Is an old mac mini beefy enough to play back HD video?
January 31, 2010 2:50 AM   Subscribe

Can I use an older mac mini to play back HD divx and H264 content?

By older, I mean a single core machine, like this. I used to have a macbook rigged up to the telly, but that got thieved this weekend. Given that I don't use the keyboard or screen on it, I'm hoping I can replace it with an older (read: "cheap as possible") mac mini.

(also: does this have an optical audio out port?)
posted by pompomtom to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I just found this article:

Honestly, I didn't take the time to read into it too much other than to see that he's using his Mac Mini to serve divx and h264 content, and to see that the screenshots appear to be pre-Leopard (probably Tiger?) and therefore most likely the vintage you describe.
posted by ferdinandcc at 3:04 AM on January 31, 2010

This also might be of use to you, a 2005 article from Engadget on how to turn your Mac mini into a media center.
posted by ferdinandcc at 3:06 AM on January 31, 2010

If you find that the Core Solo can't handle it, you can always swap out the processor for a Core Duo or Core 2 Duo which you can buy cheap on eBay. It's not a job for the faint of heart, but since the processor is socketed, it's really not that bad. There are many walkthroughs out there.
posted by thejoshu at 6:05 AM on January 31, 2010

I'm posting this from that very model, and I think you should be fine. We've been using it as our primary family computer for several years, and I do occasionally watch full screen HD content without a hitch. There is no optical audio port though.
posted by JeffK at 6:33 AM on January 31, 2010

I don't think so.

I looked into using a Mini as a media center (for specifically HD content.) I think the minimum it needed was the core 2 duo...and possibly the newer mini for it's video card. I'm traveling right now - but I recall finding a bunch of links that said that you just needed a bit more power for the h264 stuff.
posted by filmgeek at 8:57 AM on January 31, 2010

For HD content the answer is surely "no," at least not without doing some sort of hardware mod. Someone already mentioned the CPU upgrade. There is also the option of replacing the mini-PCIexpress wireless card with a Broadcom Crystal HD decoder, which XBMC is starting to support.
posted by Good Brain at 9:47 AM on January 31, 2010

You can likely watch some 720p stuff from the iTunes store, becuase the encoding profiles are not complex. 720p and 1080p scene releases are probably out.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2010

Also consider than some of the older Intel-based mini's can be upgraded. The processor is socketed and can be replaced without too much hassle. You can go from a 1.6ghz solo to a 2ghz core duo in some situations.

STFW for more info.
posted by wkearney99 at 12:52 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: As another reference point:
My Core Duo (not Core 2), 2gigs RAM, had trouble with most 720p content and definitely couldn't handle 1080p when I was using it as a media center box. I typically had iTunes as well as an FTP daemon running so YMMV if you're only playing content. Also, since it was a file server, playing content on my MBP over wireless was choppy as well. I just got a brand new mini, also 2gigs RAM, and have no problems with 1080p or streaming to my MPB.
posted by sub-culture at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2010

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