Mac Mini as HTPC - Feedback or thoughts about this setup?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Jawnathin, Jun 15, 2010.

  1. Jawnathin macrumors 6502

    Sep 10, 2009
    Hi all,

    I've been waiting for Apple to update the Mac Mini and using it as a HTPC. Today is the day! While I wasn't expecting a form factor refresh, I was expecting the new GPU and possibly HDMI. Either way today's update (minus the price bump) makes the Mini an even more viable HTPC.

    So, here is my plan. Does anyone have anything similar or have any comments or areas I should be concerned about?

    Here is the equipment I plan on using...

    Key Equipment -

    Mac mini
    Airport Extreme
    Drobo FS
    Apple Remote


    My main goal is to have the Mac mini pull local video files in various formats (.mkv, .avi, .mp4, etc) and resolutions (480i to 1080p) from the Drobo FS as well as from online sources such as Hulu and Netflix. This content will be displayed on the TV with a easy to use interface.

    I want this to be as 'hands off' as possible. Meaning I don't wanna fiddle with settings to get a show playing. I just want to turn on the TV, use the remote, and get to watching content like a STB.


    I plan on installing either Boxee or Plex (anyone prefer one or the other?) on the Mac mini and leave it connected to the TV via HDMI. Boxee/Plex will be the main application running almost all of the time.

    I'll be loading video files onto the Drobo FS remotely from other computers in the house. The Drobo FS and Mac mini will both be directly connected to the Airport Extreme...

    To control the Mac Mini, I plan on installing an application on the iPad called 'Rowmote' which will have a virtual keyboard and track pad. This way I won't have to get a mouse/keyboard setup for the living room if I need to mess with any settings that requires text input.

    Additionally Rowmote can also have 'remote buttons' instead of a trackpad/keyboard if I wish to manipulate content that way. While thats an option, I'd prefer to use the Apple Remote to navigate through the Boxee/Plex UI as I prefer the 'physical remote' instead of the touch screen remote. This should mimic the STB experience a bit more closely than just using the iPad.

    Are there any thoughts or concerns with the setup? Anything I should keep an eye out for? Any suggestions on how I can improve the setup?
  2. brdnboy macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2008
    Boulder, CO
    I have a pretty similar set up. I have a Mac Mini connected to two tv's, one via mini-dvi to dvi and the other via mini-dp to hdmi. Audio out to a receiver (no tv speakers). The mac mini has a 4TB drobo attached for local storage of media. Control is through an apple remote, iphone, or wireless mouse (mx revolution) and keyboard (apple wireless). I use plex with plug ins for hulu, netflix, etc. and use plex for local playback as well. I have a comcast internet connection with a motorola SB6120 (docsis 3.0 yay!) and a dual band Airport Extreme for internet. The comcast package also includes for free. No cable tv or satellite, everything is either streamed or downloaded.
  3. Westyfield2 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2009
    Bath, UK.

    I'd been thinking about it too, and now the Mac Mini has been updated I'm nearly ready to take the plunge!

    For me however, as-well as Plex for watching of ripped films etc I'd want some sort of DVR functionality too.

    My current line of thought is EyeTV for it, but I'm not sure yet...
  4. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    It adds a touch of complication to get set up exactly the way you want, but I would suggest doing a Harmony remote/Remote Buddy setup. Once you have it set up how you want, it's pretty simple to bounce between lots of programs (Plex, Hulu, EyeTV, etc.) to get all the content you want. I find that I only very, very rarely need to bust out my keyboard (though I do some tasks (software updates, etc.) via vnc every week or so).
  5. flopticalcube macrumors G4


    Sep 7, 2006
    In the velcro closure of America's Hat
    I would second this. A Harmony adds so much to the experience, particular if you want to control TV, amp, mini all at the same time.
  6. Pib macrumors newbie


    Jan 5, 2008
    I also agree on the Harmony.

    I have 2 HT setups at my house. One for me and one for my kids.

    Like you, I also have a networked device (HP MediaSmart).

    I don't own an iPad (waiting for 2nd or 3rd gen) so I can't comment on your use of that as an interface device to the mini but it sounds cool. I use the Apple wireless keyboards and Microsoft's 5000 notebook mice. Interestingly, the mice work pretty well on leather sofas and pillows...

    I prefer Boxee over Plex as it seems less complicated to reference media on the HP MediaSmart. But Plex does have a fancier interface...

    This new mac mini is fantastic and I hope you like it. It's a great HTPC!
  7. Jawnathin thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 10, 2009
    Thanks for the feedback all. If there is any interest, I can create a 'Project Thread', where I'll take a few pics and post details of the setup for reference if someone else wants to try something similar.

    I ordered the Mac Mini and iPad last night. The iPad isn't scheduled to arrive until early July. However, the Mac mini just changed from 'pre-order' to ships! I haven't received a tracking number from Amazon yet though, but I'm expecting to get it Friday.

    brbnboy, any issues with getting Plex pulling content from the Drobo?

    I have a Harmony at the house, but I found it to be a bit finnicky with my TV (At least, when I got it a year ago, it didn't change inputs gracefully), so I stopped using it. Maybe I'll give it a shot. I totally forgot about it, thanks for the recommendation.
  8. erdog macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2010
    Yes and yes to Plex and the Harmony Remote. I have a Harmony One, and it controls Plex perfectly. Plex is really slick, and it plays everything I throw at it including 1080p rips.

    Once in a while, I'll use a DiNovo Mini bluetooth keyboard for fiddling with Safari when I want to watch something I can't access through Plex (like videos on random TV network sites). Usually, I don't need it as MacOS's screen sharing feature works well for controlling the Mac Mini from another Mac.
  9. rnelan7 macrumors 6502


    Nov 9, 2009
    Sounds awesome, please keep us updated with pictures also. I plan on doing the same setup up as you so keep the updates rolling!
  10. nylon macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2004
    I would love to see a project thread on HT setup with harmony mixed in etc.
  11. Jawnathin thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 10, 2009
    Hi all,

    I ended up posting my feedback on getting the Mac mini setup as an HTPC in a separate thread.

    Unfortunately I didn't use the Harmony remote, but I've found the Apple remote to meet my needs so far.

    Let me know if there are any questions.

  12. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    I really want this to be true... but I've heard it before.
  13. Pib macrumors newbie


    Jan 5, 2008
    Remember, I said it’s a great HTPC, not a “perfect” HTPC! I don’t think there is one BTW...

    Apple hit a home-run with this latest mac mini. Very nice design and they included the HDMI port that also supports multichannel audio. Many of us that have mac minis as HTPCs had to get with Monoprice to buy some adapters to take full advantage of our mini’s high-definition and multichannel audio capabilities that the new mini now has built-in.

    Yet Apple didn’t hit a grand-slam. The latest mac mini doesn’t have Blu-Ray. Also, at the price they’re charging, I think they could have included 4GB of RAM. Not deal breakers though...

    Go to youtube and do a search on (no quotes) “mac mini HTPC”. See for yourself if it fits your needs.
  14. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    I have done, mate. These videos, along with those on blogs and testimonials on other websites paint an overly optimistic picture.

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