Mac Mini HTPC obsolete after Mountain Lion?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by B.A.T, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. B.A.T macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2009
    I currently have a 2009 mac mini that I use as a HTPC hooked up to a 52" Sony. With Plex and a 2tb hard drive it is a pretty nice set up for watching movies and tv shows when I want to (I also use the mini for recording with Garageband).
    However, after yesterdays news with AirPlay mirroring it seems that you could do just about everything you want to with a HTPC for a lot less $$ with an ATV set up and Mountain Lion. If the ATV were upgraded to 1080p it might be a part of Apple's strategy to get into the living room. Curious what thoughts other people might have on this?
  2. Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    HTPC have the advantage of not hogging your home connection to display content.

    People really tend to forget that these new technologies only work as intended if your internet connection is not stressed.
  3. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Airplay is similar to Microsoft's Extender Concept in the HTPC world, but more direct. It's closer to the mythical Microsoft softsled. I would love to use a centralized Mac mini server as a media gateway for the whole home with Apple TVs streaming the content to each television. However, Apple still does not have any Cable Labs certified software / OS. This will continue to be a limiting factor to the Mac HTPC because content providers like Comcast and Verizon have a strangle hold on the market. Apple's concept of pay for exactly what you want is good, but it will be held up by traditionalist on the content provider side.
  4. Neodym macrumors 68000


    Jul 5, 2002
    Well you would need to have one machine with ML installed to stream to the AppleTV. That machine needs to have some sort of TV hardware attached. You could of course get rid of the mini and stream your TV program via AirPlay from that huge MacPro sitting in your other room, running all the time (to show and record TV), but it surely will consume a lot more power than this little mini.

    You may of course migrate the mini and the attached TV tuner (and possibly an attached external hard disk) to the attic to have less clutter in the living room, but where will you do your GarageBand sessions then?

    Now if Apple would release some iPad-type device running Mountain Lion and sporting an integrated TV tuner (or streaming TV in some kind of iTunes abonnement) so you can directly manipulate (read: remote control) the TV program on that luxury remote control, which is doubling as "normal" iPad while you're not watching TV, then...


    Wow - nice approach having a central Mac being kind of a head station and offering multiple streams to various AppleTV "dumb receivers" around the house...
  5. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    it works with a 2011 server and 2010 minis of course 2010 minis are 469 and apple tv's are 99.

    I have 4 minis in house.

    if i could do it with mountain lion it would be 1000 less to do.

    I really gave it a shot with a server and a mini and 2 atv's but the atv's were too limited.
  6. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I'm currently using a 2011 Mac mini 2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel i7, 8GB 1866MHz, Kingston Hyper X, 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS, 750GB 7200RPM Western Digital Scorpio Black as my media gateway. This system is running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, Media Center Master, Media Browser and Windows Media Center on the 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS with AHCI enabled. (Why?, because this makes the device appliance like in operation. TV is available faster than the Comcast DVR.) Currently, the 750GB Western Digital Scorpio Black is the Windows Media Center recording drive. A LaCie Thunderbolt Little Big Disk is media storage drive. The 2011 Mac mini is connected to a Netgear ProSage 10/100/1000 switch along with two (2) SiliconDust HDHomeRun Primes and two (2) Microsoft Xbox 360 4GB. The HDHomeRun Primes provide six (6) Cable Labs certified CableCARD tuners available for use with Windows Media Center. The Xbox 360 4GB serve as Windows Media Center Extenders at each TV.

    What does all this provide? The 2011 Mac mini is installed headless in the open home entertainment shelf with an Xbox 360 4GB. The other hardware is hidden away (under the entertainment center). The wife can now record up to 6 shows at once. At this time, playback is only limited by the number of Xbox 360 4B extenders and does not impact recording. Our whole DVD and Blu-ray collection is displayed elegantly with titles, descriptions, ratings, synopsis, backdrops and covers using Media Browser Neo. The whole recent iTunes collection is available in Windows Media Center as well. The setup is all easily controlled with a Logitech Harmony One Remote.

    In short, with Windows 7 64-bit under bootcamp the 2011 Mac mini is already a great HTPC well suited for the home entertainment shelf.
  7. gigaguy macrumors 65816

    Apr 19, 2010
    I tried the wireless mirroring on an appletv2 with my ipad2 to a 40" bedrm tv, leaves a lot to be desired. Some lag, lower resolution, and a narrow 4x3 view of all screens except movies. Was doable but limiting. Application with a full Mac may be better but with an iPad, underwhelming.And maybe the upcoming appletv3 will be better.
  8. B.A.T thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2009
    Hey Shortcut I'm curious how much your set up cost? It's more complicated than the average user is interested in (I got dizzy reading through your set up) but I bet it's a pretty kick ass system.
  9. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    A base 2011 Mac mini or 2011 Mac mini server would would as well, the SSDs and memory are overkill, so without those assuming two drives for storage:

    2011 Mac mini server $999
    SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime $199 x 2
    Microsoft Xbox 360 4GB $199 x 2
    Microsoft Windows 7 $99

    So roughly $1500 total. Not much more than two highend Tivo units. Plus, I can expand for only $200 more with another Xbox 360.
  10. wrinkster22 macrumors 68030


    Jun 11, 2011
    This is my internet speed right now:
    Screen Shot 2012-02-18 at 11.15.28 AM.png
    God knows why it is so bad, but I can barely stream audio without it cutting out every 3 seconds
  11. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A406 Safari/7534.48.3)

    For clarification the minimum setup is $1500, which includes one HDHomeRun Prime and one Xbox 360. My setup as listed would be $1900 plus an additional $400 for the SSD plus $100 for the 8GB 1866MHz Kingston Hyper X for a grand total of $2400.

    As mentioned, I do not utilize my Internet connection much. However, the LAN has heavy traffic. Each tuner needs 15-20Mbps, same with each extender. So I'm exceeding 100 base TX and Wireless-N single channel. Therefore, putting all HTPC resources on their own switch is necessary not to impact general computing during prime time.
  12. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Oct 21, 2008
    If the next :apple:TV is 1080p, then I can entirely see this as a workable HTPC alternative for casual users. From the sounds of it, users like shortcut3d would never be happy with it (;)), but for the average user that just wants to watch content on a larger screen with minimal fuss, it will certainly deliver.

    I've been planning to buy a 2012 mini when they're released to serve as a HTPC. When AirPlay in Mountain Lion was announced, I started questioning that decision... but for me I think the added advantages of a dedicated HTPC are worth it. :)
  13. Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    It's not about fuss as you claim.

    Fact of the matter is, it's not always convenient to stream content. If you share a house with other people and one of them is downloading movies, the other is playing online video games, and the other is just killing time on YouTube ... Your streaming experience is going to be severely hampered.

    It's in cases like this that you'd want a physical connection.

    It may come as a shock to you, but not everyone's life is the same as yours. Some people have different situations. AirPlay (and most of Apple's recent innovation) is not a one size fits all solution.
  14. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Oct 21, 2008
    :rolleyes: Next time, try actually reading what you're quoting before being condescending about it. If you had, you'd see that nowhere did I claim that AirPlay was a "one size fits all" solution. Those are your words, not mine.

    I said that for casual use, AirPlay is a good option. And I stand by that. I would hardly call a household with multiple users downloading movies, playing online games, and watching streaming video simultaneously "casual".
  15. B.A.T thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2009
    I think you hit the nail on the head with the casual user which is pretty much what I was thinking about when I posted this. People like shortcut who have invested the time and money into their systems won't be satisfied with AirPlay as a solution (but they reap the benefits of a customized setup) but this might work for the average user/household. The next year or two should be pretty interesting to see how this all plays out.

    On a side note I ran across this opinion on AirPlay that seems a bit over enthusiastic imo but it has some interesting ideas as do some of the comments below it.
  16. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I actually have high hopes for AirPlay if it works over gigabit LAN the solution would be as good if not better than Microsoft Windows Media Center and extenders. I'm basing this off AirPlay on iOS. It seems to work with less issues than Windows Media Center or I should say less sensitivity than WMC. Right now WMC requires a lot of network tuning to get appliance like functionality.

    As far as quality goes, Xbox 360 (only one on the market) extenders realistically are as good as AppleTV. Neither can handle high bit rate HD content. The only way to get digital Bluray quality 1080p and HD audio is with a Windows HTPC. The first issue here is storage. Next you have the 23.976 frame rate accuracy. Then you get 29/59 frame rate issues with recorded / live TV. So if you want this quality it will be a lot more money spent on NAS, networks, video cards, etc. Not to mention the configuration time.

    My current setup as explained above can be built out in a day easily. It's compact, unobtrusive and smart looking. Most of all its fantastically simple and convenient. It scarifices TruHD audio and video drops to 720p, but I can always get up, walk over to the Bluray library, open case, insert disc, change inputs, press play, skip previews and finally watch the movie in 1080p with TruHD audio :rolleyes:
  17. HandySam macrumors member

    May 9, 2011
    I don't know where you get the idea that Macs can't play 1080p high bit rate (Blu Ray) but you are right about HD audio although it has been confirmed that you can't play HD audio with Macs even in bootcamp so your statement is true when you would use a real PC (capable of bit streaming HD audio off course). The 23,976 frame "problem" is a combination of your TV and player-hardware. From what I understand, the 360 doesn't fully support 1080p playback.

    Your setup can be severely cheaper with just AppleTV's (maybe jailbreak and put Plex client on them), one Mac mini (with Plex server+client installed) and your other stuff.

    I watch High bit rate (35mpbs) movies all the time in Mac without problems, you sacrifice HD audio but you can't have that with Macs right now anyway (there was one successful try but that was on linux).

    Airplay wouldn't be bad at all for you as you say it yourself, with the extender you watch 720p, Airplay support 720p (even streaming from on iDevice (with Plex) to Airplay device)

    I myself am going to build a home theater setup and I can assure you I don't need Windows or Xbox extenders to make everything work (even a bit more simple) with Plex as my Media center. I can understand that Tv recordings can be a problem but I know there is Elgato.
  18. Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    What exactly is wrong with WMC and extenders (Xbox)?

    I find that it's a very simple and straightforward solution. What exactly drives you guys away from it?
  19. wesker macrumors member

    Apr 3, 2010

    If I were you, I'd be on the phone with my ISP right now.

    I went to and attached my results to this post.

    Attached Files:

  20. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I'm not saying Macs and PCs can't play 1080p. I'm just referring to the storage limitation with Bluray folders or MKV remux at 20GB a movie!!!

    High bit rate is only achievable with PCs or Macs. Not possible with WMC extenders or Apple TV.

    Elgato is okay, but it only covers Clear QAM which is on the way to being obsolete in the US if cable companies have their way. So you are stuck with CableCARD, which is supported by MythTV. However, copy protected or un-flagged content will not play. Unfortunately, this covers everything from the Superbowl to Premium channels depending on the cable company.

    IMHO, WMC with extenders is the best compromise.
  21. throAU macrumors 601


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    Airplay isn't wireless only.

    Plug your apple tv into ethernet, and the streaming over wifi issues go away mostly.

    I'm often streaming movies out of iTunes on my MBP to the appleTV and have no problems at all with it.
  22. JAT macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
    People are creating solutions to HD audio on Macs. There are threads here and at AVS.
  23. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    You need to get out more.:D
  24. CorporateFelon macrumors regular


    Oct 26, 2007
    Boston, MA

    Most home routers should be more than enough to handle all of that. The bandwidth of your local wlan is much greater than most peoples broadband internet connection.

    802.11g has a max bandwidth of 54mb/s well above most home internet connections.

    And then there is 802.11n, it has a max bandwidth much greater than g.
  25. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    The problem with WiFi is UPnP on streaming live or recorded television. Unlike compressed MPEG-2, H.264 content that buffers, there is no chance to properly order the packets. The result is lost signal because the WiFi router can not re-transmit. Interference from microwaves, cordless phones, access points, etc. cause a lot of re-transmissions. The effective bandwidth of WiFi is about 50% of the maximum stated speed for large transfers. Whereas, wired ethernet is 80 - 85% of the stated speed. Its all about quality of service when it comes to video, not just speed.

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