tv and/or hdtv on intel mini + 24" dell = total confusion

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by thumb, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. thumb macrumors 6502

    May 8, 2005
    greetings friends,

    i have a mini duo and the 2407 24" dell monitor. the mini is just a stand-in with this monitor until the macpro comes out.

    i am just now learning of the various possibilities for watching television on this set, but i know next to nothing about the various tv standards and cable connections. i have done lots of searching here, but each setup seems to have its own pecularities.

    Here it is as I understand it, corrections will be much appreciated.

    there appear to be two major issues.

    1) watching tv or hdtv on my screen.
    2) recording these programs on my mini like a tivo.

    Most of the info I have found here is related to number 2 (which of course necessitates 1), but I would be happy with just 1) to start.

    essentially, out of the box, there is nothing i can watch. i have regular cable on a coaxial cable. to see this on my monitor, i would need something like the elgato 250. this would both allow me to view regular cable tv on my dell monitor and the eyetv software would allow me to record it, like a dvr, on the mini.

    for hdtv, i would need to subscribe to the appropriate service, and they would provide/rent me the right converter that would then plug into the my monitor, most likely via component, leaving DVI for the mini. (with this, would i also be able to add a progressive dvd player, or is that getting too much)? to actually use teh mini as a dvr here, i would need a completely different elgato box and a massive harddrive.

    what about just watching regular cable on the monitor?

    what is the best way to get basic HD tv? I am most interested in HD sporting events.

    I thank you for your time.

  2. Yoursh macrumors 6502

    May 28, 2006
    I don't own a mini but I use to install cable and have worked with alot of HD setups. I'll try to break some things down for you and some of your posible options.

    Since your dell monitor doesn't have a tuner built in you will need an external unit to hook your cable up to and run that into your monitor. There's alot of different ways of doing this. As you can see it can get confusing. None of the possible setups are going to give you everything, so you need to decide what is the priority for your personal use.

    If your main need or want is watching HD programs, like sporting programs in your post, the best option is to get a HD cable box from your local cable provider. It will give you the largest range of HD programing and can hook up to your monitor via the component connection.(as you mentioned) The drawback is that you would be unable to use your mac to record any of the content for later viewing. Some cable providers do have HD boxes that can also function as DVR's. They usually cost more per month but at least you would have the recording ability if you wanted it.

    If you want to record with your mac you would need to get a usb tuner like the elgato you mentioned. This would alow you use your mac, watch live programs, and record shows all on one unit. The drawback is that this would be for analog cable only. You would not be able to watch or record HD content with the 250 model. The 500 model on their website does work with HD content but that is only over the air(using an antenna instead of cable) or non-incripted HD/digital cable channels(most all cable providers incript their HD/digital channels). This could limit your access to most HD content depending on your local broadcasting area, since most major areas are in the process of upgrading over the air HD channels. You would also need and external hard drive to keep all your content on since the mini's would fill up fast.

    Those are your main options. As I stated above, you should chose the one that best fits your personal use and what your willing to spend. My personal opinion is that you should just go with cable box since it is the cheapest option. Just wait on intergrating your mac until you upgrade to that Mac Pro or a "all-in-one" solution if Apple releases one down the road. Hope this helps.

    P.S. As for a progressive DVD player, you would need to get a component switch box or a audio reciever to add more than one component device. I have to use both for my personal non-HD setup for all the crap I got hooked up.;)
  3. khisayruou macrumors 6502a


    Aug 21, 2004
    There are quite a few ways to receive and record tv, each one with major set backs. I will try my best to break it down, yoursh basically said it all but I will add a few bits here and there.

    Major players: Eyetv EZ, 250 and Miglia tv max, tv micro
    It's by far the easiest way to view/record without major hassles. For the most part, you simply will hook your coaxial cable from the wall into the external tv tuner and your set. If you are having to get cable from a cable box or satellite box, then things get messy because elgato does not provide a way to change channels and the program guide won't work. You will need iEye Captain and an IR device.

    Major players: Eyetv 500 and Miglia TVmini HD
    A severely limited solution to getting HD content. Right now as it stands, you can only get HD via over-the-air or unencrypted (clear QAM) when using these external tuners.

    To check what is available over the air, go here
    Now, unencrypted HD is dependent on your content provider. You will need to ask them to see what is available. For the most part, you might be able to get the major networks (abc, nbc, etc...) as unencrypted channels from the cable. Otherwise you will have to get those channels, along with other HD channels through the content's providers HD box.

    If you have to get an HD box, then it is possible to record HD content through firewire. Read the articles below, it will give you a good idea of what is involved and the setbacks you will face.
  4. thumb thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 8, 2005
    wonderful, thank you both for the helpful and detailed replies.

    i think i have a pretty good handle now on what is involved.

    but a few quick follow up questions:

    is there a cheaper way than the elgato type solutions to simply view regular cable on the monitor? one that does not offer any dvr possibilities.

    with the HD cable box, is that for HD channels only, or will that give me regular programming as well over the same 1 component set connection

    finally, what would the quality differnce be between watching DVDs through a progressive player connnected to the Components vs. through the mini's drive connected over DVI?

    Thank you very much
  5. khisayruou macrumors 6502a


    Aug 21, 2004
    Not really sure about this one seeing that the monitor doesn't have a tv tuner. As yoursh mentioned, I think the easiest and cheapest is to rent out a cable box from your content provider and hook that to your monitor.

    On mine, its HD channels and all the regular analog cable channels.

    Can't really answer the last one, but I think they are both comparable seeing that dvd resolution is far below your lcd's resolution.
  6. Yoursh macrumors 6502

    May 28, 2006
    I'll follow up on those questions also.

    Your cheapest options is to just go with a cable box from your local provider. Usually one box is included in a HD or digital service package.

    Current HD boxes that cable providers have put out all channels via the component connection. You just have to know that the regular channels will still only be shown is standard(non-HD) format. My experience has shown me that the quality of the standard channels do look a little poor on HD screens since they aren't optimized for the older format. I think you should be fine though since you don't have a large screen(37"+), which tends to show the poorer quality more.

    A progressive DVD player outputs the video in 480p format(as appose to standard-tv 480i format). All this does is clean the picture up on HD monitors so they look a little better. This also only works on DVD's that are listed as progressive, since alot of early DVD's didn't support this. I looked through Apple's website and was unable to find if the built in player displays in progressive or not. In your situation, I would just stick with playing your DVD's with the mini though. Your picture quality would only improve slightly with a seperate player but you would suck up your component connection and have the extra cost.

    Hope that answers you followups okay.
  7. thumb thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 8, 2005
    thanks yoursh and friends,

    i think i now have a good handle on this, i have been reading here and other sites dedicated to htpc, and know what i will do. funny thing, i don't really watch much tv, so this is more about getting it to work than really wanting to change how i watch tv. that said, world cup in hd this month would be pretty nice...

    final question, really:

    I have regular cable service from comcast in new haven CT. in general, do i need subscribe to special HD + digital cable from them and rent the box, or could i buy a motorola 6200 HD converter off of ebay and plug it in myself and get this to work?

    thanks again, you guys are great. can't wait for my mini to arrive on monday.
  8. Yoursh macrumors 6502

    May 28, 2006
    Funny thing is, the cable company I use to work for was Comcast. I don't know how their system is set up in your area, but I can relate the way they sell it here in the upper midwest.

    You can just rent a HD box for an extra $10-$12 a month and get the channels your gettting now plus any channels that broadcast in HD(local affiliates like nbc and basic cable like espn), which can vary depending on were you live. Then if you sign up for additional digital channels like HBO you would get the HD version included. I'll add again this varies from city to city so it's best to call your local comcast unit and see what packages they offer or go on their website and check what's available in your area.

    As for the boxes on ebay, don't bother. Comcast only uses their own boxes on their system. They won't use outside boxes since they have to be programed to work on the individual systems. The boxes have to talk back to the system's "head-end" and if it's not preregistered the network won't allow it to run any channels. Besides, most boxes on ebay are likely ones that customers never returned and they are trying to make a buck off them by sell the boxes. They're probably owned by some cable company somewhere. That's a legal issue you don't want to mess with.:eek:

    The only other thing I wanted to add was that if you go with this type of setup you would need an external audio setup since the monitor you have doesn't have speakers. There's alot of differnt options from an aduio reciever to just using an RCA to headphone jack splitter.

    Just as a side note, HD is really...really nice.:) With all the hookups I did in the past, I've been tempted on upgrading to HD myself. I'm just a cheap bastard that will use my current old tube TV till it breaks. Oh well.

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