Which Mini for HTPC?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Cmannen, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. Cmannen macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2011

    Been lurking for long and now I have come to the point that I need some advice. I want a Mini as an HTPC.

    Which one of the new 2011's is the best value for money based on usage as HTPC?

    Is the base version enough or do I need to go for the version with the dedicated graphic card or should i be looking for a used mini 2010?
    If going for the base version i would definitely upgrade RAM to 8 Gb (after market).

    Thanks for advice!
  2. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
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    The base version will output a 1080p br rip to your tv over hdmi perfectly well!
  3. Anonymous Freak macrumors 603

    Anonymous Freak

    Dec 12, 2002
    Even the base model will handle 1080p just fine. The Server model has the benefit of quad cores (for faster compression if you do anything like that,) and dual hard drives.
  4. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2010
    HTPC is not a really heavy load for a computer. If you really just intend it to be a HTPC, I don't think that a RAM Upgrade is needed - of course, it is pretty cheap at this point, and it's never going to hurt to have more RAM.

    Any 2011 model will be more than enough.
    Any 2010 model will be more than enough.

    The only reason that I would look at a 2010 model is if you want the built-in DVD drive in your HT. Personally I am glad to see it go, but some people still like it is convenient to have a bunch of coasters cluttering up their homes.:roll eyes:

    If you watch the refurb and clearance section of the Apple Store online, you might catch a 2010 version there.
  5. mrrippey macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2009
    FWIW I got the mid level one with 8GB RAM. Reason I did that was

    1. better GPU in case I wanted to play any games
    2. better CPU since I am going to stream to three other AppleTV's in the house
    3. I run Parallels often

    Like the previous post mentioned, the old ones did fine so the new ones will do nicely, I think you should add RAM though, 2GB is not enough, 4GB is good and 8GB is best bang for buck IMHO.

  6. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC

    Gotta disagree here. I just replaced my 2010 2.4Ghz Mini with a 2011 i5+GPU because the 2.4 C2D was choking on high-bitrate blurry rips. The i5 has been handling it fine, thought I'm still thinking about going to a server model.
  7. Cmannen thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2011
    Wow, thanks for all those quick comments, very appreciated!

    So based on what has been said so far it looks like i will go for the base model + upgrade RAM.

    Another question linked to HTPC, do you use mouse + keyboard? Would i Do fine with ex Rowmote only?
  8. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    Might wanna get your head down, buddy. Last time I said that the 2010 Mini couldn't run Blu-ray rips properly, the Mini HTPC sewing circle tried to scratch my eyes out...

    ... so, with the i5, everything's running smoothly, is it? No dropped frames, stuttering, artefacting etc?
  9. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    Don't buy the upgrade RAM from Apple, mate. Buy it separately, and fit it yourself. Easy as pie, and you'll save a fortune.
  10. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Always good to have a keyboard and mouse available but I rarely if ever use mine. When using the Mini as an a HTPC, I listen/view media almost exclusively through PLEX and have my Harmony remote set up for navigation while in PLEX. I also have a few iPhone apps that also work well (Rowmote works great, also use Air Mouse for anything other than PLEX as it's a perfect keyboard/mouse replacement).

    I also use my Mini for all of my encoding jobs and generally connect to the Mini via screen sharing on my Macbook to set up and run those.
  11. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC
    Depends on the bitrate. I was able to run 1080p files fine, until I kicked into higher-end Mad Men rips at 4GB/hour...not sure what the exact bitrate is. But they are full 1080p, and the 2.4Ghz C2D was choking on them coming off the internal drive as well as the Drobo over FW800. Tried the same thing with the i5 Mac mini, and had no problems. A couple stops on other files, but guessing those are the files themselves. I've been playing them in VLC, not Plex, though Plex is the endgame.
  12. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    Oh, for sure. I never said that all HD content didn't run: only the challenging stuff.

    I take it that these are native Blu-ray dumps, yes? Not transcodes? That was the critical mistake that everybody who was arguing with me made (well, they were mostly calling me names, and getting their knickers in a twist... but there was some arguing): they were downloading '1080p' torrents with bitrates of circa 12Mbps and saying, "see?! It runs Blu-ray! Haha!!! What an idiot...!!!"

    [shakes head]
  13. Mhotep macrumors member


    Mar 31, 2011
    I chose the base model but will increase the had drive to 1TB and increase RAM to 8gb. I'm currently checking out Plex. Looks pretty good. Hope to have mine up and running by weekend.
  14. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC
    Well I do the same, but I don't give those files the satisfaction of calling them "Blu-ray dumps". They are tolerable, but not completely acceptable to my broadcast-trained eyes. Working on upgrading every movie in my arsenal at the moment to proper nitrates now that my HTPC-MacMini can handle them.
  15. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    Good call.

    If you want to test the bitrate ceiling of your Mini, the highest bitrate I've come across on a commercial Blu-ray disc was somewhere near the start of Casino Royale. I think it hit 55Mbps, at one point.

    Do you leave the HD audio intact, or extract the core stream?
  16. Westyfield2, Jul 28, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011

    Westyfield2 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2009
    Bath, UK.
    Actually that's a good point guys. When we say 1080p we all mean different things.

    I personally just shove in the Blu-ray, and with MakeMKV rip the main title and the non-HD audio. Ends up ~30GB a movie.
    That's gonna take a lot more umph to play than a h264 mp4 that's been transcoded down to 4GB!
  17. djrbx macrumors member

    Jul 12, 2011
    North Hollywood, CA
    Since I already upgraded my old 09 Macbook Pro to the newest version this year, I actually bought the mac mini base model today. It's working great so far. I did have an issue with video output going to my 50" Plasma though but that is not the minis fault but my plasma. For some reason, the mini was seeing my Television as PAL. Long story short, I had to remote desktop to the mini and change the resolution from PAL to NTSC.

    Other than that, it works fine. I have not upgraded the RAM. No lags in video play and it streams MLB.TV, Slingplayer, and other flash sites without a hitch.
  18. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    Yep, precisely. You'd be surprised how many people don't/won't appreciate the difference: even when it's explained to them politely.

    I think I recall Caveman saying that reducing the audio from HD to core was enough to get otherwise 'full' Blu-ray dumps to run on the 2010 Mini. Never tried it myself, but it seems like HD audio just pushes the CPU that little bit too hard.

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