Which Mac mini for media centre?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by vim147, Sep 11, 2014.

  1. vim147 macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    I want a mac mini to be used as a media centre connected to my flat screen TV.

    It has to be powerful enough to stream HD movies from YouTube, Netflix TV channels etc.

    I need a ethernet connection to connect to my NAS Drive and router so I can network to my main computer.

    Also it needs to be able to connect to TV.

    Hdd size isn't that important. I may in the future put in ssd.

    Which year /model mini should I get. Want it cheap as possible for my needs.
  2. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    While an upgraded 2006-2007 Mini would work, try to not get anything older than a 2009 Mini. They are able to run the latest version of Mac OS X and have a much better GPU than the 2006-2007 Minis.
  3. spatlese44 macrumors 6502

    Dec 13, 2007
    One could argue for the 2010 model. It has the modern aluminum style, but retains the optical drive. If you don't care about that, then I would argue for the 2011 version. That's the cutoff for AirPlay mirroring to an Apple TV, which for a media center probably isn't important, but it's the why it can do it that's interesting. It has special hardware for video compression (and decompression?), which allows the AirPlay feature. I'm not sure if they couldn't do it on older models, but it might have made the fan run. Yes, you might get by on say a 2009 model, but the future proofing that a newer model would get you would be worth it in my opinion.
  4. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    Does the 2009 model have hdmi ?

    My TV only have hdmi and some composite type things. I need sound and visual coming to through th tv. Also Ethernet gigabit for network .
  5. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    I don't think HDMI came out on the Minis until after the 2009's. However you can get a Mini-displayport + optical audio to HDMI adapter from Monoprice for around $20.

    Might be worth looking into the 2010+ (Unibody) models. Better processors and graphic cards. Plus much more power efficient. The Mid-2010 model is the only unibody to include a DVD drive if that's important to you.
  6. cocacolakid macrumors 65816


    Dec 18, 2010
    HDMI came out on the 2010 mini. The 2011's had Core i-series CPU's, which is a huge upgrade over the Core 2 Duo CPU's, and if there isn't a huge price difference I would look for a 2011 mini.
  7. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    Am watching eBay prices at the moment.

    In the uk 2009 is £150, 2011 is £350. Not sure about 2010 yet.
  8. Osamede macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2009
    I have used the 2010 for this kind of usage and it is perfectly good. I dont have an SSD in it either, but that would make it even better.
  9. raymanster macrumors 6502


    Feb 13, 2008

    I've bought a few Mini's lately on eBay.
    You might find those prices a bit low. 2009's go for about £200-250 and 2010 for about £280 upwards.

    Saying that I got really lucky and got a 2010 with 8 GB of RAM but no HD or HD temp sensor for £160 a couple months ago on eBay. Added a Crucial m500 240 GB SSD and sensor bringing total to £255.

    So there are deals out there, just check often.
  10. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    I have a budget of £250. As it'll only be used as a media centre connected to my TV am also looking to build a htpc and installing windows 7. Probably get a better processor that way.
  11. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011

    Do you think a 2009 2.26Ghz C2D would be powerful enough to stream HD from Youtube and other sites ?
  12. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    It's plenty powerful for that. That stuff is low bit rate. It doesn't have HDMI output though, so sound can be a problem...and blacks are crushed.
  13. tbobmccoy macrumors 6502a


    Jul 24, 2007
    Austin, TX
    My Mac mini 2011 (see signature) is one of the best systems I've ever had. It's served as my media server with Plex for the last 3 years, and it pretty damn near perfect. It's running on Mavericks now, and I'm sure it's longevity will take me another 5-6 years. Even though it doesn't have a disk drive, I recommend it. The GPU helps with OpenCL more than the Intel integrated graphics of the day would.

    Edit: forgot to mention that I stream Plex in 1080p HD and can run 3-4 streams simultaneously, easily. It's pretty sweet.
  14. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    I was under the impression that sound could be connected to the TV via 3.5 pin to twin rca cable ?
    What do you mean by crushed Blacks ?
  15. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    That doesn't work on my Samsung. If you connect with HDMI, the tv doesn't allow sound from another input. The TV expects sound from that HDMI connection. Only the component video input allows sound from RCA cables.

    Crushed blacks basically means little in the way of dark tone detail. You get a high contrast image in which things that should be lighter and distinguishable from black, are black without detail. This can look good on a poor source because it hides noise and artifacts, but it is not accurate, and on a good source, you're missing a lot of darker tone detail.
  16. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    The sound could be a problem then for the 2009. I have a Samsung hdtv too. Might need to look for a 2010 which comes with hdmi. I wanna spend then least amount as possible for my basic needs. Or possibly build a htpc and Install win 7.
  17. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Anything from the 2009 goes. The 2009 has the 9400M GPU, essential for GPU decoding (silent). 2010 is in theory nicest as you can retrofit a blu-ray slot loading drive and it lacks the huge power brick, although 20 bucks for a USB powered external is much cheaper. I use all 5 USB ports on my 2009! The 2010 is not more power efficient, it is less, so that is more points for the 2009.

    The 2009 has DVI, which is pin compatible with HDMI so a 5 buck cable is working.
    Sound is not a problem either: you want to decode DTS now and then, and that is not going to work on your TV anyway. And flat TV's sound like crap. I use optical to the receiver, and DVI-HDMI to the screen. Since the Mini takes care of all content, I don't need HDMI switching on my receiver. If you do want to switch on the receiver, it is perfectly possible to combine HDMI video and optical sound on one input of the receiver.
  18. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Not sure why as it has a mini-DP port. Adapters with HDMI cost about £5 on Amazon and the no-name adapter I bought for my MBA has no problem outputting sound via HDMI.
  19. vim147 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2011
    Am having second thoughts about getting a mac mini now. 2009 is within my budget but I don't wanna be buying a speaker sound kit aswell. And 2010 is a bit too much then I'd wanna spend. Am looking at Intel nuc.
  20. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I suggest you go over to both XBMC and Plex sites and check their forums out. In particular the hardware oriented threads that cover Intel NUC, makes such as Zotax and Asrock or if you are daring, consider building a system with an itx board.

    I have a Mac Mini with ubuntu Linux and XBMC running very well as a media center. You have so many great options and again, check out those forums and you might get inspired. I think a Mini with OSX and either Plex or XBMC (along with iTunes) would serve you extremely well.
  21. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    The 2009 Mini does not output sound via mini display port.
  22. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Just looked this up and it seems to be so. Bummer really, as the nVidia gpus were a tad better than what followed until recently.
  23. stix666 macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2005
    I'm still running plex with a 2009 Mac mini. I got a handmedown av receiver a few years back connected to it by digital audio lead, and have a subwoofer. Honestly it's a fantastic system. Watching films with dts sound is amazing - pretty close to going to the cinema.

    If you're setting up a media centre, don't skimp on the audio. It's probably a bigger difference going from 2ch stereo to 5:1 dts than going from 720p to 1080p or 4k
  24. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    If you have crushed blacks your TV is setup wrong. Tell it to treat HDMI as PC signal. Than the crushed blacks go away.


    It does not cost a fortune. Just grab a second hand AV receiver from 10 years ago. One with DTS decoder and beefy amps can be had for 50-100 bucks. And even combined with the crappiest of the crappiest bookshelf or tower speakers found for 5 bucks at a garage sale will way outperform anything built into an LCD TV.

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