Outstanding Questions: Mac Mini & Windows 7 Media Center

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by nathanjbrown, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. nathanjbrown macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2008
    Boston, MA

    I've been reading threads regarding the Mac Mini as a Windows 7 Media Center for the past week. I have a few outstanding questions and I thought I'd seek guidance from all of you. I plan to purchase the 2.5GHz i5 with AMD GPU. Knowing that, what are your thoughts on the following:

    1.) With Windows 7 installed as a virtual machine in Fusions or Parallels, is it possible to use all features of Windows 7 Media Center including Digital Cable Card Tuners (SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime, Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB) and Media Center Extenders (XBOX 360 on a wired network, for example)?

    2.) Can the Mac Mini's built-in IR receiver relay commands to Windows 7 Media Center or must I install a Media Center compatible USB IR receiver?

    3.) What's the best (read: most stabile and functional) Windows 7 installation on the Mac Mini: Boot Camp, Fusions/Parallels, or "raw" install without any sign of Mac OS? I know...What's the point of buying a Mac if I'm not going to use the OS. I've spent thousands over the years on HTPC cases alone (HFX Mini, HFX Micro, OrigenAE S10V, OrigenAE X15e, A-Tech Fabrication 2500) and I still struggle to find a satisfying balance of sexy aesthetics, sufficient power and quiet operation.

    4.) How noisy is the fan when it spins up (rather subjective, I know)?

    5.) Has the 29/59 bug been resolved using the AMD GPU? Through Boot Camp, virtual machine, or both?

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond. I appreciate the help.

  2. warvanov macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2011
    I'm sorry I don't know any of the answers you're looking for but I must applaud you, these questions truly are outstanding.
  3. shortcut3d, Nov 20, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011

    shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I've used four 2011 Mac Mini models for Windows 7 Media Center with HDHomeRun Prime. The Mac Server makes most sense out of the box for recording etc. I decided that if I were to do a whole home setup again it would be Xbox 360 extenders and a centralized Mac Mini Server running Windows 7 Media Center in bootcamp. If you want to record more than 3 shows and watch you'll need to do the AHCI hack to improve disk performance.

    The Mac Mini Server runs significantly cooler than the mid range Mac Mini with discrete graphics. The mid range Mac Mini i7 dual core will idle at 60C with Windows Media Center running. The Server will be much lower in the high 40s. Closing Windows Media Center will drop the temps 7 - 10C. Another reason to use extenders.

    You may be able to get Windows Media Center working in Fusion, but definitely can't view TV because Fusion is not HDCP compliant. Stick with bootcamp.

    The AMD 6630M is considerably better with 29/59 issue than the Intel HD 3000. It really frustrates me that the Clarksdale HD 2000 is recommended on the green button as safe for 29/59 content, but the Sandybridge HD 3000 fails.

    You can use the Mac Mini IR with an Apple Remote only, so you'll need an MCE IR receiver and remote. I recommend Logitech Harmony One.

    The Mac Mini is quieter the original Xbox 360 (picking up a couple slims today, so I'll update later). They are not really audible at 10' viewing. The fans with Windows Media Center will be up to 2600 RPMs with 29/59 content since it stress the system more. Typical fan speed is 2300 RPM. If you enable AHCI you will have to turn off hibernate, turn off sleep, turn off hard disk sleep, turn off Link Power Management and probably use maximum performance power option profile. To cool down the system, I recommend setting minimum CPU usage to 5% which is the default for balanced power profile.

    So learn from my trials. Use Xbox 360 as extenders that power off easily and resume fast. Centralize recording on the Mac Mini and share even copy protected content on any Xbox 360. Never worry about heat using the Mac Mini to record only. The 29/59 issue does not exist on Xbox 360 extenders. Pricing wise you can get 4 new Xbox 360 4GB slims for the price of one Mac Mini i7 dual core, so much cheaper than putting a Mac Mini at each TV (my originally executed plan). Finally, Comcast, HBOGO and FiOS are bringing on demand to the Xbox 360 but not Windows Media Center.

    I didn't go the HTPC route until the 2011 Mac Mini because it has great power, good storage and looks amazing. What I've explained above will essentially make a Uverse like setup that has a great WAF.
  4. nathanjbrown thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2008
    Boston, MA
    warvanov: I laughed out loud on that one. Thank you.

    shortcut3d: Wow! Thank you for the in-depth response! You bring up an interesting point. I already have a 360 at both TVs in the house. I could use the Mini as a standalone system serving live TV and media to the extenders. The 360 in my bedroom functions currently as an extender while the 360 in my living room functions as an unused gaming system. My living room television is connected directly to my custom HTPC (A-Tech Fabrication passively-cooled case) and works well. My desire to bring a Mac Mini into the mix is motivated by nothing more than aesthetics. The Mini is beautiful; simple and small. The A-Tech Fabrication case, while certainly a good looking unit, is 17 inches wide and nearly 15 inches deep. It takes up space!

    So...You suggest that the server is the wiser choice. Yet I'm inspired to purchase the mid-level Mini with AMD GPU because of how it manages 29/59. Either way, I'll swap out the hard drive(s) for a 320+ GB SSD and a 1TB 5400 RPM 2.5 inch hard drive (for TV recordings). And I'll likely at an external Blu-ray drive for ripping my physical media. Which, of course, may mean that an external drive is required.

    Thanks so much for the input. I welcome any other opinions on the subject!

  5. shortcut3d, Nov 21, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011

    shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    You may not be satisfied with how well or poor the AMD 6630M handles 29/59. My wife didn't notice a problem, but she could tell with the Intel HD 3000.

    I say the server model because it runs much cooler, and has tons of power to cover many many extenders.

    I actually split my setup with a Mac Mini Server in my signature which rips Bluray and DVD. DVDfab supports Intel Quicksync which makes ripping smoking fast, but there are artifacts with the current version. I have this machine setup behind my 27" iMac in my office. I use and external portable bus powered Bluray drive so it can be used on any Mac if need be. The Mac Mini Server also serves as Recorded TV over flow / backup and media server. So all rips and music resides here. The mid range dual core i7 is actually extended and records Live TV with two HDHomeRun Primes for a total of 6 tuners. The HDHomeRun Primes and mid range Mac Mini and one Xbox 360 sit on the same gigabit switch.
  6. lovekeiiy macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2010
    I can't answer all your questions. I'm using late 2009 Mac Minis. I run, as you call it, raw Windows 7, on both Minis (OSX was ticking me off as a very long time Windows user for various reasons).

    One mini is in the family room and hooked up to the 55" HDTV. I never hear the machine, other than the occasional HDD access, and that's if the room is really quite. I haven't tested any temps on it, but it's never felt hot. DVDs have felt warm the rare occasion I choose to play a DVD on the machine. This machine will go into standbye, which uses like three or four watts.

    My other mini, I use as my general purpose machine. I do run Plex Media Server off of it. I also have my two external HDDs where I keep my media--movies, TV shows, music. I also use this machine to DVR programs through Media Center using the HDHomerun (HDHR2), whose's recordings are shared between the two machines. I never hear that machine either, which I only sit about two feet from. I will hear the Ext-HDDs when accessed, and I hear my router (an old HP desktop) all the time. This machine is on 24/7 because it doesn't seem to wake for PVR recordings or remote Plex access; I haven't tried touble shooting it, but the power consumption is low anyway.

    I have ripped the occasional DVD using MakeMKV. Takes about fifteen minutes. I haven't used Handbrake on it, but I figured it would be about thirty minutes.

    I went Windows 7 because I know Windows and the little details. OSX was a hair pulling experience for me. I could move around in it, install, most, programs and that stuff. But uninstalling was a frustrating. The lack of TV viewing/PVR software was joke. Although, I've read EyeTV is quite good. I just wasn't willing to spend $80 on software to test to see if the experience would work for me. I had tried SageTV, and was mix bag.

    As for IR remote, I think any Windows compatible remote should work. I haven't tested it; I don't recall if late 2009 Min even has a IR reciever built in. I use Logitech DiNovo Mini blue tooth combo pad. I personally like the radio remotes over IR since you don't need line of sight.

    I went for the Mini because I wanted something that could handle HD video streaming and had a really small footprint. At the time, the other option was the Dell Zino HD which was questionable with online HD video.

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