Mac Mini Clarifying Questions

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by BurnerET, Dec 1, 2015.

  1. BurnerET macrumors newbie

    Dec 1, 2015
    Im sure this has been covered over and over again, after reading countless pages, I just want to clarify in my head before I pull the trigger on a purchase. Im wanting to buy a mac mini. Ive set my mind on a late 2012. My macbook pro is a late 12, and I upgraded the ram to 16gig and a Samsung 850 1tb. The mac mini will go in my media cabinet with the rest of our components which is controlled by exhaust fans and A/C blowing into it. It will be strictly used as an HTPC for the home for video and audio and wired into the Denon reciever that controls video and audio for our home. My questions are...
    1. Will I regret going with a mini that has the i5 if Im just using it to watch watch movies and rip my dvd collection to the mini?
    2. Just from what Ive read, I know I have to get a blu ray/dvd drive to and a program like handbrake to load the movies onto mini and storage. Any recommendations on a good drive I should get?
    3. Should I just go with one 1TB Samsung SSD for inside the mini like I did my macbook and add external as needed or any ideas on a different more efficient way to set up internal storage? The money for the SSD I don't mind spending, if its best route, but a more efficient way I am open to as well.

    IM sure Ill think of more questions but these were my main ones so far. Thanks all
  2. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    If you provide a bit more information about your set up it would be helpful in giving a more useful response.

    1) what devices will output the files (TV, iPad, iPhone etc.) in your home?
    2) are your "archived discs" all DVD or also Blue Ray?
    3) What audio set up will you use with your Denon (stereo, surround etc.)?
    4) Will you have this Mini also do iTunes or strictly your own file set up etc.?

    I'll get the ball rolling here and hopefully it will give you some things to consider -

    The Mac Mini is more than capable of outputting media files. The limitations of the Mini has more to do with Apple and its lack of support for HD audio (as in DTS-Master as found on some Blue Rays etc.) If you only have DVDs, it will play back the type of associated audio just fine. A couple of excellent software options for your set up might include Kodi (previously XBMC which is free) or Plex (which is a bit more of a client server set up now and was spun off XBMC). These software options provide an excellent front end experience on TVs. My taste is for Kodi as I find it does exactly what I want.

    If you have a system that is surround, you want the best audio, the work around on the Mini is to install either Windows or Linux and then a software like Kodi. These operating systems will pass through the HD audio to your Denon unlike OSX.

    Storage - don't be too surprised but even an external drive that is USB2 is enough to move data along without issues. The Mini 2012 has USB 3 and that should be ideal for external storage of whatever size you want. There is the Mini-Stacker series of external enclosures that as the name suggests, can be stacked with a Mini (same footprint for the most part). There are also 3.5" and 2.5" external drive solutions that should work (and don't forget to make a second copy at least in case of drive failure as in get yet another drive to back up your media files). Some people prefer to go to a NAS route where the storage is accessed from the network rather than directly attached to the Mini. It has advantages and disadvantages like anything else but if large storage is in order, the advantages outweigh for most, the negatives.

    Handbrake - A well established tool that has its place IF* you require conversion and compression of your files. I find it is particularly useful for files meant for iPhone and iPad type playback and absolutely a sin to use if you want to play back on your TV (and want top quality playback). Various software can play back MKV, M2TS (blue ray native) and VOB (DVD native files) without being converted or compressed. MKV is nothing more than a "wrapper" and thus no compression unless you use a software that provides compression as an option.

    Software tools -

    MakeMKV is probably the best tool on the OSX side for Blue Ray. There are other tools out there but this one consistently gets a nod as the "go to" tool. There are various other tools for DVD as well. MakeMKV works with Windows and Linux too.

    Windows side - ANYDVD HD, MakeMKV, ClownBD (a combination of free software that creates a final file that has the video stream, your choice of audio and even subtitles etc.), DVDFAB etc. Yes, the Windows side sadly is really the workplace for many toolsets to get things done for digital archiving.

    Alternatives to Mac Mini -

    If a front end is important, then you may consider a proper streamer type of solution such as the NVidia Shield TV along with installing Kodi. It offers excellent playback along with other goodies such as streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as well as Google gaming stuff (sorry, not a gamer so wont comment on that end). It also can play higher end music files if that is your thing. NVidia Shield TV also has the advantage of being 4k capable if that is important.

    If a front end is not as important and you simply want a list of your media files, the top dog here is the Oppo 103 and 105 series of Blue Ray players that also provide some streaming services but more to the point, do a premiere job of playback of networked files (but no ISOs) with respect to video and audio output (up to 1080p).

    As you can see, there are many things to consider but if all you want is playback of DVD to your TV, then consider the Mini with Kodi or Plex and I advise you get an external drive for media storage that attached directly to your Mini HTPC player or advance to a NAS (network attached storage). Use Handbrake only for creating files for iPhone/iPad not for your TV playback.

    Look forward to your filling in the blanks on the above so others too can lend some advice or things to consider.
  3. Celerondon macrumors 6502a


    Oct 17, 2013
    Southern Cal
    That depends on the premium you would pay for and i7 and how often you use multi-core intensive software like Handbrake. The i5 will do fine at handbraking video files. For this type of job the only catch is that the versatile i5 will take twice as long as an i7 but it will do the job just fine.

    If you cannot afford the extra cost or i7s are not available then the choice will be easy. If on the other hand, you are planning to build a huge video library then perhaps you should bust that piggy bank and start scouting the Internet for quad core goodness. :apple:
  4. BurnerET thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 1, 2015
    Thanks for all the info. Ill try and clarify best I can.
    1. The only devices that will be outputting the content will be the two TVS in the house, 1 in bedroom and 1 in Living room, which is a ran through the denon in the media cabinets.
    2. For the majority most of the movies I will upload are around 300 dvd, with about another 30 blu rays that I will slowly start uploading on mini. Not really in uploading all the extras on dvd/blu rays, just the movie itself.
    3. I use surround in the living room and stereo in the bedroom due to just having a tv and sound bar in bedroom.
    4. Id prefer to have iTunes on the mini to distribute my music through out the house, just because I currently have all my music on iTunes now. Other than that I use pandora and spotify which is currently offered on the denon itself.
    5. I was currently looking at plex of kodi already and kinda had an idea that plex was more user friendly.

    Kind of new to all this so I didn't catch that handbrake was mainly just for iPad/iphone compressing. Although I understood that it compressed. Is this not something I should be concerned with on the mini with uploading so many movies.

    Does it make a that much of a difference in getting the i5 or i7?
  5. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    If you are going to two TVs, using Kodi/Plex, you don't need Handbrake which is cpu intensive. The difference for the i5 and i7 with respect to Handbrake would be a matter of speed to complete the task but not much else. Kodi btw, is no more difficult than Plex and in fact, once you learn to navigate, it is extremely simple. I'll again suggest you look into external storage. The amount of Blue Rays alone warrant it given that a typical Blue Ray movie might be about 15-21 gigs (and larger) each.
  6. treekram, Dec 1, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015

    treekram macrumors 65832

    Nov 9, 2015
    Honolulu HI
    Handbrake is used to compress video. That is very important for the iPad, iPod, etc. but it's widely used for OSX computers as well. Whether you find the compressed video acceptable for what you do is up to you. You can try that out using your current MacBook Pro. For me, I find Handbrake-processed videos acceptable - but then again, I watch most of these videos on my computer. The 2012 i7 is quad-core vs. dual-core for the i5 (as you're probably aware) and that will make a substantial difference in the processing time required to transcode a video. If you can put off processing videos to when you're not otherwise using the computer and if you don't have a lot of videos you want to do immediately, the i5 may work for you. I have both a quad-core 2012 and dual-core 2014 and if I need the transcoded video in a hurry, I use my 2012. The DVR software is on my 2014 and if I'm going to watch the video at some point in the future, I'll just use it and let it run during the night if necessary.

    I'm not sure why USB 2 vs USB 3 was brought up but I find USB 2 too slow. It's OK to watch videos from USB 2 devices (although I haven't tried that at resolutions higher than 720p) but for copying stuff - especially the amount of data required for videos, it's too slow.
    EDIT: It occurred to me that perhaps there is some confusion about whether the 2012 Mini is USB 3 or USB 2. It is USB 3. (The OP did not mention USB connectivity.) If the issue is with the DVD or Blu-Ray devices connecting to the Mini, there may not be much difference (I haven't had a chance to compare) but the price premium isn't that great either ($20-$25).

Share This Page