Setting up a Home theater media system. Need help!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by motomac, Jul 14, 2008.

  1. motomac macrumors member

    Oct 19, 2007
    Ok guys, I am wanting to give my home theater system in the living room a boost of the Apple kind! Im wanting to find out if I should spring for an Apple TV or a nice Mac Mini to hook up to the following setup.

    This is what I have in my entertainment center right now.

    I have a 36" Toshiba flat screen with 1 RGB component, 3 composite, and 1 S-video inputs. Its hardly ever been used, and was made in late 2004 - early 2005. The picture is beautiful. Needless to say I will be keeping it for a while. I also have a Direct TV DVR w/ optical out, 800W 5.1 Sony digital surround system w/ optical and digital coaxial inputs, a Nice progressive scan Samsung DVD/VCR combo with a digital coaxial out and RGB component outs, and a Sony 5 disc analog audio changer.

    I also have a lightning fast D-Link 802.11n wireless network with WPA2 encription enabled and its hooked to my brother 2070N network laser printer. Right now my wife's D620 Dell Laptop (yes i know :-< ) uses it to surf the web and print wirelessly from the couch. I have a WD 750gig and a WD 100gig external HDDs that I use as backups for the D620 as well as my old G3 B&W in the office.

    What I want to do is setup a media server to allow me to download vids, music, and movies from itunes and be able to manage and play them on the Toshiba. I also want to be able to store and backup the vids off of one of the WD external HDDs.

    I am kinda new to the whole apple tv / mac mini media system thing. I don't know which way to go, which is better now and which is better for the long run. If I go the mini route, is there a DVI-to-Component RGB adaptor which would allow me to hook it to the tv? Apple TV hase RGB composite outs already built in, so I know it would work, but will I benefit more from a machine that has a full os?

    Also, is there some kind of video splitter that will allow me to run the apple tv / mm inline with the DVD player so I can just hit a button or flick a switch to change between the two?

    Any advice you can give would help. Im trying to do this with a budget of $4,000.... Just kidding! I did some searching and came up with only partial setup advice.

    Thanks guys!
  2. digitalnicotine macrumors 65816


    Jan 11, 2008
    I think the Mac Mini is the way to go for you, since your TV is not a widescreen (required for :apple:TV). The Mini has DVI, VGA, S-Video, and Composite video connections, so with the right cable, it will connect directly to your TV.

    It will also connect to your wireless network, so it will work very well as the media hub in your home theater. When you upgrade to an HDTV, you will have the DVI connection, and will only need to purchase a new cable (DVI to HDMI).

    The S-Video connection is probably your best bet, plus an optical digital audio cable. If you connect your DVD player to your TV via component cables, and use your S-Video for the Mac Mini, you can use the remote from your TV to switch inputs back and forth between them. Hope this helps. Good luck to you. :)
  3. motomac thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 19, 2007
    digitalnicotine, thank you very much for your input!!

    Does the mac mini come with the DVI to S-Video cable or would I need to buy an adaptor from a retail / online place?

    The TV does have built in 16:9 settings for all of the inputs including progressive and interlaced settings for the Component inputs. Does that change anything?

    I am still probably going to go the Mini route as you mentioned because I will have much more that I can do with it rather than just the Apple TV for music and movies. I could use the TV to surf the web, work on work, etc.

    Again, thanks for your help! Woo Hoo!! One happy camper here!!
  4. digitalnicotine macrumors 65816


    Jan 11, 2008
    Here is the cable necessary to connect a Mac Mini to your TV.

    As far as the :apple:TV working using the 16:9 setup on your TV, I don't know for sure, but I think it would work. You would, however, have the black bars (top and bottom) on your screen when using that format, so the picture would seem smaller.

    As far as surfing the web on your TV via the Mini, you'll find it hard to read text, as the picture will not be as good as you get on your computer screen. I just want you to know what to expect here, so you aren't disappointed later.

    The only way to improve the picture significantly would be to upgrade to an HDTV with HDMI/VGA, and or DVI inputs to get the higher resolutions. The picture you'll get with your current TV will be merely because your TV's resolution capacity maxes out at 480P (via S-Video or composite). This resolution is 640x480, so you can see it's significantly lower than what you see on your computer.

    I'm not even sure you can lower your computer resolution that much to get an idea what it will look like. But for watching videos, I think it will be fair (not great). I also think you'll quickly reconsider purchasing an HDTV, where your resolution will be 1920x1080 (1080P), or 1280x720 (720P). Seriously consider this, before investing in additional components in your home theater.

    You could easily get a decent 40" 720P LCD HDTV for less than $1000 right now, (assuming you're in USA), or a 37" 1080P LCD HDTV for slightly more money, and then use your current TV in a bedroom or den or something. I add this, because I honestly don't think you'll be satisified with the resolution on your current TV combined with either the :apple:TV or the Mac Mini.

    Good luck to you on whatever you decide. :)

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