65816

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    #24
    edit: To remove personally identifying info not relevant to the conversation.
     
  25. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #25
    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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