Mac Mini as media centre

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by fRAiLtY-, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. fRAiLtY- macrumors newbie

    Nov 16, 2011
    Hi guys,

    I currently have all my iTunes music on my old iMac Dual Core. I also have a 2010 MacBook Pro which home sharing works on, sometimes.

    What I want to do it buy a Mac Mini and connect it to my TV via HDMI which in turn is connected to my Samsung Home Cinema System.

    This way could I view movies that are on the Mac Mini through the TV and also play music through iTunes through the home cinema system and what, if any, extras would I need? I would then be able to access it from the MacBook Pro anywhere in the house right? I have a good WiFi connection but chances are I'd hardwire the Mac Mini as it would be beside the modem.


  2. Hrududu macrumors 68020


    Jul 25, 2008
    Central US
    It works just fine to do that. My Mac Mini is a Core Duo that resides next to my TV and spends most of its time working as a DVR either through FireWire or my EyeTV. It handles video playback and recording just fine and its pretty old. What you're talking about is very common for Mac Mini users.
  3. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Yes, I agree with the above post. You should also consider an Apple TV which is Apple's idea of a HTPC.

    By the way, in Lion, Apple removed Front Row, their 10' UI for tvs and remote control. So, you can use an older version of the OS if you want Front Row or you could look at something like Plex which powerusers tend to like. I think its overly complicated myself, but you should probably give it a try (free demo) and see if you like it.

    If not, I say get an Apple TV. For the money, it's hard to beat.
  4. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    I have a mini that serves double-duty. It's connected via HDMI to my HDTV and also via MDP > DVI to a monitor. An external drive connected via FW800 contains my collection of movies and TV shows, which are delivered via Plex to the TV. Work can be done on the mini using the monitor while a movie plays on the HDTV. I can run the mini from my MBP remotely from anywhere in the house using screen sharing. The mini is connected to the network wirelessly, but the internet connection doesn't skip a beat. The only issue I have is that when I take the Apple Wireless Keyboard very far from the mini, to control movie playback, it sometimes drops the Bluetooth connection.
  5. dancook99 macrumors member

    Aug 12, 2011
    In my opinion, Plex is fairly simple, automatically finds 99% artwork and description for movies, TV shows and music compared to iTunes plus it handles more media types (mkv, etc). And, unless it has changed, it's free.

    Last, the Mini delivers 1080p which the aTV doesn't (yet).
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Yes, Plex is free and certainly doesn't require a "power user" to set up and use it effectively. While there are some improvements I'd like to see, overall I've been very impressed with it. It certainly handles more file types than ATV and offers an excellent, easy to use interface.
  7. Mj13young macrumors newbie

    Aug 27, 2011
    Yes, plex works well, and the video plugins are a really cool feature.

    I use mobile mouse on my iPad, as a remote mouse/keyboard.
  8. wicked23 macrumors member

    Nov 20, 2009
    I am looking to do the same thing with a Mac Mini. My question is which Mac Mini should I purchase? I will use it for Movies, Music and torrents only.


    Which hard drive are you using?
  9. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Any recent mini should do the job well. Mine is a 2010. I like the fact that it has the optical drive, unlike the new models. It replaced my DVD player, further cleaning up my home entertainment center.
    The mini has the stock 320GB drive, which contains some movies. The majority of the movies and TV shows are on this drive from Other World Computing (OWC), which is nearly full:

    OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro™
  10. wicked23 macrumors member

    Nov 20, 2009
    Will this be sufficient with 8GB memory upgrade?
    2.3GHz : 500GB
    2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
    2GB memory
    500GB hard drive1
    Intel HD Graphics 3000
    OS X Lion

    Or do I need the better graphics card? AMD Radeon HD 6630M
  11. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    I think those specs would be fine for movies and TV shows.
  12. jammingator macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    I'd like to chime in with a question.

    Can I run a Mini through my Yamaha receiver (RX667 with HDMI) or would I need to go directly to my TV? My main interest in doing this is running the sound through the receiver.
  13. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    If you just want sound to go to the receiver, just get one of these and plug directly from the mini to the receiver.
  14. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Should work going through the receiver just fine
  15. dmcdayton, Dec 20, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011

    dmcdayton macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2008
    Had mini in HT stack

    I saw your post, you're where I was at 2 years ago. The Mini worked great for me with a few noticeable exceptions: Hulu +, Netflix and on screen controls. I'd assumed that since the 09 Mini eats iTunes movies for lunch (beautifully drives my 50" Plasma with downloaded TV and Movies)....that it would stream Hulu and Netflix just fine. Not so...and its not really Apples fault...those interfaces are built on Flash. I spent 2 years trying to get hiccup free fullscreen video and I gave up.

    Also, juggling keyboards and mice is no place to put them, struggle to see the screen, click buttons etc. I tried them *all* (Logitech DiNovo Mac Edition, Apple Keyboard, Apple Trackpad, Mouse Pro Server/iOS clients using iPod touches, iPads, iPhone, etc). At the end of the day, trying to use keyboard and mouse from the couch is a lousy user experience. The Apple TV/Roku/Front Row experience is way better. (I've played with Plex but am not that ambitious, I bought Apple cause I just want it to work).

    I recently made my Mini my main machine (with an OWC SSD main drive, 8GB Ram and an External Firewire drive for home folder) and bought a Roku to stream Hulu and Netflix. (works sooo much better than the mini, interfaces are built for the Roku hardware) ...and I'll be buying an Apple TV when the new version comes out next year, to continue streaming TV shows and iTunes movies AND allow airplay with my iPad, since my 09 Mini didn't have compatible hardware for Airplay. Highly recommend the Roku...I look at it that it gives me everything that Apple won't (Amazon Prime on-demand, Hulu, bunch of other cool streaming services). I have a Tivo HD to record my shows but will switch to Eye TV when this unit dies...Eye TV can record your shows, load them to iTunes and you can get them from the Apple TV.

    My Mini is now a screamer with the OSD, RAM upgrades and Ext Firewire drive (compared to the clunky old 5400 rpm drive it came with) am enjoying it connected to an Apple Cinema display....but Hulu and Netflix on it and all Macs...still...SUCK!

    Long winded but hope it helps.

    P.S. - Cable Free for 3 years and will never go back. I've paid for all my toys once over with my freedom savings from the TWC cable vampire.
  16. ericgarig macrumors newbie

    Dec 20, 2011
    Yes, my mini is connected to that same model via HDMI. From the receiver it's another HDMI to the TV

    The mini is a great system for a media center. I bought the entry level mini (mid-2011) and made some changes to it. First was the 8GB RAM upgrade. The second was making the second hard-drive port into a eSATA port and running the cable out to 2TB myBook holding all my movies.

    I would also recommend getting a DVD burner to digitize your some if not all of your collection

    Plex is also a great option when you want to access all that media
  17. AuroraProject macrumors 65816


    Feb 19, 2008
    Right there
    Plex is great! It's relatively simple to setup and everyday use is easy. I love being able to access my entire library from my iPhone, or the girlfriends pc.
  18. TinHead88 macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2008
    That's a great idea. Could you tell us how you implemented this? Possibly with pics? While Thunderbolt is still prohibitively expensive it seems like a good alternative.
  19. ericgarig macrumors newbie

    Dec 20, 2011
    TinHead88, sure, it's actually a fairly quick procedure.

    I looked a few videos of installing a second hard drive. I also looked at this video for how to run the wire out of the mini:

    Here is a link to the cable I used. You can go with others, just make sure that the ends are male SATA to female eSATA.

    Here is the link to the proprietary HDD cable. If you have the tools yourself and just need the cable, this is a great buy. These guys are often out of stock, but just put yourself on the alert mailing list and get it when they restock (took me 3-4 days when I did it)

    I can't find the pictures I took when I was modding the mini, but I think I will need to get into it soonish. I would take it apart, but I'm also using the mini as a server.

    As for the modding itself, follow the videos to remove the hard-drive (you don't actually have to pull the logic board. The top hard drive comes out with some wiggling and is fairly easy to to put back).
    Smooth of the bump of the flex cable so that the SATA cable can be plugged all the way in. Tape (electrical) the edged of the two cables together.
    Instead of running the cable out between the power supply and the HDD, I ran mine through the small gap near the fan connector.
    I had to cut just enough of the antenna plate and the black cover to get it out of the mini.

    As you can see, the cable isn't very noticeable.

    Attached Files:

  20. TinHead88 macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2008
  21. filemeaway macrumors newbie

    Aug 11, 2008
    This is false. The current generation minis cannot run Snow Leopard or any other previous version of OS X.

    The actual working solution for using Front Row in Lion is to use Ralph Perdomo's Front Row Enabler for Lion
  22. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Harsh man, what I said is not false... If you want to run Front Row in an Apple supported manner you must run Snow Leopard or older. Yes, it does require an older Mac Mini, hence my suggestion to the OP that he just buy an Apple TV since it would seem to meet many of the needs he mentioned.

    The solution you present is non-supported and requires 3rd part hacking with the OS which is hardly comparable to running software that Apple is supporting. Also, the hack you mention requires files that are distributed without Apple's consent from Snow Leopard. It also requires downgrading the installed version of iTunes to enable features like music in Front Row.

    Play nice, man... This is a friendly forum.
  23. jammingator macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Well, got my mini!

    Works great connected to my TV but have not yet been able to get a display showing while going through the Yamaha.

    I do get the opening white screen with the Apple logo with activity indicator but it soon goes black.

    I've turned everything off and rebooted in various orders but to no avail.

    Any help?
  24. adddictedtomac macrumors regular

    Mar 8, 2012
    You can install Front Row on Mac OS X 10.7 see this video
  25. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    yeah mini to tv then tv to yamaha .

    I have mini to tv then tv to processor.

    your way is the hard way and many processors won't send the signal to the tv.

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