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So I'm looking to get my first HTPC/media streamingh device. I'm fairly adaptable with respect to leaning new technologies (fairly facile with Linux) but am a Mac user at home (no windows boxes) and still am ignorant to the details of this sub-hobby. I have narrowed down my choices to either the Mac Mini with Plex as an HTPC or the Popcorn hour C200 reskinned with Aeon.


Wish list:

1) Play SD and HD movies on my HT system (JVC projector)

2) Play my extensive (1 TB) audio collection in MP3 and FLAC

3) Watch streamed content from the internet (Hulu, YouTube)

4) Have a nice UI that is visually appealing, well-organized, and intuitive


Would be nice list:

1) Play HD audio codecs (via HDMI) - I believe the PCH wins here

2) DVR function

3) Be able to control the media device via an iphone remote app


Questions:

1) Taking cost out of consideration, which of these two fits my needs/wants the best?

2) Is the C200 with Aeon sufficiently stable and debugged vs the Mini?

3) can I use a mac to control/setup the PCH C200?

4) Are there other aspects I should be considering?


Thanks for your help,


Bob
 

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I have a Mini (09) with Plex/XBMC/Boxee and I recently bought a PCH-C200. I really like both a lot.


The Mini+Plex is hard to beat. You aren't going to get that sort of interface with media players. They use what are called Media Jukeboxes to try and give you a civilized interface (YAMJ is one example). They seem nice but I am still trying to figure out how to set them up without spending the rest of the year reading various guides. In short, I think they don't come come close to Plex/XBMC.


You don't need a PC to configure or deal with the PCH-C200. There is a slightly easier way to configure YAMJ from a PC. Just do it in a virtual machine if that's what has to be done. Networking, etc...just work between the Mac and the PCH-C200. Both are really nice and well supported.


YouTube is not supported on most media players. You get YouTube Lite basically ( the Apple TV does YouTube in a very nice way).


I personally like media players, but I don't believe any of them come close to a Mac Mini with XBMC/Plex except in HD Audio support ( am still not clear about that as I have zero interest in blu-ray).


If you like Plex you should have a look at the Boxee Box or the PopBox.


The GUI to the PCH-C200/A200 is about to get a major makeover so perhaps that will take care of the weakest part of the player. Virtually every media player has a terrible interface. They are all stuck back in the early 90's with ms-dos type ways of organizing things. It's just awful. The Movie Jukeboxes are an attempt to patch that ( sort of like windows 3.1) but to compare them to XBMC is a bit far fetched.


Go for the C200 if you want a very nice, quiet ( no fan which is wonderful) player which is well supported and plays well with your Mac's. Go with the Mini if you are not in the mood for something different than what you are used to. It's a great solution, but not for those with Blu-ray on their minds.


phiilp


Note: The Mini can be hooked up to hdmi in a variety of ways. I use a cable from kanax. They have 2. One uses the mini-displayport+usb to get you to hdmi with stereo sound. The other is mini-displayport+optical-->hdmi for more complicated audio. The first cable is also available from Monoprice. Of course you can also just use the optical out for audio and a mini-displayport->hdmi or dvi-->hdmi. The point is you can get everything going over hdmi, including audio.
 

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I am exactly in the same case, the only question i have is the following: does actual Mac Mini would handle 1080p movies with good bytrate ?


Actually i'am using a PS3 so, in another way, does the mini will do, at least, the same ?


Thanks
 

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I went through the same decision making process myself not too long ago, as I was pretty excited when the HDMI equipped Mini came out. I have run Plex on my iMac and am rather impressed with how it performs.


To make it even harder to make the decision, a friend with the new Mini came over and we hooked it up to see how it would do streaming HD movies (BD rips) from my Windows Home Server.


The new Mini chews through even my highest bitrate stuff with no problem, and of course the Plex interface is light years ahead of the interface of any of the media players out there today.


Ultimately though I could not bring myself to go the Mini/Plex route for a few key reasons;


1. I have multiple locations in the house that I would want to set up a media streamer and at $700 a pop the Mini is too expensive to deploy in several locations.


2. Ongoing maintenance, configuration and upgrades will still be a headache compared to a media streamer.


3. No HD audio support with Plex and the Mini.


4. No framerate source switching in Plex. In other words you can't get automatic switching between 1080i/60 and 1080p/24 and 1080p/60 material, you have to go in and change it manually or just have the Mini convert everything to 1080p60 which I find to be a real let down if you want to preserve original source framerate.


I bought an A200 and use it with the YAMJ/Aeon setup you are describing but I cannot recommend it. It's still a cryptic interface, the A200 is buggy (with current FW) and there's too much manual work to be done every time you add content to your collection. Realize that 'Aeon' on the C200/A200 is just an HTML wrapper (a web page basically) and that you aren't re-skinning anything. You still have to deal with the gawdawful PCH interface for a lot of stuff, like setting up your network shares.


I had an HDI Dune Smart on pre-order (I would run it with Zappiti for the wrapper/gui part) but I think the greatest hope right now for something that blends a lot of HTPC functionality into a streamer is the Boxee Box. Sadly the Boxee is not out yet so no direct comparison is possible.


If you are concerned about HD audio, etc, and aren't afraid of going the HTPC route then another option is to buy a cheaper non Mac computer that supports HD audio and then run the latest XBMC Dharma Live boot image to run XBMC.
 

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ignoring the HTPC versus streamer aspect.


Why the mini versus the ION?


seems the ION does more than the mini and cost 1/3 the price.


I do own 2 ions and 2 mac minis but I just dont see why the mac mini makes a better HTPC than ION running XBMC Live?


Sean
 

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Well, my own experience was that the Revo 1600 I tried choked on my high bitrate MKV rips whereas the Mini running Plex did not.


The Mini is lacking HD audio but in all other respects is pretty much the most powerful compact computer you can get right now with HDMI output barring a few custom HTPC type boxes that cost substantially more (there are HTPC cases that cost more than a Mini).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmpage2 /forum/post/19218370


Well, my own experience was that the Revo 1600 I tried choked on my high bitrate MKV rips whereas the Mini running Plex did not.


The Mini is lacking HD audio but in all other respects is pretty much the most powerful compact computer you can get right now with HDMI output barring a few custom HTPC type boxes that cost substantially more (there are HTPC cases that cost more than a Mini).

Fair enough. so its not a question of the HW but which SW stack actually works for a particular type of file.


Curious, did they fix the IR receiver issue on the mac mini in the latest ones? The gen1 and gen2's were really bad and mad setting up a harmony to full impliment XBMC's control impossible.


to the original posters question I just can't consider the PCH since your requirements include music playback and netflix etc.


XBMC is a great music and pretty much anything player. What it does not do is bitstream my BD rips which my A-110 does very well. The A-110 is not what I would call any all around media player but more of a video player.


my answer as typical for people with loft expectations is to buy more than 1 box.



you also have to ask yourself if you want to tinker. some people want to tinker with HTPC's etc to keep them working. others prefer the nature of CE devices that once setup work consistently without ANY maintenance. Thats why even though I own and have built over 6 HTPC's I never end up commiting to use them because they just require too much tinkering to setup and to keep working.


XBMC Live is close but the remote setup is a bit tough for many and the lack of HD audio for me has always been the deal breaker.


Can't wait for my boxee box to come. If this thing can reliably playback my BD rips with HD audio bit streaming then I can decomission the PCH.


Cheers,

Sean
 
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