apple tv or mac mini
April 12, 2009 4:43 PM   Subscribe

apple tv or mac mini or both? i've spent the last few hours looking this up, and can not come to a conclusion. i have a few apple gift certs to spend, about $450. my requirements:

i want to connect to my hdtv & my stereo (not a home theater, its a zepplin -
i want to play music & photos preferably without streaming
i want to browse the web
i want to play the occassional dvd (ripped or actually from a dvd)
i dont care about tv shows or movies that much, i have a directv dvr

ive seen all the apple tv hacks, looks like i could do most of what i want by adding an external hard disk. does anyone out there have that setup? one thing im not clear on is can i store the mp3s & photos right on this hard drive, and how do i get them on there? it sounds like i can sync it with any pc\mac with itunes, but what about the pics? and hows the web browsing?

alternatively, anyone have the mac mini setup with an apple tv? why should i spend the extra dough?

thanks in advance.
posted by fumbducker to Technology (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm doing this with a Mac mini and love it. I realize I could do most of the same stuff with an AppleTV, but there's more HTPC software available for "orthodox" OS X than there is for the AppleTV, and you usually end up having to wait for enterprising souls to hack this or that to work with the AppleTV.

1080i/p HD video is the only thing my Mini chokes on, and that's only because it's the very first Intel model, from 2006 (Core Solo). Any Mini nowadays should be able to take anything you give it. You can bump up the font sizes, etc. so that browsing works well on a TV.

I sorta missed the idea of the AppleTV's nice interface at first, but then Apple went and retooled Front Row so that it's virtually the same. Plus, stuff like Plex (not yet available for AppleTV, btw!), MediaCentral, etc. are better anyway, in my opinion.
posted by CommonSense at 5:31 PM on April 12, 2009

You want a Mac Mini, not an Apple TV for sure. The Apple TV doesn't have an optical drive, so that rules it out straightaway.
posted by The Michael The at 5:42 PM on April 12, 2009

so you're just using the mac mini, no apple tv? that was my concern, the 1080. i found this article on that:

maybe just spend my certs & bucks on a refurb mini with the education discount - my wifes a teacher. awesome. if you have some time i'd like to hear more details..
posted by fumbducker at 5:44 PM on April 12, 2009

@the mike, yep i know that, but thats the least of my requirements, was thinking i could just convert dvds and play them on apple tv if i went that route. any other reasons i def want a mini & not atv?
posted by fumbducker at 5:49 PM on April 12, 2009

If I have to spell it out... why bother hacking the Apple TV if the Mac Mini will natively do what you want? You have the option to use iTunes and iPhoto or the nice simple Front Row interface. Organizing things will be easier because, well, it's a real computer with full versions of programs. You have a real web browser to which you can run a Bluetooth keyboard sitting in front of your TV rather than hack a USB keyboard or hack an iPhone. You don't have to add a drive to the Mac Mini. You don't have to waste time ripping DVDs with the Mac Mini.

Moreover, the bread and butter of the Apple TV is streamed/downloaded TV and movie content, particularly but not exclusively from the iTunes Music Store. If you don't care about those, why even consider it?
posted by The Michael The at 6:08 PM on April 12, 2009

Don't forget that NetFlix can stream to the MacMini via Safari & Silverlight. It's pretty sweet.
posted by mrt at 6:22 PM on April 12, 2009

yep, i hear you "the mike the" no doubt. the main argument for the apple tv is the price of course; its about $200, + the cost of an external drive, about $300 total, whereas the 320gb mini will runn about $750..
posted by fumbducker at 6:46 PM on April 12, 2009

also, i can hd from it natively..
posted by fumbducker at 6:47 PM on April 12, 2009

Mac Mini all the way. I bought a refurb 1.8GHz, upped the HDD to a 7200 RPM and maxed out the RAM. I also added a 1.4TB external hard drive and ripped all my DVDs using Fairmount.

It's been amazing using it with Plex. It's a variant of XBMC, but it's super polished and great at updating all the information. The newest version actually has Netflix streaming available as an app, too.

I have no issues with full 1080p.
posted by cdmwebs at 7:30 PM on April 12, 2009

no refurbs available right now. configed a new mac mini 120 gb with 4gb of ram, $700 with the teacher discount. going to have to wait until i see a refurb i guess, there were a few on there a couple of weeks ago... im going to pick up a 500 gb time capsule too, as i'd like to upgrade my router & by some more storage.
posted by fumbducker at 7:34 PM on April 12, 2009

I'm going to be another one jumping on the Mac Mini bandwagon! It's more money, but it's also much more flexible than the Apple TV because it is running OSX, which means you immediately get access to anything that works on OSX, no hacking required (like a full browser, bluetooth keyboard etc).

I use mine (last-gen Mini) with an Apple Bluetooth KB and Mighty Mouse, and also have a Harmony remote configured to mimic the little Apple Remote that you get. I also have a 500gb and 750gb external HDD attached via USB for all my media. My main interface is Plex (mentioned by fumbducker above), but because it's a real machine, I also use it for browsing the web, downloading torrents and other media files, playing the occasional game (looks great on the 42" plasma!) etc. I can also access it remotely using VNC from one of the other machines in the house if I want to (since OSX has a built-in VNC server).

Honestly, it's the best $1000 (Mini+KB+Mouse+HDD) I've ever spent, and that's saying something!
posted by ranglin at 2:08 AM on April 13, 2009

Here's the same one I bought in the clearance section. I added this internal hard drive and this RAM. It's just under $600 for that and you'll have a faster HDD (7200 RPM) with a larger capacity.

Opening the Mini is a bit of a chore, though.
posted by cdmwebs at 7:40 AM on April 13, 2009

Also, I wrote a little script to look for my MacBook Pro (my main computer) on the network and sync iTunes libraries and my Movies folder if it's there. Works great. Let me know if you're interested in that, too.
posted by cdmwebs at 7:45 AM on April 13, 2009

I'm running a Mini with 2TB of Storage attached (via a Drobo), feeding to a 42in Plasma vid HDMI and the optical audio feeding to an older home theater system, and I love it.

I have far more options and capability with it than I ever would with an AppleTV, and I think it's great. 1080 video runs smoothly, I can rip my DVDs with handbrake, Windows Live Sync allows me access to my media library from other comps, etc. etc.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:35 PM on April 15, 2009

thanks for replying jkf, do you (or anyone that answered) have the new nvidia mini, or are you using the old mini with your 1080p? im leery of going for the old one thats on clearance because of that...
posted by fumbducker at 1:31 PM on April 15, 2009

Old one. 1080p no problems.
posted by cdmwebs at 1:53 PM on April 15, 2009

Not home to check her exact stats, but it definitely isn't the brand new one, but the model just prior to it.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:36 PM on April 15, 2009

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