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Dell Zino vs Mac Mni as HTPC

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I plan on using a HD HomeRun, and an external blurry burner, as well as a NAS. The unit will be hidden out of sight in a small closet in our hallway.

Which unit runs cooler? ( the unit will remain on 24/7 )

Which one would be easier to control?

Pros / cons with one vs the other?
post #2 of 10
I can not comment on the Dell Zino HD because I have never used it. I do have a (late) 2009 Mac Mini as an HTPC with the HDHomerun setup.

The mini does have build in blue tooth, so you should be able to use a BT device to control it, and no have to worry about line of site. I use the Logitech DiNovo Mini. I have also use the android remote app for XBMC too. As long as your signal is good, I don't see an issue. Otherwise, you'll need to get some kind IR repeater blaster.

The HDHomerun is an experience. I have it, currently use it, and like it. It is very obvious Silicondust prefers Windows. If you have Windows 7, it's a really nice experience. MC7 works great, and easy to setup. Has PVR functions that are intuitive, and a EPG at no extra cost. If not, you can download for Silicondust some software called QuickTV that lets you watch live TV. It has no PVR functions. But you can set it up to watch separate incidents--limited by how many tuners you have available. It also can play some analog channels (or digital broadcast set to the analog channel). They're are other Windows programs you can use such as SageTV, GBPVR, MythTV. If you have WindowsXP, HDHomerun is not a great experience if you want PVR or EPG. There are other limits with XP in the whole HTPC.

In OSX, the biggest issue is the amount of software available that can use it. I used OSX for a short bit on my HTPC. The defacto software is EyeTV. From what I read it suppose to be really good. Suppose to have PiP. I never tried it because there is no trial program or period, and it's $80. I wasn't willing to pay that much for something I only use once a week to see TV and about once a month for PVR. I tried out SageTV; has a 30 day trial period. It worked pretty well. I had some quirks with it, but I think it was more my setup than the software. The experience of using it, just did not appeal to me. It's input controls did not work well with DiNovo Mini. I could not get MythTV to install correctly; I wasn't familiar enough OSX. There is the The Tube as well, but it couldn't see the HDHR. Also, Silicondust does not include any kind of TV viewing software like QuickTV. Plex does have a plugin/addon that can let you watch TV. It's really early in development, but it works. There is no channel surfing or EPG. It sets up like TV or Movie sections where each channel is set as content. Maybe in the future the addon will function more like a TV. On a side note, QuickTV is the same way, but it has the TV stations to the side, so you can click to change channels quickly versus having to to the menu.

I do not think the mini runs hot. It has no fans, so its super quite. The only time it makes any noise is accessing some of the hard drive or DVD rom. I felt it a few times after using a while, and it just felt warm. I have mine in my entertainment cabinet.

In fact, I have a thread on another forum (a game site with some home theater enthusiasts) detailing my experience on setting up and use the Mac Mini as an HTPC Mac Mini Tinker Toy), you may want to check it out. If you read it, realize I've been a Windows user since the Dos 4 with Windows 3.1. I've had only use apple machines here and there.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you, I will definitely read that thread. Are there any dell zino users out there that care to comment?
post #4 of 10
I have a 2010 Mac Mini with HDMI out. In general, it's very pleasant and stable. I've bootcamped 7MC onto my mini.

I don't have a 7.1 audio setup, so I'm just going with plain ole 5.1 DD and DTS sound, so no big deal. I get around the no Blu-Ray solution by ripping the Blu-Ray into iso on my other PC with a BDROM drive and storing it on a shared drive. I find this isn't super optimal as the network chip in the mini may be lacking. With my main HTPC plays back the iso smoothly, but on the mini it stutters every once in a while (say 15 minutes).

Another thing that bugs me is the standby mode. No matter what I do, I can't consistently wake it from standby, using the regular MCE remote/usb receiver combo. My main HTPC doesn't have a problem with this. About half the time, I have to press the power button on the back to make it come back from standby. It's actually very annoying, especially once you're already under the comforter on a cold night.

That said, it's the only HTPC my wife would allow into the bedroom. I've never tried the Zino, but I've built other small form factor HTPCs, including Mini-ITX and passively cooled machines before, but they were never as quiet as the mini. It's primarily either the hard drive or the buzzing of the power supply transformer that is the culprit for the other HTPCs. Apple has managed to minimize and even eliminate these sounds. Also, I personally detest the puck-like look of it, but my wife loves it. And in the bedroom, I let my wife make some of the decisions so that I can make other, more important decisions (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
post #5 of 10
Zino PROS:
More processor options (X4)
More RAM (6GB)
Built in Blu ray
Cost (depends on options and sale pricing)
Easier upgrade possibilities
Windows installed

Zino CONS:
Dell Build quality+/-
No built in Bluetooth
HD Audio formats?
No MAC OS

MAC Mini
PROS:
Apple build quality
Looks cooler and probably runs cooler
Can run OSX if you so desire
Wireless built in


CONS:
Price
Less RAM/CPU options
Difficult to upgrade without welding skills
Requieres external blu ray drive
HD Audio formats?
Need to purchase Windows.(If you choose)


The Zino comes in many different configurations. If you go with the top of the line blu ray setup, it should have enough power to do whatever you want. The one perhaps large advantage of the zino is built in blu ray. Even if you are tucking it in a closet, the form factor would be nicer. I personally don't know of heat issues but the processor is not known to be a heat hog. The bluetooth is nice, but can be added with a USB dongle. The prices on the Zino seem to vary tremendously. There was a black Friday special for a blu ray Zino for $299. However, if you look at the prices now, the top of the line Zino is $750. Versus the Mac Mini you get a quad core processor, more RAM, and more HD space.

Some people really prefer the Mac for its form factor and ease of use. Some of the MAC advantage goes out the window running windows.(get it) The bigger disadvantage in both I see is the inability(as far as I know) to decode HD audio. The base mac mini is not ridiculously overpriced. With Apple you do tend to be charged an arm and a leg as you add options such as more memory.(They import their memory from 2002)

If you are up for it, visit the build your own thread. If you are so capable, you can build a cool quiet blu ray/media server with HD Audio capabilities for an equivalent price.
post #6 of 10
I personally don't think Less RAM/CPU is that much of a CON for the mac mini. Even the lowest mac mini handles HTPC duties easily.

Good call on the cost of Windows though. Add another $100 the mac coffers...ouch (for me).
post #7 of 10
I have the newer Dell Zino HD with built-in bluray player. ATI 5450 with HDMI out to my Onkyo receiver. Plays all audio and video formats I've tried (MKV, bluray, hires surround audio). No playback or stutter issues in the few months I've had. Leave it on all the time, no issues. So far I'm very pleased with it's performance.
post #8 of 10
I had a similar dilemma about 6 weeks ago, and ended up going with the top-of-the-line Zino for a couple reasons:
  1. I wanted to run Windows 7 for my media interface. Yes, I could have Bootcamped the Mini, but that was leaning much too close to the hack/project HTPC that I was trying to get away from as I simplify my computer setup.
  2. Built-in Blu-ray on the Zino. I just didn't want to mess with adding one more thing (an external Blu-ray drive) to my media components (see above re: desire to simplify.)
  3. Front USB ports on the Zino mean a slightly better reception for my keyboard mouse, plus easy access to plug in portable drives
  4. Larger internal hard drive. While most of my video content is on a separate media server or external drive, the internal storage is handy for additional recording space.

I'm really happy with the Zino, it stacks neatly on top of my Gen1 AppleTV and quietly does it's thing without any issues, playing pretty much anything I can throw at it, including Blu-ray from my network media server. And it's not out of the question for me to record 3 HDTV shows from an HDHomeRun while watching a 4th show that was previously recorded, without any issues.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
I am leaning heavy towards a Mac Mini at the moment....as I already have Windows 7 ultimate....currently we use a tidbits net book and an iPad for browsing the web.....this will continue, I need something that runs cool as it will be on 24/7 in a closed space.....something that will "take the place of my cable box"....something that I can burn blurays and DVD from (with the help of an external burner)....and something for the occasional web surfing on......maybe something to help back up the netbook on......

What do you guys use yours for besides what I have listed?
post #10 of 10
the lower specs aren't really an issue. The stuff that works in OSX works really well.

I use windows 7. Yea, the cost can be an issue. Since I had a bunch of machines still on XP, I just purchased the Home Family Pack (three licenses) which drop the cost to forty dollars a machine.

I've read that some people have no issues with blu ray playback from a blu ray drive. In the mac HTPC thread, it looks some drives and external closures do not play nice with the mini. I've read on the macrumors forum, people have swapped out the internal DVD drive with a blu ray don't have issues with playback either. Of course, no HD audio because of hardware limitations.

I didn't have the wake up issue in Windows 7. My issue was it was not reconnected to my network when it woke. Plus, i did not wake for the few PVR events I wanted. Since the mini does not use much power, I just leave it on 24/7. I just have it shut the display off.

I know when I had this delima, way back in March 2010, and from the thread in this subforum, there were issues with 720p online video and 1080p video playback, which looked either to be hardware configuration or driver related, and I just wanted something I knew would work, and was SFF.

I don't know if the HTPC is necessarily a cable replacement. It really depends how you use your cable box. Media Center can do the PVR and Guide thing well with HDHomerun. If you're going to keep cable, but just don't want the box, you'll have to wait for the HDHomerun with cablecard to be released; I believe they're still taking preorders for $250 a box that has three tuners on it. If you're looking to replace the content it provides I suggest to check out a few threads here: HTPC=Cable Killer?, What is the HTPC Killer App?, and HTPC Golden Age? Reducing Component Count. It should give you a good idea what the HTPC can get towards content and how easily, and whether that will fit your needs. For me, it literally has replaced it:

I have the mini and two external hard drives sitting where I use to have my cable box.
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