New Mac Mini or Windows HTPC as media center?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Sensamic, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. Sensamic macrumors 68030

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    Mar 26, 2010
    #1
    Hi everyone.

    I really like the new Mac Mini and I would use it as a media center, but Im looking other options. I found a website that can build an HTPC as a like. It would include Core I5, 4GB RAM, 500GB 7200rpm HDD, ATi HD 4550 512GB GDDR3 PCI-E 1G, DVD drive, wifi, windows 7, etc.

    Between this one and the 2,4Ghz Mac Mini plus 4GB RAM which one would you choose? The Mac Mini is less expensive, but not that much. The advantage of the Mini is that I could use either OSX or Windows 7, smaller, better design, already have apple wireless mouse and keyboard, etc.

    The other options seems more powerful, a better option for HD 1080p video, right? Which graphics cars is better? Nvidia 320M or ATI HD 4550?

    Thanks everyone.
     
  2. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #2
    First of all, are those components mobile or desktop versions? Mini is able to do 1080p fine, very high-quality Blu-Ray rips may have some issues but those are crazy in size already.
     
  3. Sensamic thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #3
    This is the other option I mentioned:

    [​IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us

    I would buy it with core I5 and the things I said before. What interests me is if there would be a big difference in performance. Will there be a big difference between this one and the Mac Mini 2,4Ghz?

    I like the Mini more, but performance is very important. I want to have a capable media center from here to 3 years minimum.
     
  4. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #4
    Can you provide a link with more accurate specs? If the GPU is mobile, it's little slower than 320M in Mini.

    Mini should be just fine, especially now that Apple released hardware acceleration to 3rd party so the GPU can be used for video decoding allowing better quality video to be played as well as lower CPU usage
     
  5. indg macrumors 6502

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    #5
    when it comes to buying a mac, you should never compare it to a DIY custom made windows pc. the mac will always lose based on price alone. what you're paying apple for is their industrial design, their OS, and the overall apple computing experience (including their limited service and support). there are tradeoffs to either option. it's up to you to figure out which tradeoffs are more important to you.
     
  6. tuna macrumors 6502

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    #6
    Alright so I hate to be the downer here, but I have to say that in every practical way the Mac Mini is a terrible HTPC. Yes it is small and attractive, but thats what it has going for it. The main constraints I'm thinking about are hard drive space, optical drives, and blu-ray support.

    Mac Mini can fit only one 2.5" hdd, which will be much slower, lower capacity, and more expensive per GB than the multiple 3.5" hard drives that you could fit a normal HTPC. Yeah you can connect external storage, but among other downsides, it seems like thats against the point of the minimalist mac mini.

    As for optical drives, the Mini again uses a laptop component thats 20% as fast at reading and writing material as a desktop drive. Plus you can also get a blu-ray drive.

    And then yeah there's better support for Blu-ray in Windows.
     
  7. flopticalcube macrumors G4

    flopticalcube

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    #7
    I have looked into this and given the quietness, small form factor, low power consumption and attractive design of the mini, all desirable in an HTPC, you will be hard pressed to find a Windows box with the same virtues for similar money.
     
  8. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #8
    There's nothing in the Windows realm that looks so pleasing. Nothing. By a long shot. I spent more than a month looking into it, earlier this year.

    If the new Mini can handle full Blu-ray rip playback, it'll really have something.
     
  9. Aegelward macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    I've seen some pretty nice looking HTPC cases, most styled after hi-fi components look the best...

    Though for me, personally. the small form factor of the mini is essential.
     
  10. Sensamic thread starter macrumors 68030

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    Mar 26, 2010
    #10
    This is the website that allows you to choose specs for any media center:

    http://www.esmediacenter.com/

    So which graphics is better? The ATI or the NVIDIA?
     
  11. tuna macrumors 6502

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    #11
    Not for size, I agree there's nothing close, but as far as overall looks there are some extremely attractive HTPC cases. Just as well designed as the Apple product (when you figure that the design has to consider all the sorts of hardware configurations that people could be putting inside).

    http://www.techspot.com/review/148-beautiful-htpc-cases-roundup/

    Silverstone cases look really nice and I can recommend Lian-Li from firsthand experience. I've built two computers inside my all brushed aluminum anodized black Lian Li tower and its great. They've been winning awards making 100% aluminum cases since before Apple was using aluminum.

    And these cases all have room for full size optical drives, multiple full size hard drives, and full size GPU cards.

    I don't know, it just seems to me that you need way more than 320GB storage in a home theater PC, and ripping media from optical discs / burning media to optical discs is multiple times faster on a desktop optical drive. And it will be faster overall for the same money... I know comparing Apple to PC is usually tough, but it just seems that you need a relatively powerful computer to do HTPC well, and the Mac Mini is nowhere near a powerful computer.
     
  12. CWallace macrumors 603

    CWallace

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    #12
    How fast does a HDD need to be to deliver video?

    If anything, I would think you'd want a low-speed, low-power, low-heat HDD for that purpose. Less noise (both from the drive and from the cooling system) and statistically longer life.

    And with FW800, large capacity external storage is easy.
     
  13. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Completely. The 3.5" drives that I use for my media playback currently are all 'green' generation drives running at 5,400rpm. They're quiet, they're cheap, they run cool, and they're more than fast enough for media playback.

    The wackiest Blu-ray bitrate I've ever seen has been circa 60Mbps. That's less than 8MB per second. Any old hard drive can truck that.
     
  14. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #14
    Cave Man said that Avatar in 1080p would be 40MB/s (not sure did he mean Mbit or MB, but Mbit would make more sense though) but even that can be handled by any HD. Caviar Green has ~77MB/s write&read speed and as far as I can tell, they are best drives for storage purpose. Low power, noiseless and massive capacity let alone delicious price makes it a great drive.
     
  15. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    Fair enough. All those are good points, and I bow to your greater knowledge and experience.

    For me, the small hard drive in the Mini isn't an issue. I mean, yes, it's pathetically small... but given that my media collection stands at almost 13TB, I'd have to resort to an external storage solution no matter which machine I was using. And, for me, the smaller the machine the better.

    I'm extremely intrigued by the new Mini. I only bought a 2009 Mini four months ago, but if I can move that on without losing too much money, then...


    ... hmm.
     
  16. tuna macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Hard drives aren't loud either way. The optical disk drives and fans are much louder. Capacity seems like a very important thing if you're going to be storing hundreds of hours of HD video. A single 2.5" drive seems totally unsuited.

    And there's another thing about the Mac Mini: yeah its a tiny little minimalist thing, but now start attaching an external hard drive, an external blu-ray drive, external video input for DVR... now you have a mess of pods and cables, not sure why this would be considered better aesthetics than a single brushed aluminum A/V styled PC enclosure which looks like any surround sound receiver.
     
  17. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #17
    Windows 7. You can get it just as quiet, and with Blu-ray.
     
  18. tuna macrumors 6502

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    #18
    Wow, 13TB, that very impressive. If I had that kind of video collection it would definitely be the excuse I've wanted to build the RAID 5 or 6 storage system with a real RAID card. Which, btw, you couldn't do in a Mac Mini
     
  19. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Please excuse me for disagreeing with you, but noisy hard drives are a big deal in the media-playback world. Noisy fans and drives, intrusive blinking lights etc. - they're all a big deal. They can all distract from the HT experience.

    Also, I must disagree about "a mess of pods and cables". A single firewire/USB cable to a mini-tower case is hardly "a mess".
     
  20. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #20
    If you build your own and select right components, it'll be completely noiseless. Mini uses same hardware as PCs, it is nothing special. Couple Caviar Greens, GPU with passive cooling and other than stock cooler for CPU and it makes no sound. Also, a good case with enough airflow and some quiet case fans.

    That's the oldest and probable worst argument that PCs are loud. They are if you choose bad components and coolers, but paying ~100$ more for silent cooling is worth it
     
  21. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Nah, RAID's not for me. I have a more pondorous, but reliable back-up system - two copies of everything.

    It's expensive (I've had to buy 35TB of drive space), and the copying process is terribly time-consuming (dozens of hours, I've lost), but there's no way on Earth that I could stomach losing any of my collection. The time it's taken to rip it... I think I'd have a nervous breakdown.
     
  22. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    I don't quite understand your point, here. I'm not saying that it's impossible, or even difficult to avoid noisy hard drives. I was replying to another poster's assertion that hard drives are never too noisy - they certainly can be too noisy, for an HT setting.

    Furthermore, and please listen to me when I say this, WD Caviar Green drives are complete crap. I bought seven of them last year to build a server - two of the drives have failed, and another three are showing signs of impending failure. They were bought from three different suppliers, so the 'bad batch' argument doesn't wash for me. They're piss-weak drives that simply cannot deal with hard work.

    Samsung SpinPoint EcoGreens are the way to go. I have ten of those, and they've never given me a moment's trouble.
     
  23. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #23
    I think we covered this in another thread, but better to clear up here as well. Even a 4 year old core duo laptop can handle a full 1080p rip, any current computer can handle it fine without hardware decoding acceleration :)
     
  24. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    Ooh, can't agree with you there, mate. Surely you remember my experience with Blu-ray rips and the 2009 Mini...?!

    They don't run properly, mate. Sure, they can be transcoded - but they do not run, as is.
     
  25. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #25
    Because you had bad luck doesn't mean that they are bad drives... I've built dozens of computer with them, no issues so far, maybe one or two failures but that's not much for hard drive (they'll all die eventually). I know hundreds of people with them, they are VERY popular as storage.

    You will always find people who have had problems with certain product. On the other hand, there are thousands, even millions of people with no issues. Your experience is just one among millions of others.

    I agree that HDs can be too noisy, thus I'd get 5400rpm drives for HT setup because speed doesn't matter. 32GB SSD as boot drive if you want more silentness.
     

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