Originally Posted by PAP
You mention the mac mini - surely that little box doesn't have the horsepower to actually run a HTPC does it??? Given the obsession in the PC world about high end video cards and high end CPUs just to get image quality how can that little box with built in graphics actually work?
It works great. I have a MacBook that I use as a HTPC, but it shares the same basic chipset design and gpu. The Intel GMA950 (GMA is short for graphics media accelerator) is specifically designed for this purpose. If you look at the specs
from Intel's website (the Mac derivative is a custom application of the GMA950, here's a subset of the GMA950 specs that Apple supports):
Advanced Display Capability
Up to 2048x1536 resolution for both analog and digital displays
Consumer Electronic display (Digital TV) support
Display hot plug support to automatically detect new display connection while system is operating (CRT and DVI)
Multiple display types (LVDS, DVI-I, DVI-D, HDTV, TV-out, CRT)
Dual screen support through ADD2 digital video devices
HDTV 480i/p, 576i/p, 720i/p and 1080i/p display resolution support
Interlaced Display output support
16x9 and 16x10 Aspect Ratio for widescreen displays
2x2 Panel Scaler
Stunning Video Playback
High Definition Hardware Motion Compensation to support high definition hi-bitrate MPEG2 media playback
Up and Down Scaling of Video Content
High Definition Content Decode - up to two stream support
5x3 Overlay Filtering.
So you can see that it is not any old "integrated graphics chip" that we all came to disdain in the past. It works quite well on my MacBook. DVD playback, upscaled and deinterlaced to 1080p, while maybe not quite good as say an Oppo 981 (I haven't actually tested it against it), is very good. Good enough that I have no desire to purchase an upconverting DVD player, and will save my money for a BD or HD-DVD player--or wait until Apple offers a BTO BD drive in a Mac Mini. I have downloaded 1080p content to the MacBook, and it plays back superbly. Full frame rate and accurated color rendition. I see no problems with this chipset, when combined with BD playback. And I'm sure that Apple intended it that way. Couple that with full support for DD 5.1, and mini-toslink optical out, and you're good to go. Mini also has a Core Duo processor, soon to move to C2D, I hope, so it has the cpu horse power. It is in this area that Apple's move to Intel really shines.
Now none of this has any real bearing on the access to hardware/software integration for playback of HD files of the various formats. And we all hope that in the near future we'll get some indication of Apple's direction here. But not everybody is holding their breath, and for good reasons.
And for the future of integrated graphics, I spent a little time the other day looking at Intel's upcoming GMA3000
architecture, and it is a great upgrade to the GMA950, that includes what looks to be great gaming performance. If Apple was to leverage this technology in a Mac Mini, with a BD player this year, they could outcompete both MS and Sony in the console market, if only they had a software strategy in place. In any case, I'd look to the Mac Mini with a BD player to compete with all the stand alone BD or HD-DVD players in the upcoming year with the hardware they have. A bare BD optical drive only costs about $125 (from an iSuppli breakdown cost estimate on the PS3), and the Mini has everything else it needs (except for the BD playback software--come on Apple, show up here). So, once the logjam on blue diode lasers breaks, and the drive becomes more available, look to Apple to move in this direction.
Welcome to the Mac-side of life!