What does the Mac mini NEED? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 01-24-2005, 06:13 PM - Thread Starter
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post #2 of 9 Old 01-24-2005, 07:44 PM
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Well, if you have a firewire TV, then the Mac Mini seems to be able to work as a HTPC...

All I think are needed are

1) An optical output, however I *think* there may be syncronization issues, if you were to drive the video out of the Mac via firewire and audio out of the optical port.

2) A bigger HD... I see Toshiba has a 100gig 2.5 HD, so I don't think there is much more they can offer... HOWEVER a HD Mac Mini that is slightly bigger, but accomodates 3.5HDs (3-400gig range) would be preferable.

3) Another Firewire port (800 maybe?)

NOW... if you want to drive the video off of the videocard and use DVI to output to the TV, and do 720p or 1080i/p then I think it needs both optical out and a better videocard... maybe one of ATIs new IGP chips are powerful enough, or a dedicated mpeg2 decoder on board.

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post #3 of 9 Old 01-24-2005, 08:22 PM
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* optical audio out

* bigger HD (3.5") -- of course making the mini-mac a little bigger

* better GPU -- Radeon X300SE with 128MB would be decent

* 512MB standard (or give us some cheap BTO RAM options from Apple)

* wouldn't mind a 1.6 Ghz G4 either.

:)
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post #4 of 9 Old 01-24-2005, 08:47 PM
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Originally posted by CheshireMac
1) An optical output, however I *think* there may be syncronization issues, if you were to drive the video out of the Mac via firewire and audio out of the optical port.

If you're transferring the compressed video via firewire, you're most likely also transferring the audio via firewire in the same stream. But, for those of us who don't have firewire capable STBs or TVs, an external USB2 audio adapter can provide a digital optical or coaxial output.


2) A bigger HD... I see Toshiba has a 100gig 2.5 HD, so I don't think there is much more they can offer... HOWEVER a HD Mac Mini that is slightly bigger, but accomodates 3.5HDs (3-400gig range) would be preferable.


I agree, the bigger the better when it comes to HDDs. But, they should/will definitely stay with 2.5" drives. The 3.5" drives take 3-5x the power of 2.5" drives, so they generate a lot more heat - which is a problem in that small space unless you want a fan howling away.

Either buy a long firewire cable & an external 3.5" enclosure, or stick a few big drives in a cheap Linux box in the basement and access it over the network.


NOW... if you want to drive the video off of the videocard and use DVI to output to the TV, and do 720p or 1080i/p then I think it needs both optical out and a better videocard... maybe one of ATIs new IGP chips are powerful enough, or a dedicated mpeg2 decoder on board.


For HTPC usage, I think newer video chips are wasted. They mainly have all the 3D processing power, not much relevant to HTPCs. Apple just needs to open the API for MPEG2 acceleration already on the ATI chips. Then, 1080i and 720p decoding would not hit the CPU very hard.. and the Mini would be great with the ElGato EyeTV 500.
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post #5 of 9 Old 01-24-2005, 09:27 PM
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I'm into small and quiet computing.. I've using the mini-itx x86 boards for a couple years, and I think the Mac Mini is leaps and bounds better than any of the mini-itx's. So, in general I think Apple did an amazingly great job on the Mini. The Mac Mini is smaller than almost anything I've seen in the Mini-ITX world, the PowerPC offers a much better performance to power/heat ratio than the fast x86's, and from a style perspective it's no contest.

The one thing I would have liked to see is the onboard digital audio. It would make for a much cleaner solution than needing to hang a USB audio device off of it.

Most of the other things fall into the "not worth the space/power/heat trade off". Bigger hard drives, more RAM slots, etc. all would add space. I would much rather have the tiny size, even if it means paying quite a bit more for the 1GB DIMM rather than two cheaper 512MB DIMMs.


It seems like the Mini borrowed a lot in design from the apple laptops. Maybe that's why it only has analog audio.. there's not much call for digital audio in the laptop realm.
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post #6 of 9 Old 01-24-2005, 11:59 PM
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To comment off what randosel said:

Quote:
I'm not going to buy a Mac Mini. I would love to get one, but in it's current config, it needs a little more. I've been a BSD, Atari, Amiga, Classic Mac, NeXT and Mac OSX user. Oh, wait I forgot Windows XP! So I don't think it's an issue about platforms. I'm mearly waiting to see what else comes up or what other future revisions of the Mac mini will offer. Other than basic clock/ram/disc increases. What do you expect and what is logical for Apple to do to upgrade the mini so that it will be even more suitable for a HTMac?
Maybe stating the obvious but, as with any technology, you balance the strength of your need/desire for an object with the length of time you will be required to wait until the specs meet your approval. Everyday you wait its a day you don't spend the cash, but its a day you don't get to use the gadget you are eyeballing. For each person the desire/speed bump wait never ends (and thus they never purcahse the item) for some, they were lined up at a local Apple Retail store waiting to buy the Mac mini.

Quote:
The one thing I would like is upgrade is for audio with a combo analog/digital out. Audio input, Gigabit Ethernet, maybe... Things like IR are not suitable for typical iPod users.
Keep in mind that the main focus of the Mac mini is to keep the cost low (a close second being size). Those options you mention would be great but that would diminish the main purpose of the Mac mini - low cost bridge for folks to transition to the Mac OS platform (mission as defined by Apple Computer, Inc). Eventually, I am sure these featuers will trickle down to the Mac mini just like option such as the DVD-R "SuperDrive" did in recent years, but as I stated above - its X number of days you don't get to use a mini (where X is a variable date based of parts pricing, Apple upgrade cycle, etc, etc...)

There might come a day where you might see a beefed up Mac mini but keep in mind Apple spends lots of time and brain power thinking about its product matrix, pricing and the target market for its machines.

Quote:
I don't think HTMac software is mature enough. Other than that I will need to see what the final Tiger offers.
I agree that the HTMac/HTPC software landscape for the Mac in nowhere near where it needs to be but I think the hole really lies with the lack of quality frontends to put a 10' face on your Mac. The Mac OS platform is a media editing rich platform but without a 10' experience done well (and lots to choose from) the HTMac/HTPC landscape for the Mac OS will remain flat and somewhat aimless. Its hard to watch right now because of my limited experience in Mac OS development, the platform offers lots of very cool API (Quartz Compositor, OpenGL, CoreImage) that could really make the Window Media Centre interface look like ass - but it takes some smart developers some directed time and effort to make it happen.

With regards to Tiger, it will offer the usual 'buckets of features' but the core OS support (and media support, APIs, media support) is easily there to support some amazing finishing touches for a HTMac.

Quote:
It will also be kinda cool if a company out there adds a small single stackable box of similar/smaller size and design to add full size HD, IR, media reader, USB/FW hub, etc.. similar to the old side cars or compact Macs of the 1980's.
Agreed, some complementary acessories (storage, audio, remote control) items would be nice and I think there are companies that will step up to the plate (like Griffin Technologies) but there are a couple caveats with the Mac mini is that attempting to stack items:

1. Stacking items on top of the Mac mini (especially heavier items) may flex the top case and cause difficulties in ejecting and operating the optical drive. In other words don't stack your dictionary collection on your Mac mini. Also, stacking items on top will greatly reduce AirPort range and Bluetooth range (if you have other options installed and want to use them).

2. Attempting to stack items below the Mac mini could cause airflow problems (most noteably, acessories shaped to contour to the bottom of the Mac mini). On the bottom of the unit (around the edges) are vents where air is drawn in. Blocking these is just like covering the intake holes on any other PC, internal temp can rise, heat variable fans operate at a higher rate and overall its not good for the machine. Nice flat, smooth, hard surface works everytime to avoid problems. Shag carpets need not apply.

Good post, good thread.
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post #7 of 9 Old 01-25-2005, 01:03 AM
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Hey there randosel,

Re-reading my post, I think I came across a tad strong regarding the wait vs. uppgrade topic. Maybe I have read too many threads on the web recently where folks state up front "I won't be buying a mini because....". As a self-described early adopter I would not image you would fall into this group.

You may already know this but while Apple (as, I am sure most other tech compaines) do bump their configs up every once in a while over a products life, they also perform minor tweaks during the product production run. Slight manufacuring adjustments to products based on feedback from units built during initial ramp and shipped to initial customers. While these don't constitute new features, speed increases, the fit and finish of a product does tend to get better over time as they learn more about the units the longer they are 'in the field' (aka out in customer hands).

I am usually pretty early to purcahse new product but I tend to let a few thousand (or more) be produced to ensure I have at least some level of manu. refiniment - it just helps avoid issues.

Re: your 1993 comment. I only had 24Mb of RAM, split a CD-R with my budddy (they were was expensive!) but only 3/4 of a GB in storage... ;-(

Looking forward to Tiger and the (seemingly) budding HTMac world and hopefully lots of cool HTMac software (namely) frontends yet to be created!
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post #8 of 9 Old 01-25-2005, 01:33 AM
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This is an interesting discussion and one well worth having. In reaction to the OP: I am currently running an HTPC on Windows XP running on an old Compaq. My plan was to replace it with a new Shuttle box running Linux. My daily work computer is a Mac G5.

The Compaq has lots of PCI (and one AGP) slots, which I filled up with sound card, ATI AIW card and network card. The machine has two large fans and is very loud. The Shuttle is much quieter, but video, audio (digital in/out), networking are all built in on the motherboard. It has two slots and is much larger than a Mac Mini. It runs fairly quietly, but the digital audio out has never worked and Shuttle tech support has never responded to any of my emails requesting help.

In my case, having all the required parts of the HTPC inside the case has meant noise (fan) and, thanks to Windows, has also meant long hours trying to tracking down driver conflicts and other sources of playback problems. The Shuttle problem is awkward because it is a barebones machine that I hired someone to build for me. This means I will need to disassemble the machine, send it to Shuttle, then re-assemble it when they send it back. This is quite a bit of work.

The Mac Mini seems like a decent compromise between the two htpcs I have. Unlike the Compaq, it will be quiet because very little is actually in the case. Unlike the Shuttle, assuming problems, I would not have to disassemble the case to send it in for repair.

The other point I'd like to make is that the Mac Mini should, at least now, be thought of as a media player/center. I don't intend to rip DVDs on it, play games or process home-made movies. I'd like to have a server machine with a big harddrive or an NAD harddrive connected to the Mac Mini via Wifi.

As far as the cool UI, there is already a project working on this and they are looking for both programmers and ideas. They are here: http://mrzippy.org.uk/macmediacenter/
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post #9 of 9 Old 01-26-2005, 08:27 PM
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I would love to see it w/ a G5 processor. If that means increasing size a little, I would be OK with that. Oh yeah, digital out also!
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