Originally Posted by Gideon Waxfarb
Basically, what I want to do is this ...
- Stream from online services such as Netflix, Amazon, etc
- Play movies off the hardware in whatever format I throw at it
- Mount movies from .ISO files placed on the hard drive
- Play emulators, basically everything up to and including arcade games from the mid-90's. Assume the Intel GPU is up to the task ......
Sorry some people didn't read your post thoroughly that building your option wasn't something you could do well.
More on point, yes the Mac Mini can do what you want. Is is the cheapest option, not even close. When thinking of the Mini, think of it as a laptop in the desktop pr
a laptop replacement for a desktop. It's a bunch of laptop parts, thus is why the price is higher. Thus, when comparing to a PC, to be fair, you need to compare to a laptop.
I have been using a late 2009 Mac Mini (2.66ghz D2C, 4GB RAM, 9400M Nvidia intergrated video) and it works fine. Here's a picture in my theather; it's on the top shelf, left most device
There is thread on another forum about my experiences you may find interesting: Mac Mini HTPC tinker toy
From what you're wanting to do, you can do most within OSX, and probably all of it. I have used Hulu and Netflix on the mini in OSX. I've also used other online video services such as MotoGP, Youtube, and CBS to name a few. Not sure about what emulaors are available in OSX. I'm sure OSX has come kind of codec pack so you can play stuff like MKV. Plex can handle most, but I'm not sure about ISOs, but VLC does. XBMC may be an option too.
Where you're going to want Windows 7 is if you plan on using it to DVR functions. You'll have to get an external TV turner (Silicondust or Haupagge are popluar). In OSX, EyeTV is the most popular, but it's not free, where Media Center is no extra cost in Windows 7. If you want to do direct disc playback of blu ray, you''re going to want Windows 7/8. A lot options for playback software. OSX has one program, and I've read it works, but can be less than desirable experience. I read it's possible in VLC, but it's really user unfriendly. OSX doesn't support HD audio, at least as of yet.
Although it's an additional cost, you can put together or buy a USB blu ray drive. I got external slim blu ray burner for about $70 after the discounts and rebates.
If you do decided to go the Mac Mini route, I would actually suggest going the refurbished route. They may be not be the newest models, but you can save a good $150, and they have one year warranty, all the manuals and disc. You just don't get box it came in when new.