Thinking of buying a Mac Mini as a media center...

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by alexanderasher, Jul 5, 2015.

  1. alexanderasher macrumors member


    Mar 13, 2014
    So, as the title says, I'm thinking of buying a Mac Mini as a media center. It seems like it's the most versatile and currently I use my desktop to do both, (I live in a studio apartment at the moment) but I'd like to have a dedicated media center for it simply because then it'd allow me to avoid having to use resources on my desktop that may not be needed.

    My question is, what's the cheapest option available? I'm thinking of buying used, possibly an older model, but I want to know what the best option would be for this. I don't see myself purchasing a 4k TV any time soon, but if I do, would any Mac Mini even be able to handle that at the moment? If not that's fine, because I only need 1080p.

    I was looking at a Mid-2011 one, but if anyone thinks that wouldn't be enough/would end up being too outdated in a few years, just say so I'm open to suggestions, I'd just rather not spend more than say, 500 dollars if possible.
  2. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    The minis have strong enough GPUs to push 4K. I would stick with anything 2011+, preferably 2012 if you can get your hands on one - although you probably won't need quad core for media playback.

    I think the entry level 2014 would be fine for you. It's a low clock speed CPU with 4 GB of RAM but it fits your budget and can push 4K no problem. I think those specs would be plenty for a HTPC, but you can always try to find a 2012 i5 dual for less and buy a decent sized SSD for it.
  3. alexanderasher thread starter macrumors member


    Mar 13, 2014

    Would an SSD be necessary, out of curiosity? I'd be doing both streaming video from Netflix, youtube, and other such things, and also playing movies on the harddrive itself, so there's that. Music is a 'maybe,' since I don't have a sound system for my tv yet.
  4. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    Not necessary at all, but depending on what OS or platform you will be using on the Mini (assuming just OS X) it could speed up your navigation around the OS. It won't affect streaming but it would be a snappier experience overall.

    But again, no, not necessary. Traditional drives can handle it just fine. Depending on how many movies you will store on the internal, you may actually want to stick with a mechanical drive because solid state becomes quite expensive as you go higher in capacity.
  5. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    There are a lot of threads on this topic, and you haven't been very specific on how you plan to use it as a media center. Do you have any concept of your current or eventual storage needs? Do you already have a large media library on external drives? What kind of software are you going to use? Plex? VLC?, etc.?

    How long the Mid-2011 (or similar) will last you is sort of based on your evolving needs. The latest version of OS X should continue to work on it for the foreseeable future, but feature support will likely be dropped over time based on hardware limitations, e.g. Metal (OS X 10.11 El Capitan) won't be supported on the 2011 Mini.

    I believe the 2014 Mini is the first to officially support a 4K (@ 30Hz) TV via HDMI.

    I would definitely want an SSD, but that may not be practical right away at your price point. Would you be up for replacing the HDD with an SSD on your own?

    There's a ton of information around here on these subjects with a little searching.
  6. alexanderasher thread starter macrumors member


    Mar 13, 2014
    I'd probably pick up a 1TB one but it depends, if I can get one with a thunderbolt port, I'd probably just get an external HDD for it. I'd try to run the most recent OS it could handle, but I wouldn't mind using even Snow Leopard, honestly. It all depends on what's compatible and what's not.

    Currently, here are my needs:
    I use Netflix for most streamable stuff. If that's not available, I usually go through other means. Renting or whatever.
    I'll also be using it for youtube and some slight general web browsing, as I've found if I have friends over and we get bored, we start looking up stupid things on the web.
    I also watch a lot of shows that air overseas, so I'd be downloading them onto my harddrive to watch, which is where the hard drive storage comes in.

    I have a TV that is only officially 720 I believe, but does 1080 somehow... not sure how it works, really. At some point I may upgrade to a 4k TV but probably only once I get an apartment that isn't a studio, which won't be for about 5 or 6 years depending on how schooling goes. I plan on staying in this studio until I finish my masters at least.

    I wouldn't need Metal, but having El Capitan would be nice.
  7. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    Yosemite (or El Captain when released) would be fine. It sounds like you would prefer a mechanical drive for its storage space in order to keep your budget intact.

    Your TV is probably a 1080P display but you have it running at 720P. In any case the GPU in any of the more recent (2011-2015) minis can push displays beyond FHD with no issues, so I wouldn't worry. However, if it ends up being ridiculous, as in a large scale 4K display, the iGPU may stutter. I would personally try to find a used 2012 2.5GHz i5 or simply purchase the current midrange one. The 2012 has TB and you will have money left over which makes it preferable as the current midrange exceeds your budget a bit.
  8. alexanderasher thread starter macrumors member


    Mar 13, 2014
    Well no it's... weird. It's a samsung, it says on my PC the reccomended is "1366x768", but does 1920 by 1090, which is what I have it set at.

    I'll probably look for the 2012 one, though. Thanks for the input!
  9. SpinalTap macrumors regular


    Sep 25, 2003
    Bournville, UK
    I used to run 2 x (2009) Mac Mini's - one as my primary Mac, while the second was used as a dedicated HTPC (media server).

    Then I traded-in both Mac Mini's for a 2012 Mac Mini as my primary Mac. My AppleTV 3 replaced the HTPC. Why? Because I can stream anything I wish from the MM to my ATV via AirPlay (through Devolo homeplugs.) - including TV shows of foreign origin.

    Likewise, all television catch-up services are accessible, as is PLEX and Kodi, by the method outlined.

    My movie and music library stored on my MM easily streams to my ATV. The supplied ATV remote facilitates all of this - but greater flexibility is afforded via my iPhone.

    Please note, that Netflix shows sourced from a Mac Mini alone will not pass-through 5.1 surround sound, whereas an ATV on its own will.
  10. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    Before FullHD became a marketing bullet point, a lot of TVs were 1366*768-- something to do with cheap parts. The TV could accept 1080i, 720p. Some of them could accept 1080p, some of them couldn't.

    But the resulting signal was scaled, and if necessary, deinterlaced.

    You could probably test your TV by using a test pattern made up of closely spaced black and white lines. If it looks grey, or shimmery up close, it's been scaled down. If all the lines are distinct, the tv is running at native resolution.

    My guess is that the TV accepts 1080p because that's what most video players are capable of, and not necessarily because that's the resolution of the display.

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