Mini as a media center?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by CMD is me, Aug 17, 2008.

  1. CMD is me macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    I have a HD camcorder and lots and lots of digital photos. I built a mini home theater in the basement -- receiver with 1080i upconversion (component and HDMI outputs) and a 1080i projector with component and DVI-D inputs. But the two have not be introduced.

    So AppleTV right?

    Well, AppleTV only supports iMovie HD 30fps @ 540p... sort of loosing some of my great 1080 resolution. I'd only be using the AppleTV as a WIFI device and doubt I'd ever rent HD movies (our ISP seems... well that's off topic). Additionally I have an older Apple Base Station (network b) and the basement is questionably far from the main computer. That means either spend $300 on an AEBS-n + AE-n to bounce the signal (for streaming HD) or go for a 160gb AppleTV and localized the media.

    So with an AppleTV, I'm looking at $300 (+ a day of running new ethernet through the house so I don't have to keep moving it to sync). I'd have 160gb of storage but only be able it view home videos at 540p.

    But what about a Mac Mini? I have an extra 300gb FW/USB drive I'm not really using. I wouldn't need to hardwire the house and it'd connect to my ABS-b. Just run the DVI out to the projectors DVI in (audio to the stereo) and keep the rest of the components (DVD player, HD DVR) on the receiver's componet video side. With the computer asleep, the remote wakes it up and it should run off of Front Row.

    Wouldn't that work?

    If so, are there certain Mini's I'd want to stay with or would any Intel work since I'm only using it for playback? Used Minis are easy to find and not much more than a 160gb AppleTV... certainly less than one hacked.

    Side question: anyone have experience with HD iMovies run off a Mac to a TV/projector? Can you keep the resolution at 1080 via custom Quicktime export?
  2. CMD is me thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    Awe, I thought for sure I'd be flooded with responses.... here's another question:
    Core Solo vs Core Duo? Any reason a Core Solo couldn't handle the big files (or a Core Duo for that matter)?
  3. CWallace macrumors 603


    Aug 17, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    Many folks use the Mac Mini as an HTPC using programs like Front Row and XBMC for Mac.

    You might want to stick with a current Core 2 Duo Mac Mini for 1080p content.
  4. yrsonicdeath macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2007
    I was looking into this, but then I got an idea of getting a used MBP on ebay or something and using that instead since an older MBP has similar specs to a new mini with the addition of a screen, keyboard, etc, and also having firewire 800.

  5. CMD is me thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    Funny thing is, so was I. For that matter (if FW800 isn't an issue), what about a Macbook? Portability would be nice. Macbooks are easy to find as well.

    Do you need FW800 or would FW400 be fast enough? In my test, at full 1080i with no compression (2min = 1GB) the Quicktime bitrate was around 110Mbps.
  6. yrsonicdeath macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2007
    I liked the idea of having a normal DVI port and a non-integrated graphics card, but you are right. In that case I could actually probably get a better macbook than my fiance has, give her the one I get and then use hers for the media center!

    Her computer is what is preventing me from having a fully wireless-N network.
  7. Celos macrumors newbie

    Aug 20, 2008
    I'm using a Macbook C2D with EyeTV, capturing over-the-air HD onto a FW400 external drive. Since it's uncompressed MPEG-2, it's 30 1920x1280 frames per second, or about 6Gb/hour (if memory serves).

    It runs fine over FW400, I can even record a program and watch a prerecorded one simultaneously with no dropped frames.
  8. CMD is me thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    Good to hear. A MB shouldn't be much different from a MM.

    How much RAM do you have? That's not a big concern, but does add cost to the Mini vs ATV deal.
  9. off in the wood macrumors regular

    Sep 12, 2007
    Good thread here. I have also thought about doing this for my home entertainment setup. But I only considered Apple Tv or Mac Mini. I posted a similar thread in the apple tv forums....and received nothing but flames, since I was suggesting why would someone buy apple tv over mac mini.

    Anyway, I pretty sure I'm going the Mac Mini route, but I never thought about having a macbook or pro even.

    So then you had me guessing what else I could use........ why not just go all out and get this bad boy

    the good get free shipping
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    You really didn't get flamed in that thread, you were just mistaken and others pointed it out. There are advantages and disadvantages of using a Mini vs. and Apple TV, that's all. A Mini cannot do some things an ATV can do, and vice versa.
  11. off in the wood macrumors regular

    Sep 12, 2007
    You stalking my macrumors posts?

    In order for you to have seen that post, you would of either had to search for mac mini/ apple tv thread with the respective topic, or clicked on my name to see all posts that I have contributed, and then you would have had to skim through all of my post......sounds like a lot of work just to post something here

    so... one more stalking me on macrumors or what?

  12. yrsonicdeath macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2007
  13. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man


    No, it's just that you suggested you were flamed, when in fact you weren't. I spend a lot of time in the ATV forum and it's not characteristic of most of us to flame anyone. You have to do something pretty egregious to get flamed there. The great majority of us there are to get help, and to help.

    Here's a few:
    • ATV can autoselect an AC3 audio track for passthrough
    • ATV can send digital audio over HDMI
    • ATV can do component video
    • ATV can rent HD movies from iTS
  14. off in the wood macrumors regular

    Sep 12, 2007

    • That is completely worthless.

      Can't send digital video via

      So can mac mini

    So can mac mini.

    My Rebuttal:

    1. Mac Mini can do all features of a computer

    So you successfully proved MY point. Spend the extra $200 - $300 and buy the mac mini

    Thanks stalker

    look, I have nothing against Apple TV, I just don't see the demand/market for it, since the mac mini is also out and only cost $200 more and can do everything and then some that the apple tv can
  15. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    You need to look up the definition of the word.

    No, it isn't. It's a pain in the ass to have to deselect AAC and activate AC3 in a movie on a Mac any time you switch between a digital or analog amp. The ATV does this automatically. That makes it different than a Mac.

    What are you talking about? The ATV can send digital video by HDMI, but no Mac can send digital audio by HDMI. That makes it different from a Mac.

    An ATV doesn't need additional hardware to do component. That makes it different from a Mac.

    You can only rent HD movies from iTMS with an ATV. That makes it different from a Mac.

    I hate to break it to you, but a Mini is a computer.

    I already own a Mini.

    You should seek professional help.

    No, the Mini cannot do some things an ATV can do, and an ATV cannot do some of the things a Mini can do. You saying otherwise will not change that.
  16. off in the wood macrumors regular

    Sep 12, 2007
    #16 it is...annoyingly unpleasant

    Such and exaggerator. Cumbersome?... maybe...pain in the ass?

    my bad on this one, I meant can't output 1080p, not send video via HDMI. Now, the deal breaker is; apple TV can't output 1080p, mac mini can. I'll take 1080p via DVI over 720P HDMI any day

    Well, apple tv needs additional hardware to send video/audio via HDMI. What's your point?

    Wrong, You can rent HD/non HD movies via iTunes through any computer, mac mini included

    Really? Didn't know that

    Good for you. So do I

    Tell me how you really feel

    Ok, now your just splitting hairs. Sure they don't do everything the same and there are some differences, but that's not my point. My point is mac mini can do everything the apple tv can plus some. It may not be done in the same manor, but the mini can still do everything that apple tv does

    why are you such a defender of the apple tv? I'm not bashing it. Spec wise I just don't see why some one would choose apple tv over a mini/or any other apple computer for that matter, for use with their home theater
  17. CMD is me thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    That's where I'm having issues. Back to the OP, I'm wanting to playback video from my 1080 camcorder. :apple:TV limits this to 540/30 @ 5Mbps. With no hardware limitation, I could keep the video at 1080/30 @ 25Mbps...

    now the REAL QUESTION is can a Mini handle 1080i or 720p using H.264 and a low compression (9-25Mbps) playback via Front Row or is that pushing the CPU's limits? AND how much RAM would you need -- 512 standard or max'd out?

    Secondly I do wonder how much difference there is between 540/30 @ 5Mbps and 1080/30 @ 25Mbps. Mainly because you're talking about <2GB/hr vs 40GB/hr! That may be unrealistic (like burning all your CDs at Lossless vs AAC) so maybe 720/30 @ 9Mbps, but then is there really much difference for the higher cost?
  18. CWallace macrumors 603


    Aug 17, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    HDMI is, by definition, a digital transmission format for both video and audio.

    Yes, it's called an HDMI cable. They're about $10 on eBay.

    You can rent a movie in SD on a computer, but not HD. This is confirmed both by Apple and the iTunes store itself, which shows HD movies available only for AppleTVs.
  19. CWallace macrumors 603


    Aug 17, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    In another thread, Cave Man successfully played back a compressed 1080p video stream ripped from a Blu-ray movie disc on a low-end Intel Mac, so you should be safe.
  20. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I'm not interested in your personal problems, only your inaccurate facts.

    Irrelevant. You said a Mini can do anything an Apple TV can, yet a Mini (nor any Mac) will autoactivate AC3 audio like an ATV can. So your assertion is wrong.

    No one can read what you mean, only what you write.

    The ATV has built-in component video, the Mini requires a hardware adapter. So your assertion is wrong.

    You cannot rent HD movies from a computer, only from the ATV.

    Movies are viewable only on your Mac or Windows computer (using iTunes version 7.6 or later), iPhone, iPod touch, iPod nano (3rd generation), iPod classic, or on TVs using your Apple TV. Movies in high definition resolution (HD) are viewable only on TVs using your Apple TV and must be downloaded directly to your Apple TV.

    Well, now you know.

    Really, since yesterday?

    No, a Mini cannot do everything an ATV can do, as I've pointed out to you several times.

    For someone with a signature such as yours, perhaps you should pay more attention to your spelling and grammar.

    Just because an ATV isn't for you doesn't meant it's not for someone else. Open your eyes, if you can.
  21. yrsonicdeath macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2007
    I think after reading all of this, I think I'm going to opt for a mac (still unsure if I'm going to get a mini or a macbook for the task). I was planning on using the device as a storage place for all of my music to be accessed through my iphone remotely, as well as to record live TV, so the mac route is for me.
  22. earlymon macrumors newbie


    Aug 21, 2008
    ITMS HD Rental - and other things HD mini

    <quote>MOVIE RENTALS

    Movies are viewable only on your Mac or Windows computer (using iTunes version 7.6 or later), iPhone, iPod touch, iPod nano (3rd generation), iPod classic, or on TVs using your Apple TV. Movies in high definition resolution (HD) are viewable only on TVs using your Apple TV and must be downloaded directly to your Apple TV. Movies are viewable only on one device at a time.</quote>


    also backed up in

    (that is no longer a full faq - it has a webobjects link at the bottom that gives this in iTunes: "You can only rent and view movies with your Apple TV.")

    The legal page makes noise about HDCP - my best guess is that lacking that, Macs (as opposed to ATV) may never get HD iTMS movie rental.

    If somebuddy knows better, I'd appreciate a reference.

    I've used minis (one Core Duo, one Core 2 Duo) connected to two HDTVs for a while - the first for more than a year and a half. While I cannot comment to specs beyond 720p (native for both of my TVs), I can say I'm VERY happy with the experience. The progressive scan option on Apple DVD Player under Leopard is a very big improvement over what we had in Tiger. The mini has - like many Macs - optical out for audio. If HDMI is an issue, convert DVI to HDMI and use the mini to Toslink adapter (available from Apple Store as part of some Monster kit - I needed all the gizmos so that's how I got mine - I'm sure that there are other options - ignore comments that this thing doesn't fit and breaks - it has a plastic cover, maybe hard to see, that has to be removed).

    I stream some content using Miro (very highly recommended!!!) - - and also use EyeTV 250 - - (also better in Leopard).

    Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you're about all set.

    Personally, I've owned three MBPs - for heating reasons (my personal experience) I'd avoid one of these over a mini for an HTPC.

    Also, if you do leave it on a lot, you'll find that the DVD-burning feature under Leopard is flakey (google this for more details). The DVD drive isn't broken, it comes right back with a squish of cool air from a can of compressed clean air. Leading me to believe that the real problem is heating, I'd also recommend smicFanControl.

    And when you're up early and bored, you can always use your HDTV to read a flame war. (note to guy who started it - coincidence happens, the net is public, people that follow this read and participate in a lot of HD forums - you're losing, drop it while you're ahead)

    Whatever you do with a mini, it's for HDTV, so don't skimp - go fastest processor, full memory, largest disk.

    BTW - with a mini, you can get Remote Buddy - - or Sofa Control - - or Mira - - and do more without ATV hacks.

    If you want Apple's best effort at an HDTV appliance, you want an Apple TV. If you don't mind VERY LITTLE tinkering and no HD movie rental from iTMS, then you want a Mac mini.

    FWIW, I have DirecTV HD DVRs - if I see something I really like, I pipe it (via S-video only, yes, life really sucks) to the EyeTV, put it on a DVD and don't sweat my DVR space.

    If you're really into HD specs and what a Mac machine can do, these are the links for you - and

    Again, all I can say is that my minis perform flawlessly at 720p and look great.

    hope this helps!

    PS - if you go with a mini, get QT Pro; trust me, the day will come when you'll love its features.
  23. txhockey9404 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 25, 2008
    Whoa! Stop the argueing this discussion is not about you, it is about the OP. And, to the OP, i say:
    1. If renting movies in HD is not a big deal for you, then go for the Mac, and if it is, go for the Apple TV.
    2. If you want to have a full-featured computer, rather than a streaming box with a hard drive, go for the Mac, otherwise, the Apple TV
    3. If 1080i or p is very important for you, go for the Mac, if you are OK with 720p, try Apple TV
    4. If your music, video, and picture collection are not going to be on the Apple TV or Mac Mini, but streamed, go for the Apple TV
    5. If you want more flexibility in how you control your box, get the Mac mini because you can use different peripherals, as well as the Apple Remote, an iPhone or iPod touch.
    6. You can use the Mac mini as a DVR and use it for computer functions from your couch
    7. The Mac Mini will probably be a more difficult setup to get up and running.

    Now, having said all that, I also have a projector in my basement set up as a home theater (1080i with 5.1 surround), and the only HD components I have are a DirecTV HD DVR and an XBOX 360. I might consider the Apple TV if it is bumped to 1080i because the difference between 720 and 1080 is noticeable from 15 feet away on a 110" screen. However, I do not think that the Mac mini is perfect for me yet either, because of the inability to rent or buy movies in HD, and not having BluRay yet, but seeing as you do not want to rent or buy HD movies from iTunes, this may be the best option for you. So, at this point, I think that neither is perfect for you, but you must weigh the pros and cons of each to find which you would like best, or wait until something comes along that will work for you perfectly (I think you should go for the Mac mini because of its expandability and 3rd party features without hacking, and it would best serve your purpose for viewing home movies)
  24. Celos macrumors newbie

    Aug 20, 2008
    I've got 4GB in the Macbook (which of course only recognizes 3GB). Memory was cheap enough when I bought the machine I couldn't see any reason not to max it out.

    I haven't really looked at how much memory EyeTV uses; I can if it's useful.

    I have definitely noticed that the Macbook fan runs full speed more or less constantly when I've got EyeTV recording. It runs a little bit less on playback.
  25. rw3 macrumors 6502a


    May 13, 2008
    DFW, TX
    Mini is really nice, I say do it. Apple TV is also nice, so do it too. Also, you can hack the Mini to run AppleTV software but I'm not sure if you can rent movies. Guess I'll have to try that out.

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