Will this Mac Mini suffice as a Home Theatre PC?

Doju

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jun 16, 2008
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http://store.apple.com/ca/product/FB463LL/A

Hi, I'm interested in replacing my current WD TV for a Mac Mini and I'm on quite a tight budget.

I'll be attaching it to my Sony Bravia 47" HD TV. Currently, as I said, I have my Western Digital TV hooked up to it. This $70 player handles 720p flawlessly and 1080p very well.

I don't play much 1080p (majority is 720p) but would the above Mac Mini be able to handle 720p and the occasional 1080p video? I mean it's $400, if a $70 plastic thing can handle it fine, it should do it at least as well, right?

Keep in mind I don't intend to be ripping DVDs, encoding video and having Photoshop running in the background. I'll be ONLY be playing a video through Plex, which I believe plays video very smoothly.

I mean, the NVIDIA GPU should be sufficient I'd imagine.

Any other tips or recommendations? Would it be a sufficient home theatre PC?

(2GB RAM should be enough if I'm really only doing movies, right?)
 

mystikjoe

macrumors regular
Jan 29, 2010
217
1
i would save money and get a better video card than that for 1080 playback. just my opinion.
 

Phantom Gremlin

macrumors regular
Feb 10, 2010
216
8
Tualatin, Oregon
Do you have access to a recent vintage Mac? I suggest you try Plex before spending lots of money.

I normally use a TiVo HD to play content. Recently I've experimented with Plex on my 2.4 GHz iMac. IMO it's an incredible P.O.S. compared to the TiVo, in terms of simple navigation such as FF, REW, 30 second skip, etc.

Also Plex has been very unstable for me; I've had better results with the Mac builds of the original XBMC.

But the Mini may be OK for you. I don't know how well the WD streamer works; your expectations may be low. The Mac programs aren't completely useless. If all you want to do is play back complete shows without skipping ahead or backing up, I think Plex and/or XBMC will work just fine.

People at avsforum report better results with the Mac Mini when using Windows and/or Linux. That's because Linux can access the NVIDIA written VDPAU graphics acceleration library, while OS X doesn't allow that.

This site has an Apple TV and Home Theater forum. You may find better advice there.

You say you're on a tight budget; I think you should investigate carefully.
 

codymac

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2009
449
0
Yup. That's what I'm using for Plex duty although I long ago bumped it up to 4x500gb.

A 2.0 will handle it fine.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
8,987
2,399
Seattle
That is the exact mini I use with Plex. Zero instability, and all 1080p media runs perfectly on it. You'll be fine!
 

avihappy

macrumors 6502
Nov 15, 2006
422
0
Do you have access to a recent vintage Mac? I suggest you try Plex before spending lots of money.

I normally use a TiVo HD to play content. Recently I've experimented with Plex on my 2.4 GHz iMac. IMO it's an incredible P.O.S. compared to the TiVo, in terms of simple navigation such as FF, REW, 30 second skip, etc.

Also Plex has been very unstable for me; I've had better results with the Mac builds of the original XBMC.

But the Mini may be OK for you. I don't know how well the WD streamer works; your expectations may be low. The Mac programs aren't completely useless. If all you want to do is play back complete shows without skipping ahead or backing up, I think Plex and/or XBMC will work just fine.

People at avsforum report better results with the Mac Mini when using Windows and/or Linux. That's because Linux can access the NVIDIA written VDPAU graphics acceleration library, while OS X doesn't allow that.

This site has an Apple TV and Home Theater forum. You may find better advice there.

You say you're on a tight budget; I think you should investigate carefully.
IMO Plex is fine. I've had no issues with it. I particularly like the "apps" which let you steam youtube and hulu and daily show (to name a few). It is a good idea to try it out on your Mac if possible, see if you can figure it out. The mini will have no problems will 1080p.
 

DoFoT9

macrumors P6
Jun 11, 2007
17,494
26
Singapore
i would save money and get a better video card than that for 1080 playback. just my opinion.
the mac mini has no better GPU option then the 9400M.

plex doesnt use the GPU for playback, but QTx does.

can you please specify what format of movies you will be using?
 

Doju

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jun 16, 2008
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0
I'll be taking my ripped Blu-Ray collection off my 1TB HDD, they're all .MKV files. The average length movie is 5-6GB and the longer ones are as high as 10GB. Very rarely are they 1080p because in most movies I just don't notice the difference. (Action movies and Pixar movies like Up are the exception to this rule.)

I've also tried Plex quite extensively and I love the program.

Also will the 1GB RAM suffice?

Lastly, I read somewhere that if I update the RAM to 2GB I'll somehow get more graphics memory? (Like 128MB-256MB?) Is this true and would it be worth my time or will this machine handle it fine as is?

I may just see if this works, and if I don't I'll upgrade it.


codymac, how do you have 4x500GB? Are you talking external HDDs?
 

reebzor

macrumors 6502a
Jul 18, 2008
870
1
Philadelphia, PA
Lastly, I read somewhere that if I update the RAM to 2GB I'll somehow get more graphics memory? (Like 128MB-256MB?) Is this true and would it be worth my time or will this machine handle it fine as is?
Yes, Upgrading to 2gb or more will give you 256mb of vram. It is shared with your regular ram though so keep that in mind (2gb = 1.75gb ram, .25gb vram). I have the same mini except I upgraded it to 4gb before I even turned it on. It plays 1080p through Plex from a USB external perfectly. I can't comment on how it will work with only 1gb of ram, but I would strongly suggest you upgrade to AT LEAST 2gb, if not 4gb for an HTPC.

Oh and just for the record, the mini comes with 1x1gb, so to upgrade to 2gb you only need to buy another 1gb stick, you can find that really cheap I'm sure.
 

iMerlin

macrumors 6502a
May 13, 2008
643
0
I love Plex on my Mini. You just have make sure you know how to add a source and keep that source connected. For me, Im streaming content I have stored on my iMac. So I set up an Automator script that mounts that server on startup and it has been perfect ever since. Also, my Mini handles 1080p MKVs no issues, until DTS gets involved! Sometimes it can handle that also, but some movies have been giving me issues.

With all that said, it is very nice having a Mini under the TV instead of a stand alone unit like a TiVo or something that can only handle one task. With the Mini you can have it do so much more if you want it to. During parties, if I know we wont be watching any movies, Ill fire up iTunes on the Mini, play some music and let a nice slide show or something run as the screen saver. The wife loved it when I put a nice collection of pics of our kids together. Anyway, I would vote for the Mini if you can swing it.
 

Doju

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jun 16, 2008
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So if 1GB is 128MB VRAM, 2GB is 256MB would 4GB be 512MB?

And if Plex playback only uses the processor why do I need all this GPU power?
 

talmy

macrumors 601
Oct 26, 2009
4,703
266
Oregon
So if 1GB is 128MB VRAM, 2GB is 256MB would 4GB be 512MB?

And if Plex playback only uses the processor why do I need all this GPU power?
Max video ram is limited to 256MB which is fine since virtually none of it is used except for animation. And has been pointed out, you don't need the GPU power.
 

talmy

macrumors 601
Oct 26, 2009
4,703
266
Oregon
For me, Im streaming content I have stored on my iMac. So I set up an Automator script that mounts that server on startup and it has been perfect ever since.
You don't need an Automator script. Manually mount the server, making sure your login credentials are saved to KeyChain. Configure Finder to show server mounts on the desktop. Go to System Preferences, Accounts, Login Items. Drag the server mount icon to the list. Then the server will be auto-mounted when you log in.
 

DoFoT9

macrumors P6
Jun 11, 2007
17,494
26
Singapore
So if 1GB is 128MB VRAM, 2GB is 256MB would 4GB be 512MB?
haha if only it worked like that! 9400M supports 256MB RAM max.

And if Plex playback only uses the processor why do I need all this GPU power?
you are correct in thinking like this! but you must remember that the GPU is the component that processes EVERYTHING that you see coming from the computer. if you have the macmini connected to a 1080p external monitor then thats quite a bit of pixels that it has to represent (2,073,600 to be exact ;)). if you also wish to add another smaller screen to the mini (for some odd reason) - then the GPU RAM is split, 128MB to one monitor, and 128MB to the other - there will be a pretty noticeable reduction in performance.

in your case with most likely 1 monitor, its still important to have as much GPU RAM as possible.
 

iMerlin

macrumors 6502a
May 13, 2008
643
0
haha if only it worked like that! 9400M supports 256MB RAM max.


you are correct in thinking like this! but you must remember that the GPU is the component that processes EVERYTHING that you see coming from the computer. if you have the macmini connected to a 1080p external monitor then thats quite a bit of pixels that it has to represent (2,073,600 to be exact ;)). if you also wish to add another smaller screen to the mini (for some odd reason) - then the GPU RAM is split, 128MB to one monitor, and 128MB to the other - there will be a pretty noticeable reduction in performance.

in your case with most likely 1 monitor, its still important to have as much GPU RAM as possible.
Excellent explanation DoF! I wasnt about to add RAM to my Mini, but now that you explained it like that... Crucial here I come. LOL
 

DoFoT9

macrumors P6
Jun 11, 2007
17,494
26
Singapore
Excellent explanation DoF! I wasnt about to add RAM to my Mini, but now that you explained it like that... Crucial here I come. LOL
hahahahaha no problems :) sorry for making you spend money :(

you should get one of those EyeTV devices to record TV on it as well! ;)

oh, and a bigger hard drive. :rolleyes:
 

codymac

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2009
449
0
I'll be taking my ripped Blu-Ray collection off my 1TB HDD, they're all .MKV files. The average length movie is 5-6GB and the longer ones are as high as 10GB. Very rarely are they 1080p because in most movies I just don't notice the difference. (Action movies and Pixar movies like Up are the exception to this rule.)

I've also tried Plex quite extensively and I love the program.

Also will the 1GB RAM suffice?

Lastly, I read somewhere that if I update the RAM to 2GB I'll somehow get more graphics memory? (Like 128MB-256MB?) Is this true and would it be worth my time or will this machine handle it fine as is?

I may just see if this works, and if I don't I'll upgrade it.


codymac, how do you have 4x500GB? Are you talking external HDDs?
Sorry, that's common shorthand in the Unix server world for 4gb RAM & 500gb HD. I've got a USB enclosure next to the mini with a 1.5tb in it that I keep my Plex library on. I stream my iTunes library from my desktop with Plex server (which I much prefer to a file share or iTunes sharing).

Although I'd certainly recommend upgrading the RAM for the additional (shared) VRAM, you can certainly give it a try before committing to the RAM upgrade. IIRC, Plex uses ffmpeg and everything gets handled on CPU... but my memory is sketchy about that. I've seen people state it's not needed but I agree with the previous posters and 2gb would be my minimum recommendation.

I have no trouble playing >20gb Bluray MKV rips on mine. FF/RW get choppy, but playback is fine for my eyes.
 

DoFoT9

macrumors P6
Jun 11, 2007
17,494
26
Singapore
Sorry, that's common shorthand in the Unix server world for 4gb RAM & 500gb HD. I've got a USB enclosure next to the mini with a 1.5tb in it that I keep my Plex library on.
wow! you learn something new everyday :D

Although I'd certainly recommend upgrading the RAM for the additional (shared) VRAM, you can certainly give it a try before committing to the RAM upgrade. IIRC, Plex uses ffmpeg and everything gets handled on CPU... but my memory is sketchy about that. I've seen people state it's not needed but I agree with the previous posters and 2gb would be my minimum recommendation.
correct! its all CPU based, but there is always still that element of image representation.

I have no trouble playing >20gb Bluray MKV rips on mine. FF/RW get choppy, but playback is fine for my eyes.
i think thats more related to seek time/latency of the hard drives. :(
 

iMerlin

macrumors 6502a
May 13, 2008
643
0
hahahahaha no problems :) sorry for making you spend money :(

you should get one of those EyeTV devices to record TV on it as well! ;)

oh, and a bigger hard drive. :rolleyes:
Yeah, Ive been thinking of pulling the trigger on both upgrades. But dont I need some type of cable access for the EyeTV to work? I think I just need to do some research on it! Obviously!

I stream my iTunes library from my desktop with Plex server (which I much prefer to a file share or iTunes sharing).
I need to figure out how to set that up. I was playing with it last night for a bit and couldnt get it going for some reason. I was tired though, probably didnt help.
 

codymac

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2009
449
0
i think thats more related to seek time/latency of the hard drives. :(
Never even thought of that! Running it off USB probably isn't helping... I might have to copy one to the internal and see if it's better. Thanks!

I need to figure out how to set that up. I was playing with it last night for a bit and couldnt get it going for some reason. I was tired though, probably didnt help.
I think all I did was install Plex on the desktop and set it up to start the server automatically on it. I recall it being really easy.

It's nice - the album artwork shows up!
:D