Mac Mini for HTPC

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by noahmateen1234, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. noahmateen1234 macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    Hey guys, so currently I have a dell pc with a intel c2d e7500 and onboard graphics hooked up with vga and 3.5mm out to my surround sound and tv. I am running xbmc to play all my movies which are stored on a 2tb and a 3tb externals. All I really do on it besides XBMC is Pandora, youtube, netflix, internet browsing, but it does freeze up sometimes. Also transferring movies to it goes slow over USB 2.0

    I saw that the Mini is on Apple's refurb store for $510 which isn't bad at all. I was thinking about picking one up and then trying to sell my pc for like $100. I am just nervous that I am going to buy it and then the new Mini will come out in January. Any of you guys got any advice?

    In the future (~summer 2014) I hope to build a server that will house all my storage drives and be hooked up with gigabit LAN to my router which will then run PLEX and stream to my HTPC in my living room and my WDTV Live in my bedroom, if that makes a difference.

    So what're your guys' opinions?
  2. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    It certainly is a tough call to know when Apple will release the next Mac Mini. Perhaps what you might want to figure out is how well does the present Mac Mini work for you as far as an HTPC.

    As for Plex and XBMC, if you plan to output a media file akin to blu ray with hd audio, OSX will not work and you will only get the core output. As example, a file with DTS-MASTER will be output as DTS.

    What you can do is load Windows (or Linux) on the Mac Mini and be able to get HD audio goodness. If you don't need HD audio quality, OSX is a pretty nice way to go.

    Last - check the Plex and XBMC forums and raise some questions there. I would venture to say the Intel "issue" is rather a small one with respect to proper playing of 23.9xx frame rate. Also, check to see if the Intel 4000 on board GPU has any known issues.
  3. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    First, a new mini will bring nothing relevant for your use! Probably even less, as I doubt if it will still have dual drive bays. Do you want 4K MKV playback? A 2011 mini can output it over HDMI. No problem.
    The 2009 and 2010 are capable of GPU FullHD decoding, and allow an internal BluRay player for the best HTPC ever (2010 model with built in PSU).
    The radeon 2011 is also fine and allows 4K.
    I'm not sure about issues with 24p on HD4000, but the 2009-2011 mini's handle 23.976 or the double 47.952 (also a good option) fine.

    All 2009-2012 mini's have gigabit, most important for moving big files around the house fast, so there you're 2014 model will not win either (it might even loose the gigabit!).

    Don't bother about running windows for HD audio. You WON'T hear it. If you say you can differentiate between DTS 1536 core and DTS-MA I don't believe you. Oh, and want a technician explain why HD does not matter, try this video:
  4. noahmateen1234 thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    All good points. I don't need blu-ray or dual drives because I have external storage. I will just want to upgrade the internal HDD to an SSD for the OS, and maybe upgrade the RAM to 8GB. The only thing holding me back from the 2011 vs the 2012 is the lack of USB 3.0. However, if I get a NAS or build my server then the drives will be internal and data will transfer over gigabit LAN.

    But until I get money to build my NAS or server I will have to use my externals and therefore USB 2.0 (if I get the 2011 version). I guess that isn't a huge deal.

    What about if I run PLEX on a 2011 mini vs a 2012 mini. Would there be any performance difference between the two? It would stream to my Chromecast and possibly a tablet if I end up getting one.
  5. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    What a naugthy words! Blasphemia is what they call that. You buy a great HTPC capable of dealing with 24p, DTS out, XBMC and everyhting, and then you are going to use a Chromecast as cheap-ass bad quality 60p only wireless HDMI cable?
  6. noahmateen1234 thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    No the mini would be in my living room hooked up to my big TV and surround sound. The chromecast would just be in my bedroom haha.
  7. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    A few thoughts:

    1) Unless you're in love with the Mac Mini styling (which I can appreciate, if you are), you may want to consider upgrading your current desktop. You could add a PCI card with USB 3.0 ports. The CPU may be a bottleneck, though, for doing on-the-fly transcoding of high bitrate content (using Plex) to serve to lower-powered devices (e.g., Chromecast).

    2) A 2014 Mini, if it comes out, will (my prediction) likely have 802.11ac, the Haswell lower-power-consumption chipset, and its faster GPU. None of those will likely be of any added value to you for HTPC / media server purposes.

    3) The Chromecast is currently limited to 720p from Plex. This is a Google restriction, which could possibly change in the future, but maybe not. It also doesn't have ethernet. If you have 1080p and/or ethernet access in your bedroom, I'd recommend spending a few extra bucks for a Roku or Apple TV (3rd gen). Note that all of those will have the drawback of not supporting 24fps, but for a secondary TV, I might not worry too much about that.

    4) How frequently are you copying things over USB 2.0 that the speed is such a big deal?
  8. noahmateen1234 thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2008
    1) Since I didn't build the computer, upgrading is hard because of the non-standard case. Also I would want to get a new mobo/cpu/psu/ram and then in that case I'd just build a whole new comp. I love the Mini's style though.

    2) Yeah I've come to realize that and that's why I don't want to wait

    3) I didn't think Apple TV could do Plex, can it now? Otherwise, yes Roku would be an option, just depends if I get a Chromecast for Christmas or not.

    4) Fairly often and it doesn't matter too much usually because it's just a movie or few episodes of TV. However, sometimes it's a whole series which takes a while. Again not a HUGE deal.
  9. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    It fully supports it in the same way that the ChromeCast works (if you have an iPhone or iPad). You start up the Plex app on your iOS device, you find what you want to watch, and you select it to play and direct it to play on your Apple TV. At that point, it hands off the video stream to the Apple TV and the iOS device just becomes a remote control. But you can still turn off the iOS device and the movie will still keep playing and you can use your Apple TV remote (or other universal remote you may have) to pause, rewind, etc. Keep in mind that Plex Media Server may need to transcode the content for your Apple TV, but the same would be true with the ChromeCast, and the Apple TV should offer better PQ, including 1080p.

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