Mac Mini HTPC alternatives?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by CrickettGrrrl, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. CrickettGrrrl, Jun 15, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017

    CrickettGrrrl macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #1
    Hi all, haven't visited MacRumors in a while, and I just saw the thread "So, No Mini" headline and screamed.
    Okay, it was a very disappointed muffled shriek. I still feel queasy.

    As it happens, I've recently been looking at the Apple Store website, B&H, etc. at Mac Minis for my parents.
    I had lent them my Core2duo Mini, vintage 2007-9? since last year, to use as a HTPC so my mom can stream a Dutch/Belgian TV station. Well, that has sputtered out, & even YouTube isn't functioning as well as it did back in January. The Mini is stuck on Lion, OS X 10.7~ & can't be updated unless I hack it. I think. The website will load the stream but then freeze & pixellate the video. The sound continues.

    My mom is as suspicious of computers as a basilisk but she has at last, amazingly, developed a fondness for this Mini and would rather buy a new Mini replacement than get an iPad & flip it onto the TV using the also old Apple TV2.

    Any suggestions?
    1. Should I try to hack my old Intel Core2Duo Mac Mini to Mavericks? (Have never done that before but I have opened this Mini's guts twice to upgrade the HDD, RAM, & repair the wifi antenna.)
    2. Any advantage in attempting to persuade my mom to use an iPad & Apple TV to live stream for ~5 hours a day, day in, day out?
    3. Use another brand of computer for HTPC? Which? (My parents are annoyingly useless around computers so I have to do support. I've also forgotten anything I ever knew about Windows.)

    Mac Mini Mid-2007

    2 GHz Intel Core2Duo
    4 GB RAM
    Graphics- Intel GMA 950 64GB
    OS X 10.7.5 Lion


    Optional rant: Feeling pretty pissed off at Apple because it seems like they have nothing but contempt for their customers these days. One can feel it in their stores, at other chains, it oozes from their store web-site as well. This is the third time I've shopped with a friend or family seeking Mac computers/iPhone/iPads in the past 1-1/2 year and it's been a frustrating experience each time. One friend is still angry as hell at Apple & me, even though/or because she bought an iPhone anyway, but no laptop. Apple used to be a great experience.
     
  2. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #2
    The 2012 Mini is still a worthwhile device if you are looking to set up an HTPC. It is also, blessedly, user serviceable so you can tinker with the RAM and hard drive.

    The Apple TV 4 does sport the option to sign in to your cable provider (uh no idea on how this works in Belgium though) and the ability to install apps for different streaming stations. It is a pretty good device and easy to use but the value of it in this case would probably depend on whether it can provide streaming for the channels you need.

    If you go the Windows route there are lots of good little PCs out there that will do the job, though there will probably be a big learning factor going from MacOS to Windows.
     
  3. CrickettGrrrl, Jun 15, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017

    CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #3
    Thanks for your reply, Algus.

    I'm in the USA, not the Netherlands or Belgium, which is why we're using the Mac Mini to live stream. So my mom can be happy. :)

    I'll have to check price & availability of 2012 Mac Minis. I know they're considerably better than 2014 model. However, a base 2014 should do fine as HTPC, right? I would rather stick with OS X rather than Windows, too.

    I didn't know that about the ATV-4. I think BVN-TV has an iOS app, but will have to investigate if they have an ATV app.If so, then I guess that might be a very good alternative. We have the ATV-2 hooked up to my Dad's tv and it doesn't have the option to use apps, I think.
     
  4. treekram macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2015
    Location:
    Honolulu HI
    #4
    While the technology difference between the 2012 Mini and 2014 Mini is 2 years, the age difference between a "new" 2014 Mini vs. the 2012 model is going to be at least 3 years, possibly close to 5 years. Unless you transcode, for your current needs, it's not likely that you need the quad-core capabilities of the 2012 model. And the mid-level 2.6Ghz 2014 model is about as fast as the 2.6Ghz 2012 quad-core in single-core benchmarks.

    The base 2014 Mini can work as an HTPC (maybe you'll want a disk upgrade) but if you need it for general-purpose computing at some point now or in the future, the 4GB soldered memory is a problem. You can pay $100 for the upgrade to 8GB, but at that point, your only $100 away from the mid-model, which has 8GB. The 1.4GHz processor isn't as slow compared to the 2.6Ghz as the raw numbers would indicate.

    There have been periodic sales of the Mini recently here in the US. If Apple sells refurbished models where you live, that can also be an alternative.
     
  5. CrickettGrrrl, Jun 15, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017

    CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #5
    Thanks Treekram. Yes, checked out the Apple Refurb store the other day, will continue to do so. Thanks a lot for the comparisons between 2012/2014 & mid level versus base, that's very helpful for me :)
    --- Post Merged, Jun 15, 2017 ---

    I just checked re BVN TV iOS & android apps & the BVN forum. No plans to create an app for the ATV-4 :(
    but then again, their apps for iOS & Android have bad ratings. I did install BVN on my mom's android phone last year. I think it freezes on there too. :rolleyes:

    Your post got me wondering re devices like Roku, but now that seems unlikely too. My dad's is a smart TV but yeah, it's such a hobbled thing with square training-wheels re internet, it's honestly more of a PITA.
     
  6. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #6
    Humm well I hesitate to recommend "the other guys" on an Apple forum but you might look into a chromecast. You plug it in and can then "cast" tabs from Google Chrome on your computer to the TV it is plugged into. This might free you up to use a computer or laptop you already have and still get your web streams on the TV.

    Of course if the only computer you have is this one that is currently to slow, the chromecast won't help you.
     
  7. CrickettGrrrl, Jun 16, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017

    CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #7
    Hmmmm. Thank you for explaining how the Chromecast works. You're right, the Mac Mini is too old for Chrome (I did try to download it to the Mini about a year ago), and I don't want to use Google Chrome browser on my iMac. --Which I have used in the past to Airplay from Safari to the Apple TV-2. But then I can't use my own computer to do other things.

    I'm not sure if the Mac Mini is too slow to stream BVN from Safari. It was working perfectly fine 2 weeks ago, for months actually. I checked BVN's forums and there were complaints from 2015 & 2016 re video freezing but not the sound. I will see if they have something to suggest.

    And I'll check prices on newer Minis. Such a wonderful device, I wish Apple wouldn't treat Minis so badly :(
     
  8. saulinpa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2008
    #8
    What about just reloading the old mini from scratch? Software can get corrupted after a while.
     
  9. CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
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    B'more or Less
    #9
    That's true. I did test the BVN website using another account on the Mini, but reloading is worth a shot. Will try that this weekend. Thanks.
     
  10. keeper macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    #10
    For small form factor I'd look at one of the Lenovo tiny's, I replaced my 2011 mini with an M900.

    Very fast and quiet not as pretty but lots of options and outputs.
     
  11. torana355 macrumors 68020

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  12. Haswell macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2012
    Location:
    USA
    #12
    I just use Plex with a Roku box and it works great!
     
  13. CrickettGrrrl, Jun 18, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017

    CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #13
    But can you live-stream from a web-site like https://www.bvn.tv/bvnlive on a Roku box?
    My parents are mostly interested in live-streaming this European TV website, with some YouTube occasionally.

    I do have Plex loaded on the Mac Mini. Is there any possibility of viewing the BVN live stream website through that rather than Safari? I loaded it about 2-3 years ago but have really never used Plex before.

    --- Post Merged, Jun 18, 2017 ---
    I just took a look on Amazon, it is very unusual looking. How large is it? All I can find is that it weighs 8 lbs but not the dimensions. Quiet is good.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 18, 2017 ---
    I did consider an Intel NUC--but it's pretty much the same price as a Mac Mini --which my parents would be more used to. Can you please link to the Kodi thread? Or confirm this thread? Thanks.
     
  14. sorcery macrumors regular

    sorcery

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    Location:
    Ring of Fire
    #14
    I use Nvidia shield tv for travel. Has most of the streaming apps, usb3 for external HDD, 4K and will replace my mini 2012 when that ceases to function.
     
  15. fischersd macrumors 601

    fischersd

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2014
    Location:
    Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
    #15
    You really should determine if it is a 2009 mini or not. If it is, and it has enough memory, you could actually load Sierra on it (once you replace the network card).
    The card that works doesn't line up with the screw holes of the original unfortunately, so you'd need to take a piece of plastic (like an expired credit card) and use it to make a template to mount the new card to.
    The card: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221332739853

    More info over in this thread on the tools you use to load Sierra on an unsupported Mac: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/macos-10-12-sierra-unsupported-macs-thread.1977128/
     
  16. nebo1ss macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2010
    #16
    It would be interesting what applications you are actually running on that mini. I would consider something like the NVIDIA Shield and check if it supports the apps you need.
     
  17. CrickettGrrrl, Jun 19, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017

    CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #17
    Sounds like an ATV except Android. The price is good. Looks like there is a way to side-load regular Android Apps. There is a regular Android (and iOS) app for BVN live streaming --but apparently it's crap with only 1 or 2 stars & commenters note that viewing from a PC web browser is better.

    Truthfully? My mom would run screaming into the night at the sight of the accompanying game controller. That's just the way she is. :p
    --- Post Merged, Jun 19, 2017 ---
    You are right. I was remiss, so I've edited my first post with the correct specs for ........mid-2007 Mac Mini 2 GHz Intel Core2Duo. (My brother bought the one after that, a 2009 which he confirmed runs Sierra.)

    Thank you for the link. I believe I've read in the past that this 2007 might be hacked to run Mavericks?
    --- Post Merged, Jun 19, 2017 ---
    A friend gave me this Mini 3 years ago --it was brand-new-in-the-box-never-used. It still had that lovely brand new Apple smell. She also gave me an older copy of Adobe CS for it. Old now, but newer than my version. So I have my own account set up for when I need Photoshop or Illustrator, plus other apps which don't run on Mavericks -which I use on my iMac because I don't like flat grey all over. I set up an account for my parents back then too in case their other old iMac fails.

    That's the account used with their TV now. Mostly they use Safari/Develop/view as iPad (because I removed Adobe Flash). Their other browser is Vivaldi (which now doesn't update) but it wouldn't stream BVN because of the lack of Flash & doesn't have that cool "view as iPad or whatever else" feature. Also iTunes because of Home Sharing. And AirDrop.

    I checked out NVIDIA Shield and also Kobi (which seems rather daunting --so many options).
     
  18. sorcery macrumors regular

    sorcery

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2016
    Location:
    Ring of Fire
    #18
    Yup, ATV + usb and 4K. Agree with your mom, I chucked the controller, use BT trackpad and keyboard via usb2.0 hub. Seems to be interference using usb3 ports.
     
  19. CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #19
    Okay everybody, we just ordered an Asus ChromeBit stick off Amazon.

    My mom is skeptical (& crabby as hell from BVN withdrawal :eek:), but I showed her some user Youtube videos on how it's set up, showed her the user interface, & that she can continue to use the bluetooth keyboard & mouse she's used to, plus her gmail account, so we'll see...............

    In the meantime we're putting off decisions about a newer Mac Mini or any type computer, because this Chromebit may be all my parents actually need.
    Fingers crossed :)
     
  20. CrickettGrrrl thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CrickettGrrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    B'more or Less
    #20
    Just an update:

    I read about using Neverware to make a Chrome OS installer thumbdrive, so tonight I used that on the Mac Mini and Bingo! my mom can stream her Dutch TV shows. She's scared as hell because things look differently :rolleyes: (slightly different) but hopefully will get used to it by the time the Asus ChromeBit is restocked & shipped.

    Thanks all!
     

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