Proposed Mac Mini & ATV Home Theater Setup

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by simplellama, Jan 31, 2010.

  1. simplellama macrumors newbie


    Aug 20, 2009
    I've done some reading on Mac Mini and Apple TV, but I haven't seen this particular setup that I have imagined. Here's what I'd like to do, if it's technically feasible.

    Hardware: Mac Mini 2.26 GHZ. Upgrade RAM to 4GB, upgrade HDD to 5400 500GB.

    Mac Mini hooked up to my 65" HDTV downstairs, with adapter to HDMI input. Hoping to hook up a nice set of Bose computer speakers, so I can get rid of my combo DVD changer / receiver / 5.1 speaker set. I like it, but trying to really reduce the number of boxes under my TV.

    The ability to control *everything* on the Mini from the Apple Remote. As far as I can tell, Plex seems to be the place to be. Though I'm not clear on if it can read movies from iTunes? Most of my movies are in iTunes, and I don't want to have 2 copies of my movie collection.

    OK So that's downstairs. Trying to keep it extremely simple. I know that I'll lose sound quality by not using a digital audio out to my 5.1 set - and I'm OK with that. Surely the bose computer speakers will do fine, though. I'm no audiophile.

    Simplicity is extremely important, and I don't want to have a keyboard and mouse in my living room. My wife and son need to be able to work this setup with ease, so I'm hoping that the apple remote can do it all. Maybe wishful thinking.

    OK Upstairs, I'm thinking just an Apple TV. I know I won't be able to play rented DVD's, but that's not a huge problem, as I watch them downstairs. I'd like to stream my movies from the Mac Mini downstairs, since the ATV hard drive is so tiny. Possibly I'd like to be able to watch Hulu and Netflix from the ATV, but that's not a big deal.

    Main Questions: Can I stream videos from mac mini to ATV WHILE someone else is watching movies downstairs on the mac mini? Or will that make the little guy explode?
    And, of course, am I missing anything?

    Expected cost:
    Mac Mini $600
    4GB RAM: $120
    500GB HD: $90
    Bose speaker: $400
    ATV: $229

    Total: $1439 , not including the few cables I would need. That's a lot of cheddar really... though it would probably allow me to cancel cable. I can get much of what I watch from Hulu, and buy the rest, still cheaper than cable. I would have to figure out how to get NBA games though.... I need my Lakers.
  2. celica73 macrumors member

    Jan 12, 2009
    I'd just get the 2.5 GHz Mini. Get that and it comes with a 320 GB hard drive and 4GB of ram. Get and external drive (1TB for $100 or less is pretty do-able). The extra CPU will help do streaming and local watching at the same time (as will a faster 3.5" external hard drive).
  3. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    CPU speed has no effect on the ability to stream, you'll have no problem watching a movie on the Mini while streaming to the aTV. Netflix on aTV is not possible, the CPU on the aTV is too limited to run the Netflix stream. I haven't bothered with the Boxee/Hulu cat and mouse game lately, so I'm not sure where that stands at the moment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's not consistent enough to count on. If you're not streaming iTunes DRM'd content you might want to consider something like a WDTV or even the Boxee Box as a potential better fit for your needs.

    As for the Mini running strictly from a remote, if you're running everything in Plex and aren't planning on using EyeTV or any other programs, you should be able to get away with just having a single remote (if you want to up the remote capability Plex has built in support for Harmony remotes and that is quite nice). Plex can read movies that you've imported to iTunes (but not movies download FROM iTunes, I don't think anyway. I've never tried it but I presume the DRM would trip it up, unless it launches iTunes in the background to play the video, which it may well do), you just need to add your iTunes Movie folder as a video source and it will read the files from there. You can set up an Action so that Plex launches every time the machine boots, so that your family should never have to see anything but the Plex interface.

    As for the NBA... there are places you can find that post links to live streams ( or you can go the EyeTV route... but then you add a whole level of complexity to the "single remote" idea.
  4. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    ReggaeFire's advice is spot on. I have pretty much the same setup you're looking at (2 :apple:TVs plus the Mini in the living room) and it works greats. I went with a Sony soundbar instead of a 5.1 setup--i'd love to have full surround sound but really don't want wires running all over the room (translation--the wife wouldn't be happy about it ;) ) but the setup works well, sound is pretty good--much better than the TV alone--and it has 3 HDMI inputs so hooking up all of my components was a snap.

    I also haven't tried hacking the :apple:TV to run Boxee/Hulu, etc but many here have done it and results seem mixed. You're right about watching rented DVDs but as I'm sure you're aware, you can alway rent via iTunes (selection is a bit limited) or if so inclined, rip/encode the rented DVD and delete once finished (if the extra work doesn't bother you). I put an :apple:TV in the master bedroom as simplicity was a must for my wife--hasn't disappointed. The 2nd :apple:TV is in my kids playroom--they're 4 and 6 yrs old and have no problem using it themselves (no longer have to trudge upstairs everytime they wanted a different DVD :D).

    Plex works wonderfully on the Mini. There is a bit of a learning curve getting started/setting up but once you have the hang of it, it's pretty impressive. As ReggaeFire mentioned, you can work from one remote--I have my Harmony One programmed to launch Plex with the selected Action--very easy for the family. Also he's right about iTunes purchased movies--Plex will include them in your movie list but due to the DRM, they won't play. I have Plex set up with the Front Row plug-in so that I can easily fire up FR to watch the few downloaded movies i have and then return to the Plex interface when finished. Plex also has a ton of other Apps/plug-in so that you could watch Hulu or stream from Netflix without leaving Plex--works great.

    Once you're ready to set up Plex, I'd suggest reading through the Getting Started wiki over at the Plex website--an invaluable tool to make sure everything is set up properly. Plex and the associated data scrappers are very finicking with folder structure and file naming--don't do it properly and you won't see your media listed. Also the Plex forums are a great place to go for advice and assistance.

    Good luck with your new setup--think you'll be very happy.
  5. dekinseattle macrumors newbie

    Dec 24, 2009
    have to agree with tbayrgs - there is a touch of a learning curve with Plex - but it is worth it ... the Help Area as well as the Free PLEX item at were very helpful for me ...

    I keep my limited amount of iTunes purchased items on my iMac and stream those via :apple:TV - the rest of my media files I moved to a Drobo that is connected directly to the Mini for Plex

    I had issues with using my Harmony Remote and FrontRow starting up when trying to use Plex or even the :apple:TV -- so I just removed all references to iTunes and FrontRow from the Mini ... haven't regreted this yet (can always add back if I need too!!)
  6. JISystems macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2007
    Northern California
    dekinseattle and tbayrgs a couple of questions if you don't mind about your setups which sounds very similar to mine.

    I have an ATV which streams from an imac with the ITunes library stored on an attached Drobo. The ATV is connected to my TV using the same Sony soundbar as yours tbayrgs :)

    I have just bought a MacMini to replace the ATV and then I'm going to move the ATV to the kids playroom. My thought was to attach the Drobo to the MacMini as the main media library install plex and stream to the kids ATV, but I was a little confused about the correct setup of the media on the MacMini and was looking to you for advise please

    Do you keep your movies all in iTunes and then let plex scrape from there ? If so do you do the same for TV shows and music ?

    I know that plex will not play any DRM movies and shows from iTunes but as you said in your post I guess we can use Front Row for that. I have had plex on my MB for a while to play around with and up until now just used two sepatre folders for TV and movies and not used iTunes.

    Thanks in advance
  7. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Your proposed setup is nearly exactly how mine is currently setup--just replace Drobo with an 1 TB External HDD. I have all of my media on the external (which is connected to the Mini via FW 800)--my iTunes libraries on both my Macbook and Mac Mini just point to the associated folders on the external. When you set up Plex, you'll select the folders where you store your respective media as your source folder (one for TV, one for movies)--this is done by adding a source in the Watch My Videos section. Again, read through the Plex getting started wiki to ensure to have your folder/file structure and naming set up properly. As long as it's correct, once you designate your source folders and select a database for scrapping (my suggestion is IMDB for movies and TheTVDB for TV shows), Plex will scan these folders, scrape the data for each movie/TV show and add it all to the 'Movies' and 'TV shows' sections of Plex.

    For music, I just have Plex pull from my iTunes library--was an automatic option in the Listen to My Music section of Plex.

    Also, when you hook up the mini to your soundbar, you need to use either a mini-diplayport to HDMI or mini DVi to HDMI adapter and run sound separately using Toslink optical or I you can try this (I haven't tried it) . I use the Blu-ray labeled HDMI input and then run the Toslink to the optical TV input on the soundbar. When using the Mini, I first select the Blu-ray input and then the TV input on the soundbar---programmed my Harmony to take care of it. If you just select Blu-ray, you get picture but no sound. Sound works fine but a few small hoops to jump through. I'd suggest giving the Displayport/USB Audio to HDMI adapter a go.
  8. JISystems macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2007
    Northern California
    Thanks for the reply. I have ordered the monoprice Displayport/USB Audio to HDMI adapter so I will let you know how I get on.

    Thanks again

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