Stay with Apple TV 2 or move to Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by kbutler84, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. kbutler84 macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2011
    Posted this in the Apple Home Theater section, and didn't get a whole lot of feedback. One person did mention that since most of my content is in iTunes, that an Apple TV 2 make sense for me, but I thought I'd post the same questions here and see what other info I could get:

    I'm thinking about getting a Mac Mini. As of right now all my movies/tv shows are stored on a 2tb external drive connected to my iMac. I sync my iphone/ipad with this iMac. If I move the external hard drive to the Mac Mini, is there any way I can still sync via the iMac and still have access to the files on the external hard drive?

    If not, what is the best solution to this?

    Also, I'm still debating on if I should purchase the Mac Mini at all. I've been satisfied with my Apple TV 2, but the idea of having a full fledged Mac (with 1080p capability) connected to my TV sounds nice. Is it really worth it?
  2. P0stalTek macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2011
    I'd love to hear real world answers here too. I am seriously considering a mac mini as a HTPC, but I'm unsure whether to stick with the base model and go up to 8gb or just go for the step up with a dedicated graphics card.

    I just don't know since I've never seen how they perform when connected to a 42"+ HDTV. Anyone using the base mac mini for this purpose? What can you watch without stutter or lag?

    Most interested to hear about performance with:

    - Hulu Desktop
    - Netflix
    - Amazon Streaming
    - ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, etc
    - Youtube

    Any info would be great, I've been resisting posting a new thread about what I'm sure you guys are tired of talking about, so thanks to the OP for making this one. :apple:

    P.S. Sorry, I'm an Apple convert, so I just don't have a lot of real world experience with them just yet. I've always used Windows PC's for media.
  3. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    To answer your first question, yes, you can sync via the iMac. I sync to my media library using our office computer but all media is stored on an external HDD directly connected to the Mini HTPC hooked up to the TV in the living room--just have to point your iTunes library on your iMac to the external HDD. My suggestion would be to have it mount automatically during start up, else if you forget, your iMac iTunes library will revert back to the default folder on your iMac.

    The advantages of the Mac Mini vs. an :apple:TV is ability to playback high bitrate 1080p video and have access to the internet. If you want to watch Hulu, Amazon streaming, or anything other online content, the Mini is your only choice (vs. :apple:TV, that is).

    That being said, it takes some work to get it set up to work anywhere as simply/smoothly as the :apple:TV works out of the box. I personally use PLEX for consuming media on my Mini and really like the look and it's use of a Media Server/Manager but it's not perfect. It does offer plug-ins to integrate much of the content you find online right into PLEX but unfortunately Amazon is not yet one of the them. Also, the Netflix plug-in has been erratic at best over the past few months and IMO, picture quality is inferior to that found on the :apple:TV. And most obviously, there's a pretty significant price difference between the :apple:TV and a Mac Mini.

    My HTPC doubles as my small children's computer so it was a bit easier to justify the cost to the better half.

    P0stalTek--unless you plan on using the Mini for anything other than an HTPC (gaming, video work), no need to get the model with the dedicated GPU--the base Mini will be able to handle pretty much any video you throw at it. My 2009 base Mac Mini (2.0 GHz C2D) can play blu-ray rips so the newer model will also have no problem.
  4. KScottMyers macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2009
    Orlando, FL
    I see this question asked all the time. If you are looking for simplicity, I would definitely suggest the Apple TV. I had posted this once before and will do a repost because its basically the same question.

    This is how I have my mini setup and its the best solution I've found so far.

    Use the Apple TV for what its good at... Streaming. It streams all your movies, music and photos from the Mini including Netflix and YouTube and is completely silent.
    Setup the Mac Mini as your streaming server.
    You can remote into the mini with your iMac - so it doesn't even need a keyboard or mouse.
    Use Handbreak to rip all movies to ATV compatible format and store on the mini.
    Organize all movies, music and photos in iTunes on the mini.
    Use Home Sharing and share all movies to ATV or any other Mac or IOS device in the house.
    The mini doesn't even have to be near the TV - just on the network.
    Leave the mini on 24/7 - it sleeps when not in use and wakes when a movie is accessed.
    Use the Apple TV interface to view all movies in their organized category and/or playlists.
    Watch the same movies from a Mac, PC, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad as well.
    You can remote control the ATV with your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
    You can do all of this with basically no additional software except Handbreak - which is free.

    Apple's ecosystem definitely works well when used the way it was intended. At $99 - its a steal.
  5. P0stalTek macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2011
    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to hear. I used a PS3 as an expensive Apple TV for a long while, but I missed my HTPC and the website consumption it offers for streams. Especially the networks!

    So, I guess I'll get base, upgrade to 8gb, and get an apple keyboard and magic trackpad.. or is there a better setup for controls?
  6. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Keyboard and trackpad are up to you but other than initial setup, you may not need them (see you have an iPhone 4 and iPad). I have a keyboard and mouse for my Mini HTPC but they are relegated to backup/emergency duty as I use either my Harmony remote (PLEX) or my iPhone for keyboard/mouse duties. I personally prefer Air Mouse (serves as touchpad and keyboard) but also have Hippo Remote and Rowmote. The PLEX iOS app can also be used as a remote for PLEX. To be honest, I actually rarely use these apps as anything needed to be done outside of using PLEX is usually done via screen sharing from my office Mini Server.
  7. TheBaconKing macrumors regular


    Dec 2, 2010
    Northwest Arkansas
    Thats exactly what I did. I bought the base 2011 Mini and swapped the 2GB for the 8GB from my MacBook Pro before I sold it.

    I got a trackpad shortly after purchasing my Mini, and love it!
  8. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    I used to use a mini (the old version) for a HTPC. I also had Apple TV hooked up the same screen. Very rarely did I actually use the mini to watch anything.

    It worked just fine, that wasn't the issue, it was just a lot more cumbersome to use a computer than it was to use ATV.

    Today, I've upgraded to the new mini and use it as a desktop computer. I rely on ATV to consume content on the HDTV. On rare occasions I do run a long HDMI cable from the mini to the TV if there's something I really want to watch that I can't get on ATV, but that's really not very often.
  9. Ventucky macrumors newbie


    May 20, 2011
    Get this too.

    I have my iMac as the main computer in the house with an external HD with all of my movies and TV shows stored on it. I also have a Mac Mini 2010 on my main TV running EyeTV for live shows and linked to the iMac with Home Sharing. I also have a Apple TV 1 in the garage/workout room and Apple TV2 in the bedroom. They are both linked to the iMac to access media. Its a bit cumbersome and the in-laws can't use it, but for our needs, it works fine.

    To get to the point, I use a wireless keyboard and magic trackpad on the Mini. If you are going this way, I suggest this:
  10. sampdoria macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2010
    I totally agree with this logic!

    I currently have my ATV2 streaming media through Wi-Fi stored on my Time Capsule (with a computer running iTunes/Home Sharing of course). I find it OK, on a few occasions, streaming HD lags a bit, it probably depends on how good/clean my Wi-Fi network is. My goal is to create a dedicated iTunes server that is always on (thus I like your set-up very much!) and to improve streaming speed to ATV2.

    Question 1: I'm assuming all of your media is not stored on the internal hard drive of the Mac Mini, but instead on an external hard drive attached to the Mini via USB or FireWire. If so, would using FireWire (or Thunderbolt when avail.) over USB make a difference in speed for this setup?

    Question 2: How is your Mac Mini connected to your network (via Wi-Fi or Ethernet to your Router)? Similar to Question 1, would one over the other make a difference in speed?

    With these questions, I would like to better understand where the bottleneck in transfer rate is going to be e.g. External hard drive to Mini, Mini to Router, Router to ATV2?

    Thanks in advance, and congrats on your nice setup!
  11. KScottMyers, Sep 14, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011

    KScottMyers macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2009
    Orlando, FL
    Question 1: Correct - my media is stored on an external USB drive. You could always store it internally if you had enough space though. Firewire would be best for the faster transfer speed but USB is fine for streaming. When I call up a movie on the ATV it starts playing within a few seconds.

    Question 2: I have the mini and the ATV connected through ethernet. This is mainly because I happen to have gigabit ethernet available at both locations for the mini and ATV. Wireless would be fine - I just like having the wired and faster connection. There really is never a connectivity issue this way.

    I'm sure running the mini and the ATV wirelessly would be fine as long as you have a consistent good connection. When you stream a movie to the ATV it basically downloads the entire movie to the ATV in the background as you're watching it. Once its downloaded the streaming stops. Once again - I'm sure wireless is plenty fast for streaming (that's why Apple built it into the ATV) - but faster is never a bad thing.

    I like the simplicity of just having one small "completely silent" box (ATV) being connected to my TV, being able to call up a movie on demand from a central server, being able to remote control the ATV from my TV remote, iPhone or iPad, being able to start a movie in one room and finish it in another, and you can even extend this capability by adding multiple ATVs to other TVs around the house as needed. I won't even go into how great AirPlay is. BTW - the ATV doesn't even have an "on or off" button - it just comes on when accessed and sleeps when there's no activity.

    I find this setup pretty much trouble free. Very happy with it.
  12. blacka4 macrumors 6502

    Sep 28, 2009
    how about this for thought. I currently have a mini as a HTPC that has all my movies and music on it. I am looking at getting 2 apple tv's maybe 3 and repurpose the mini as a Media server tucked away in a closet somewhere with an array of harddrives attached
  13. KScottMyers macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2009
    Orlando, FL
    Thats the idea. For $99 per ATV - this method is reasonable and flexible.
  14. brandonx76 macrumors regular


    Mar 21, 2010
    One concern for Mac Mini - vs. Apple TV - if you're ripping DVDs, with 5.1 - the Mac Mini doesn't appear to send the 5.1 signal out (comes out at 2 channel) does stream properly via Apple TV w/5.1, but that requires an Apple TV for playback...haven't found a way around this yet. Anyone else notice this or have a suggestion?
  15. entropyfl macrumors regular

    Oct 12, 2009
    I went for the Mac Mini.

    Mainly because it can output 1080p which will be good for when/if itunes ever sells it.

    I also find the HD quality looks better on the Mac Mini.

    I tried controlling the mini via screen sharing on another as recomended on the above but I found it a pain so I went I bought wireless keyboard & Trackpad and I find this the best way.

    The remote Apps are good but pain in Arse when the batt goes on iphone.

    in terms of content, I have a copy of my fav shows and movies stored locally on the Mini and then I stream all my other stuff from the iMac upstairs.

    One question for you guys using Plex & who have upgraded Ram.

    Plex - I can't get it to Play my videos that I bought from itunes store. I believe its something to do with DRM? is that right or is there a work round?

    Ram - what are the benefits of the extra ram for watching video? I didn't think watching video stress the mini that much?
  16. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    1. Exactly right. If you're using Snow Leopard you can launch Front Row from PLEX to play any iTunes DRM media. In Lion unfortunately, you'll have to play from iTunes as Apple didn't include Front Row.

    2. If your only using the mini as a HTPC, don't believe having extra RAM will really make a difference--4 GB should be more than enough.
  17. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    the Mini is fully capable of 5.1. Just use an optical cable to your receiver and you'll be fine. You might have to mess around with the sound settings on the Mini to enable the 5.1. A red light shining out from the headphone jack means you did it right.
  18. suzehenry macrumors newbie

    Sep 21, 2011
    A mac mini is worth it just for the download speed.
  19. jammingator macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Ok, forgive me for posting after only scanning this thread but I'm pretty fired up about figuring this stuff out!

    Here's my deal:

    --brand new base iMac 21.5"
    --brand new ATV2
    --1st generation iPad
    --I purchased and downloaded one movie (True Grit) from iTunes
    --I downloaded Plex and bought the Plex app for my iPad

    --so far iTunes is causing the iMac to freeze almost every time I open it - uninstall and reinstall did not help
    --True Grit is an almost automatic freeze
    --I cannot play True Grit through Plex
    --the iPad Plex app keeps showing that I am updating libraries and will not play True Grit
    --True Grit will play in QuickTime

    --I ripped an unprotected DVD to the iMac with Handbrake using Apple setting
    --was able to play in iTunes and stream to ATV2 through iTunes for a few minutes before it froze the iMac
    --this rip will also play in QuickTime with no problem

    Any help on getting this straightened out would be greatly appreciated.

    Going forward, I would also like to be able to stream from the iMac from sources other than iTunes. We homeschool and have found some great resources online - like the Kahn Academy which is all You Tube videos collected in lessons on one website (excellent, btw, from elementary thru university -- the guy is an MIT grad who is a really good teacher). Other resources have video lessons on the website using flash. I've looked into AirVideo but don't know yet if that will do what I'm looking for.

    I do know that one solution to all of that is to add the base mini and use the TV as the monitor.

    Anyhow, I'm at work and after many interruptions am going to post as is and check back later.

    Thanks for any and all help!! :)
  20. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    You cannot play any iTunes purchased movies/TV shows using PLEX due to DRM protection. You'll need to play it either directly from iTunes, use QuickTime, or use the hack to restore Front Row to OS X Lion.

    Sorry, unsure why iTunes is freezing up on you. Only suggestion I have is to try to repair permissions in Disk Utility--worked for me when I was having problems with Safari freezing up.
  21. jammingator, Sep 23, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2011

    jammingator macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Thanks t, I forgot to mention my OS is Snow Leopard 10.6.8.

    Can I stream QuickTime -- I didn't see an Airplay icon?

    Could you explain more on repairing permissions?

  22. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    AirPlay is only from iOS devices to the :apple:TV. If you want to watch any of your media on the :apple:TV, just make sure Home Sharing is turned on (on the iMac under Preferences > Sharing, under Settings > Computer on your :apple:TV, logged in on both using the same Apple ID). You can then select anything in your iTunes library on your iMac to from the :apple:TV for viewing--just must have iMac on and iTunes open. I'd also recommend getting the free Remote app from Apple for controlling your iTunes library and :apple:TV via your iPad--very user friendly. Since your using Snow Leopard, you can still use Front Row to watch iTunes media directly on your iMac if you'd like. If you have an Apple Remote for the iMac, just hit the Menu button, otherwise you can find it in Applications but, it would probably just be easier to use your mouse to launch it from iTunes or QuickTime.

    To repair permissions, open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility), highlight your HDD on the left hand column and select Repair tab. You should see the repair permissions option (sorry, not at home right now, trying to go from memory). No guarantee it'll make a difference but worth trying. I'm honestly perplexed why iTunes would be having problem on a brand new Mac--heard of plenty of problems via PC.
  23. Aldaris macrumors 68000


    Sep 7, 2004
    Salt Lake
  24. jammingator macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Cool -- thanks again. Going to work on this tomorrow....uh, later this morning!

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