media center help...

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by HBOC, Sep 17, 2009.

  1. HBOC macrumors 68020

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    Oct 14, 2008
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    SLC
    #1
    Ok, so i will be honest. I know next to nothing about setting up a "media center", so to speak.

    A quick summary. My girlfriend and i are paying like $130 a month for both cable TV/internet. We have Comcast and have the fastest internet they offer. I want to get rid of the cable, which is like $75 or something a month. She pays the cable bill, so i don't know exactly what it is..

    Anyways, I have been looking into getting another computer to set-up. She has a Dell XPS desktop. I would like to get something Apple, like the mini (size, duh:) ) but don't have my sights on Apple totally. I am open to other options..

    What would be the best option? I know i would want something that has HDMI, but DVI would suffice, since i don't have surround sound or anything (yet..)

    I see people selling Dell (other window machines) for like $100-$130.
    What are the minimum requirements that i should look for? Would a Mac G4 work fine?

    thanks a lot!!
     
  2. brendu macrumors 68020

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    Apr 23, 2009
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    USA
    #2
    if you want to completely replace television service with an internet based media center and you want a mac you really want the newest mac mini. Nothing less than the new graphics will do a very good job at streaming to an HDTV...

    I have an iMac and MacBook but decided last winter to embark on a custom built HTPC and ended up getting a nice thermaltake media center case, and then threw in an asus motherboard with a decent onboard graphics chip(cant think off the top of my head which it is but im pretty sure its an ATI) I know its 256VRAM and i has HDMI output. I threw in an AMD athalon dual core 3.0ghz, 4 gigs of ram, and a 500gbHDD all for about $600. Windows Vista sucked so when the release candidate of windows7 came out i got that and i really actually dig it, it makes for a pretty sweet media center and has 7.1 stereo output for my surround sound. I considered selling it for a mini but decided since i had 2 macs id keep it (plus its ALOT more upgradable than a mini... thinking blu ray)

    So if your feeling adventurous, and live near a place like microcenter you can check out your options for a custom built setup, otherwise the newest mac mini will do everything you want probably.
     
  3. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

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    Mar 2, 2009
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    Albany
    #3
    For a HTPC setup, you really should build your own Windows box. You can get so many more things and tuners and there are many many many more expansion opportunities. Plus it'll probably cost less for a mini-like system, or if you're like me, find combo deals and make a pretty decent HTPC for ~$400 (didn't build it, just found the parts). If you want my blueprint, just ask. It doesn't have a TV tuner of any sort, but that's only ~$100 for a nice ATSC/NTSC/FM tuner.

    Engadget did a really nice HTPC (like better than my best computer (C2Q, 6 GB RAM, 750 GB HDD, Radeon 4350) nice) for around $1000. I've got the article, which is only a few months old, bookmarked, but I'm on my mom's laptop now, so I'll fetch it later.
     
  4. brendu macrumors 68020

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    #4
    keep in mind, you dont need to throw in a TV tuner if you are cancelling your television service, it will do you no use.. save the money...
     
  5. HBOC thread starter macrumors 68020

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    #5
    thanks for the advice!! I will start looking at newegg and fry's for parts now:)
     
  6. glap1922 macrumors regular

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    Mar 13, 2009
    #6
    What are you planning on doing? Over the air tv? Streaming content? Ripping from DVDs? I don't understand how anyone can tell you what is best without even getting an idea of what the use will be.
     
  7. brendu macrumors 68020

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    USA
    #7
    he said he wants to get rid of cable and (im asuming utilize his super fast internet connection to stream any media he may want to watch from sites like HULU) The setup I encouraged was with this type of use in mind.
     
  8. dacreativeguy macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    #8
    you can buy a new mini, a logitech remote, and then use Plex (plexapp.com). It has hulu, netflix, etc all built in. If you got that logitech remote that has a little keyboard, you could even use the mini for websurfing/email too.
     
  9. HBOC thread starter macrumors 68020

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    #9
    Yes, I want to get rid of cable, altogether. So i am looking into a setup that will replace cable.

    My brother just called me and let me know about atdhe.com to watch live football. I am sure there are a lot of sites like this, that i am unaware of.
     
  10. jzuena macrumors 6502a

    jzuena

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2007
    Location:
    Lexington, MA, USA
    #10
    Dell makes a machine along the same idea as the mini called the Studio Hybrid. It is slightly cheaper (in its base spec) than the mini and has HDMI. No Plex, but Plex is a fork of XBMC and XBMC runs on Windows. Something to at least compare to the mini.

    I don't know about the G4 mini, but I have one of the original Intel minis with the CPU switched from a Core Duo 1.66 to a Core 2 Duo 1.84 with Plex running as a media center in our second bedroom and it works great. It also runs a frontend for MythTV, but we still have cable here to give MythTV something to record. We hook it to our TV via VGA, just because the original Intel mini came with a free VGA adapter so I wouldn't have to buy a DVI-HDMI cable. It can also probably be had for the same price as a new Dell Studio Hybrid.
     
  11. HBOC thread starter macrumors 68020

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    #11
    ok, thanks for the info. Would a 'quicksilver' PowerMac G4 work as a media center? I am sure it is waay outdated, and probably doesn't have DVi?.. I see them on CL all the time for like $100-$150...
     
  12. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Albany
    #12
    I just configured a Studio Hybrid, and it costs as much as an iMac. It's still far from the Mac mini in specs, and I wouldn't recommend it for a media center.

    I've got a spreadsheet for a HTPC that'll set you back only about $500 or less (most likely less, and a lot less). For that you get a 3 GHz AMD Athlon X2 or a 2.6 or so GHz Phenom X3, mATX or ATX mobo, ATX case, 2 GB RAM @ 800 MHz, 500 GB HDD, Radeon 4350, DVD-RW, and 460 W PSU. Inspiration from this Engadget article. You can swap the 2 GB RAM/500 GB HDD for 4 GB RAM/250 GB HDD and come out at around the same price. Use some form of free Linux for the OS unless you want to wait for Windows 7 Home Premium. Throw in a BD drive for ~$100 more.

    No. Way too slow. The G3 through QS PowerMacs make great servers, though. My top-of-the-line (for the time) Digital Audio G4 (essentially a base QS) won't even play standard-def videos in iTunes. Plus the PowerMacs are a lot louder than you want for a HTPC. If it weren't for the dehumidifier, I could hear my G4 from at least 15 feet away.

    For the record, I use my G4 as an iTunes server. Using a gigabit ethernet connection, there is never any skipping or anything, unless of course, there's a huge demand on the server.
     

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