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Which Mac mini for those needs?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
[I have read the other "Which Mac mini?" threads.]

I want a Mac mini as my HTPC (I like Macs; I used to work for Apple on Rhapsody; no PCs for me if I can avoid it). The main things it will do are:

- Play ripped HD movies through Plex/XBMC/Squire/etc. 3D will probably be done through SBS.

- Play Hulu full-screen with decent quality (I got Hulu Plus through my BD player... turns out that all the shows I watch are Web Only)

- Serve music from iTunes (or whichever source is needed) to an AVR and AirPlay receivers (Airport Expresses). Right now my music is on my laptop but I look forward to centralizing it, and I want to be able to send different songs to different receivers (through guest accounts or a non-iTunes player)

- Be an AirPlay recipient for my son's iPad for video sharing.

I may also want to be able to use something like Air Video Server to allow said son to watch streamed movies on his iPad, but that's not a must have.

Which Mac mini should I look at? Is an older generation okay (there are mini display port + audio to HDMI adapters for sound)? If I need to look at the current generation, would I be fine with the basic model (integrated graphics) and extra memory?

FWIW I do not ever plan to get cable and try to display it so the 23.xxx bug should not affect me I think, unless it's also a bug paying 1080/24p on the basic Mac mini? The most I would ever do would be an Eye TV but I am in a crappy spot for OTA reception and don't watch TV.
post #2 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Crash View Post

Which Mac mini should I look at? Is an older generation okay (there are mini display port + audio to HDMI adapters for sound)? If I need to look at the current generation, would I be fine with the basic model (integrated graphics) and extra memory?

I bought the 2011 "basic" Mac mini and upgraded to 8gb memory ($40). It serves all my media/entertainment needs just fine (which seem similar to yours - definitely install Plex and it's iPad clients like e.g. Plex Constellation). If you have multiple clients needed to be served video simultaneously (and even outside your home network) you could consider the Mac mini server. To me personally, the latter was overkill. If you, or your kids, also play fast-paced games on the Mac mini they will get a better experience with the "advanced" Mac mini (with AMD graphics). For (most) AirPlay iPad games it will not matter.

The older generations will probably work just as well although 1080p video sources may throw a fit. If money is not a real objection I would not even think about the older generations. I certainly am hopeful that the thunderbolt port will become very useful in the next 2 years
post #3 of 10
Quote:


I may also want to be able to use something like Air Video Server to allow said son to watch streamed movies on his iPad, but that's not a must have.

Once you (or he) starts using it, I suspect you'll find it an indispensable app--being able to access every file stored in the house, then initiate a seamless live conversion so it can be streamed to the iPad--and then optionally AirPlay'd to an aTV2--is something I got spoiled by very quickly. If you have Airport Expresses in some secondary rooms (bedroom or kitchen for instance) where you also have a TV or display, you may prefer an aTV2 there simply as an AirPlay destination for both audio and video instead of just audio.

Quote:


Which Mac mini should I look at? Is an older generation okay (there are mini display port + audio to HDMI adapters for sound)? If I need to look at the current generation, would I be fine with the basic model (integrated graphics) and extra memory?

You didn't mention what you'd be hooking your mini up to, as in which HDTV, whether you'll go through an AVR, etc, but now that I own a mini w/ HDMI, I wouldn't consider one that did not have HDMI built-in, it's been a blessing in terms of home theater and great not having to mess with special adaptors. With my 2011 mini the HD 709-A profile over HDMI is very nice. Of all your requested tasks, the two most challenging are the 1) 1080p bluray rip playback with XBMC/Plex and 2) Hulu desktop, the quick answer is anything back to 2.53 2009 would probably serve you impeccably well, but I would only do a 2010 or 2011 and unless you happen upon a great deal for a 2010 go with the 2011.

Why? My opinion has remained essentially unchanged since the 2011 minis were released 6 months ago: unless you need an optical drive built-in, why even consider buying an older generation model when used prices are still so relatively high for them compared to buying the 2011 model new, let alone buying the 2011 model as a $519 refurb or <$500 warehouse deal from Amazon?

My one concern for you, as a fellow owner of the base model 2011 upgraded to 8GB RAM inexpensively like oceanjumper, is whether its stock 5400rpm drive will be up to all the multi-tasking you plan for it? So factor your time and skill and willingness to do upgrades yourself vs. purchasing a more expensive model upfront that likely won't need an upgrade when you try to calculate the total cost of the models you're considering. In my case, I already had an Intel SSD, a 500GB Scorpio Black and a 500GB Seagate Momentus XT on hand, any two of which I was willing to install in the mini myself once I got it for our living room. You may not want to take that risk, and with hard drive prices still at a premium, it may make more sense and be a better value for you long term to buy a model with the two 500GB 7200rpm drives already inside.

I have owned plenty of C2D Macs and the entry level i5 mini was a significant, undeniable step up computationally. You didn't mention what else you have in the house, so for instance, another reason why you may want to step up to a better, more expensive 2011 model is if you plan to use it for all your transcoding. Do you have something else that you'll run Handbrake on? With even the base 2011 model, it's also nice knowing that under the hood you have the horsepower to play back the toughest blu-ray rip just with the CPU, i.e. with no acceleration or graphics assist needed.
post #4 of 10
Good advice. Although, as Dr Cash mentioned "HD movie rips" I shamelessly assumed he has a Windows PC -with optical drive- as well for his ripping needs. Hence I would also assume that his (Handbrake) encoding would take place there (it's what I do....).
I have a 2011 MacBook Air as well and the only time I really find SSD making a difference is in the boot up time (but this is personal of course - I'm not a power user regarding photo/video manipulation). If you leave the Mac mini on 24/7 as your main media server I don't think the extra $ for a SSD is worth it (and definitely not worth the risk upgrading the HDD yourself...). Just my2c

PS: I also have Air Video Server but ever since I started using Plex and the Plex Constellation iPad app I rarely touch it. Both do pretty much the same and the GUI of Constellation is just breathtaking
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks all. Here are more details as asked:

- I do not have a Windows box to rip/re-encode. I depend on friends for rips and plan to do any further processing in house. That better be on the Mac Mini because my other Macs are an older (2009?) 13" MacBook and a 2010 MacBook Pro 13". The most powerful of those has a CD2. The main reason to do anything on the Mac Mini is that it'll be plugged in all the time!

- The mini will be hooked up to a Denon 2112CI. It will be connected by HDMI as well as stereo out so it can be used to drive the movies (on an Epson 3010) but also play music in both main zone and zone 2 (living room and outside).

- I do not have any other display in the house. The 3010 is actually my first display (besides my 13" laptop) in 10 years or so.

- I am pretty sure that my iPad fan of a son is indeed going to watch movies all the time on his iPad only. Also the iPad may allow me to "follow" a movie the kids are watching while I am cooking for them, if I can arrange that (am thinking air video to both Mac and iPad so delays are the same).

- Tell me more about Mac games? The only play in house for now is on an Xbox or on iPod/iPad.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

unless you need an optical drive built-in, why even consider buying an older generation model when used prices are still so relatively high for them compared to buying the 2011 model new, let alone buying the 2011 model as a $519 refurb or <$500 warehouse deal from Amazon?

I cannot see that Amazon deal?
post #7 of 10
I honestly think the basic mini will do everything. But, if you really think your needs might become more demanding, by all means, get the better graphics. Encoding/re-encoding will work fine on the basic version. It might just take a little longer with the i5 processor (instead of i7).

Btw, I don't think Air Video allows streaming to a iMac/MacBook. If I'm not mistaken, it's only to iOS devices. If you want to follow your sons viewing, it's better to have a dedicated movie server running (with only kid movies) and let his iPad only connect to that. Now, this is where Air Video comes in handy although he wouldn't get the eye candy from Plex Constellation. Alternatively, you run Plex Media Server (with only kid movies and iPad app) for your son and you run XMBC (with all your movies) for your main display.

For games, check the MacOS app store. There are plenty.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceanjumper View Post

Btw, I don't think Air Video allows streaming to a iMac/MacBook. If I'm not mistaken, it's only to iOS devices.

Apple does not provide a Mac client but many others do. We've played with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oceanjumper View Post

If you want to follow your sons viewing, it's better to have a dedicated movie server running (with only kid movies) and let his iPad only connect to that. Now, this is where Air Video comes in handy although he wouldn't get the eye candy from Plex Constellation. Alternatively, you run Plex Media Server (with only kid movies and iPad app) for your son and you run XMBC (with all your movies) for your main display.

Can I run two Plex servers under two different accounts, and have him connect to the kids account?
post #9 of 10
Quote:


I cannot see that Amazon deal?

The Amazon warehouse deals work just like Apple refurbs, you only "see" them when they have stock.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...sr=1-1&seller=
post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Crash View Post

Can I run two Plex servers under two different accounts, and have him connect to the kids account?

I don't think you can do that under the same log-in on your Mac mini but possibly under two different user log-ins (which each having its own Plex server running)... I haven't tried it myself
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