Mac Mini as a HTPC

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Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:53 am

How would the standard Mac Mini (with external storage, obviously) do as a HTPC? I'm thinking with either a bluetooth keyboard and mouse or may a Harmony remote it would be pretty sweet. Is there anything Im not thinking about?
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ChrisDTC
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:02 am

They work just fine, especially with Front Row. If you need a tuner, elgato makes the best PVR software (and hardware), bar none. In fact, I would say it's better than what is offered on the PC side.

Only shortcomings are the lack of internal harddrive expandibility, but there are several vendors who make enclosures that are designed to fit right under the mini.
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:28 am

how is the audio done? can you get optical out? to do 5.1?
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:05 am

Does it have the muscle for HD video?
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:08 am

Usacomp2k3 wrote:Does it have the muscle for HD video?

Only up to 720p. 1080p is not possible and even 1080i MPEG2 is iffy. Just not enough processing power in there.
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:10 am

There are quite a few people that use SageTV software on the Mac with those tuners. IMHO, SageTV is hands down the best PVR software. But I am a bit biased. :P
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:41 am

My biggest issue with using a Mac Mini as a HTPC is that I can build a Phenom X4 (9550 -- good for transcoding if you want to move any videos to other platforms) with 4 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD, 1 HDTV tuner, DVD-RW, on a new 790GX motherboard with HD 3300 graphics which will handle 1080p (though I'm not sure if the Linux drivers are yet up to snuff of accelerated decoding) for about $765 (if you keep to a budget case -- I'm in a situation to put the case behind a TV stand, so I don't care as much what it looks like so that has an NSK-4480B with its Antec power supply). You can get a nicer HTPC and power supply at correspondingly higher cost. Even with a fancier case (like say Silverstone's LC17 and Corsair 520HX power supply) for about $915. If you go with a 780G. Newegg has a combo with the NSK and a 9850 which can get you down to just under $710 even with the faster CPU.

Yes, both of the options above have a lot higher price than the Mac Mini, but they do have one tuner included and do have a ton more HDD space (so you're reasonably in the same price range as a Mini equipped to be an HTPC). I could probably cut the budget a bit by using multiple smaller HDD's, but I was just playing around with price. (I'm still toying with whether or not to replace my aging MythTV box and haven't decided to bite...yet.) And you are looking at a much larger machine. But, as I said, I'm looking at putting an HTPC in a spot where I don't really need to look at it. Of course, if you have a large flat panel that is not wall mounted, you can probably pull the panel out from the wall a little bit and put the case behind it.

On the plus side, the system above has expandability for more internal tuners, HDD's, and a discrete video card (well if you go with the 790GX, you could actually do Crossfire if you wanted to do serious gaming on you HDTV -- though I don't know the refresh rate on TV's but they seem to work for the consoles).

To my mind, the Mini is cute, but that's about the end of its list of virtues. It is saddled with slow Intel video and extremely limited expandability. So you're stuck with an external hard drive and external video tuner (though the first can be made to note take away from the aesthetics too much by the choice of the correct enclosure).
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 10:31 am

Yeah, the Mini you can get for $530 with student discounts, maybe bump it to 2GBs of RAM for $40 on newegg, storage would be on the network on my 5tb raid 5 home server, so thats covered. The mini would be hiding behind my center channel speaker, so Im not worried about a TV tuner dongle hanging out of it. The video and audio capabilities were my main concern. Plus I just thought it would be kinda cool to have OSX on my TV :P But then there are also distros that look like OSX and then I could, of course, use real hardware and just have to get a slightly larger case.

So I dunno, guess Im just thinking out loud over here
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:15 pm

well don't obscure the remote sensor which is right by the opening of the optical drive if you do hide the machine - it's an infrared remote, not RF, so it needs line of sight.
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:54 pm

derFunkenstein wrote:well don't obscure the remote sensor which is right by the opening of the optical drive if you do hide the machine - it's an infrared remote, not RF, so it needs line of sight.

Well, anything I do will probably have a bluetooth or RF Harmony remote, something of that nature
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:55 pm

ChrisDTC wrote:
derFunkenstein wrote:well don't obscure the remote sensor which is right by the opening of the optical drive if you do hide the machine - it's an infrared remote, not RF, so it needs line of sight.

Well, anything I do will probably have a bluetooth or RF Harmony remote, something of that nature

But the receiver itself is infrared, so the tech of the sending unit is irrelevant.
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:04 pm

Usacomp2k3 wrote:
ChrisDTC wrote:
derFunkenstein wrote:well don't obscure the remote sensor which is right by the opening of the optical drive if you do hide the machine - it's an infrared remote, not RF, so it needs line of sight.

Well, anything I do will probably have a bluetooth or RF Harmony remote, something of that nature

But the receiver itself is infrared, so the tech of the sending unit is irrelevant.

I havent messed with Harmony remotes much, but I know bluetooth doesnt need line of sight
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:06 pm

Taddeusz wrote:
Usacomp2k3 wrote:Does it have the muscle for HD video?

Only up to 720p. 1080p is not possible and even 1080i MPEG2 is iffy. Just not enough processing power in there.

even with the 2.0 C2D?

oh wait, it uses laptop CPUs, but still it cant do it?
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Re: Mac Mini as a HTPC

Postposted on Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:13 pm

ChrisDTC wrote:
Taddeusz wrote:
Usacomp2k3 wrote:Does it have the muscle for HD video?

Only up to 720p. 1080p is not possible and even 1080i MPEG2 is iffy. Just not enough processing power in there.

even with the 2.0 C2D?

oh wait, it uses laptop CPUs, but still it cant do it?

Just as a comparison I was having problems with playing back 1080p H.264 on my X2 4200. It just wasn't enough. Part of it also is that the Mac Mini only uses integrated Intel video. And I'm not sure how accelerated video is under MacOS. I just know that my Mini won't play even 1080i MPEG2 let alone 1080p H.264. Mine is the 1.83Ghz model. I really don't think 170Mhz is going to make that much difference.
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