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post #1 of 18 Old 11-08-2010, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi everyone,

I have been using mac minis for htpc set ups for quite some time now and it seems like it has been a constant headache. Now my brother has the newest mini and is having the well known os 10.6.4 problem. Diagnosing my mac mini problems has taken a ton of time and it seems i always find out that other people are having the same problems. Whether it be refresh rates, hw acceleration, plex, xbmc, just never got it to work smoothly with all my br mkvs for a significant amount of time.

I think a lot of people are just ok with a lot of dropped frames or 130% CPU usage and crashes but i am not. A few days ago i finally got fed up and decided to switch out my mini with my 2010 mbp icore 7 8gb ram, 256 gb ssd to finally determine if it was my mac or if the problem was with my Nas or mkv files themselves.

Sure enough i am getting an absolutely flawless xbmc dharma 4 experience on this laptop. Only dropping 4 frames on opening file, around 30% CPU and NO crashes after watching many intense blu rays. Has anyone else come to the conclusion that the mac mini just isn't there yet in terms of power? Despite what some people on the popular forums might suggest?

I am going to do one more clean os x install and try it on another tv before i just go ahead and sell the thing and keep my laptop connected to my Tv full time.
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post #2 of 18 Old 11-08-2010, 07:00 PM
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I didn't have nearly the issues you did when using my Mini (late 2009--2.66 C2D 4G RAM). I never tried to play Blu Ray discs, just some rips with a file size limit (FAT32 EHDD because of PS3). In Plex, it would say I would drop about for to eight frames for two hour movies, and those were usually right at the beginning of the file. Hardly anything to get in a twist over.

I have use it to play HD video online such as Hulu, MotoGP, NBA, NFL, Netflix, and various sites such as CBS too. Never had issues with dropped frames. Sure the CPU may run in the 50% range, but still ran fine. Vidoe playback issues were more bandwidth problems. I was using OSX 10.6. I'm running Windows XP (frustration with software options and lack os OSX knowledge), and still not having the issues; some with audio, but that's more a windows xp lack of support with Dolby Digital.

As for the Blu Ray issues directly, that could be several issues. One big one is that OSX does not support blu ray disc movie playback. I've read people have been able to do it using makeMKV, but it's not really user friendly. Then I would wonder how you have the blu ray drive connected? I've read people using drives in external enclosures, and that some enclosures or drives not working well, and others no problems. I've read others swapping out the internal DVD super drive with a slot loading blu ray drive (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=766351) and not having issues. Others have done this in the Windows 7 environment because of the blu ray support, and no issues too.

Lastly, welcome to being an early adopter. I know the HTPC has been around for some time, but it's still in its infancy, and there are going to be bumps in the round. It's possible your expectations may be higher than what reality could deliver.
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post #3 of 18 Old 11-08-2010, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
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lovekeiiy...

With all due respect as the thread title indicates, I am ONLY talking about Blu Ray playback. So if you haven't attempted this then what can i say?

I am using a DroboPro and a Graid 4 tb external harddrive. I have about 12 TBs worth of media. And as I said before I am now using my MBP 2010 and it is absolutely flawless playing MakeMKV mkv's. MakeMKV is extremly user friendly imo but I too was wondering if I had some problem with my media or external drives and sure enough as soon as I swapped computers the experience is flawless.

So that leads me to believe that my ongoing problems have all been related to the mac mini. It is a fine HTPC for many things... I have never had a problem streaming content, netflix, etc. But Blu Rays are the true test for most people and my Fall 09 MM just isn't up to the task. I cannot tell you how amazing the results are on my MBP tho... The first exceptional HTPC I have used.
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post #4 of 18 Old 11-08-2010, 08:30 PM
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I have two 2010 2.66 Mini's and they do a great job playing back MKV files on PLEX from bluray rips. I have not had any issues. I rip the blurays on an i7 iMac and store the files on an external harddrive connected to the iMac via firewire in another room. Using PLEX, the mini's playback the files without any issues. Everything is connected via high speed ethernet.
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post #5 of 18 Old 11-08-2010, 09:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wvick View Post

I have two 2010 2.66 Mini's and they do a great job playing back MKV files on PLEX from bluray rips. I have not had any issues. I rip the blurays on an i7 iMac and store the files on an external harddrive connected to the iMac via firewire in another room. Using PLEX, the mini's playback the files without any issues. Everything is connected via high speed ethernet.

Hi,

When you say you have no problems I assume you still drop at least some frames (impossible not to). How many frames do you drop during an average blu ray? What is your CPU% during playback?

Are you running 10.6.4? I have been hearing everywhere that HW Acceleration on 10.6.4 is messed up (only on 2010 mm).

Just trying to figure out if I am just pickier than people or if there is an actual problem with my setup. This is extremely doubtful since everything is working amazing on my MBP.
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post #6 of 18 Old 11-09-2010, 05:03 AM
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Fall 09 Mac Mini is underpowered for flawless Blu Ray playback...I have been using mac minis for htpc set ups for quite some time now

Six months ago you posted about your problems with blu-ray playback and Plex with a 2.53 mini:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...=#post18698883

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...9#post18704159

is that still the "Fall '09" mini you're talking about? It would help if you were less vague.

I remember your threads, and thought you had figured out that your problem was with 1) the h.264-accelerated version of Plex and 2) 24 Hz refresh-related issues connected to your particular 50" Samsung and that you solved it by switching to XBMC? What happened in the interim?

And did you ever try connecting that mini to a different HDTV? Did you ever try Plex 0.8.5?

Quote:


Now my brother has the newest mini and is having the well known os 10.6.4 problem...I have been hearing everywhere that HW Acceleration on 10.6.4 is messed up (only on 2010 mm).

Well-known 10.6.4 problem? Everywhere? How about including a couple of your favorite links?

But, if your brother (or you) had a problem w/ hardware acceleration, just don't use it. Most of us would say use Plex without it. His 2010 mini CPU (2.4 or 2.66) and your 2.53 should be more than enough to handle BR rips without it, relying on the CPU 100%, and you could also step back to Plex 0.8.5 as a test.

I have a 2.4 C2D iMac, much older than either you or your brother's machines, running 10.6.4 and 0.8.5 that can play my MakeMKV blu-ray rips back very close to flawlessly to an HDTV. Sure, I get the typical 4-8 dropped frames at the start and higher CPU usage than would be optimal, but no stutters or dropped frames later and certainly no crashes. Not sure what you're doing to prompt even a single crash...

Quote:


Has anyone else come to the conclusion that the mac mini just isn't there yet in terms of power? Despite what some people on the popular forums might suggest?

Instead of being vague yet again or perhaps issuing a thinly-veiled attack on someone else, why not post links to exactly those threads and users you're referring to?

If you're talking about "Cave Man," you're in for a lot of opposition from me, because I've read his threads closely and agree with his observations just about 100% of the time--my hands on experience with blu-ray rip playback, posted here at AVS for the past year, correlate pretty closely to his, reported here at AVS and at Macrumors.

So, whose observations are you challenging--links please--and what happened over the last 6 months with your XBMC conversion to change your mind?

Quote:


Just trying to figure out if I am just pickier than people or if there is an actual problem with my setup. This is extremely doubtful since everything is working amazing on my MBP.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that you're getting "amazing" performance with a Core i7 MBP.

Quote:


I also don't have 2010 mm which I think might be the jump necessary for BRs

The consensus seems to be that a 2.4 CPU is the jump necessary, your personal experience notwithstanding. A lesser CPU, it's still possible and even enjoyable most of the time, but there will be some noticeable issues.
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post #7 of 18 Old 11-09-2010, 05:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by restinbeast View Post

Hi,

When you say you have no problems I assume you still drop at least some frames (impossible not to). How many frames do you drop during an average blu ray? What is your CPU% during playback?

Are you running 10.6.4? I have been hearing everywhere that HW Acceleration on 10.6.4 is messed up (only on 2010 mm).

Just trying to figure out if I am just pickier than people or if there is an actual problem with my setup. This is extremely doubtful since everything is working amazing on my MBP.

I have not noticed any dropped frames and I am running 10.6.4. I'm not saying there are no dropped frames but if they are present, I have not noticed. I have not checked the CPU% during playback. Both mini's are 2.66 with 8GB ram. One is a server version and the other is regular with upgraded HD to SSD. I hope this helps. Best Regards
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post #8 of 18 Old 11-09-2010, 07:21 AM
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no offense taken. I only brought up the online content because it can be more demanding for playback. Check out the Dell Zino HD thread and you'll read a lot people not being able to play back HD online content without video or audio skipping.

The one time I had problems with BR rip playbacks in OSX was when I was doing duel monitors.

I just thought there may be been a bottle neck in your LAN which could be causing the problem with the mini on playback. I hate to ask, have you tried playing a rip that was stored on the mini's hdd?
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post #9 of 18 Old 11-09-2010, 01:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wvick; View Post

I have not noticed any dropped frames and I am running 10.6.4. I'm not saying there are no dropped frames but if they are present, I have not noticed. I have not checked the CPU% during playback. Both mini's are 2.66 with 8GB ram. One is a server version and the other is regular with upgraded HD to SSD. I hope this helps. Best Regards

Hey wvick,

There should be a keyboard command in plex for seeing your playback info including dropped frames, fps, CPU%, etc... On xbmc you see this by pressing "o" during playback. It is extremely useful to see this info if you do run into a problem.

Chefklc,

Not sure why every time I post you seem personally offended. I will respond to all of your questions when i get back to my laptop, too much work for iPad. But i will say although i had much more success with xbmc i still didn't get flawless playback on a 100% of my mkvs as I am now experiencing. I have been fooling with this set up for year now and was voicing AN OPINION that perhaps my fall 09 mm isn't quite powerful enough. Also i thought that the year and season was standard nomenclature for referring to mac minis i will provide additional info shortly.
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post #10 of 18 Old 11-09-2010, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lovekeiiy; View Post

no offense taken. I only brought up the online content because it can be more demanding for playback. Check out the Dell Zino HD thread and you'll read a lot people not being able to play back HD online content without video or audio skipping.

The one time I had problems with BR rip playbacks in OSX was when I was doing duel monitors.

I just thought there may be been a bottle neck in your LAN which could be causing the problem with the mini on playback. I hate to ask, have you tried playing a rip that was stored on the mini's hdd?

Yeah i have and honestly it almost seemed worse so it is definitely possible that i have a flawed mini. The bottle neck would be a great idea and i think i mistakenly referred to a nas in my OP but at the moment i have my drobopro physically attached via firewire to the Mac mini so this wouldn't be an issue.
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post #11 of 18 Old 11-09-2010, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
Six months ago you posted about your problems with blu-ray playback and Plex with a 2.53 mini:

is that still the "Fall '09" mini you're talking about? It would help if you were less vague.

I remember your threads, and thought you had figured out that your problem was with 1) the h.264-accelerated version of Plex and 2) 24 Hz refresh-related issues connected to your particular 50" Samsung and that you solved it by switching to XBMC? What happened in the interim?

And did you ever try connecting that mini to a different HDTV? Did you ever try Plex 0.8.5?
I am going to clearly state my equipment and my problems over the past year.

Setup #1(the problematic setup):

Mac Mini (Fall 2009) - 2.53 Ghz Core 2 Duo 4 GB RAM Graphics: Nvidia 9400 OS X 10.6.4
DroboPro External connected via FireWire

Problem: Playing Blu Ray derived MKV files first in Plex 0.8.5 then with HW Acceleration Binary installed, then in XBMC (Camelot and Dharma). In 0.8.5 I was getting less than perfectly smooth playback and my CPU% was always above 100% (up to 140% if I recall correctly).

After installing the HW acceleration binary I was unable to sync the audio properly when my display was set at 24hz and @ 60hz there was constant juttering, this binary did bring my cpu% down to a reasonable level but with unwatchable results.

Also during this time I was concerned that I was not getting a fast enough transfer rate from my externals but this ended up having nothing to do with it.

At this point I decided to give XBMC a try and immediately got less dropped frames and much smoother playback. I thought my problems were solved (as evidenced by on of my comments in the link you posted). However after some time I realized that on the higher bitrate BR's my Mac Mini could not handle the CPU load and juttering remained on those sweeping panoramic shots. Again I would regularly be well over 100% CPU and still dropping my fair amount of frames. I also had audio sync issues and had to delay the audio to sync with the video manually. The results to this point were always more juttery and even hazy compared to playback on my actual blu ray player.

Due to frustration I stopped using my HTPC for a while for anything other than Netflix streaming but recently I got re-motivated to solve these problems plus I heard about the Dharma Betas for XBMC and thought I would give them a shot. My first impressions of XBMC Dharma were great and I was getting relatively smooth playback but still dropping 130 or so frames over the course of a film and it continued to bug me. Then out of no where I started to have constant crashes when watching certain films. Particularly "Aliens" w/ the director commentary enabled. It would play smoothly and then crash out of no where. My dropped frames seemed to be in the 130 range and my CPU% was an almost constant 130+ (no processes running in background or on startup)... My frustration at this point was boiling as I had invested so much time in learning Plex, then XBMC, and HTPC set ups in general.

I decided to finally see if it was an error I was making or if my Hardware wasn't up to pace with the content I was trying to play so I created setup #2.

Setup #2:
MBP '17 (2010) - 2.66 Ghz Core I7 8 GB RAM Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 330M OS X 10.6.4
Connected to Drobopro via FireWire
Running XBMC Dharma 4 for playing Blu Ray MKV rips

My average dropped frames now are around '4' per film (only upon opening file) and my average CPU% is 30%. I am able to run MakeMKV as well as other processes in the background and get flawless playback for a week straight now - on every single file I've created including those with HD Lossless audio.

So I do not know what other conclusions to come to other than the Mac Mini I have is underpowered for playing TRUE blu ray rips flawlessly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
Well-known 10.6.4 problem? Everywhere? How about including a couple of your favorite links?
http://discussions.info.apple.com/th...art=0&tstart=0

this is the problem we are having with his 2010 MM

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
But, if your brother (or you) had a problem w/ hardware acceleration, just don't use it. Most of us would say use Plex without it. His 2010 mini CPU (2.4 or 2.66) and your 2.53 should be more than enough to handle BR rips without it, relying on the CPU 100%, and you could also step back to Plex 0.8.5 as a test.
Not sure why you are so adamant that it will be just fine w/o hardware acceleration unless you think your MM running hot as hell and struggling to keep up with the content while dropping frames is ideal. To me it is not and people shouldn't be told that they are going to have some flawless experience when there are plenty of real problems and headaches.

You do realize that not even every two intel chips are of the same quality right? So please don't assume that everyone else is an idiot because they are having problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
I have a 2.4 C2D iMac, much older than either you or your brother's machines, running 10.6.4 and 0.8.5 that can play my MakeMKV blu-ray rips back very close to flawlessly to an HDTV. Sure, I get the typical 4-8 dropped frames at the start and higher CPU usage than would be optimal, but no stutters or dropped frames later and certainly no crashes. Not sure what you're doing to prompt even a single crash...
Don't I recall CaveMan (i only bring this person up b/c you did and I am reading the threads you link) saying that he transcodes MKVs in order to play more smoothly? I do not want this, I want true playback and it is my personal opinion that my Mac mini can't handle it. I am also now running all my films w/ the HD audio track enabled, something else I believe you guys admit is not possible on the Mini.


Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
Instead of being vague yet again or perhaps issuing a thinly-veiled attack on someone else, why not post links to exactly those threads and users you're referring to?
You truly believe anything I said could be construed as an attack? I simply stated that there are people out there that would have you believe that Blu Ray playback on the Mac Mini is much closer to perfection than it is. I do not see why I would have to put a name out there as I am not looking to drag anyone in particular under the bus, just expressing a differing opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
If you're talking about "Cave Man," you're in for a lot of opposition from me, because I've read his threads closely and agree with his observations just about 100% of the time--my hands on experience with blu-ray rip playback, posted here at AVS for the past year, correlate pretty closely to his, reported here at AVS and at Macrumors.
Mine don't?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post
It shouldn't come as a surprise that you're getting "amazing" performance with a Core i7 MBP.
Thank you for proving my point for me. It is better equipment and I am getting noticeably better results, ergo the mac mini does not play blu ray rips flawlessly, otherwise there would be no room for improvement!
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post #12 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 04:17 AM
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Wow, I'm surprised to hear the play back was worse on internal HDD. Given what you have presented, sounds like the mini is having problems with either the bit rates of the video or audio, or file size, or some combination of the above. I have issues on an old windows PC and it is clearly the hardware; some of it is the drivers and the crap I get from visiting more questionable sites.

I haven't had the issues, but I'm not playing files with real high bit rates; you would probably find 4gig rips of BR movies unacceptable. I do have some that are higher, but they're stacked into 4gig files because my EHDD is formatted into FAT32. For tests purposes, you may want to try splitting a rip into smaller files and stack. If it is a bit rate issue, you would still have the same problem on the smaller file size.

On a side note, MM is not able to do HD audio. From what I read, I take it as a hardware limitation. Obviously, this is the case for all pre-2010 MM. HD just can't be done over toslink because not enough bandwidth in that tech; currently HD audio can only be done over HDMI. But you can play the core (5.1) audio of the HD audio. I'm not sure how the MM or the programs handles getting the core, but it possible that could be part of the problem. May be interesting to see the performance with a 5.1 audio track with the bit rate you like on video.

And yes, I realize this just proves, or potentially, the MM lacks the power for what you want.

I do find it concerning that your Cpu was at 100%. I have lots of issues on any PC that runs that high. And over that is probably asking for trouble and hardware failure. That has got to generate a lot of heat, and with no fan, that's a lot of hot air sitting in the machine.
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post #13 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 04:28 AM
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You may want to ask how these fellas setups are or playback performance who were playing movies directly off the blu ray disc. I assume that has got to be the demanding thing to do on MM. I found this thread over a macrumors: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=766351

With all that said, you may not want to go through trouble since you're happy with with MBP.
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post #14 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 05:26 AM
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Quote:


So I do not know what other conclusions to come to other than the Mac Mini I have is underpowered for playing TRUE blu ray rips flawlessly.

Agreed, no Mac mini can handle a blu-ray rip with True-HD or DTS-HD as the only audio track, if that's what you mean by "TRUE;" still I find it interesting that most of us who allow MakeMKV to extract the DD/DTS audio core report much better results than what you get--with comparable or even older hardware.

Quote:


Thank you for proving my point for me.

You're welcome, I'm happy to support your contention that a new $2,000+ machine will do a better job for you with your other equipment than one worth about $500 bucks.

Quote:


Not sure why you are so adamant that it will be just fine w/o hardware acceleration unless you think your MM running hot as hell and struggling to keep up with the content while dropping frames is ideal.

Change the goalposts much? No one proposed "ideal," just that what many of us were experiencing with similar $500-600 value hardware was a lot better than what you were experiencing, and yes trying to play back MakeMKV rips with Plex on those 2.0-2.4 C2Ds unassisted would push 130-140% and even higher but generally get the job done if you did not ALSO try to transcode the HD audio on the fly. There's no debate that playing a blu-ray rip back unassisted pushes these Macs to their limits, as always it's for a user to decide if x performance for y dollar value meets their needs. It sure would be a lot easier to confirm comparisons if we were all connecting to the same model HDTV, wouldn't it?

I do really appreciate the extent of your documentation, though, so thanks for taking the time.

I would be interested if you remember the results of any testing you did when 1) connected to a different HDTV than that Samsung 50" and 2) when not using the Drobo at all--playing a MakeMKV rip with only back from your internal drive keeping everything else the same.

It may be we'll never narrow down why you have more trouble with comparable hardware or if there's something else going on with your system that might be contributing to your experience, but believe me, I don't deny your experience, just note that it's definitely not the norm.
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post #15 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 08:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

Agreed, no Mac mini can handle a blu-ray rip with True-HD or DTS-HD as the only audio track, if that's what you mean by "TRUE;"

yes trying to play back MakeMKV rips with Plex on those 2.0-2.4 C2Ds unassisted would push 130-140% and even higher but generally get the job done if you did not ALSO try to transcode the HD audio on the fly.

I think the differences must be in the audio demand he seems to want. I'm running as we speak MKV on a 2.0 C2D (9400 graphics); Using .8x Plex it would just handle it with rare frame drop (usually on startup), but now under .9x Plex with the media server and graphics support, it's a smooth as butter-

But the difference is I'm only running core DD not HD-audio (in either PCM or other form) because it isn't outputtable (such a word?) without HDMI (as lovekeiiy mentioned). I'm at a loss to explain how a MM could even attempt to play such audio (other than hacked new one with hdmi)...

But from my chair here, if you're OK with
1) core surround audio (all most processors can handle anyway),
2) using .9x Plex,
then anything above 2.0 C2D/9400 (bottom limit) will work fine-
making any new MM performance pretty ideal, again minus the HD-audio

ken
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post #16 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 09:17 AM
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Ken, previously restin wrote:

Quote:


I am also now running all my films w/ the HD audio track enabled, something else I believe you guys admit is not possible on the Mini.

so, I'm pretty sure restin understands he can't use a mini to transcode the HD audio on the fly, if not then there would have been no sense trying to help him--with a mini your only choice is playing back the DD 5.1/DTS core that MakeMKV included in the rip. A really powerful Mac can do that on the fly, though, as restin notes.

There's still a small chance it's a refresh rate issue related to his particular Samsung 50" HDTV, or some type of processing that his Samsung applies when it senses certain material coming from the mini, that's why I was wondering if he had access to a different HDTV--that way he could keep everything else the same and see if it made any difference. I'm just glad that like you I don't have to troubleshoot those issues, but there have been plenty of other folks who dropped Plex because it couldn't auto-switch refresh rates based on the different material you selected.

And restin, one other thing--in each case with your mini and MBP--how are you connecting to your Samsung and routing the DD 5.1/DTS audio to your AVR? I can't remember if you mentioned that...
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post #17 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

I'm pretty sure restin understands he can't use a mini to transcode the HD audio on the fly, if not then there would have been no sense trying to help him--

There's still a small chance it's a refresh rate issue related to his particular Samsung 50" HDTV, or some type of processing that his Samsung applies when it senses certain material coming from the mini, that's why I was wondering if he had access to a different HDTV--that way he could keep everything else the same and see if it made any difference. I'm just glad that like you I don't have to troubleshoot those issues, but there have been plenty of other folks who dropped Plex because it couldn't auto-switch refresh rates based on the different material you selected.

- yes, good point.
You're right, video-refresh is a possibility from this corner too; as I use an external scaler buffering between the MM and the display (LG plasma in my case), pretty much eliminating display issues.

ken
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post #18 of 18 Old 11-10-2010, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey guys!

I appreciate all the responses and chef sorry if i was a bit snippy earlier, i did feel as though I was being accused of some sort of trolling, which is definitely NOT my intent. I am going to reconnect my mm and do some more comparisons, take screenshots and post back later. Once again i am on my iPad so i will respond to everyone when i get back to my computers.

Even though i am probably going to keep my mbp connected to my ht ($4500 htpc ftw) i will do my best to diagnose my problems since i know others have had similar problems and i would love to still use this mm on a different tv.
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