Newbie gratefully needs some recommendations!

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Jimrobo, May 12, 2012.

  1. Jimrobo macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    Hi guys,

    Ok so this is my first post....go easy on me!! I've been a lurked for years so have seen the teeth some of you have!!!

    So....I got the new apple tv last week and a 1tb hard drive and decided to dump my media on it and use my old MacBook pro as a media server to stream to my tv and AirPlay router I have. All good so far!

    So I downloaded a couple of films at 1080p. Hey no point in upgrading my atv2 if I wanted to download lower res?

    I dumped all the files on my new hard disk and had a scour around the ATv forum to get the best way to change mkv-iTunes friendly formats. I tried all sorts but decided on mp4tools after some trial and error. All sort of good but the problem is it is taking 12 hours to transcode each film and my poor MacBook pro which is now ~ 5 years old is working it's socks off. Also when I stream the films to my new atv3 sure the quality is great! But I really get some frame rate issues every few minutes. It's better than the atv2 but it's annoying me I am going to all this work to get as close to a blu ray quality.....spending about a day on each number crunching and then falling at the last hurdle! I will say I have a high end wireless router with allegedly 300 * 3 aerials so that shouldnt be an issue for the framerate.

    So......the point of all this long post (really sorry guys). I am now thinking of getting a Mac mini as a replacement and putting everything through that. So questions......

    1, any idea what spec I realistically need?? Do I need the server???

    2, can I play with no framerate issues straight from the mkv files to my tv through the mini?

    3, if I do have to transcode am I going to need the higher end spec to transcode in better times without constantly hammering it?

    4, can I plug my existing atv3 between the mini and the tv so I can still AirPlay stuff to my tv or can I do that with just the Mac mini

    5, can I access the mini and stream stuff remotely over the Internet??

    Sorry for all the questions guys I know it's a long read but I'm a bit overwhelmed with what the best options are!!

    Cheers jr
  2. Poki macrumors 65816


    Mar 21, 2012
    1. The 799 2,5 GHz i5 model should be your best bet. The HD 6630M has some nice video encoding features and should really increase your performance there. No need for the server at this point (as it also lacks the graphics).

    2. Yes - through a HDMI cable.

    3. The Server would be faster by a fair bit at transcoding IF your software doesn't utilize the graphics chip, but it's not worth the money and probably not a good choice 'cos of the HD3000.

    4. Plug your Mini into HDMI 1 and your ATV into your HDMI 2 (and you still should have 2 or 3 HDMI ports free for other things on a modern TV), this way you can use homesharing for the ATV or stream directly from the Mini.

    5. Dunno how exactly you want to do that, but that's not possible with ATV. Maybe with a hacked PS3 and some crazy software on that thing...
  3. philipma1957, May 12, 2012
    Last edited: May 12, 2012

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    the 2011 server is the fastest 'low cost' method apple has for transcode. to say it is not worth the money is half right and half wrong.

    half right once you decode/transcode the 3000 graphics are so so.
    half wrong it is twice the speed of any other mini at doing the job of transcoding. maybe 4x to 6x faster then your machine. so 2 hours or 1 hr 45 mins vs 12 hours is "worth it"

    My suggestion is wait until the 2012 minis come out. the 4000 graphics should be a huge improvement and you may get a quad core model with a good price as a choice of machines.

    I am basing this on your desire to transcode /encode the movies.

    you need a quad core that will hyperthread ie make 8 cores this cpu type is usually an intel i7.

    you could build a pc for this using a i7 2600k cpu or a i7 3770k cpu with a hd6870 gpu.

    I ended up doing this not because i wanted to but it was the cheapest method to do what you want to do.
  4. Poki macrumors 65816


    Mar 21, 2012
    While that's true he wants to use the Mini also as media center, so I personally think the 6630M is more important in this case than the shorter transcoding times, which still should be okay on the i5.
  5. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    thanks for the replies guys!

    OK it seems I may have confused you guys by being confused about the whole thing myself!!

    OK I have been transcoding the mkv files because thats how I thought you go them into itunes.......can you just mux them which I believe is a lot quicker??

    I was only going to be transcoding/muxibng the mkv files because I was using my apple tv3. If I just replace the system with a mac mini I am sort of assuming there is a decent media server you can run that will just run the mkv files natively?? so transcoding/muxing isn't neccessarily required if that is the case. Its more the media server type of setup?

    ok....2012 mac mini....does anyone know the rough product cycle and whether it is expect at any point soon? I haven't seen anything in the news section regarding stocks running low or anything??

    Thanks for the replies guys!
  6. Poki macrumors 65816


    Mar 21, 2012
    Plex should be a good media center software (never tried it myself though), but you may have to get a separate remote for your Mini if you want to continue using your ATV. And yes, in this case the mid Mini is more than powerful enough.

    Next Mini will probably be released within 60 days. My bet is the WWDC - as the iPhone gets announced in October they need something to talk about in WWDC. ;)

    Specs? Telling from the space and power available in the current Mini enclosure, they could go with a 2.1 GHz 35W quad-core Core i7 (i7-3612qm) and a GeForce GT 640M (LE). But these are rather expensive parts, so while they may offer both, the Mini with these specs well may cost 999€.
  7. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    hmmmm so might be worth hanging on!!

    I definitely think its the way to go though. Would like to get one of these sorted but also I don;t like to buy my apple gear at the end of the product cycle because....well common sense really!!! If I wait I'll either get the current spec cheaper or get a higher spec for a similar price!!!

    It seems to do everything I need though. Is it quite quiet? as I'm guessing it'll be underneath my tv and I don;t really want a massive spinning fan type sound whilst I am watching the tv??
  8. Poki macrumors 65816


    Mar 21, 2012
    If you're working heavily on the Mini while it stands on your desktop and it's dead silent in your room, you may be able to hear its fan. If it stands under your TV - a few meters away from you - you shouldn't be able to hear it. And if you watch your movies with sound, you won't hear anything from the Mini.
  9. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
  10. Poki macrumors 65816


    Mar 21, 2012
    Yes, it would have enough power to play just about any 1080p video file. But then again, how long do you plan to keep the Mini? The newer one is simply much more future proof with its faster CPU, GPU and, of course, Thunderbolt. Its probably worth the money in some years.
  11. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    complex question. good points are:

    the mini you link to has a dvd player.

    for some a very important piece of gear.

    the mini will use snow leopard or lion osx. may not like mountain lion osx.

    may be a plus may be a minus just depends.

    seller claims it is under 1 year old this means you can add 2 years of apple care if the seller is telling you the truth. you can check on this with the serial number of the machine and this link.

    I WOULD NOT BUY THIS MACHINE WITHOUT A WARRANTY If it is in warranty it will transfer over to you.

    The machine has an older cpu this will be a problem in a few years. Kind of 50 50 on buying it but if you like cd's dvd's not blu ray it is a good machine.
  12. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    thanks for the comments guys,

    I was just thinking if the refresh is coming for the current mini then its really not worth buying a new one now, however, I would like to get some sort of system in place sooner rather than later!!

    If I can pick something up like the above for a bit of a bargain and I like the setup and actually use it, when the refresh happens I can probably sell my 2nd hand one and pickup an all singing dancing new one??


    Thunderbolt isn't really an issue I don't think. I've got nothing I can use thunderbolt connectors with anyway?
  13. earwax69 macrumors member

    May 7, 2012
    A question; Why dont you play your MKV directly on your macbook via VLC, connected to your tv? It should play all right no? If your computer is old it might have trouble with 1080p but surely 720p will do the job just fine. I barely see any difference between 720p and 1080p for movies. Your macbook have some sort of mini-dvi output? Use that to connect on your TV.

    I personaly hate converting stuff. I use VLC on the desktop and some other app on my Ipad. That way I can play MKV, Divx and Xvid no problem.

    It's the main reason I bought a mini, to play MKV on the tv via HDMI.

    That apple obstination/fixation with MP4 really really piss me off.
  14. JAT macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
    I've been pondering similar questions myself. Here's a couple additions to the discussion.
    This got glossed over. I find the question a bit confusing. What would you be streaming that the :apple:TV doesn't already stream? But anyway, if you hook the Mini to the TV as suggested, you can use it directly for streaming, no need to "access" the Mini with something else.
    It better like it. That's the one I have, and plan to upgrade from SL when ML surfaces this year. And the 2.4 C2D does handle 1080 just fine. Even EyeTV finally made a version of their software that doesn't stutter, I use this for a couple TV shows every week.

    I might look at upgrading my HT to a newer one in the next refresh, mainly for a better gpu for gaming. This would get moved to the 'other' TV.
  15. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    I've started getting everything in 1080p so I may as well get a solution that plays them and I really can't be bothered faffing with walking my mac around plugging it into different places. I want to get something in place that works well and has zero faffage factor.

    Also my TV is huge compared to the size of my living room and I sit about 2 metres away so I can genuinely tell the difference between 720 and 1080!

    what I actually meant is something like I go away and take my laptop or ipad. Is there any way of accessing my mac mini over the internet and streaming the content off it. Kind of like slingplayer but from my mac mini rather than my slingbox if that makes sense??? After thinking about that though its not particularly a problem as I have everything on an external and I will likely have that with me anyway!
  16. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
  17. JAT macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
    There are ways. OSX has webserver and VPN abilities built in that you can turn on, or find some VPN apps that will do it. Splashtop is one I'm toying with at the moment on my phone. Haven't gotten to trying it over the internet, but it has that option.

    I'm not an expert on VPN, that's about all I've got.

    Make sure the serial number matches the physical case and in the software. You may want to check the warranty status with Apple. If they have it listed as purchased 6 months ago, you may have less warranty than you think.
  18. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    wa just looking at plex and according to thir page

    Am I right in thinking movies at home or on the move means streaming them to iphone/ipad from the associated server?? ie my mac mini!
  19. JAT macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
    Plex is very popular. I think this may be helpful.

    I played around with this, too. Nice interface. But the wife is happy with Netflix and Hulu apps and my Mini is hardwired in my theater so I never really need to stream from my computer.

    And yes, I think it streams over the net.
  20. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012

    to be honest I probably won't that often. What looks really good with plex is the remote feature turning your iphone/ipad into a quick remote.

    Also looks like you can get things like eyetv as a plugin and tivo! I have a virgin media tivo in the uk which I am guessing isn't supported but hopefully it will be at some point. Would be ace to be able to dial into my plex server from anywhere and pull through my recorded content straight from my tivo!!

    thats all assuming this mini I bought off ebay works!!!
  21. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    Let me try and help...

    (Answers correspond to your question numbers)

    1. I would say yes. Get the server. What you're doing relies on two things, RAM and processing power. The GPU in the mid range model really isn't doing anything for you. If you don't mind longer encode times and really want to save money, get the base model. For better performance, get the server. Going to the mid range would just be throwing your money away on a GPU you aren't using.

    2. .mkv from the Mini to the TV via HDMI should be no problem. These files do take up an enormous amount of space though. Using Handbrake to re-encode the files takes time, but they still look pretty damn good (use the high profile preset) and take up a fraction of the space. The uncompressed .mkv's do look better if you're particular, but it just isn't realistic to have an entire video collection full of 18-30GB files.

    3. Yes. For the fastest encode times, you'll need the server. The base model has the same guts as the early 2011 MBP (which I used for a while). My Mini server cranks out Handbrake encodes in roughly half the time. For day to day use you won't see a huge difference in performance, but the encodes move much faster.

    4. Just plug the ATV3 into a different HDMI port on the TV. It will work like it always has.

    5. Yes. You can display it on the TV using HDMI, or when Mountain Lion is released, you should be able to do Airplay from the Mac Mini to your ATV3.

    Additionally, you're right about your router not causing the frame rate issues. The ATV caches the stream from your computer. It's not playing frame by frame in real time. It downloads and dumps as needed. The frame rate problems are happening when you re-encode the files. It could be the app you're using, it could be your settings, it could be that the processor in your MacBook just isn't keeping up.

    If you get the server (and if you keep computers for 5 years it's a smart investment) I'd suggest the following:

    Get at least 8GB of RAM from New Egg, don't hesitate to go to 16GB if it's on sale. If your machine is paging out during encoding it will slow things down, and apps like Handbrake and Make MKV do take advantage of RAM.

    Go for the Apple upgrade to 2X 750GB HDD's. They only charge $100 for the upgrade, so it's actually a reasonable option. You can use disk utility to RAID the drives to read as one big 1.5TB drive. You'll have more space than you currently do with your 1TB external and as long as you're re-encoding your .mkv files it'll take a while to fill it up. Plus, it's just a nicer solution for a media server to have everything all built in. Especially if you're connecting directly to the TV.
  22. silverjam macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2012
    I run Plex, VLC and XBMC on a Mac Mini Server 2011 with 8GB RAM, OCZ Agility III as the OS drive. For coding it is lightning fast for its size.

    I use the MM Server also as a Media Centre via HDMI into a Sony Bravia 40" screen. I don't have any problems with graphics because the 8GB of RAM, ups the dedicated RAM in the GPU to 512mb. If you have 4GB RAM then the GPU has 320MB (I think around that) dedicated to it. So my GPU is not a stand alone dedicated unit but it still has 512 mb instead of the 256 on an AMD Radeon HD 6630M.

    In short, I have no problems with watching AVI, MKV etc that are 8GB even in size. Also I watch a lot of DVD TS folders from a the Firewire HD and have no problems either

    I think all the AMD Radeon HD 6630 supporters out there are just trying to hard to account for the fact that they have a vastly slower machine! :) The Quad Core i7 wins hands down. I know because I run both.

  23. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    Hi guys

    I that I'd best update this thread with what happened with this.

    First, thanks for the comments. Great advice and thanks for taking the time to give me lots to think about.

    As for the mac mini....well....I put a speculative bid on eBay last week for a 2011 mac mini. It was only the entry level model thgh. I figured I wouldn't get it as I bid £420 (£530 through apple). To me surprise I got a random email saying I'd won. I immediately suspected something wasn't right with it as it was way lower than what it should have gone for considering it was brand new in the box?? The seller looked ok so I went with it.

    When it arrived it was as described.....brand new? Spent the weekend with it and have to say I absolutely love it! I installed plex, air player, airfoil, rowmote, transferred a shed load of films across. I decided not to even bother transcoding. This thing plays the mkv files without even blinking, although it did stutter at first but I played around with the settings in plex and I think I have pretty much fixed the stuttering.

    What a great setup as a media centre it is!! I know it isn't the most powerful of mac minis and it only has the lowest spec of the range but apart from if I am downloading multiple files at high speed and doing other tasks at the same time it seems to cope with everything I thrown at it.

    I no longer need my appletv. I installed air player so it does the same job as the apple tv and even better really.

    One thing I will do however is upgrade the ram. It's only got 2gb and I'll probably upgrade it to 8.

    Cheers guys! JR
  24. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    check serial number at

    see what status is. if it says you need to enter a date for warranty to be good enter the date you purchased it on ebay.
  25. Jimrobo thread starter macrumors member

    May 12, 2012
    26th january 2013. looks like it was registered then so i only get 8 months warranty which I'm not too bothered about. ill take that for minus £110 off the price i guess.

Share This Page