Mac Mini: media center (Plex)

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by mgpg89, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. mgpg89 macrumors 6502a

    mgpg89

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2008
    Location:
    Belgium
    #1
    I'm thinking about buying a Mac Mini to use as a media center, while running Plex ...

    Are there any users on here who have this configuration? If so, any thoughts you'd like to share? Are you satisfied with this set-up?
    And which Mac Mini would you recommend, even if the price is not an issue?

    Is the Mac Mini capable of full 1080p playback without stuttering/lag? Mind you; I won't install anything else on this machine besides Plex and some video codecs.

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. ZilogZ80 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #2
    I have an older Mini (1.6Ghz) which I bought cheaply 2nd hand to use as a Plex media server. It works quite well with only the occasional stutter for 720p. 1080p is normally out of the question but it can depend on the particular file.
    I will be upgrading to a newer Mini soon - might wait until the next refresh is out to see if they put a beefier processor in it! Any Mini newer than mine (2009 onwards) should be fine though because they can decode h264 in hardware.
    The Plex software itself is excellent, especially since the v9 update. I would recommend installing XBMC as well just to see which one you prefer.
     
  3. mgpg89 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    mgpg89

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2008
    Location:
    Belgium
    #3
    Thanks for your quick reply!

    The thing is ...
    I want the Mac Mini to replace my current Blu-Ray set-up (if possible) ... so 1080p is the absolute minimum (I know there are differences within the 1080p spectrum as well, depending from download to download, but that's why I set 1080p as the minimum criterium).

    I already have Plex & XBMC running on my MBP and Plex beats the hell out of XBMC if you ask me ...

    Do you reckon the newer Mac Mini's would be able to playback full 1080p videos without stuttering?
     
  4. ZilogZ80 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #4
    If the video is h264 then yes, certainly, as the decoding is done by the GPU (as long as you have one of the compatible nvidia graphics cards).

    I have still kept my BR player alongside my Mac Mini though. AFAIK no Mac Minis can output TrueHD audio. Doesn't bother me for films (in fact I have no BR films! but essential for concerts I think).
     
  5. slipper macrumors 68000

    slipper

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    #5
    1080p playback is perfect on the newest Mac Mini. Also consider XBMC, i tried both pretty extensively and i prefer it better.
     
  6. mgpg89 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    mgpg89

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2008
    Location:
    Belgium
    #6
    Are you speaking out of experience?
    I mean ... have you tested that yourself? If so, which formats have you tested?
    (Have you tested an 1080p .MKV x264 ?)

    Thanks for all the replies so far!
     
  7. slipper macrumors 68000

    slipper

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    #7
    No i'm not. Disregard what i said... :rolleyes:
     
  8. gilford macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2010
    #8
    I bought a Unibody Mini for this exact reason and let me put your mind at ease, it works flawlessly :cool:

    I ripped all my Blu Ray collection as MKV's and all play perfectly. My little girl watches Toy Story everyday and never does Plex miss a beat :)

    Dont delay, buy one today.................. ;)
     
  9. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2001
    Location:
    Denmark
    #9
    I'm also waiting for the 2011 model for a Plex media center.. :)

    I'm also going to upgrade the internal drive to a Bluray reader... Maybe I'll even post a video on how to do it!
     
  10. colinthejanitor macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2009
    #10
    I'll weigh in on this.

    I have the newest Mac Mini (standard with 4GB RAM) and I use it purely as a server and media center. It has no problem torrenting, hosting a minecraft server and playing a full Blu Ray rip (38GB .m2ts file)! I have no idea why people think it can't handle itself! :D
     
  11. dietwater5 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2007
    #11
    Works Perfect

    I had the older design of the mac mini (2.0Ghz with 5 USB ports) and plex worked fine for me. I have now upgraded to the unibody mac mini 2.4ghz and plex works perfectly with 1080p mkv 264 files. hope that helps.
     
  12. DAMAC3 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Location:
    Noblesville, IN
    #12
    I have the Mini from 2 generations ago with a C2D 2.26Ghz and the NVIDIA 9400 GPU. I run Plex and have almost no trouble playing back any of the 28 Blu-ray movies I have ripped using MakeMKV or AnyDVDHD. The only skipping comes from a few files that the HD audio portion was not stripped out of the file (as far as I know neither Plex or the current Mini can play back the HD audio from a Blu-ray rip, but I usually leave it in assuming that will change in the future). I have no trouble whatsoever playing back an assortment of 1080p MKV x264 movie files that are between 6 and 15GB in size for a 2 hour movie. The mini is connected to my Drobo via firewire and my 50" Panasonic Plasma. The Mini makes a wonderful HTPC. Add RemoteBuddy and the Apple Remote, and you have a fantastic setup that is very simple to use.
     
  13. satcomer macrumors 603

    satcomer

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    Location:
    The Finger Lakes Region
    #13
    Use the Apple TV2 setting in HandBrake. Also read of to name you movies/TV in your Plex Library here. The AppleTV2 setting will give you full HD on you RIPS to display on your HDTV.

    I use my 2010 Mac Mini with Plex and LOVE it. :D

    Plex gets it TV data from The Online TV Database and it's wise to look for the TV title here before naming your TV rips. For movies Plex gets it info from TMDb. Again it is wise to get the movie year (for naming) from there.
     
  14. MrPiceus macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Location:
    Kansas City
    #14
    I specfically bought a Mac Mini 2010 for a HTPC....though at the moment it's my only Computer, so it's both my HTPC and PC.

    I've tried every freaking media center there is. And my conclusion.... they all suck. Let me explain...

    XBMC - PROS: Has an absolutely wonderful UI. The add-ons are great. Tthe customization options available out there is just superb! The ability to use the Mouse..or Trackpad in my case. Low-power/processor use. Really the load on this application is little to none when compared to Plex's intense load. Handles 1080p fine...(when it doesn't crash).

    CONS: My biggest problem and the main reason I'm not using it, it doesn't detect my files properly. Out of ALL my TV shows it only grabs 3 of the series, and doesn't even grab each episode. Maybe a configuration issue on my part, but I've gotten it to work once before on my jailbroken ATV2 (before I returned it) and I didn't set that up any differently. Files crash. More than Plex ever has thus far. I'll be half way through watching a show and it'll just quit to the desktop.


    PLEX - PROS: Beautiful design. I mean really, I absolutely love Plex's UI. It seems to travel through menu's smoothly compared to some of the XBMC skins that don't. Plex grabs ALL of my library data and does so quickly and accurately. Plex App for the iPad/iPhone is WONDERFUL, I'm sure there's some for XBMC but i never got a chance to try em'. The quality of video/audio is much improved over XBMC, in my experience anyways.

    CONS: CPU Load and Memory Load... is just TOO much at times. I'm gonna play with the settings a bit more, but as it sits from default settings, it seems to be a slight drag on other applications. That's really my only issue with Plex, it just seems to slow down my whole computer if I'm trying to use it while watching a program. Which I'm sure most of you don't use your HTPC as your PC, but if you do, be mindful! Has real trouble with 'resuming' episodes/movies from where I last left off, but so did XBMC.


    BOXEE
    PROS: It's a pretty UI. Flows nice. Netflix & Pandora support from the start.
    CONS: I played a downloaded episode of Fringe last night, and when I hit play, it said "FOX Ad Supported", so I thought nothing of it.. clicked play, and BAM it took me to Fox's TV site to view the episode in a flash player with Ad's. SCREW THAT! Netflix support is just AWFUL, slow load times, limited UI to navigate through.


    Those are the 3 main Media Centers I know about, that are praised from all around the world. But my choice in the end is going to be Plex. I just ordered 8gb for my Mac Mini and hoping that will help it out just a tad bit. So I hope some of my experience helps your decision. If not, sorry for wasting your reading time.
     
  15. slipper macrumors 68000

    slipper

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    #15
    Are you referring to ATV2 or a HTPC Mac Mini??? This thread is in regards to HTPC Mac Mini.

    Never had any problems with XBMC recognizing TV shows or movies. Just to to themoviedb.org or thetvdb.org and make sure your files are properly named.
     
  16. PhoenixMac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2010
    #16
    2009 Mac mini I can play 1080 through plex no stuttering but when I play same file through vlc it stutters mkv h264 files I have over 100 blu rays ripped to a drobo and it works great although I am upgrading to unibody just for the simple ease of hdmi cord instead of mini to hdmi and audio cord separate
     
  17. UCF Sam macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    #17
    Enable hardware acceleration in VLC...
     
  18. slipper macrumors 68000

    slipper

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    #18
    How would i know if hardware acceleration is enabled?
     
  19. MrPiceus macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Location:
    Kansas City
    #19
    My Mac Mini. I tried ATV2's XBMC as well before I got the Mac Mini. Sorry should've been more clear.

    But even with the proper scrapers setup, it still has issues with grabbing my shows now. The very first time I setup XBMC it read my shows fine, but they kept crashing so I uninstalled/reinstalled, and ever since then XBMC hasn't picked up 80% of my shows. Plex, has no issue what so ever, and it uses the same scrapers as XBMC.
     
  20. cocacolakid macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago
    #20
    You saw ads because didn't play your downloaded episode, you chose to stream an episode instead. You have to pay attention to which source you choose, even if it's something on your hard drive, if there is a streamed version available it offers you the choice of either.

    Ads in streamed TV/Movies from the networks and non-premium Hulu is normal.

    --
    Back to the OP. I have a 2010 unibody Mac Mini. I tried Plex early on because I loved the look, however, it's constantly putting a large load on the CPU to monitor your folders, which is supposed to keep it up to date when you do run Plex. I found that it not only didn't stay up to date, but I got tired of beach balls when I wasn't running Plex. I removed it and went to a combo of Boxee, which is great for what it offers, and when I'm playing movies with subtitles or I want to make more detailed adjustments to the video/audio settings, I use VLC. Sometimes I just run front row if it's a simple AVI file that I do not need subtitles for.

    I didn't like XBMC.

    I have also found that the remote apps for Boxee/VLC/Front Row (Back Row) work great on my iPad.

    The VLC iPad app is awesome because I don't have to have all the media in specific folders, you can choose any file anywhere on the Mac.
     
  21. Jupeman macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    #21
    I use a current generation Mac Mini as a HTPC and it works great. The main limitation running under the Mac OS is that the HDMI port does not output HD audio. So when you say you want to recreate your BD player, you won't be able to until Apple "uncripples" their HDMI port.

    Note that the same Mac Mini running under Windows apparently DOES output HD audio, so this is a Mac OS issue/problem/frustration.
     
  22. knux11 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    #22
    you guys seem pretty knowledgeable so i'll ask some questions:

    i have a current gen mac mini, hooked up to my tv (through my receiver) running plex. completely stock except the RAM has been upgraded to 8gb. what i'm going to describe has happened with stock ram and upgraded ram:

    At first I had MAJOR stuttering in Plex (and XBMC), like unwatchable stuttering. a google search revealed that i should disable hardware acceleration, which i did, and everything was watchable. I still get occasional stuttering though, like every few minutes. doesn't matter if it's a 16gb HD rip or a 700mb sd rip, plays back exactly the same in plex.

    Plays fine in VLC.

    Also, if i pause a movie, switch sources to watch tv or something, then come back to the movie, the sound is gone. Only exiting the program (this happens in both Plex and VLC) and restarting the app brings it back.

    How can i get this stuttering to stop? most of my movies are ripped in apple tv preset in handbrake, but some are in ps3 preset, some are just generic avi, mkv, m2ts.... so various formats, but no one format plays any better than another. they all stutter often enough that I prefer VLC, which i'd rather not do.


    Any thoughts?
     
  23. Jupeman macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    #23
    I sometimes get stuttering when there is an HDMI connection issue. Restarting the Mac (somewhat dramatic fix, unfortunately) always cures the problem. It will also cure your sound loss problem, though that should be correctable by going back into System Preferences and selecting HDMI as your sound output.
     
  24. knux11 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    #24
    thanks for the input. but......

    the stuttering happens EVERY time, on EVERY movie/TV show, but ONLY on Plex (and XBMC when I had it). Don't see how that is an HDMI issue if it doesn't do that in VLC. And yes, it still does it after restarting.

    The sound loss thing happens in any program, so I suspect it is an HDMI issue. I know that when I turn the TV off the hdmi connection changes the resolution, and i'd assume the sound settings as well. When I screen share from my MB while the tv is off the screen size is different than if i screen share while the tv is on, and I can't even start Plex thru screen sharing because the resolution isn't supported, although Plex works fine thru screen sharing if it's already started beforehand.

    My guess is when the file starts playback, the hdmi connection is activated for sound or whatever if it detects a connection, and deactivated whenever it no longer detects a connection, but isn't re-checked if a file was paused in the middle of playback. I just wish there was a way around it, since that basically means you can't pause any movie and come back to it later without restarting the app.
     
  25. MrPiceus macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Location:
    Kansas City
    #25
    Is your Mac Mini connected to a TV and a Monitor, or just the TV? I had issues with some of my shows/movies stuttering when I had a 1080p Monitor hooked up through my Mini-Display and a 1080p 40" TV to the HDMI.

    I always have issues with sound playing from PLEX if I leave it running. If I turn the TV on and start a Show/music it plays from my Mini's speaker. If I just restart PLEX it works fine.

    If all else fails, a good uninstall/reinstall of PLEX could do it some good. Or the dreadful Format/Restore of OSX, from a clean start instead of a Time-machine backup.

    Also, turn off automatic scan or whatever it is that makes the Library update constantly, the CPU load from Plex seems a bit taxing for the Mini's C2D.
     

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