Using iMac as an HTPC, noob help please... - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 40 Old 04-26-2009, 06:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey guys, I have a newer intel iMac 2.8 Ghz, 4GB RAM, running Leopard, that is in my home office. I would like to use this as an HTPC as I can't afford a mini at the moment.

My goals:

1) Displaying Leopard on my tv, and using internet, apps, etc. Working with my wireless keyboard/mouse.
2) Watching stored Blu-ray and DVD movies from the iMac or an external storage device onto the tv.
3) Listen to my iTunes library on my HT receiver.
4) Watch all my iMovies, Flip videos, iDVDs, and iPhotos on my tv.
5) Stream content from Hulu, Vimeo, Youtube, Netflicks, etc.
6) Connect cable to my iMac and use it as another DVR for HD content, then stream this to my tv.

I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can think of at the moment!

I've read up on many ways to do these things, but still have many questions...

My first question is:

Can I have the iMac in the office away from my living room and still control it on my Sony lcd with my wireless keyboard/mouse, and with the iMac display mirrored?
If this isn't viable then I won't go forward. Any help will be appreciated!

Btw My tv is a Sony KDL-40V2500 LCD, no HDMI's left open, but it does have a PC input (VGA)

I also use a Harmony remote to control everything in my HT.

Help!
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post #2 of 40 Old 04-26-2009, 08:29 PM - Thread Starter
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As far as connections it seems that for video, I need a mini-display to VGA adapter, then a 25' VGA cable to the Sony. For Audio a 3.5mm to toslink adapter, then 25' toslink to optical in on my receiver.

I've downloaded PLEX and played with it a bit, very nice interface that I think will do almost everything I want, so I think I'm going to go that route.

What I really don't know about is dealing with resolutions between the iMac and the tv, but I deal with that later. And also ripping, recording and playing content without degrading it in any way and knowing which formats are best to use for what I want.

I know it's not common to do the setup the way I'm trying, but if it's possible I want to try! My wireless keyboard and mouse work out in the living room to control the iMac, so if it was connected to the Sony and I mirrored the display, and I could see what was happening, it should work right??
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post #3 of 40 Old 04-27-2009, 04:29 AM
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Quote:


My wireless keyboard and mouse work out in the living room to control the iMac, so if it was connected to the Sony and I mirrored the display, and I could see what was happening, it should work right?

Yes, that iMac should do just fine as an HTPC.

This was my first question when I read your post, I wondered how close it was to the HDTV and how you'd control it. But if your BT keyboard and mouse still work, you shouldn't have any problems doing what you plan to do. VGA and optical should still work over 25' lengths.

Quote:


My goals:

1) Displaying Leopard on my tv, and using internet, apps, etc. Working with my wireless keyboard/mouse.
2) Watching stored Blu-ray and DVD movies from the iMac or an external storage device onto the tv.
3) Listen to my iTunes library on my HT receiver.
4) Watch all my iMovies, Flip videos, iDVDs, and iPhotos on my tv.
5) Stream content from Hulu, Vimeo, Youtube, Netflicks, etc.
6) Connect cable to my iMac and use it as another DVR for HD content, then stream this to my tv.

All easily attainable goals, with the exception of Blu-ray.

Quote:


What I really don't know about is dealing with resolutions between the iMac and the tv, but I'll deal with that later.

Right, that might not be a simple matter of "plug and play," and largely depends on your HDTV. Won't know until you try.

Quote:


And also ripping, recording and playing content without degrading it in any way and knowing which formats are best to use for what I want

This is just a matter of you acquiring the knowledge, and has nothing to do with your particular iMac and HDTV setup, per se.
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post #4 of 40 Old 04-27-2009, 05:05 AM
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the audio adapter is actually just a mini toslink connector, most toslink cables you buy will come with 2 mini connectors,

I would seriously consider freeing up a hdmi to your tv, and run an HDMI cable to the tv, VGA is analog technology and HDMI is digital and should look better on your screen. some tv's wont support all the resolutions of your tv over VGA. so you might spend the money on a 25' vga adapter and it might not look very good, then you will have to buy a hdmi cable.

I would install http://www.plexapp.com/ as your frontend to the tv, it will do all the things you want to achieve like streaming hulu youtube etc. and it will set up all your movies with covers and movie info.


or you can try Boxee, http://www.boxee.tv/ one nice feature is you can watch trailers of every movie you have before you watch it.

I like the look and feel plex, Boxee has a lot of potential but is still young, try them both.

to record HD content you can try a tv adapter http://www.elgato.com/elgato/int/mai...oduct1.en.html

bluray rips will play from both of those frontends

Take the keyboard and mouse your planning on using and set it on the coffee table and open up a word document on the mac and test the distance, you wont need the mouse too much if you use plex as you can use the keyboard for everything. type out across the keyboard starting at the letters qwerty..... and see if it appears on the mac. I know I can take the wireless mouse I have and move it 15" away but never tired 25ft ,

good luck.

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #5 of 40 Old 04-27-2009, 02:21 PM
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You have the same exact TV as me and I run my Mac to the tv beautifully with no problems; The Sony V series was actually one of, if not THE FIRST LCD to do actual pixel to pixel so there's no overscan, no stretching.
**BUT: you cannot use the VGA port and get a good picture. Check the V2500 owners thread for more. You MUST use one of the HDMI ports. Use the mini DVI to DVI adaptor with an HDMI cable, OR I think monoprice.com has a mini vga to HDMI cable (no adaptor needed).

I use eyetv with my Mac so I basically have a free DVR and it's integrated into Front Row.

I also use a wireless keyboard with no problems, although most need line of sight.

Hope it helps.
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post #6 of 40 Old 04-27-2009, 08:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow, great help, thanks! I didn't expect to even be seen on this big forum!

First of all, chefklc, thank for giving me some confidence to move ahead with this, I know most are using the mini, so I wasn't sure!

XavierYZ, thanks for the help on connectors. I hear you on the VGA and kinda figured I wouldn't be getting the best PQ possible. I'll definitely switch some things around and go HDMI from the Mac to the Sony. As far as PLEX, I really like it and I think I'll be using it as my frontend, I'll check out Boxee also.

EyeTV seems like the perfect solution to being able to have another DVR and stream HD content!!

thinman, it's nice to get advice from someone with the same setup, and that the resoultions shouldn't be a big deal! Glad someone is already running these things and they work. HDMI it is then!
I'll probably have more questions for you later if you don't mind, once I start setting it all up.

I did test my keyboard again at 30ft with 65% battery, and the Mac displayed everything I typed, so I think it will do great!


Well, I'll start ordering cables from monoprice, then and dive headfirst into this, I'm excited, thanks again guys, you've helped me alot! I'll post up when I get things hooked up.
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post #7 of 40 Old 04-28-2009, 10:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright, I'm going to order my cables and I just want to be sure I'm getting the right ones.

These are from Monoprice, instead of a mini toslink adapter, I found they had the 35' toslink cable with the mini toslink on one end. Is this one correct?




So this end will go into my "headphone/optical jack", right?


And then I also found this mini-dvi to HDMI. It looks like the one on the back of my iMac, but can anyone confirm?


And last a 35' CL2 rated HDMI cable. Is there a big difference from 24 AWG to 22 AWG? I was just going to go 24 AWG. Will I be ok?
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post #8 of 40 Old 04-29-2009, 07:37 AM
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I'm not sure about the audio/toslink cable because I just bought my receiver (Onkyo 607) and haven't set it up yet... so I'm only using a standard audio mini cable to the tv.

The other cables, the hdmi and adaptor are correct.

As far as the gauge size goes, I went with 16 gauge, which is really fat. My video geek friends all swear you don't need large gauge wire for digital video, so go with the 24. You'll be fine.

One side note. Our Sony tv makes a great computer monitor, but it really is hard to read the text and do any sort of web surfing unless you're sitting pretty close to it. I had to enlarge the mouse pointer and the system fonts (in the System Prefs) and its still hard to see. You can also use a key combo command (Command-Option + or -) to zoom the screen).
You will love Elgato even though some hate it.
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post #9 of 40 Old 04-29-2009, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thinman View Post

I'm not sure about the audio/toslink cable because I just bought my receiver (Onkyo 607) and haven't set it up yet... so I'm only using a standard audio mini cable to the tv.

The other cables, the hdmi and adaptor are correct.

As far as the gauge size goes, I went with 16 gauge, which is really fat. My video geek friends all swear you don't need large gauge wire for digital video, so go with the 24. You'll be fine.

One side note. Our Sony tv makes a great computer monitor, but it really is hard to read the text and do any sort of web surfing unless you're sitting pretty close to it. I had to enlarge the mouse pointer and the system fonts (in the System Prefs) and its still hard to see. You can also use a key combo command (Command-Option + or -) to zoom the screen).
You will love Elgato even though some hate it.


I ordered the cables, thanks for your input!

As far as the resolution a friend of mine is running a mac mini to his New Bravia and it was very clear but very hard to read from more than 5 ft. away. He messed with the resolution choices on the mac and on the Sony, and we found a combo that zoomed quite well but still had everything in frame. I don't know what effect this will have on movies, we haven't tried to stream anything yet. This may have worked because it is a 52" and it's new, I don't know for sure, but if our tv doesn't do that, I'll go the route you mentioned.
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post #10 of 40 Old 05-02-2009, 07:20 AM
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a little late chiming in on this , but yes that toslink cable is the right one, the mini toslink connects to the mac and your tv should be a standard toslink.

The cables I used had the adapters you could add to both ends if you wanted. but these were 4' cables that are inexpensive no name brand.

The cables you ordered look to be a good quality

keep us posted with your progress, and results

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #11 of 40 Old 05-03-2009, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XavierYZ View Post

a little late chiming in on this , but yes that toslink cable is the right one, the mini toslink connects to the mac and your tv should be a standard toslink.

The cables I used had the adapters you could add to both ends if you wanted. but these were 4' cables that are inexpensive no name brand.

The cables you ordered look to be a good quality

keep us posted with your progress, and results

Thanks, I appreciate any and all input!

My monoprice cables came in and I'm very pleased with the quality and the prices!!




I hooked up the HDMI and mirrored the iMac screen and voila! Plex works and looks great! I've also applied the Aeon Stark skin and customized everything a little bit.

Over all I'm very happy with this setup so far. I have noticed the wireless keyboard and mouse do act up here and there. If it continues or gets worse I may do an IR blaster setup to the iMac from the living room, and just use the apple remote, or Harmony should do it also.

This is just the start and I'm still playing and dialing things in so I'll post pic's and progress as I go...
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post #12 of 40 Old 05-03-2009, 07:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Here's a few pic's of Plex with Aeon...





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post #13 of 40 Old 05-04-2009, 07:28 AM
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This is the first time I've seen Plex. Looks like a Front Row replacement?
Not to change the topic, but how do you like it?
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post #14 of 40 Old 05-05-2009, 11:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thinman View Post

This is the first time I've seen Plex. Looks like a Front Row replacement?
Not to change the topic, but how do you like it?

You'll never go back to Front row after using it. It's far more flexible to customize and tweak. It has many settings for audio/video to play with and it's just damn sexy!

The Aeon "skin" customizes it further, but there are some bugs here and there, like, the weather won't show up for some reason. I definitely recommend it, start by getting Plex, then get the Aeon skin if you like. There are video's on youtube that shows you how it works.
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post #15 of 40 Old 05-06-2009, 05:38 AM
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I find front row to be a very limited application, I never used it , other then to watch trailers. Plex is an entire application dedicated to the Home theatre experience, its the app, Apple doesn't want you to know about.


If you can point me to the place where you got Aeon Stark and any information on installing it, I would like to know


Thanks

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #16 of 40 Old 05-06-2009, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XavierYZ View Post

I find front row to be a very limited application, I never used it , other then to watch trailers. Plex is an entire application dedicated to the Home theatre experience, its the app, Apple doesn't want you to know about.


If you can point me to the place where you got Aeon Stark and any information on installing it, I would like to know


Thanks

For those who don't have Plex install it first:http://www.plexapp.com/

Here's the link to Aeon: http://www.aeonproject.com/

Scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says downloads. Click the link where it says "Aeon repository", this will get you a current copy of Aeon,(keep this window with the downloaded folders open). What you need to do next is open another finder window and click on your user name under places to the left. Then click on "Library", then "Application support". Next find your Plex folder(not the Plex media folder, just "Plex") and click on it, find the "skin" folder and open it. There will be nothing in the "skin" folder, this is where you create a new folder titled "Aeon". Open this new "Aeon" folder and drag all of the downloaded folders into this folder, you should have,(skin.xml, 720p, language, sounds, and media folders). Next you need the fonts for Aeon. Go back to the Aeon project page and click on where it says "requires these fonts" and this will take you to Aeon-fonts on Mediafire. Download this folder and also drag it into your Aeon folder with the rest of them. You should be set!

*Note* Safari did not work with Mediafire so I used Firefox and all was fine.

Open up Plex and go to your settings and change the skin from mediastream to Aeon and voila! Have fun with it. There are alot of great looking HD backround wall papers on the Aeon project site you can use, check them out.
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post #17 of 40 Old 05-06-2009, 12:25 PM
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This is a timely thread for me because I just got a new IMAC. I am running PLEX and am in the process of copying over my DVDs for playback.

Anyway I am so excited I can't stand it. When I hook up my new "24 imac to the tv, can I run the tv display at 720p and still have my main imac screen at full rez at the same time? How would this best work out.

Thanks everyone.
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post #18 of 40 Old 05-06-2009, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russ Younger View Post

This is a timely thread for me because I just got a new IMAC. I am running PLEX and am in the process of copying over my DVDs for playback.

Anyway I am so excited I can't stand it. When I hook up my new "24 imac to the tv, can I run the tv display at 720p and still have my main imac screen at full rez at the same time? How would this best work out.

Thanks everyone.

Hi there, it's good to see your excitement, I feel the same about my setup!

About the resolutions, I'm not sure if what your asking will work, but you have three place to be able to tweak these settings:

1)iMac Display settings
2)Plex will allow you to calibrate your display
3)Your TV should be able to change it's display settings also.

On mine, when I first had my iMac mirrored onto my Sony 40" LCD, it would cut off the display on all sides so I "unchecked" overscan in the display preferences on the Mac. But then it was slightly smaller than the screen, so I went into the Sony settings and bump the pixel setting till it filled the screen. I'm running the iMac in it's normal rez, and the Sony will natively display in 1080P. Thankfully all the fonts in Plex are larger, to be able to see from the couch!

Here is great info on everything you wanted to know about Plex: http://wiki.plexapp.com/index.php/Getting_Started
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post #19 of 40 Old 05-07-2009, 06:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russ Younger View Post

This is a timely thread for me because I just got a new IMAC. I am running PLEX and am in the process of copying over my DVDs for playback.

Anyway I am so excited I can't stand it. When I hook up my new "24 imac to the tv, can I run the tv display at 720p and still have my main imac screen at full rez at the same time? How would this best work out.

Thanks everyone.

This should not be an issue, as the TV will act like a display (all displays can have there dedicated resolution) I use to have a 19" second display connected to my imac. The only thing you might have a problem with is getting apps to run full screen on the tv if you set it up as secondary display. So you may need to set the TV as a primary display (which will make the apple menu and dock be displayed on this screen)

it can be done, it will just take some tweaking. I am not talking about mirroring the image, everything mentioned above was using expanded displays.


Thanks for the howto guide, downloading aeon now.

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #20 of 40 Old 05-07-2009, 09:49 AM
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Hey thanks for the help Gamrcobe and XavierYZ. My cables should arrive tomorrow so I will give it a shot. Thanks also for the tips about overscan settings.
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post #21 of 40 Old 05-09-2009, 11:04 PM - Thread Starter
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So I ripped my first DVD today! It turned out really good, it took a while though. I used HandBrake and VLC. It was Episode III Revenge of the Sith. I used the presets in handbrake for "Film" and it output H.264 in .mkv, which works very well in Plex. It was mainly a test as I don't know what I doing enough to tweak the settings in HandBrake yet. I saved the file in my movies folder, then when I opened Plex it automatically updated the movie. What I didn't notice at first is the movie title was wrong, so there was no cover or fan art in the "Movies" section in Plex. I went to the IMDb website and looked up the official release title and copied it, then went back to the movie file and put in the correct name. When I opened Plex it updated again And now had another copy with the cover and background artwork!

My only problem now is figuring out how to remove the other unwanted movie with the wrong title in Plex. When I try to remove anything in Plex, it crashes. If any one knows the answer chime in!
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post #22 of 40 Old 05-09-2009, 11:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Some pic's... I suck at capturing screenshots, so it didn't come out that well, but it looks way better in person, exactly like DVD playback...




And threw this in cause I like the background image!

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post #23 of 40 Old 05-10-2009, 08:33 AM
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I installed Aeon onto my imac for test purposes, I think it corrected some bugs with Plex when shutting down, I am torn between the original theme and this one.

I like when I go into TV shows and select a show, it comes up with the general info of the tv show and plays its theme music in the background, its a nice touch.

Plex seems to be very buggy on my mac mini, If I play just movies its fine, but play around inside the internet video and it is sure to lock up. Not to mention if I want to leave Plex after watching a HD movie I have to Force Quit (tricky to do without a Keyboard and mouse)

I switch between boxee and plex.

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #24 of 40 Old 05-11-2009, 10:07 AM
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Hey Everybody.

I hooked up my imac to my tv this past weekend and I am loving PLEX. I solved the windowboxing/overscan problem by running changeresX and made a custom resolution (1280 x 720 ) and mirroring the display. This gives me very good pq on my Panasonic plasma.

Does anyone know if it is possable to shut off the imac display when using the TV? Other than that my 2009 imac works great!

Thanks for the help everyone.
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post #25 of 40 Old 05-11-2009, 11:03 AM
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I looked into it and gave up, unless someone else knows around here. It doesn't seem possible to shut off the imac display when connecting to the secondary display

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #26 of 40 Old 05-11-2009, 11:29 AM
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Interesting thread! I'm using XBMC on an Xbox as my HTPC right now, but plan to "graduate" my Mac mini to HTPC soon. I've tried Plex, Boxee, Front Row, and XBMC on my mini, and was wondering if anyone could compare the differences between Plex and XBMC in an actual media center setup...

TIA!
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post #27 of 40 Old 05-11-2009, 08:26 PM
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here is a tip for those that dont know. you can customize your background for each menu item, ie, music, movies, tv shows etc

I found the folder where all your fan art is stored so you can have a nice rotating backdrop when you select movies its here and it updates itself when you add movies

/~user/Library/Application Support/Plex/userdata/Thumbnails/Video/Fanart

go into the setting/customize and press down to select a folder for the backdrop and point to the folder above.

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post #28 of 40 Old 05-11-2009, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Brucio View Post

Interesting thread! I'm using XBMC on an Xbox as my HTPC right now, but plan to "graduate" my Mac mini to HTPC soon. I've tried Plex, Boxee, Front Row, and XBMC on my mini, and was wondering if anyone could compare the differences between Plex and XBMC in an actual media center setup...

TIA!

I use to use XBMC on my xbox a long time ago back 5 years ago, I used the xbox for dvd rips but lacked the horse power for HD. I discovered Plex and thought wow this looks alot like XBMC, and then I discovered that was XBMC forked into PLEX for Mac.

Plex feels so much more fresh and vibratant. I am just getting it set up on a mac mini on my home theatre, and so far I am enjoying it. The Plex team works very hard to get this application stable as possible, and I look forward to future of plex. There are still alot of bugs to work out. It hangs and crashes more then I like, but using OSX as the core it really is just a matter of a quick relaunch of the application and your back in business.

My HT setup updated april 27/09
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post #29 of 40 Old 05-14-2009, 04:38 PM
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Possibly I wasn't clear in my post, but I'm interested in the differences between Plex for the Mac and XBMC for the Mac. It seems they both have an active developer community. Is the only difference in the GUI?
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post #30 of 40 Old 05-15-2009, 05:11 AM
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XBMC is a port of the orginal Xbox version, that went to the mac, Plex was created and forked from the XBMC source. XBMC is still in development by those that do it best.

Plex has a team of people dedicated to making Plex a very stable application (for the mac)

as far as the differences I personally think Plex is more stable. I used XBMC for a little bit but didn't really get to like it until I downloaded Plex. Not sure if there are any differences in features.



I think its best to go with plex if you want continuous ongoing support for mac.

If you want a definite answer maybe you can head over to plexapp.com and ask the developers in the forums, what the differences are.

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