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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been a Mac convert for about 2 years, and prior was Windows back to when it was first available. Over the last 3 years I've been using networked Tivos to my TVs for viewing, via cable. I have become more and more fed up with the cable provider and want to go to OTA + Internet streaming for TV.


My first attempt was an AppleTV with Boxee, and it seems to struggle to keep up, so I abandoned that plan... also Apple seems to be not supporting it well. I have a friend that's been using a Revo with good results, so I bought one last week and have been updating, configuring, and testing it to try and get the best result. I think that I'm now getting the most I can from it and while its not bad, if I can get more from a Mac Mini, then I'm willing to spend the extra dough.


Here is what I have now (and then I'll tell what I want to do):


Home Office:

Cable Modem coming in with Roadrunner Turbo (20M down, 0.5M up)

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Netgear WNDR3700 Router

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Dell 24 port Gigabit switch

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- Macbook Pro

- ReadyNas NV+ NAS

- QNAP TS-659 NAS (to replace the NV+)

- Various other stuff, Vonage, etc.


|D-Link Gigabit Switch in Family Room (hardwired to Dell switch)

- Moca Adapter for run to Bonus Room

- Tivo HD

- Revo HTPC (3610 with 2G RAM and dual core processor)

- Apple TV

- Sony Blu-ray player

---- Sony 50" Bravia LCD and Sony Receiver/DVD player

---- Harmony One


|D-Link Gigabit Switch in Bonus Room (via Moca @ 80mbps)

- Moca Adapter

- Tivo

- Sony Blu-ray Player

---- Sony 46" Bravia LCD and Sony Receiver/DVD player

---- Harmony One


Bedroom

- Cable box and disconnected Tivo to small LCD



What I want to do:

- OTA HD local channels to replace cable... have an antenna and thinking of adding and HD Homerun... also have an EyeTV that I could use if need be.

- Common Media STB for 3 rooms.. tried ATV and Revo... contemplating a Mac Mini.

- Ripped DVD playback from NAS

- Audio playback from NAS

- Picture viewing from NAS

- Central storage of TV shows from OTA (DVR like) from NAS

- Internet streaming using Boxee or Plex

- Internet steaming using Hulu desktop

- Internet streaming using MLB.TV


The best experience I've gotten is with an updated and configured Revo. I am using Window 7 Media Center as the main entry point, completely controlled with the Harmony One. I can go from there into Boxee or Hulu and watching videos can be near HD quality, but its got some dropped frames here and there and some pixelation... not bad, and certainly watchable. With MLB.TV, its a bit worse, but viewable. The picture looks good, but it seems like the frame rate is a lot slower than it should be. The Revo is averaging about 35% CPU when streaming flash, so the CPU is OK... not sure if the video chip is slowing things down.


So the point of this thread, FINALLY, is whether I'd get a better quality result with a Mac Mini. The Revo had to have several updates and tweaks to get to where it is now... out of the box it was pretty bad. Nothing extreme... just updating drivers and installing a few things. I'm not doing any of the TV recording and playback with it at all.


I'm not a videophile and am happy with a good cable-like experience so I'm not looking to have true HD quality on everything. I would obviously like that, but I want to have my family be able to view TV controlled with a remote in any of the 3 rooms... playback recorded OTA TV... and access our media library... all with good quality and not too much "tech support" required.


So would a Mac Mini better the Revo? Anyone actually tried both side by side?
 

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I've used both side by side.


I currently use mac minis, running win 7, in my theatre and my office for media center. Excellent hardware platform, silent, handles the loads well. Only complaint is no integrated HDMI support, and the only way to get is through a Kanex adapter that doesn't support 24hz.


1080p60 works great, 7MC works great, hulu works great.


I picked up a Revo 3600 to see how it would perform as a replacement. Reinstalled win7 from scratch, and patched, etc. I found the hardware as sold worked fine on dvds and bluray, but the 7mc interface was dog sluggish, up to 1 second from button push to seeing navigation on the screen. I upgraded the revo to 4gb RAM, and that helped, but it's still JUST noticably sluggish on navigation. Movie playback is excellent though.


In the end, I decided the navigation lag was just too noticible for the main theatre and my office, so went back to the minis.


As a side note, there's rumors of a new mac mini floating around with HDMI integrated. I'm really hoping this is true, and will definately switch to those when they hit the street, assuming all other hardware is acceptable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Prelector... thanks for the info. I want to build 3 or more of these, so I really want to understand whats the best approach. I hadn't thought about running Windows 7 on the Mac Mini... have to think about that a bit. Just curious why you'd do that rather than run OSX?


Did you try running Hulu and Boxee on the Revo? I am getting inconsistent results and am fairly new to this, so I don't know if its the Revo that is having trouble or its something else on the server side, network, etc. I think I have really good bandwidth up to the Revo. I am currently launching Hulu or Boxee from WMC. I haven't been able to pin down exactly what the repeatable problem is, but sometimes I get very good video playback, and sometimes its pretty bad. When its good, I am still getting some odd artifacts ... not pixelation, but more of "boxing" where you see a faint line or square or something like the content is blocked... it is faint, but distracting. Other times, and more commonly, I get what looks like slower frame rates than what is expected. This is all in full screen mode, and I'm running the Revo at 720P all the time, even though I'm attached by HDMI to a 1080P Sony Bravia LCD.


I see the lag you are talking about and I think I could live with that. I am just concerned that I'm not getting the best video playback I could get from Hulu, Boxee, etc. The odd thing is that I've seen the quality issues when the buffer shows full... so that would imply that something in the box is causing the problem.


Which Mac Mini are you using... what processor and RAM? I was going to do some testing with my MacBook Pro this weekend to see what kind of results I get in OSX with this stuff... but its faster than the Minis... so may still be inconclusive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
One other question... what would be the advantage of using the Kanex adapter vs. just using a DVI to HDMI adapter and then feeding the audio to the receiver? I had heard about the rumored HDMI Minis, but you never know with Apple.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by convergent /forum/post/18286008


So would a Mac Mini better the Revo? Anyone actually tried both side by side?

I don't have the REVO, I have the Foxconn box. Same dual core atom, ION 9400 and 2GB Ram (one slot only). I added the Shark007 codec. I've never noticed a delay using W7. I've never noticed any pixelation. In fact I don't see any performance difference watching video running the dual core atom than my 2.8Ghz Athlon dual core main machine.


Personally W7 with the Shark007 codec seems more aimed at handling a variety of video formats. Yes the Mac die hards will proclaim that a Mini with Plex is better, but I'm not feelin it. To each his own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
redondoman, thanks for the input. I'm somewhat new to this and forgive me if this is a stupid question. Would the Shark007 codec be of concern if I'm watching web streamed video? I have been focussed on Flash 10.1 and the Nvidia drivers... which are all up to current levels. Does this codec still get used in this case? Is there anything I have to do to configure it, or can I just install Shark007 and it will work out of the box?


I am a Mac user, but I'm not opposed to using Windows 7 on an HTPC if it gives a better experience. My goal is to have my family (my wife in particular) not be aware that there is a computer underneath this. It must work from my Harmony One and not require a keyboard and mouse, or she isn't going to use it and my life will become a lot more complicated. So to me, its irrelevant what is running as an OS if it is going to give the ease of use and quality I'm looking for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Another tidbit of troubleshooting on this. At lunch I tried doing some more testing and decided to give YouTube a try. I tested by watching some HD movie trailers at 1080p and 720p in full screen. They actually were pretty consistently good. Still trying to figure out what is causing the quality to degrade when it does.
 

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I built my HTPC and haven't noticed any sluggish in win7MCE. I haven't tried mac mini before but it seems like win7 would be a lot easy to custom design to work just how you like it. another option would be to use win7 and xbox 360's as extenders. This way you'll need a stronger HTPC as the main box that the 360's connect to. We use a 360 in my daughters room and its easy enough she can do it and she's 4. She uses the standard controller but they make remotes that look normal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I did a little more testing at lunch time. Hooked up my Macbook Pro in place of the Revo to do a comparison. It was a lot snappier going through the Hulu menus, and the video playback was different. To me it was consistently better than what I've seen on the Revo, although its problems looked totally different. The experience was definitely more enoyable. But I still don't necessarily know anything because my Macbook Pro is more powerful than a Mac Mini at 2.6Ghz Core 2 Duo, 6G of RAM, and Nvidia 8600M graphics chip. When testing on MLB.TV, it still wasn't the experience I was hoping for, but usable. Thing is though that Flash really taxes this thing. When playing MLB.TV via Flash Player, the MBP CPU was at around 100-110%. On the Revo its around 33%. The MBP's fans crank way up when replaying MLB.TV. So now I still don't know if a Mac Mini would do any better. I would assume it would be somewhere between the MBP and Revo. I guess I may have to buy a Mini to fully verify what it can do.
 

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What ever happened to "best tool for the job"? Why use a Mac for an HTPC just because you happen to like their desktop O/S?


that said I would wait to see the mac mini refresh that's in the works *and* also the ION2 based Acer Revo refresh that's also about to be released - THEN make your decision. My money would probably go for the Acer Revo because of the capability of the GPU to hardware assist HD playback which I'm guessing the Mac mini will still lack.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
odditory, I think the point of this thread is to pick the "best tool for the job". For a compact off the shelf HTPC, these two seem to be the best two alternatives at present, and they both have pros and cons. I've done a lot of googling on a comparison between these two and not found a lot, so I started the thread. I bought the Revo already, so I'm obviously not tied to Macs. That said, I have a family using this stuff so the more consistent I can make things, the easier my life will be. If I'm successful, then they will stop using the Tivo and start using the HTPC and not miss a beat... driving it from the Harmony One.


Expanding the playing field a bit... would I be able to build a box for similar money that would beat either of these. I've built the last 4 or 5 windows computers we've had in the house, so that isn't a problem. But I want the thing to be completely quiet and small like a Revo or Mac Mini.


Revo - $350

Mac Mini - $575

DIY - ?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by odditory /forum/post/18295564


My money would probably go for the Acer Revo because of the capability of the GPU to hardware assist HD playback which I'm guessing the Mac mini will still lack.

The MacMini has a 9400. It can handle HD playback just fine.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by convergent /forum/post/18295672


Revo - $350

Mac Mini - $575

DIY - ?

MacMini w/ 500GB HDD $575 + $75= $650

Foxconn Barebones w/ 2GB Ram + 500GB HDD $200 + $40 + $75= $315


Looks like a two for one deal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
redondoman, I am not looking to add more hard drive capacity to these... I have a sufficient NAS capable of keeping up handing the storage issue.... so that brings the mini price back where it was... should be able to use it stock. If I were going to build a machine, I'd probably want to go with something other than an Atom, otherwise I'd just stick with the Revo. I have been playing some with Plex and its got some good and bad just like everything else. I'll continue the testing... adding an HDHomerun to the equation this weekend to experience with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well I got my HDHomerun today and started fiddling with it... this could help drive the decision. Win7MC seems to work dang well with this. I did quite a bit of testing to not on the little Revo and it held up well. I set it recording an HD show and then watched another HD show... did a lot of DVR functions and although that got out of sync a few times, the recording was flawless. I also watched some internet TV via WMC, then watched part of a movie via Netflix, and finally went into Hulu and watched a TV show all while it was still recording an HD show from HDHomerun and the recording was flawless. I don't know that I'd dare do all of that while its recording two shows, but this was pretty impressive.


Then I looked at what my options were for watching and recording TV via a Mac. Looks like nothing is really integrated into the media center core... either Plex or Boxee. It seems like XBMC has integration but I've not been able to try that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well, I finally had to do it today... hit the Apple store and picked up their low-end Mac Mini to test along side the Revo. The software will focus on EyeTV for live/DVR and Plex for the Mac. I set it up and did some extensive testing of all the things I had struggled to get going decent on the Revo. Bottom line is everything worked... and it all worked very well and looked good. I didn't see any stuttering or stammering with anything. All the menus were very snappy.


I tried the real stress test - MLB.TV - and to my surprise it looked awesome. I never got that to look good on the Revo. The baffling thing about MLB was that in testing, it only pegged the Revo at 33% CPU, but on my MacbookPro it was at 110%. I think the network chipset in the Revo may be stressed or something because the bandwidth check at MLB.TV was consistently showing me slower speeds that it should... with the Mini its looking fine. I do have the wireless disabled on the Mini, so they are both connected to a gigabit switch.


So now what to do. I need to see how well I can integrate Plex and EyeTV as to whether it will pass the wife test. I think she would have been fine with Windows Media Center, and still may be if I can get the performance fixed on it. The thing about WMC is that it really doesn't have access to much internet content... so you have to bop out the Hulu desktop.


Most testing.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by convergent /forum/post/18291578


Prelector... thanks for the info. I want to build 3 or more of these, so I really want to understand whats the best approach. I hadn't thought about running Windows 7 on the Mac Mini... have to think about that a bit. Just curious why you'd do that rather than run OSX?


Did you try running Hulu and Boxee on the Revo? I am getting inconsistent results and am fairly new to this, so I don't know if its the Revo that is having trouble or its something else on the server side, network, etc. I think I have really good bandwidth up to the Revo. I am currently launching Hulu or Boxee from WMC. I haven't been able to pin down exactly what the repeatable problem is, but sometimes I get very good video playback, and sometimes its pretty bad. When its good, I am still getting some odd artifacts ... not pixelation, but more of "boxing" where you see a faint line or square or something like the content is blocked... it is faint, but distracting. Other times, and more commonly, I get what looks like slower frame rates than what is expected. This is all in full screen mode, and I'm running the Revo at 720P all the time, even though I'm attached by HDMI to a 1080P Sony Bravia LCD.


I see the lag you are talking about and I think I could live with that. I am just concerned that I'm not getting the best video playback I could get from Hulu, Boxee, etc. The odd thing is that I've seen the quality issues when the buffer shows full... so that would imply that something in the box is causing the problem.


Which Mac Mini are you using... what processor and RAM? I was going to do some testing with my MacBook Pro this weekend to see what kind of results I get in OSX with this stuff... but its faster than the Minis... so may still be inconclusive.

Sorry for the delay, was out of town for a bit.


I'm running the early 2009 mac minis, a 2.0ghz and a 2.26ghz, both have been upgraded to 4gb (the minimum for win 7 as far as I'm concerned). I played with boxee a bit on my mac mini, but wasn't as happy with the front end experience as I am with 7MC. To be honest though, I've spent a year now tweaking and tuning 7MC to get it where I wanted so it's not a fair comparison.


The reason I loaded Win7 on the mac is that's the OS and front end I know and like. I bought the mac mini purely as a hardware platform and never had any intention of trying to recreate all my winMC experience all over again in the OSX world.
 
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