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considering Mac Mini HTPC

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Considering a Mac Mini as an HTPC.
- Looking for 1080p playback rips/backups of DVD's and BR's.
- Good quality Up-scaling of DVD rips/backups desired.
- No TV/DVR needs.
- No streaming services needed.
- All media will be on an attached drive.

Initial questions ...

After some research appears Plex and XMBC are the favored software - is this correct?

Do either of these support 3D playback? (Hoping for full-rez 3D BR playback, not side-by-side, over-under, etc.)

Will the Mac Mini playback media at 24hz?

post #2 of 23
There have been a lot of different Mac minis...some can do 1080p well, some can't. Got a particular year or model in mind?
Good quality Up-scaling of DVD rips/backups desired.

There's nothing in OS X that "upscales" in the sense that you may be referring to, as in a certain Windows HTPC software post-processing sense a la ffdshow. Usually with Macs and OS X you'll connect to your external display and output all video content at your desktop display res, though there are some limited tweaks to decoding and acceleration options to be found in Plex and XBMC.
After some research appears Plex and XMBC are the favored software - is this correct?

Yes. I'm an XBMC for Mac guy myself, but there are lots of Plex fans, and justifiably so.
Do either of these support 3D playback?

No idea.
Will the Mac Mini playback media at 24hz?

You can connect to your display at 24 Hz instead of 60 Hz if you want, and then there are various refresh rate switching and sync to display settings built-in to your front end of choice.
post #3 of 23
I'm not aware of 3D playback, yet, for either Plex or XBMC in either OS or Windows or Linux. I know Windows does have some commercial BR player software that supports it. So it's a matter of time before it hits the Windows software such as Plex or XBMC. I'm not sure how or if it's possible to rip 3D movies yet as well.

On a side note, I'm not sure if the new mini supports HD audio yet. I know the 2010 version did not in either OSX or Windows. I presume this is something you want.
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies.

I would buy either a new Mac Mini or a used one with HDMI and either i5 or i7 proc.

Re the up-scaling ... Whatever DVD-to-HD up-scaling is happening on my iMac (in QT, DVD Player) is great compared to the up-scaling I've seen on even the more expensive media-players (to my eye it's just plain horrible, and I have a large DVD collection I want to still be watchable). I believe the up-scaling on the Mac is handled by the gpu and I just want to double check that the front-end software of an HTPC would keep that quality.

I'll have to look into the HD-audio formats issue on the Mac Mini ... (On my iMac, when I connect either toslink or HDMI, the audio prefs show options for DD, up to 96 Hz and 5.1 speakers.)

Is there a reasonably priced (or even dedicated) PC option for an HTPC? Is there a front-end software on the PC that plays back full res HD 3D? (Does JRiver?)

(I'd want to spend less on a PC HTPC - if I get a Mac Mini it can double as a render node for my gfx/AE work.)
post #5 of 23
You can play hd audio in win7 boot camp. Xmbc is OSX pending for hd audio, since May. Still waiting for that release of xmbc to have DTS MA and DD True HD.

There is another post that talks about playing hd audio by LPCM on OSX.
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Just to check my big picture view of this ...

I'm looking at a Mac Mini HTPC - thinking it is cost effective as it can replace both a media-player and DVR (via antenna). Am I correct?

So far I think the only feature I'm losing, vs a dedicated media player, is full-res 3D playback.
post #8 of 23
Big picture, I'd have to say no, "cost-effectiveness" is not one of the main reasons why one might choose a Mac mini instead of a media player + DVR combo, and that it's going to depend on how you define "cost-effectiveness." (Don't forget, you need to add the cost of EyeTV software, a TV Guide sub and a tuner to the cost of the mini, it's not like recording ATSC is built-in to OS X.)

There are many reasons why going with a Mac mini makes a lot of sense...among them its much greater multi-tasking capabilities, stability, flexibility, support, upgradability, inter-operability, insane resale value etc...but saving money upfront isn't really one of them: using a Mini as media player and DVR is expensive since you need a relatively new Mini to handle 1080p playback well and you have to buy a physical TV tuner. So it's probably more of a push, especially if you'd have chosen a higher end media player and DVR option.

However, if you're willing to look down the road a bit in defining "cost-effectiveness" and add in something like total cost of ownership, the Mini recovers ~75% of its initial price when you resell it, perhaps more easy enabling you to upgrade to a better model. Plus, a Mini as media player and DVR can also function as media server, as media storage, and can also be your household computer...all at the same time. That's where the real cost-effectiveness can kick in.

So, all that said, cost-effectiveness wasn't a major concern for me, and I've used Macs almost exclusively as media player and high def DVR since 2004--bigger concerns for me were to use hardware that I knew would be strongly supported, plus the ability to load what I wanted on the machine, when and how I wanted, rather than be beholden to one provider or service or to wait for a firmware release to deliver on a promised update or bug fix. Not ever having to worry about inter-operability was key, I knew all along that if for some reason I didn't like staying within the Apple walled garden, I could easily re-purpose the hardware outside of it. (Not that I have, I couldn't be happier staying within...)
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your post.
post #10 of 23
I am using a Late 2009 Mac Mini. It plays 1080p and 3D content with no issues at all. I love Front Row for its simplicity and but find that it doesn't playback 1080p without stuttering and am now using Plex. Good luck.
post #11 of 23
So question to you all what model Mac Mini would you all get I currently have early 2009 and very slight stutter. I have it hooked up to a 2009 DROBO mainly use it for MKV movies and EZTVIT. Not sure what pull the trigger on a 201 2.5GHz Core i5 with the AMD Radeon HD 6630M or the new intel hd 4000 I5.Peeps are saying that there are issues with cables. Please help
post #12 of 23
The 2012 Minis just showed up in the Apple online refurb store last week, with the entry level model going for $509. The 2011 2.5GHz Core i5 with the discrete HD 6630M has occasionally been available there for $549, selling out within a few minutes. I already had a 2011 with the HD3000 and was waiting to pick up another Mini when Apple finally released the 2012s. I was hoping that the new 2012s would include a second Thunderbolt port. Since they didn't, and since the addition of USB3 wasn't enough of an upgrade for me since I am already pretty heavily invested in FW800 and TB, I went with that 2011 w/ the 6630M. To date I have nothing but good things to say about it and at $549 it really seemed the best bang for the buck of all the 2011 and 2012 machines. The reality is, though, if you don't try to game with it, any Mini since 2010 can handle the home theater thing just fine. Now that the 2012s have started to show up as refurbs that changes the equation a bit, the price to value ratio of a 2012 for $509 is pretty tough to beat. That's probably the one you should get. But...
Peeps are saying that there are issues with cables.

There have been some issues with the 2012s, a pretty interesting one related to HDMI and another related to USB 3 external drives, cables and shielding. From reading the forums it seems a good number of folks who bought 2012s in the past couple of months returned or sold them and picked up refurb 2011s instead. Apple released an EFI update which resolved some of the HDMI related issues for some of the users; of course, there are plenty of happy 2012 owners who have not had a single HDMI related problem, and I'm also not sure what the current state of USB 3 is. It was being discussed over at OWC (Other World Computing) which was selling an external USB 3 enclosure called the miniStack that users with 2012 Minis started noticing all sorts of strange behavior with, even when not connected over USB 3 at all (i.e. powered up, connected over firewire, still caused the interference.) Seemed to me OWC was trying to paint this as an Apple-caused quality control problem, i.e. 2012 Minis were not shielded properly, whereas lots of users in the field were reporting back that only certain enclosures caused issues, and hence the manufacturer/seller of said enclosures (OWC) should be held accountable. More here:


I wouldn't be surprised if that entire thread disappears at some point, so read over it quickly.

Seems pretty clear to me that there are some external USB 3 enclosures made with quality components that work just fine with the 2012 Minis, and some slapped together pretty cheaply that will cause interference. If you don't plan to use any bluetooth devices to control your Mini or boot from an SSD over USB 3...you will probably be fine. But it would suck if mounted USB 3 storage volumes would just suddenly disappear and some users over at Macrumors who have experimented with USB 3 on the 2012s report decidedly mixed results with it. Many initially thought hey, USB 3 enclosures are dirt cheap, now I can boot my Mini off of an external SSD much cheaper than it would cost to boot an SSD over Thunderbolt. In theory that's correct, in practice, well, let's just say it's evolving, whereas booting an SSD over Thunderbolt has essentially been rock solid.
post #13 of 23
so would buy the 2011 over the 2012 for the sole purpose of a HTpc
post #14 of 23

I wouldn't be surprised if that entire thread disappears at some point, so read over it quickly.
I've had varying issues with bluetooth on the Minis since the original model. This shielding does help me on the 2012 models I recently purchased and is an easy extra install step if you're already opening it up to put in a SSD. Still wish we had better magic trackpad drivers. The combo trackpad and keyboard is leagues better than the many other keyboard options with pointers over the years. Just miss the gestures in WMC.
post #15 of 23
I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to make the choice right now. Home theater-wise I think most Mac OS X users would be happy with either machine, the 2012 is only an iterative step forward from the 2011, rather than a major leap. Both come with the same warranty, Applecare options, expansion options and ports except for the USB 2 vs. USB 3, and in the home theater USB 2 is fast enough for blu ray playback.

How important to you is the $40 you'd save by buying the 2012 for $509 versus $549 for the 2011 w/ the HD6630M, because with that $40 you can upgrade to 8GB of RAM right away. If budget was my primary concern, that's what I'd probably do now. All the quirks and issues with the 2012s will be worked out in time. But, I know from first hand experience that the 2011 w/ the 6630M is everything I wanted it to be, I don't regret not getting a 2012 when I had the chance and I suspect my 2011 will retain a little more resale value down the road since it's the last Mini with a discrete graphics card, in the same way the 2010 Minis retain more value because they're the last ones with built-in optical drives. (Now, if only I ever actually sold a used Mac rather than passing them down to family members...)

There are a lot of people just like you currently trying to decide between 2011 and 2012 Minis in this forum:


poke around, you may find it useful.
post #16 of 23
where are you getting these prices for the 2011 mac mini. the only place i can find is amazon for 680
post #17 of 23
also can you upgrade the 2011 to 16 gigs i bought one chefklc fot 690 and is offering to go to 16 gigs for 90$ is this a good buy or do you have a site to where one can buy one for 510
post #18 of 23
the prices I'm quoting you are the standard refurb prices from Apple for those models, when they appear in the Apple online refurb store. That's the kicker, when they appear they don't last long. You have to act fast, best to use one of the Apple refurb tracking email notification services like refurb.me or refurb-tracker.com. Best to buy refurbs direct from Apple this way because their refurb carries the same full warranty as new, but every now and then another vendor makes a compelling deal.

Yes, the 2011 takes 16GB. A good price for 16GB for the Mini is about $65 from Newegg or Amazon.
post #19 of 23
so do you think 690$ no tax is a decent price for one that has not been opened and 90$ for the price installed with a RAM stress test
post #20 of 23
I wouldn't pay $690 for a Mini and wouldn't pay $90 for 16GB of RAM. RAM has a lifetime warranty, you can stress it yourself. Which exact model are you considering for $690?
post #21 of 23
Apple Mac Mini MC816LL/A the one you and everyone talks about. This one is factory sealed,never been used the ram Is 90 installed which no tax,shipping, and the guy that did my other mini charges 85 just to open it . The others I found were about the same price and used, I don't have the time to wait for the Apple refurb ones . also why don't you respond to your PM's I sent you. I need help but no response
post #22 of 23
This is a forum, we share in public so all can benefit. I rarely bother w/ stuff in private, don't have the time, sorry.
Apple Mac Mini MC816LL/A...I don't have the time to wait for the Apple refurb ones

Usually when you're in a hurry, for anything not just computers, you end up paying something extra for that convenience, in your case that just happened to add up to $780. You're still getting a good machine in that 2011 w/ the 6630M, so enjoy it. And I do think you're smart to buy a machine with Apple's warranty still in force.

With the slightest bit more flexibility, usually waiting a few days to a week, someone else in your position would have saved $175 give or take (depending how well you shopped) going with the official Apple refurb of that model and putting 16GB of RAM in yourself, which is terribly easy to do. Saved $200 if you had opted for the entry level 2012 refurb putting 16GB of RAM in yourself. And, if you're at all a geek at heart, you turn around and spend that "savings" on other fun things like a LaCie GoFlex Thunderbolt sled, a thunderbolt cable and an SSD. You end up spending the same amount of money, you just get more to play with.
the guy that did my other mini charges 85 just to open it...

That's a very reasonable price to open a Mini to install an SSD or add a second drive, ridiculous otherwise.
post #23 of 23
The Guy I bought it from was high I can afford it and in my past experiences waiting for the best deal you either have to wait a long time or missing out on a good thing waiting for a better deal. This one was a great deal brand new no tax (48 $) which went that money went to the ram and gave me osx Mountian Lion on a usb. I know 145 but I needed it now and this 2001 is a sweet model play absolute perfect and all of you question the DROBO don't I love it> sorry chefklc:)
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