Mini or Drobo?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Demthios, May 27, 2010.

  1. Demthios macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2008
    #1
    So I'm selling off my Custom PC Desktop that I use to use for gaming but no longer do. I'm looking for a media server/file storage. Just to let you know what I use the current desktop for: DLNA Server to my Samsung TV, a Utorrent server, and file storage with an FTP hooked up. I would like to set up a networked time machine for my MBP which I know both could do. But I'm wondering if anyone on here has used the Mini and/or Drobo and could give me some insight. I'm looking at the two because I need them to be smaller/compact and quite because they will be hooked up with all of the electronics with the TV, so they can't be two loud. Thanks
     
  2. Bibble macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    #2
    Personally, I haven't used either, but have done research into the area, and feel it prudent to point out that the majority of Drobo devices are NOT file servers/NAS devices, even if they have an ethernet port on them. The network port is to use iSCSI to attach to a single computer, over the network.

    If you were to get a Drobo, you would need an additional computer to be detectable on the network, and act as the server, etc.

    That being said, the new Drobo FS IS a file server. I forget the other functions, but it is more than a little overpriced for what it does. The options I would recommend to you would be:
    New Mac Mini - Will store the data, and do the server stuff that you need. I think there are torrent clients available that can be administered over the network, too.

    Drobo + Old Mac Mini (ebay) - As above, but the Drobo adds dynamic expansion and a level of data security to the mix, too.

    Drobo FS - Similar to the above setup, but the feature set will be more limited, although it would be a single device.

    WHS unit (I'd recommend the HP DataVault/Mediaserver range, depending on location) - Built on a stable Windows server build, has the ability for dynamic expansion of a storage pool (similar to the Drobo), but the feature set is good, and it has a large amount of apps built for that version, and standard Server apps will run too. The HP offerings have significant efforts put in to allow for Time-Machine/iTunes/etc. servers to be running.
     
  3. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #3
    I have a Samsung TV, a Mac mini, and two Drobos. The Mac mini acts as the server to all the files on the Drobos. I did try running software to enable DLNA to my TV, I wasn't very happy with the performance. Specifically, I came across too many "file not supported" messages. I was using PS3 Media Server running on the Mac mini at the time in my tests. While the Mac mini/Drobo combo works great, using it as a DLNA server left a bit to be desired.

    Eventually, I got an Asus O! Play and connected it to my TV. I couldn't be happier. It has played every file that I've thrown at it and it accesses the Mac mini/Drobos just fine.
     
  4. joemamma55 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2010
  5. Demthios thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2008
    #5
    Alright thanks for the heads up guys.

    Bibble: Yeah I was looking at the Drobo FS because you can download the "apps" that I would need to use for what I want to do. I've used the WHS os before just not in a prebuilt box. I want to stay away from the size of the desktop's. Another option I even thought of doing would be the Mini for the server and then attach some kinda of NAS/External Raid to it for storage/time machine.


    pastrychief: what all did you try for the DLNA software? I'm currently using samsung's which I was hoping would be out for Mac by now but no luck there. Looking over at the A/V Forums seems like some guys have had luck with EyeConnect for getting there Mac's hooked up to their TV's. Thanks for the heads up on the Asus device there never heard of it before.

    Gonna have to keep doing some research I guess and try and decide what would be best huh?

    I'm currently trying to sell it in the local newspaper/craigslist/facebook haha. Haven't thrown it up on ebay yet. That will be next week if no-one takes a bite at it this week.
     
  6. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #6
    I was using a program called PS3 Media Server. Some files played fine, but many did not. I have never tried EyeConnect, but will look in to it if/when I have time.

    I've seen the Asus O! Play discounted to less than $70. In my opinion, combining that with a Drobo FS would be great. Easily upgradable NAS with redundancy and a player that plays just about every media format.
     
  7. Bibble macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    #7
    As far as DLNA software goes, the "file not supported" messages are from the compatability of the TV, not from the server. The server's only job is to present the files it knows are videos to the client in a certain manner, changing the files requires different software.

    I can't say whether there is any such thing on Mac, but on Windows, TVersity does the job. It detects what device you are using to play it, has a library of compatability, and transcodes the files into a compatible format before streaming. The disadvantages of this is that it takes a little longer to buffer each individual file, and the setup is a little more complicated, but it means that your TV will play anything that the server can.

    If you don't want this, then I would suggest getting a separate player. For standard-def stuff, an original Xbox modded (2 minute job) with XBMC will play pretty much anything, from pretty much anything, and has an amazing set of features (such as making a library of TV shows, and pulling in episode information on each one). It doesn't have the processing power to cope with HD stuff, though.

    If you want HD stuff, a Mac Mini with PLEX (same program, but a Mac OSX development branch), or a number of other players will do the job (Popcorn Hour, Icy-Box from RaidSonic).

    With regards to the WHS thing, the HP offererings do not have a large footprint. Possibly slightly deeper than if you were to stack a drobo onto a Mac Mini, but there isn't much in it (the dimensions are 25cm x 14cm x 23cm (9.75" x 5.5" x 9.875")), and then that would support Tversity (I know, I have used it on it).
     
  8. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #8
    I tried running TVersity in a Windows virtual machine on my Mac mini for a while just to experiment. While it worked, I found the results to be less than desirable. It felt slow and video quality seemed to suffer, especially with mkv files that needed transcoding. I also had a bit of trouble with subtitles.
     
  9. Bibble macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    #9
    I put forward TVersity as one of a few options. I won't day that it's perfect, but it's the best solution I have yet come across, if you want to be able to watch EVERYTHING. There may also be performance issues associated with running it in a virtual machine, quite apart from the program not being able to access things such as the hardware codecs available on many motherboards/graphics cards, the transcoding will be scaled down if it can't use as much processing power as is needed. I've used it for a while on a native windows machine, and I haven't seen any drop in quality at all.

    TVersity, however, will always be someone trying to shoehorn the content into a vessel not designed for it. A better solution would be to remove the extra step, and get something which can play the files natively, whether from uPNP (the protocol which DLNA uses a variation of) or SMB (windows) share.

    My personal preference is XBMC/PLEX, simply because it allows far more control over the content, and the UI is superb. I am currently using an IcyBox media player, which is good and will play MOST things superbly, but the interface feels less than stellar, and there are the odd files that it can't play.
     
  10. smithrh macrumors 68020

    smithrh

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    #10
    I went through a similar decision (mini vs. Drobo) about a year ago.

    In the end, I went with a mini using SW raid and TM on a combination of FW800 and USB, depending on what I was serving (that is, video on the FW800 disks, iPhoto library on the USB disks)

    Advantages:

    * mini can be repurposed if need be, Drobo can't
    * disks can be read on another Mac if need be - think Drobo disks can't be
    * speed - reviews of the Drobo indicated that it couldn't serve files quickly

    I very much liked the idea behind the Drobo, but in the end I stuck to the idea of SW raid and I just buy 2 disks when I increase storage. Sure, the Drobo can take just about anything and it's hot-swappable, but it looks to be slow (in both serving and integrating disks) and the risk of the disks not being readable on another Mac in a pinch killed the thought of committing to it.

    Is it a super-fast server? No. Even FW800 is a limiting factor, but it's plenty fast for me. I have it in the bedroom and I don't hear it at all, but I do need to figure out how to cut the light from all of the assorted LEDs, that adds up and gives the room an uncomfortable "christmas tree" glow in the middle of the night.
     

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