Mac Mini in Home Theater Sticky?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by ski2moro, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. ski2moro macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2007
    Is there a Sticky Guide for setting up a current Mac Mini as a home theater?

    Just thinking that with Christmas around the corner, there will be a lot of folks asking about setting up, hardware, cables, settings, do's and don'ts, external BluRay drive, DVR (Elgato or Hauppauge), Front Row, Boxee and Plex, networking, etc.

    How about one of you who has a successful setup posting the 2009 Definitive Guide to Mac Mini in a Home Theater Sticky. Assume that the people who are setting up have limited knowledge and make it as detailed as possible.

    If it is already done, I apologize and ask for the link. As I searched, I found older setups and partial answers, but I think the total package in a sticky might be a good idea.

    Any takers?
  2. mucky.fingers macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2009
    As someone who is planning on purchasing a Mac Mini before the new year I would certainly appreciate such a guide. I know there are some old ones around, so a new one with HD content and maybe also blu ray ripping would be ideal for newcomers, and hopefully serve as a handy reminder to the more experienced users here.
  3. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Here's what I would suggest:


    - Mac Mini 2009 at 2GHz+ with 2GB of RAM
    - Firewire 800 Enclosure for media storage
    - WD Green 1TB+ drive for media storage
    - DVI to HDMI cable for video
    - Mini optical to TOSLINK cable for audio
    - Harmony remote control (eg. 880)


    - Snow Leopard
    - Plex 8.5


    - You will need a keyboard and mouse to get the Mini setup the first time, but after that, you should be able to administer it remotely using screen sharing from another Mac. Just enable remote administration on the Mac Mini after initial setup.

    - Plex setup is well explained in the user guide. Everyone planning to use Plex should read this twice.

    - Consult this great guide on setting up your Harmony Remote with Plex.

    Things to keep in mind:

    - With Plex, it's best to use their recommended folder structure so that it can easily scrape your media collection and add metadata from IMDB or TheTVDB.

    For example you should aim to have a simple folder structure like this...
    > Movies
    > > Transformers (2007)
    > > Year One (2009)

    You don't need to worry about naming the contents of those folders at all... Plex doesn't care what's in there as long as there is a media file to play back. The key is the folder name... as long as it matches IMDB's title for the movie, all is good.

    - One of the issues with Plex, is that it can't currently autoswitch the display output refresh rate to match the source material. For example, all bluray rips will be 24fps and should be viewed at 24Hz. TV content will all be 60Hz. If you try to watch 60Hz content at 24Hz or vice-versa, you will find the video jerky or the audio getting out of sync. So you may find yourself having to switch display refresh rates manually depending on your content. In my case, I watch bluray rips almost exclusively so I can keep my display output set at 24Hz. If you have a 120 or 240Hz TV, this looks fantastic!
  4. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I think this is an excellent idea. While Plex/XBMC and El Gato might be the obvious choices to include, there are other matters to contend with such as audio out, set up for 1080@24p (for HDTV that truly support it) and so forth.
    Additional items such as converter units to merge digital/analogue out with displayport or dvi to HDMI is always a worthy topic. Kanex, Geffin, Startech all come to mind for these types of units.

    I have seen info smeared across several sites and would be nice to consolidate in one area the best info, and more so, proven experiences.

    - Phrehdd

    mac mini 2.53 /4g Ram, 5010 Pioneer Kuro Plasma (still in the throws of setting up audio to my satisfaction)
  5. couto27 macrumors 6502

    Nov 10, 2008
    i think setting up the mini as home theater and computer use is not a good idea.

    my exemple
    i have a apple tv conect to 42" philips tv and it works perfect .

    then when i bought the mac mini , i havent had a monitor to use, and i start using the 42" tv has monitor , after 2 days my eyes are burning due to much time looking at the tv and browsing. the following days after 1/2 hour i cant stand looking at such a huge tv has monitor

    so i bought the wireless keyboard until the apple monitor hasn´t arrive.
    a little better now and i had time to compare the image and sound quality between apple tv and mac mini , same movies same sound same resolution, almost identical but the apple tv looks to me at the naked eye with better image .

    playing call of duty 4 on phillips 42" doesnt satisfied me, sometimes bigger isnt better.

    my advice dont use macmini has home theater
    -too expensive( mac mini, cables, wireless keyboard,wireless mouse and a 42" tv consumes 220watts )

    since my apple monitor 20" has arrive the performance and the image quality is much better using the mac mini , the confort in a desk is much better than the sofa, and after 5 hours of browsing i dont get tired of looking the screen.
  6. Capt Crunch macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2001
    Washington, D.C.
    Here is my contribution to obtaining content on the web. It is designed so that you do not have to manage the mac mini directly to download your content. In particular, you will be able to manage your download from any computer connected to the internet, including your iphone.

    I provide directions for torrents, but I also highly suggest Usenet. It has the highest selection of 1080p movies and often the highest quality TV series. Moreover, it is guaranteed to max your connection, even FIOS sometimes. I personally use It is $10 a month, and they give you unrestricted access to usenet via SSL with a username and password. Similar to torrent files, you need to download .nzb files ( or which you feed to your usenet client to download everything. In the Usenet universe, the files are partitioned into .rar files and .par files. The file is split up so to easily repair large files. The .par files are to repair the .rar files. I recommend downloading MacPar to open the .par files (it will automatically repair and concatenate the .rar files), however the Usenet app I describe later will do this automatically.

    To set up the applications:

    Step 1: Get Transmission ->
    Step 2: Get Port Forward ->
    Step 3 Get SABnzbD+ If you use Usenet ->
    Step 4: Launch Transmission. Go into preferences (I think) and enable the web interface. Check which port Transmission is using (default is 9091). As seen here. Make sure to set up a login and password.
    Step 4b: Launch SabNZBd+. It will be default run a web interface. Set up the server information as given to you by Astraweb (or whatever service you get). Note which port sabNZB+ listens to.
    Step 5: In Port Forward, set it up to forward port 9091 (for Transmission) and whatever port SabNZB uses.
    Step 6: Go to your other computer. Type in your favorite web browser:


    or for SabNZBd+


    You can replace 9091 with whichever port is being forwarded in step 4 and 5. Enter your login and password.

    Step 7: Paypal Capt Crunch money because he's totally sweet.
    BONUS! Step 8: Go to and follow it's instructions to get a nice url for your dynamic ip. You will download some software which will route a nice url (such as to your dynamic ip. What will this do? This will allow you to use the URL and you will be able to control Transmission FROM ANY COMPUTER IN THE WORLD.


    That's right! Any computer on the internet!

    DOUBLE BONUS: Download this script to auto-rename and sort your files for scraping ease in Plex! name

    I was so happy to have gotten this to work. Now, I share my happiness with you. I set up all my downloads at home while I'm at work and they are waiting for me when I get home.
  7. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I would tend to agree with you a large screen as yours is not the best for using your Mini as a computer with computer apps per se. But the discussion here was about using the Mini as an HTPC.

    There are as many know distinct advantages for using the Mini vs the Apple TV including 1080p and more options for types of media file play. I tend to find the ATV menu system very nice but then again Plex and XBMC offer so much more. The challenge with both of the latter (in my opinion) is in music playback. Neither compare to ease of iTunes and similar (though with some effort you can do some nice playlists etc just not as easy).

    Btw, you could always have two video outs used - one for large screen and one for a regular screen. Have the best of both worlds.

    - Phrehdd
  8. Airforcekid macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2008
    United States of America
    If your not into iTunes using Usenet for movies etc is nice you can even setup remote downloads and have them ready before your home!
  9. digitalmac macrumors member


    Sep 5, 2008
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7C144 Safari/528.16)

    I have been using Mac mini as the home media centre for quite some time. I have a 2T ext HD attached to it. Wireless keyboard and mouse are not necessary as you can use screen sharing or setup VNC but I do have the keyboard and mouse with me.

    For me, I am still choosing between Front Row and Plex as I like the simplicity of Front Row but at the same time Plex offers a wider variety of features and support on video and audio encoding. I have previously documented my experience on setting up the mini in my site, you may also reference it. I am also planning to update with a new one soon coz my setup is slightly different now.
  10. apatel87 macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2009
    I just bought a Mac Mini this past Black Friday from B&H photo and could not be happier using it as a media center. I previously had Apple TV but it could not handle my MKV files and I found that I just did not have the time nor the patience to deal with the mp4 conversion. I ultimately sold the Apple Tv and bought the new base line Mac Mini.
    As everyone mentioned, I would use Plex as the main frontend for your media. It's easy, refined, and looks great. I personally am not a big fan of the vertical menu with Mediatream and opted with Plexaeon's horizontal menu. I also changed all the default background pictures to a slideshow of 1080p Movie art posters that can be found on the PLex forums pretty easily.
    In addition, I dont use the Hulu app in plex but rather link Plex to HULU desktop which I think has a much refined interface. I heard that Hulu wont be free forever but for the time being I really like the UI.
    I also am not subsribed to cable and thus bought a Slingbox. I have slingplayer installed on my remote Mac mini and that works great to get all my favorite channels without having to subsribe to cable.
    I recommend the Snatch remote for people who have an iPhone or iPod touch.

    Hope this helps!

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