Media Center Question

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by pMad, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. pMad macrumors regular

    Apr 28, 2008
    I'm pretty much a noob at this, so some of my questions may be pretty basic sorry.

    Here is what I want to do:

    I simply want to be able to rip all of my kids' DVD's to some sort of hard drive device that will allow my kids to use something like Front Row to watch their movies without getting the DVD's out and making them look like someone ate a PB&J on them. It needs to be accessible with a remote and have a decent amount of storage.

    I know how to rip, so that's not an issue. I just need help on knowing what hardware I need and how to hook it to the TV.

    Getting new TV, so I will buy based on what I need to do this.

    If it matters, I have an iMac and an AirPort Extreme

    What's my best option? Apple TV? Mac mini? Something else?

    Once that is determined, if I wanted the ability to record from TV, what would I need to do. (this is very low on priority list, but was just wondering).

    For the record, I really have no interest downloading movies or renting via iTunes or NetFlix etc.

  2. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Since your a noob a will walk you through an easy scenario.

    Buy a large external harddrive for your iMac and an AppleTV. Rip all the movies to your imac and import them into iTunes. Then the AppleTV will be able to stream all the movies from your iMac. Very simple solution.

    There are many more advanced setups that can also be very expensive. Including but not limited to buying a Mac Mini instead of an AppleTV and running Plex, XBMC, Boxee etc on it to your TV. I know you said you arent interested in Renting from netflix or iTunes, but these solutions will allow you to watch a infinite amount of online content (Hulu, youtube, Comedy Central, BBC, etc). This stuff is all free and legal as most of it is ad supported. This is the kind of setup most advanced users go for as it allows you to make the most out of your media center setup. Again, based on your description it probably isn't for you but I wanted to throw it out there, maybe you might think about it.
  3. cwubbels macrumors regular


    Sep 24, 2008
    I think a Mac mini would be the best case. Apple TV is limited in functionality. A Mac mini can access all of your local content from DVD's and such, the iTunes store, plus internet based content such as Hulu.
  4. spice weasel macrumors 65816

    Jul 25, 2003
    An Apple TV will be easier to use and has a more user-friendly interface. It's also cheaper. But it is limited in its capabilities (although you can get around some of this with an easy patchstick hack).

    A Mac mini is much more powerful and will allow you to do much more. You won't have to convert those ripped DVDs if you don't want to, for example. The downsides are price and complexity.

    If you want to use your Mac as a DVR, then you need to get something like Elgato's EyeTV.

    If your kids are pretty tech savvy or if you are going to be turning it on for them, then get the mini. If not, get the Apple TV.
  5. BORIStheBLADE macrumors regular


    Jun 15, 2008
    Out of the box a mini would be ideal. You will pay more, but you will spend less time converting movies and hacking it.

    Ripping your movies will take some time anyways, but on the mini its the least amount of time.
  6. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    A mini would be overkill for just watching DVD rips.

    There are a fair number of fairly cheap devices that allow you to basically plug a hard drive into your computer and watch ripped DVDs.

    Some of the ones to check out are Popcorn, Tvix, WDTV, netgear has one. There are tons.

    Really none are all that different from one another, they all have interfaces which aren't as snazzy as AppleTV, but can be expanded more easily (not that it's hard to hack the AppleTV to allow USB drive access, but plug n' play is always easier).

    As for recording live TV... first it depends on where you live. If you live outside North America, I would say go with a Tvix, as it can do all the above with one box and a fairly straight forward interface.

    In North America it's a bit more difficult. If you want ease of use for small children and technologically averse partners it may be best to go with either two boxes, a DVR (Dtvpal or tivo or your cable/satellite box) and one of the aforementioned Media players.

    The problem with OS X/Mac Mini solutions is juggling different programs (EyeTV, Plex, etc.) can a bit daunting and not super intuitive (the best bet if you want to go that way is using FrontRow with the PyeTV and Plex plugins). When something exits incorrectly and drops you to the desktop, and all you've got handy is a remote... well, it's a pain.

    You could go Windows Media Center with a plugin for ripped media on your hard drive, which is actually a pretty nice interface and fairly family friendly.
  7. pMad thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 28, 2008


    If I go with the Apple TV but don't want to import them into the iTunes on my iMac, can I:

    1. Rip on iMac and use a flash drive (or external HD) to copy them directly to the Apple TV HD and skip streaming altogether?

    2. Rip on iMac, copy to external HD and permanently connect that external HD to the Apple TV usb and play them directly from the external hard drive?

    Thanks. Stay tuned, because if you answer these, I'm sure I'll have more followups. :D
  8. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    I don't think you can do 1.

    For 2. you would have to hack the aTV, which is relatively easy (requires a flash drive and about 10 minutes of downloading/installing (which simply requires you to pull the plug on the aTV, plug the flash drive into the USB port, plug it back in, remove flash drive when it's done and reboot)).
  9. jrm27 macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2008
    I'm planning on doing this exact thing with a WDHDTV. It interfaces with your tv and you just plug your external hard drive into it. Comes with a remote and looks super easy. They've got a couple different versions out.. I saw the newest one (with streaming internet capabilities) on techbargains today for a little over $100. You can find the generation previous (no streaming) for like 60-70 bucks. Sounds like a good solution to me!
  10. dekinseattle macrumors newbie

    Dec 24, 2009
    I recently upgraded from - :apple:TV to a Mini - prefer the Mini - I just didn't want to deal with the hacking ... of course at the time I wasn't aware of the ATV Flash option - but still I'm happier having gone with the Mini - just a simple thing

    if you want to play direct from the hard drive - go with the Mini - keep in mind that movie and tv show rips quickly take up hard drive space - so external storage is advised - note too :apple:TV is really limited in this capacity

    the Mini will allow for you to use EyeTV to run broadcast TV through the Mini and use it as a DVR (i'm using an over the air antenna but cable would work too for me if I decide to pay for that again)

    hooking the Mini up to a TV or Receiver will require an adapter - from I bought - it works like a dream - attaches the Mini to my receiver which has 3 HDMI ins - this monoprice unit combines the audio and video feeds from the Mini into one so a standard HDMI cable works - this took seconds to hook up

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