Mac Mini or apple TV.

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by sas76, May 21, 2007.

  1. sas76 macrumors member

    Sep 10, 2006
    I am looking at buying a second hand Mac mini or new :apple: TV.

    Are there any pro's/cons for buying :apple: TV over a mini ?

    If I buy a mini it will only be used for basic functions (I own an iMac), pic's, home video, music, and possibly email/web with a 50 inch TV.

    Any thoughts would be a helpful.
  2. MikeDTyke macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2005
    I've been mulling over this same issue for a while now.

    Here's the pros v cons as i see them.

    AppleTV v Mac mini - Pros
    Cheaper (£200 or less if you buy a second hand mini)
    Latest Front-row style interface (sure mini will get an update with leopard)
    HDMI interface, no need to buy the DVI-HDMI convertor and an audio cable.

    AppleTV v Mac mini - Cons
    Limited codecs, most things need transcoding (yes you can hack it to run perian, just don't want to lose my guarantee by cracking the case)
    Limited functionality (compared with a mini, there's no way to run extra apps, play games on the big screen)

    Personally waiting on an updated mini, was originally waiting to get leopard with it, but if it gets a speed-bump to core 2 and a memory upgrade, then i'll buy one as soon as.

    Cheers. M :D
  3. daferrisda macrumors member

    Jul 5, 2006
    Mac Mini ?

    I got hold of a Mac Mini (Intel) for recording TV programs (eyetv), iphoto, itunes and for converting movies to the ipod format. I'm using a 42" plasma screen to watch DVDs, and recorded programs and have to say it works great.

    However if all your ever going to do is use it for ilife apps then I'd go for a Apple TV, but consider will you ever want to record TV programs, and is a 40gb drive big enough.

    Personally if you can find a cheep enough Mac Mini (Intel), go for it
  4. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Dec 6, 2006
    A World of my Own; UK
    No experience with the :apple:TV, but bought a Mini at Christmas for use with an LCD TV.

    Mini connects to the TV via a DVI-DVI cable that shipped with the TV, it automatically detected the correct resolution and aspect ratio for the TV. Rather than pipe sound through the TV, I have a set of Harmon Kardon Soundsticks providing sound through the Mini, and they're lovely. TV sounds great, as does the iTunes library.

    DVD playback is fantastic and EyeTV software and a Migila TVMax box provide all the time-shifting you could want.

    And all of this has added value to our leisure time - we watch TV shows only when want and almosy never sit through a commercial break. We've found that we now read more and listen to more music than before as well.

    Adding in the online grocery shopping (which transforms a 2+ hour weekend shop into a 15 minute job packing away a delivery from Tesco) and I can honestly say that no technological purchase I have ever made has impacted on my lifestyle in this much of a positive fashion!

    The Mini will offer you more options than the :apple:TV, but will put a bigger hole in your bank account. For my money, the Mini was worth every penny.


  5. CptnJustc macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2007
    Depends what you might use a Mac Mini for. Here are all the things I use mine (1.66 CD) for that the Apple TV can't do, so I guess these all go in the Mini's 'pros' column:

    - Running Internet services (HTTP, FTP, SSH)
    - File serving
    - Printer serving
    - Running iTunes / syncing my iPod
    - Emulating oldschool video game systems
    - Playing all kinds of video files / DVDs (assuming no hacking of the Apple TV)
    - Miscellaneous tasks that might otherwise tie up my main computer (Handbrake, etc.)
    - Occasionally, a touch of World of Warcraft :D

    The Mini's a great, ultra-quiet, relatively low-power computer that can be kept always-on very unobtrusively. For my purposes, it was a much better investment than the Apple TV, even though Core Duos are getting pretty behind the times and it will hopefully be updated soon. I doubt the updated Minis will do any of my tasks (with the exception of WoW) any better than the one I have... assuming they don't go crazy and stick Blu-Ray drives in them.
  6. brad.c macrumors 68020


    Aug 23, 2004
    50.813669°, -2.474796°
    Aside from raw tech spec comparisons, here are some practical thoughts.

    I'm in the process of setting up a Mini to (a) replace the sawtooth G4 I have running OSX Server (for AFP, Web and email) and (b) to act as a music library, so all our CDs can be banished to the basement. I bought it refurb'd and sold my quicksilver G4 to offset costs. It still only has the base 512Mb RAM shipped, as I'll buy cheaper third-party chips independently. There's a lot of beachballs and pauses if I play more than Music (iTunes), so budget for a healthy memory upgrade. I plan to go the max of 2GB.

    So far, it works great--even hooked up to my 15 year old CRT. The DVD controls are pretty simple, so we'll keep our dedicated player for a while yet. For iPhoto, plan which mac will be the primary database of pictures, and consider how photo cards will be dumped

    For maintenance and set-up, I use Timbuktu to remotely control the box from my MBP, so the CRT resolution (i.e. lack thereof) is not a great issue. My plan is to keep it running for server apps in the background, and use Front Row via remote for media apps. I'll buy the bluetooth keyboard/mouse when I get a LCD TV.

    The thing to remember is about the Mini as a media centre is that Front Row occasionally times out, or iTunes pops up a dialog window, or Software Update will need to be run, etc. In other words, there will be an ongoing need to use the device "as a computer", whereas the :apple:TV will likely maintain the look and feel of a consumer device throughout it's operation. Using the Mini as a media PC runs the risk of your wife/girlfriend/buddy shouting "Hey, the TV is stuck!".:rolleyes:

    That said, I recommend the Mini experience simply for the expandability potential (PVR, OSX apps, etc).
  7. munckee macrumors 65816

    Oct 27, 2005
    FWIW, my plan for the future is to hook up a mini to either an LCD or a projector as a TV.

    Another benefit of the mini that I didn't see mentioned:
    -If your primary machine crashes & burns, you have something that can access the internet, etc. My powerbook met an untimely demise recently and an old BW G3 has been my savior. It runs horribly and crashes daily, but without it I'd basically be going into withdrawal. It was also the only way I managed to get an appt at the genius bar quickly.

    Even if you were to buy a cheap, used G4 for around the same price as the :apple: TV, I think you'd come out ahead.
  8. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    We have both - a mini driving our home theater, which is projector-based, and the Apple TV connected to our 32" SDTV (480i). The principal advantages of the Mini include:

    • Built-in DVD player and digital optical out for passing 5.1 to your receiver (we have an Onkyo system)
    • You can play games with a Mini
    • You can run VLC with a Mini
    • Installing additional codecs is much easier on a Mini (doesn't require cracking open your machine to turn on SSH)
    • You can record using a Mini (e.g., through eyeTV)
    • You can play ripped DVDs off of your hard drive using DVD Assist
    • I would think you could play 1080i video on a Mini, especially if it's a Core Duo-based and encoded in H.264
    • The Mini's CPU can be upgraded to a Core 2 Duo (Merom)
    • You can easily expand the Mini's capacity with external drives, such as the miniStack
    • When/if Blue-Ray drives with a DVD Player-like software becomes available you should be able to connect it to the Mini through firewire or USB2.
    • You don't need iTunes to play movies, which makes it easier to keep things organized (i.e., folders and sub-folders)

    There are probably others, but at 7:45 in the morning, I'm still not quite awake...
  9. desenso macrumors 6502a


    May 25, 2005
    This is something I'm currently grappling with, as many others have discussed. I'm waiting for new Mac Minis mostly because I want them to have 802.11n. Combined with a new Airport Extreme and I'd have the perfect media center, whether it's with Leopard or not.

    AppleTV would be nice but there are too many limitations....
  10. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    I am surprised to report that, as a TV device, the AppleTV is absolutely great.
  11. sas76 thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 10, 2006
    Thanks for the responce,

    A agree with all the pro's for a Mac Mini, apart from the price are there any advantages to buy :apple: TV.
  12. steviem macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    Once I get my G4 Mac Mini back I will use it for media centre purposes.

    Although, how will it handle playback of anything over 480i? My iBook has issues with 720 resolution files, so I tend to not encode at that resolution.
  13. Nicolasdec macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2006
    São Paulo
  14. MacinJosh macrumors 6502a

    Jan 29, 2006
    Definately an intel Mini. Why? It can do everything the AppleTV does and more. Even the same user interface. I have the AppleTV interface on my iMac and it has completely replaced the original Front Row. Press menu on the remote and you have an AppleTV.

  15. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    Yes, the interface for TV is really good. Better than Front Row imo. While it may do less than a Mini, it does what it does very well and is entirely appropriate for TV. Put in the codecs and you will be fine.

    FWIW, I went through the same internal debate as you are now, and also posted a thread about this issue here, but as AppleTV had just come out, I knew it would be futile to wait for a C2D Mini. That said, I actually feared that I would be dissapointed by the ATV, but it has really been a great experience. I don't regret not getting a Mini at all.
  16. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I was going to go for a Mini, so I could use things like Joost and what not. But then I saw Apple had refurb Apple TVs and I just ordered it. I guess I can use the MBP when I want to use Joost.
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Keep one thing in mind: If you go with a Mini, you probably will have to keep your files on its hard drive (or external drive) or connect to your file server by an ethernet cable. Its 802.11g can be a real weak link in streaming large video files (e.g., 2500 bit rate). I don't know if Front Row buffers as well as Apple TV. In our experience, the Mini is less responsive than the Apple TV when streaming wirelessly. For this reason, I ran an ethernet cable from my AEBSn (where we keep most of our movie files on an external 500 gb drive) to the home theater Mini. This also allows us to play (using DVD Assist) the few ripped DVDs to preserve the 5.1 audio.
  18. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    One important limitation is 802.11g on the Mini. But otherwise, you are correct (but the mini also costs more).

    This is really interesting. Can you provide us an elaboration as to how you did this, Joshua? I'd like to do it as well.

  19. MacinJosh macrumors 6502a

    Jan 29, 2006
    Sure. I followed these steps:

  20. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

    Feb 5, 2007
    Sunny Florida, on the Gulf Coast in Homosassa Fl
  21. psychofreak Retired


    May 16, 2006
    If you wait until June 11 for WWDC, there may be Mini upgrades (C2D?), and the current model could drop in price, much closer to what the :apple: tv is now :)

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