Mac Mini vs. Hackintosh for HTCP

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by BrittQ, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. BrittQ macrumors regular

    May 23, 2007
    Mods- If this topic is against the rules please delete. I searched the Rules/FAQs and did not see anything explicitly written. And I have come across other threads discussing Hackintoshes.

    I have been waiting for a Mac Mini update for awhile and am getting tired of it. I have a couple more months in me though.

    The thought crossed my mind about building a Hackintosh for my HTPC/Video encoder, and wanted to see if anyone had any opinions on the topic.

    I figured I could build one with these features:
    • Quad core
    • HDMI out
    • eSATA port
    • Blu-ray (booting into windows)
    • SSD internal (Drobo external)
    • Eye TV

    I do not know if it would be worth giving up the aesthetics, reliability, simplicity, and support the Mini would give.

    I looked around at windows based Home Theater software and could not find any I liked better than Plex. So I believe I want to stick to Mac OS.

    What do you guys think?
  2. hitekalex macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2008
    Chicago, USA
    You should visit, which is dedicated to OSx86 scene.

    I was considering building a Hackintosh at one point, then decided it wasn't worth the hassle.. I don't think you're saving all that much money at the end, it's more of a hobby for some people.
  3. sapota macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2008
    ^+1 what the other person said. If you dont want to go the Apple route for an yourself a reliable linux box.

    But all said & done, it will only be for hobby purposes....buying off the shelf computers is more reliable, better resale value, better utility etc etc.

    Mac mini is a good dont need quad core processors in an HTPC...dedicated hardware is better than what software can do. I.e a dedicated H.264 codec will do a much better job than what software codec can do in h.264.......a Tivo doesnt have powerful processor...just one enough to run the OS, GUI & offload video processing to dedicated MPEG2/MPEG4 codecs.

    If the rumors of a macmini with nvidia 9400m chipset in it are true, it would make a good HTPC that could double as a giant screen computer (you could surf macrumors site sitting on your couch).
  4. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf

    All but this will be easy to do provided you get the right logic board. One of the most important features IMO is optical or coaxial audio. Without it, you cannot get Dolby Digital or DTS passthrough to a receiver (unless you get HDMI fully working).
  5. hitekalex macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2008
    Chicago, USA
    I am pretty sure QT/Frontrow doesn't support DD/DTS out, even with the optical or HDMI outputs. Which is one of the reasons why ATV makes a better HTPC front end than either a "real" Mac or a Hackintosh in my opinion..
  6. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    OP stated he's using Plex, which does DD and DTS passthrough. And QT/FR can passthrough DD as well. I much prefer the Mini for a home theater than the Apple TV. It's far more versatile.
  7. chewietobbacca macrumors 6502

    Jun 18, 2007
    Personally, for an HTPC, I'd just do the Windows Home Theater w/ Vista (or soon Win 7) for now. It's going to cheap hardware wise (and a wider selection as well, especially in the GPU department) and you have blu-ray options and what not.

    Far fewer hardware headaches when connecting this up
  8. LinMac macrumors 65816

    Oct 28, 2007
    It really depends what you are looking to do and what you are building it with.

    I would take what chewietobbacca posted in the opposite direction and use Boxee with Linux instead. You have the advantages of hardware selection without the cost of the Windows license plus you get a popular interface through Boxee. :D
  9. BrittQ thread starter macrumors regular

    May 23, 2007
    I want to use it for:
    Playing music
    Watching DVD backups (ripped to Hard Drive)
    Looking at Photos
    Watching Streaming Netflix
    Listening to XM Online
    Using Eyetv or similar
    Some Video Encoding to give my MBP a break
    TV shows on the networks website (i.e. (gossip girl xoxo) for my girlfriend)
    Eventually watch/rip/burn Bluray (have a ps3 for watching Bluray for the time being)
    7.1 Surround Sound

    Mac w/ Plex would be best?
  10. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    What you want is MythTV. MS and Apple will not have a proper solution for ripped DVDs (and blueray) due to licensing agreements.
  11. BrittQ thread starter macrumors regular

    May 23, 2007
    ? I am doing it right now with my MBP and Plex...
  12. chewietobbacca macrumors 6502

    Jun 18, 2007
    Again, you're probably better off using a PC hardware box for all those tasks. Not only will encoding and decoding be done at far faster speeds with PC hardware (especially now that GPU makers are allowing GPU's to do so), but you can also have a selection of sound cards and what not for all your sound needs. Blu-ray drives as well too! Linux works if you're prepared to do a lot of self work on drivers and waht not
  13. iSee macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2004
    Remember to consider how much sound the computer is putting out relative to where it, you and your speakers will be.

    You don't want to be listening to some motherboard fan or optical drive whining away during the quiet part of a movie.

    The SSD would be totally silent, so you're covered there (though there are a lot of very quiet conventional drives, too).
  14. BrittQ thread starter macrumors regular

    May 23, 2007
    What are the "Plexs" of Windows?
    What home theater software do people use on windows? To cover the basics, music, video, photos, etc.
  15. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    I stand corrected then... if you have your ripped DVDs show up automatically (or you're allowed to drop them ) on your iTunes or whatever playlist.
  16. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    It's called Windows Media Center. It's a special edition of Windows XP or in the Vista family is one of the components that makes Home Premium be more "premium" than Vista Home Basic :)
  17. QuantumLo0p macrumors 6502a


    Apr 28, 2006
    Apple Gaping Lineup Hole

    I couldn't agree with you more and also have a few friends who are like minded on the touchy subject of the Apple Gaping Lineup Hole. God, this is long overdue and if Apple does not come through there is going to be even more friction than there is now.

    The core2 duo is not a viable option anymore. IMO the first logical possibility would be an i7 quad. The second would be a core2 quad.

    You can count me in on a hackintosh if Apple drops the ball with next Mini. Those days of Apple stagnating their lineup should be long gone but perhaps I'm off the mark.

  18. Donar macrumors 6502


    Jul 12, 2008
    Have a look at:
    Windows Media Center
  19. Wild-Bill macrumors 68030


    Jan 10, 2007
    I'm also interested in putting together a Hackint0sh for the purposes of HTPC duties. Don't really care about the TV part that much, but I can always add that later via EyeTV and the like.

    There are some really sweet looking HTPC cases out there that would make it look quite at home with other multimedia components. I've been hearinf a lot about Plex, plus I think it would be a much better way of integrating my other Macs with an HTPC running Leopard.

    The problem is finding hardware out there right now that is compatible and can play HD content without breaking a sweat.

    Plus, a Hack HTPC can also pull double duty as a central media repository, vice having my Mac Pro on all the time for that.

    If anyone has built a Hackint0sh for HTPC duties please feel free to post your hardware specs in here for the rest of us!

    (p.s. didn't mean to thread-jack, but I think we're both after the same thing ;) )
  20. milan03 macrumors 6502


    Jul 16, 2002
    New York City
    Mine is a year old and plays 1080p mkv files with ease. Right now you can build it for probably less than $500. Also the mobo is great cause allows you in bios to select which HDD do you wanna use for first booting device, so you dont need to mess with mbr or partiotion anything. Just put 2 HDD's and you can run leopard and windows/nux flawlessly.

    Here is what i have:

    Intel E6750 @ 3.2Ghz
    Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme + Scythe E 120mm fan
    Abit IP35-E
    4Gb Crucial Ballistix DDR2 6400
    Ati HD 2600XT
    Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 500GB SATA 32MB cache
    24" Dell 2407WFP
    Corsair 520W
    Dual Boot: Vista Ultimate + Leopard 10.5.6

    Hope it helps.
  21. defsquad macrumors regular

    Oct 28, 2006
    birmingham, alabama

    Milan, what installation method did you use? Boot132? Kalyway? iATKOS? Some other one?

    I'm looking to build another hackintosh, my primary one is a full sized desktop as my main rig; this new one will be an htpc. Thanks.
  22. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Actually, the standard Front Row will play Video_TS folders! :eek:

    You are correct though in that Blu-Ray support is absent.


    The Core 2 Duo is more than viable for home theater duty. It's cheap and you can overclock the E7200/7300 to your heart's content.

    i7 may give you a boost for *encoding* video, but it's overkill for playback. It's also much more expensive.

    As for software, it's a toss-up between Plex and Boxee on the Mac side. Boxee has more streaming integration, but is buggier (at least in my experience).
  23. paduck macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2007
    If you have an Apple TV serving your home theater system, you can setup a home media server somewhere else. If it is running iTunes, then it can serve the Apple TV just fine. Also, you could use it for a remote TimeMachine backup of your main computer.

    You have a number of options:

    A Mac Mini with external drives would be very suitable.

    A generic PC would be good as well, even though you would have to run Vista. It would still work. The TimeMachine part would be more problematic as Macs like to deal with the Mac OS for their backups. You could probably do this for about $400.

    If you wanted to go the Hackintosh route, you could build a cheap, low-power Hackintosh (if it is just serving across your home network, you don't need a lot of umph). Put it in the right case and you could have room for several 3.5" SATA drives of varying sizes for various purposes (boot, media storage, multiple TimeMachine backups). I think you could do it for about $400. Use Remote Desktop and you wouldn't need a monitor or anything after it was setup.

    One thing to consider about the Hackintosh - once you get it set up and working, don't mess with the configuration. Hackintoshes are fun the play around with, but if you are going to be using it for something like a home media server, you want a little stability. You get that if you lock in a particular OS version and stay there. If it works, don't try to "fix" it!
  24. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    While Microsoft will never include built-in ripping software, Windows Media Center in Windows 7 does support ripped DVDs. They now appear in the "Movies" section of Windows Media Center, and you can use your original VIDEO_TS folder or convert your DVD to MPEG-4 (or WMV, etc). If you want album artwork, all you need to do is drop the artwork in the folder with your DVD file(s).

    Additionally, you can add additional optional metadata by dropping in an XML file from
  25. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    Apple dropped "computer" from their company name long ago....

    No need for a hacintosh. Linux works better and is a LOT less hassel. Look into this system:

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