Mac Mini Dilemma, need opinions?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by photogineer, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. photogineer macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2013
    So here is my dilemma, I'm a longtime PC user who is frustrated with the every day fight to keep my machine clean and running. I've also been a fairly staunch Apple critic for a long time but have come to realize that mostly I was just rebelling against the price. I've recently decided to dip a toe in the Mac ecosystem after playing with a friends system and liking it, but since I'm not totally sold on the Mac I didn't want to drop a lot on the computer.

    It seemed like the best option is the Mac Mini, but I have a few different directions I could go with this. Currently I have a PC desktop running windows 7 with two monitors that is my primary computer, and I have an HP laptop that I use from time to time, but not often, and a PS3 I use for media stuff on my 42" 3D TV (LG). I could use the Mac Mini as either a desktop in place of my existing desktop, which is nearing the end of its life, or I could use it as an HTPC in place of the PS3 and alongside the desktop. I am leaning towards the HTPC option because it leaves me easily able to make use of my PC during the transition, and because the PS3 has some annoying limitations.

    Primarily for the PS3 I watch downloaded content by way of transcoding media server, which is cumbersome and buggy and ties up the desktop with transcoding while the PS3 is playing. I also use it for 3D Blu-Rays and Amazon Instant Video/Netflix viewing. I am hoping the Mini can replace all of that except the BD playback, and add to it things like Hulu and being able to stream TV shows from cable network websites, without needing a transcoding server. What does everyone think of this idea?

    The other idea for using it as a desktop would probably be by KVM switch, so I could have the PC on standby in case I needed it for something. Or by remote desktop, I don't do anything particularly intensive, except for some occasional CAD modeling. Mostly it's the typical stuff, with some software development and CAD thrown in on occasion.

    The other thing I need to decide is whether or not to wait, the current Mini model is the 2012 obviously, and I am concerned if I buy it now the new model will come out soon and I'll be kicking myself. However, on the other hand, I'm not sure that I am interested in the new model, since the recent price increases seem to imply the new model won't be at the same price point anyway. Unless it's a massive improvement, I won't be interested in paying more than the current $599 price for it. Also, I'd be nervous about the new model having problems with it, like the HDMI port on the 2012 model.

    So, in summary, my questions are:

    1. Do you think the better use would be as an HTPC or a desktop replacement?

    2. If used as an HTPC, would it be able to do what I expect?

    3. If used as an HTPC, would the expected specs of the new model have a reasonable impact or not really matter?

    4. If used as a desktop, I imagine it would be fine for my use as well right?

    5. If used as a desktop, would the expected specs of the new model matter?

    6. Is it reasonable to expect that the new Mini will be priced higher when it comes out?

    7. Is it reasonable to expect the new Mini soon?

    A big thing for me right now is that I'm afraid if I wait for the new Mini, it'll be higher priced, and not worth the extra price for me, and I'll have wasted my time. On the other hand, this is a purely 'want' thing and I'm in no rush other than wanting my new toy.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    What I would do is buy the mac mini to replace your desktop. Then get an Apple TV to stream your computer screen wirelessly onto your HDTV shown here That way the mini can be both a computer replacement and a HTPC. To watch blu-rays you can get an external blu-ray drive that plugs into the computer.

    As for the future, most people expect the mini to retain the same price point with similar processor power, better iGPU and 802.11ac wireless. It is expected to come out later this year
  3. Mal67 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 2, 2006
    West Oz
    For a longtime I was completely amazed by what you could get from Apple at first for under $2000 and then closer to $1000 considering just how expensive they have been in the past. Now you can get an ultra book from Hp etc and pay more for that than you would for the equivalent from Apple.
    I would however expect to pay more for the new mini because I would expect to see some if not all of the upgrade that the imac got to be added to it (at least to the top model). Which I think would make or a pretty cool machine especially if 8gig came as standard. Hopefully they would still include a lower spec, lower priced version as well.
  4. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Things you might consider -

    What options do you have in the Apple eco system for playback of media. I know there are three popular software available for playback of media and they include XBMC, PLEX (spin off of XBMC) and VLC. They are pretty good at playing directly media files without conversion but you never mentioned the file formats you intend to play. As well, (unless things have changed) OSX does not play back HD audio streams so if you have any files that are with streams such as DTS-Master, you would not be able to play them back. If you have Dolby or DTS audio, all is fine.

    Both Windows and Linux on the Mini can play back HD audio streams with XBMC or Plex. I highly suggest you go to their respective forums on their sites and do some research.

    Another option would be to get a good hardware player for file playback. Items like DUNE Base player comes to mind though it does cost money.

    As for KVM switches and such, be careful and do some investigation on options available and alternatives. As for me, I have held off on buying a new Mac Mini as the next generation will have some changes that are meaningful to me (might not be for you though) or possibly the new Mac Pro.

    Btw, I used to own a PS3 for similar purposes - play back my blu ray and DVD discs and some files. I found file playback frustrating as Sony continues a path of supporting a narrow assortment of file formats and exclude more commonly used formats such as MKV and m2ts files that have VC-1 video (it would play however m2ts files that were H.264 compressed video). My PS3 now resides with a friend who uses it for disc playback as he just newly entered the arena of blu ray level movies.

    Good luck on your quest and no reason you can't have a dual boot system with OSX for desktop and Win7 or similar for movie playback if you want HD audio (requires the rest of the media set up like an AVR/receiver).
  5. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

    Sep 5, 2013
    Oregon, USA
    There's a tendency to want to figure out everything in advance, but I would treat this more casually. It's a whole new OS for you, why not get it in hand and try it at everything. You'll learn more, have more fun, and perhaps develop multiple uses for the same investment. Start with the least mission critical use and work your way up. The more familiar you get, the further you can go.

    BTW, I make my own stuff in the US and have been waiting all year to buy a mini made in the US. Two months will be worth it.

    BBTW, another way to look at cost is purchase price minus sales price. Minis have ridiculous resale values.
  6. TinyMontgomery macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2013
    don't understand what you mean

    purchase price minus sales price?
  7. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

    Sep 5, 2013
    Oregon, USA
    Sorry, what you pay for it today minus what you sell it for in 3 years.
  8. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    It works fines as both, but for HTPC, and 2009 or 2010 is also perfect. The 2012 won't be offering more as HTPC, the old ones allow building in a BR drive.
    Just awesome. I use a 2009 with XBMC and it beats any stand alone media player. Newer specs don't matter at all. I only put a Scorpio Black in my Mini as I move large movie files a lot over gigabit, and the 160Gb in my 2009 was holding up. The newer 1TB drives are probably good as well.

    Get the quad. Even the 2.3 is faster than all iMacs that are not BTO! Go for 2.6 if you have the money. It will make it very future proof, and new ones will outperform the CPU of the quad probably by 5-10% only.
    Remember that although CAD modelling is GPU intensive, it will not gain much from Iris or what so ever in a new one. Modelling is done in wireframe/solid face modi, and the gain of newer GPU's is mainly in the fancy shaders for fog, DOF, shadow, ripple etc, not in the basic face rendering.

    If Apple comes with a very serious GPU the price will increase, if not, and thus not much changes, it will remain similar.
  9. ioannis2005gr macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2013
    Actually, your questions are concluded in one: "money & time".
    Therefore, No.6 is Yes and No.7 is Yes.

    My suggestion: Wait till late Oct. 2013 and see, otherwise buy the existing i7 model, it (over)covers your needs, too.

    PS: Generally speaking, Mac Mini is not the only solution to your needs, regardless if it's a 2012, 2013 or 2014 model...
  10. mvmanolov macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2013
    I personally would get the mini and set it up to work with your TV as the monitor. Get a pair of BT keyboard and trackpad and all of a sudden your pc becomes your tv and vice versa.

    This i my setup at home running off my MBP (waiting for new mini's)

    I would also upgrade the ram and hdd to an ssd but you dont have to pay apple prices on those as the mini's are relatively easy to tinker on as DIY parts and guides are widely available. For that reason i'd also go for the quad i7 as that is the only component you cant DIY.

    In terms of waiting. Buy now if you absolutely need it. If not wait for the new ones. (you can always find a "new" 2012 model on e-bay/kijiji after the 2013 get released and save some $$$ for other upgrades - ram/ssd)

    also i have found that i can play all my dvd/blue-ray rips straight off the mac (usb blueray player).

    For the most part i'd say that you cant really go wrong with a mac - spend some time on the various mac mini forums and you will many awesome uses for it. (i also have the server app running on my MBP with vpn and file sharing giving me access to all my files anywhere)

    Good luck and enjoy your new mac (when you get it).

    BTW one more thing. I used to build my own rigs some time ago, got my first mac in 2008 and have never touched a windows machine since then. That very first mac still runs like new - and better than many of my friend's much newer pc budget laptops.
  11. KrisLord macrumors 65816

    Sep 12, 2008
    Northumberland, UK
    Might have missed this, but what licence do you have on your PC for windows?

    You could consider installing windows as a virtual machine on the Mac (or dual booting)

    I bought a mini last year as my first mac. Within a month i'd pretty much switched 100% to the mac and the PC was sold after 3 months (long enough to train the wife how to use OS X!)

    I've retained windows in a VM via VirtualBox (free) just in case i ever need to use Windows.

    To me the mini is too good to be relegated to a HTPC. I'd expect it to be good enough to transcode stuff for the PS3 and still be perfectly usable.
  12. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    On a Mac the two best HTPC software packages at either Plex or XBMC.

    Plus for High Definition network hard drives it is best to use CAT 6 and Gigabit switches.
  13. xArtx macrumors 6502a

    Mar 30, 2012
    Being entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, is the purchase of Apps and Media
    that is unavailable on other platforms, and DRMed to actively keep your investment tied to Apple.

    I'm entrenched by the way, I don't have any strong opinion about it,
    but it appears you can use a Mac Mini as a Windows PC without that happening.
    It does do a very good PC, just not of the variety you can whack a new GFX card in next year.
  14. photogineer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2013
    How responsive is the second screen by ATV? Would it show up as another display or just mirroring one of the existing ones? Trying to decide if it is worth the extra $99. I would keep the PS3 hooked up for Blu-Ray playback and 3D content.

    I was leaning towards VLC, that's what I use currently, but I would definitely investigate Plex and XBMC as well to see if they work any better for me. I'm not too concerned with the audio currently, it'll be a while before I'm reading to invest in a nice audio system, and I'll worry about the problem then. This is mostly an experiment to see how I like Macs, since I know I don't like the future of PCs! I agree with the PS3 becoming a pain, and it's just irritating to need a PC to help it for almost everything, so I am hoping to leave it for just one thing, the BDs, that it can do on its own anyway.

    I will be waiting til the end of this month at most and then I'll pull the trigger or not do it if the new one doesn't come out by then. I would definitely only be looking at the i5 though, otherwise it's a little too pricey an experiment.

    I don't have an available windows license currently, but that may change, work had a program to get an inexpensive license, and if I feel the need to VM it, I may pick one up.

    Thanks everyone, I'll keep you posted on my decision,
  15. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    I was reading the macrumors roundup for OSX 10.9 and it said this:

    The multi-display support will also bring improvements to AirPlay, allowing an HDTV to function as a full-powered HD display. Users will be able to connect to an Apple TV and use it as a separate monitor, functionality that is not currently possible with Mountain Lion. Windows and full screen apps can be dragged to the TV, meaning a movie or television show purchased from iTunes can be played in full screen while leaving the rest of the computer free to perform other tasks.

    Found here about half way down the page

    So it sounds like when Mavericks comes out in the fall this will be an option
  16. photogineer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2013
    Cool! Hopefully that means they've thought of the audio sync issues since the display might have some latency, I was worried about that. Is it reasonable to assume that the new Mini might come out with Mavericks? Maybe they're holding them off until the OS is released so as to not release the computer right before the OS changes.


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