Mac Mini as a Media Center in a peculiar environment

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by marc.garcia, May 9, 2011.

  1. marc.garcia macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    #1
    Hi there,

    I want so badly to buy a new Mac Mini when it comes out... ok, in the mean time I'm trying to foresee how my setup should be like.

    I have an ancient 8 years old laptop and I'm also waiting for the refreshed version of the current MBA but that is a whole different story...

    Thing is, I would like to have the Mac Mini in my study room and somehow feed my HDTV from like 15m away... I've seen a couple of products that convert HDMI data into Ethernet, this could be an option but I would like to hear your opinions in settings like mine

    Having my media center this far sounds like a crazy idea, I know, but I'm, as I said, brainstorming for the right setup... I could also have my MBA roaming between the coach and the study room, but I kind of prefer the other alternative...

    Allright, and now more related media center questions ... how well does the Mac Mini handle a two display setup? Can I configure Plex, Boxee, XBMC to always and only run on the second display? is the Mac Mini capable of displaying HD content over the two displays with no problem? will BR support ever make it to Mac Os? any remote control that can handle this distance well? How "unattended" this strange environment could get wifewise?

    Tricky questions I know, but I would appreciate your support and knowledge in Apple products... Please, anything unclear just shout, I don't know if I managed to describe everything correctly, it is challenging to accurately explain this kind of things in a foreign language ;)

    Marc
     
  2. Seydlitz, May 9, 2011
    Last edited: May 9, 2011

    Seydlitz macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    #2
    it sounds like a hassle. I would strongly consider a Boxee box for the living room. You can let the Mini act as media server, so you can acces the same files (but I would go with a Synology one disk NAS catering to everything)

    Also, HDMI over ethernet, does that carry sound?

    I'd say it's a hassle even for you. You would have to switch screens for different uses, so you would be having to go to your study to do just that. Also sometimes you need to fiddle your HTPC. Even with Plex, sometimes you need to fiddle a bit... doing that in another room on another screen sucks. It would be a risk for a killed movie-mood.

    Keep in mind that maybe an iphone/android phone with the XBMC-remote-app can bridge the distance (seems unlikely, but who knows), it still would only function in Plex/XBMC. I sincerely doubt you could use remotebuddy to operate the normal mini functions with a phone. In any case it seems like a very hard thing to configure. I'm sure I could hack a solution, but I'm pretty good with these things... and I seriously wouldn't bother in the first place! :)

    I would just save up 200 Euro for a Boxee box (and another 150 for a Nas, but that's optional). Or just put the Mini in the living room and save up for another Mini. You can always buy stuff in stages (first the HTPC for the living room, then in a few months a mini for the study).
     
  3. cocacolakid, May 9, 2011
    Last edited: May 9, 2011

    cocacolakid macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago
    #3
    A Mac Mini can run 2 HD displays without any problems.

    Not sure if you can get your media players to run automatically on the other screen, I have two screens and when I launch a new app it opens in my main monitor, then I drag it over to the other "extended" monitor if I want it there. So if you were using a TV in another room as the second monitor, it could be a bit of a problem to drag an app to the other screen and maximize it if you can't actually see the screen from your mouse/mini setup.

    BR support on a Mac? Don't ever count on it.

    If you have an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, there are inexpensive remote apps that can run all of this for you. I'm not familiar with how far a regular Mac remote will work, or with any third party remote controls. I use my iPad with my Mini, and control it with VLC Remote M, Back Row, Mobile Mouse, or use my Mac remote with Boxee.

    A Roku Box would be cheaper than a Boxee box and do the same thing. You could buy a Roku XD S for $99, put it in the room with your TV, and either connect it wirelessly or via ethernet to your network and play media off whatever Mac or PC you want. It also does Netflix, Hulu, Cracker, and a ton of other services, many of which are free.

    http://www.roku.com/roku-products#2 $99

    http://www.boxee.tv/buy $199

    (I love Boxee, but their box is a tad expensive compared to Roku or Apple TV, although it does offer some features the others do not)
     
  4. Seydlitz, May 9, 2011
    Last edited: May 9, 2011

    Seydlitz macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    #4
    He needs to bridge 15 meters, isn't that a bit too far?


    The issue with a Roku box (or Apple TV, which I would take over the Roku) is that it's more suited for streaming (Netflix/Hulu) and not so well suited for Local Network media (Plex/XBMC like) usage.

    http://www.gulbransen.net/2011/03/boxee-box-vs-roku/

    The Boxee is a lot more robust in file formats due to it's XBMC roots. I personally really hate it if a media file just won't run. With Plex/XBMC this is really rare. At worst you need to fiddle interlacing to get rid of judder (happened to me twice with very obscure files).

    If price really is an issue look into the WD lineup (this is going with the assumption that you want to run your own media collection, not hulu/netflix).




    *To be fair I would just buy a second Mini, but I'm affluent and the wife would agree. My second choice would to buy an Asus EEE nettop and Linux/XBMC. To all accounts the Boxee box is pretty decent in emulating the second option, so if you just want to buy and forget about it a Boxee seems a decent idea.
     
  5. cocacolakid macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago
    #5
    I was thinking 15 feet for some reason. 15 meters won't work.
     
  6. jdreier macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2010
    #6
    I thought of doing something similar in my house. I have a mac mini as a HTPC in my living room running my stereo and tv. I also wanted to access that same media in my bedroom.

    I ended up buying an apple tv for $99. My mac mini acts as a media server in the other room, and I can stream all the media ( I encode all my stuff to work with itunes) wirelessly. No wires no hassle.

    Only downside is that I can't do any web browsing of sorts though the apple tv. Then again, I like the simplicity of having one remote in the bedroom and not having to lug around a wireless keyboard or anything.



    If you want complete access in the study and another room, your best bet will probably be two separate computers.
     
  7. mrklaw macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    #7
    appleTV hacked to run plex front end, content served up by mini. You just need to get a network connection into where your HDTV is. Plus the appleTV is very discreet, you can tuck it away almost anywhere - for extra wife points.

    Or you can wire a HDMI cable - 15m is doable but at the limits of a standard HDMI cable. I have a 12m HDMI cable running from my receiver to my projector.
     
  8. marc.garcia thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    #8
    Interesting, very interesting!!! could you elaborate a little more on this? apart from the obviuous lacking DVD capability if I go with plex on a Mac Mini, what other features I would lose if I go with your alternative?

    Very complicated cabling... no way I can run a straight cable and hdmi cables are complicated to twist and bend :( not to mention how bad this would handle multiple displays across reboots and so on, right? I was hoping any of the different existing products namely Plex, Boxee, etc. had foreseen a solution for this partifcular setup.

    Thanks for your time everyone!!! :)

    Marc
     

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