mac mini for home theater

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by masucci2, May 24, 2012.

  1. masucci2 macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2011
    im looking for some input and have some questions on choosing a mac mini to run a home theatre. do i need 1 with a hdmi out or can i use the mini dvi to hdmi. if adapter is used will i have audio out of the hdmi. im also noticing the newer mac minis do not have a dvd drive. is anyone using plex app? any help and tips are appreciated in advance.
  2. shortcut3d, May 24, 2012
    Last edited: May 28, 2012

    shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I currently use a custom built / modified 2011 Mac mini with very good results as my HTPC. It is the centralized media gateway for Live TV, DVR, Movies, Photos and Music. I encode everything with Handbrake to H.264 files in 720p for comedy and romance, and 1080p for action and sci-fi. I use bootcamp and leave the system on 24/7.

    Any of the mid-2011 (current) Mac mini lineup are capable of being a HTPC. The new 2012 Mac mini will be even more powerful and likely more efficient.

    The Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics are very bad at the 29/59 frame rate issue. The AMD 6630M GPU in the mid-range model is significantly better. If you are sensitive to frame rate, neither will work. Both get hot when dealing with 29/59 frame rate content. Otherwise the system is ice cold and quiet.

    You will need more CPU power for extenders, media browser, channel logos, etc. to keep the experience fluid. However, the 2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 is overkill. A desktop Sandybridge Intel i3 is capable of performing these tasks.

    The SSD is great for booting and the Media Browser cache. The system restart is almost as fast as the cable company DVR. Another reason for the CPU power is restart / boot speed.

    Below are the complete configuration, settings and links.

    Tuner Configuration
    SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime-6CC-3X2
    Signal Strength: 99-100% (-0.1db - 4.8db)
    Signal Quality: 100% (34db - 36db)
    Symbol Quality: 100%

    Netgear ProSafe 10/100/1000 Switch
    Motorola Signal Booster 2-Port BDA-S2

    Apple Mac Mini HTPC Configuration
    2011 Mac mini 2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel i7
    8GB 1866MHz Kingston Hyper X
    512GB Samsung 830 SSD
    1TB Western Digital Scorpio Blue 5400RPM

    Logitech diNovo Mini

    LaCie Slim Blu-ray

    Microsoft Windows 7 HTPC Configuration
    Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (on OCZ Vertex 3 MI SSD)
    AHCI enabled
    Disable Hibernate
    Disable Sleep
    Control Panel > Power Options > Balanced
    Control Panel > Power Options > Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings
    > Hard disk > Turn off hard disk after - 20 minutes
    > PCI Express > Link State Power Management - Maximum power savings

    Broadcom NetExtreme Gigabit Ethernet:
    All Offload options disabled
    Rx & Tx Flow Control enabled
    802.11az EEE disabled

    Microsoft Security Essentials:
    Excluded D:\Recorded TV
    Excluded .wtv files
    Excluded ehshell.exe; ehSched.exe; ehRecvr.exe

    Windows Media Center:
    Tuner Salad for up to 12 tuners (currently use 6 tuners)
    Media Browser & Neo Theme
    Channel Logos

    Scheduled Tasks:
    Weekly restart of the HTPC (shutdown /r /f /t 0)
    Weekly restart of SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime ("C:\Program Files\Silicondust\HDHomeRun\hdhomerun_config.exe" {tuner ID here} set /sys/restart self)

    Two (2) Xbox 360 Slim 4GB extenders
    Logitech Harmony One

    Enabling AHCI for Windows on 2011 Macs:

    Tuner Salad:

    Microsoft Windows 7 How-To Schedule A Tasks:

    Microsoft Windows 7 How-To Disable / Enable Hibernate:
  3. certsoft macrumors member


    Sep 29, 2007
    John Day, OR
    I just started doing this a couple of weeks ago. I have a 2.5Ghz i5 with AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics (the base $799 model). I also have an external 2TB hard drive and a blu-ray drive for ripping.

    Using Plex for normal HT use along with MakeMKV and Handbrake for ripping. Plex is pretty picky about file naming so look through their guidelines first. Going fairly smoothly except for dealing with subtitles and BBC's silly 1080i format, those will require some further research.
  4. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    FWIW, I just migrated my OS / Boot Camp drive to a 512GB Samsung 830 SSD from the 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS. I figured out a couple things in this process.

    - Norton Ghost 15 can shadow copy the Boot Camp drive.
    - The destination should be unallocated space.
    - Copy the MBR.
    - Extend the drive to fill unallocated space.
    - Do not assign a drive letter.
    - Immediately shutdown and swap the drives, failing to do so will cause a drive letter conflict with the source drive and failed Windows authentication (locked out to blue screen).

    These steps allow you to copy the Boot Camp partition after you have applied the AHCI hack. This did not reset PlayReady so all DRM was in tact. Windows activation did not need to be performed again.
  5. masucci2 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2011
  6. certsoft macrumors member


    Sep 29, 2007
    John Day, OR
    That might not be that good of a choice due to the graphics system. As shortcut3d said "The Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics are very bad at the 29/59 frame rate issue."

    I've seen that comment other places although I really don't understand it. As far as I know there are no 29 (or 59) frames per second sources. Maybe they are talking about 29.97 (NTSC Video), not sure.

    I'm just now starting to rip some PAL (25 frames per second) DVD's from New Zealand. I did a short test earlier where I tried both the "Same as Source" and 24 frames per second framerate options in Handbrake. My TV is running at 24 frames per second so I thought that might be better than the 25. I really couldn't tell any difference when watching them.
  7. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Oct 21, 2008
    I can't speak to those particular models, but Bluetooth keyboards work great with Macs. I have the Apple keyboard and magic trackpad joined together with a MagicWand, and it's a fantastic setup for home theatre needs. However, it might be more than you want to spend for a keyboard/trackpad combo.
  8. Bunyak macrumors member

    Aug 15, 2011
    You should be a bit careful about keyboards that are not explicitly designed for use with Mac OS X. I'm using the Logitech DiNovo Mini bluetooth keyboard with a Mac Mini. Is it not designed for use with a Mac. The main part of the keyboard works fine but it is missing some of the special function keys on a true Mac keyboard.
  9. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I also use the Logitech Di Novo Mini. Good keyboard, but special Windows functions do not work.
  10. masucci2 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2011
    i canceled the mac mini for now. i just couldnt do it reading all about the graphic issues and not having a dvd drive, since i will have to remove my dvd player to fit the mini. im looking at a couple of late 2009 minis with a super drive. in the mean time ive been playing with plex on my macbook. the only issue im having is getting movies to play in plex. i dont know if its from wrong encoding settings or something else. i can load the movies from my personal collection thru handbrake but i get a error when trying to play them thru plex. (error while opening file) . i dont know if im doing something wrong with the encode. did anyone else have these issues with plex? other than that plex seems to be pretty awesome. im running snow leopard on my macbook . can someone help me :confused:
  11. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    There are many solutions to the issues presented above. The 29/59 frame rate issue only affect CableCARD television and Windows Media Center. If you are using OSX this is not an issue. The other 29fps issues is related to timing and it varies by manufacturer. Specifically it would only appear in Blu-ray or remux rips. H.264 encodes in Handbrake will not display this problem. Lastly, an extender like Xbox 360 solves these issues if you go the Microsoft route.

    The Mac mini is so compact it can be mounted using VESA mounting kits behind an LCD. Space should not be a concern. I kept one Blu-ray player connected, but barely use it since we convert first then watch.

    Ultimately the base 2011 Mac mini is much better than the 2010 and older models. The most important aspect is it is cool quiet and power efficient while playing virtually all 1080p content. The older models may struggle some which means they will get louder.
  12. masucci2, Jun 1, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2012

    masucci2 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2011
    i purchased a june 2010 2.4ghz 320gb hd and 8gb of ram today. i wont be using any windows components just osx and plex. i also joined the plex forum and currently waiting on some responses to plex logs. the mini will be going on my tv stand with all the other goodies, havent decided on which keyboard to use. mabe the apple bluetooth keyboard,track pad and meshwe or the dinovo for mac. cant wait to get everything up and running. thanks again for all the input
  13. Matthew9559 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 7, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    Thank you for posting that Magic Wand link. That is fantastic! That is what I am going to do for sure when I pick up a Mini at the next refresh. :)
  14. JohnnyComeLatly macrumors member

    Nov 12, 2010
    wall or desk mount

    Anyone considering mounting their Mini, might want to consider the MIClassic mount:

    I've got one and love it. Only downside: When you turn off the Mini, the powered USB hub powers down as well.

    In regards to power on the USB, I have charging an iPod nano, Garmin watch, and an empty port, and the power to the 4th port is sufficient to still charge a 3rd gen iPad at the higest rate (power bar shows charging on iPad).
  15. saulinpa macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2008
  16. astrocramp macrumors member

    Aug 27, 2011
    Wow thanks for the detailed post. I just bought a zotac zbox with AMD E-450 for a similar setup (silicon dust tuner and a large library of ripped DVD and bluray browsed by My Movies). I think my expectations for the little box were too high - it just doesn't have the power to stream original quality ripped bluray (I've just remuxed bluray into mkv without transcoding so the files are basically original bluray quality). it manages the tuner ok, although I do see more of the spinning wheel than I'd like.

    now, I'm looking at pulling the trigger either on the Asrock thx vision 3d, the Alienware x51, or a Mac mini. each have advantages, Mac mini being cost and size but not having an optical drive integrated is a bummer. i know you said you leave it on 24/7, but does s3 sleep work ok on your mini? are you streaming any ripped bluray? you were able to stuff two drives in there, the ssd (nice choice on the Samsung btw) and the 1tb? also, I've sometimes had problems with hdmi audio not working when resuming from sleep or switching input on the tv, any issues with that on the mini?
  17. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    have you ever built a system? what is your price limit? truly great pc for ht can be made for about 1.1k
  18. astrocramp macrumors member

    Aug 27, 2011
    I've actually built most of my systems through the years the htpc I'm replacing is an Athlon x2 4850e in a silver stone case. That thing was a monster though, since i had a ceton card and a discreet graphics card so the case was on the large side. This time I'm looking for a small system as possible, and normally you can't do that DIY. I have no fear of cracking open an oem system and adding stuff I need though (likely first thing to add is a Samsung 830 SSD).
  19. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    My 2011 Mac mini and all Boot Camp instances that I run have the AHCI hack, so Sleep does NOT work. It was a calculated trade off for drive speed to record 6 HD and playback 2 simultaneously. Without AHCI the system handled 3 HD shows. I did notice without AHCI it would magnify the 29/59 frame rate issue. Basic (without AHCI) Boot Camp installations Sleep reliably.

    Yes, I have both the 512GB Samsung 830 and 1TB WD Scorpio Blue internally installed. You could easily go with dual 1TB if space is required. The 2011 Mac minis have no problem playing back MKV Blu-ray remux. They can handle 360 transcode as well, but I would not recommend it. The gigabit Ethernet is solid so you can easily stream high bit rate.

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