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Could my next HTPC be a Mac Mini?

Open mouth, insert foot! Ok, after years of being one to point out plenty of Mac problems and faults to everyone I know, I have finally found a reason to buy one.   I have been building and using HTPC’s for years and it took some time to find the hardware and software I was comfortable with.  Setting things up like my iMon Remote proved to be fun, but useless.  The hardware, the OS, and all that stuff cost me nearly the same price as the new Mac.  So, what has changed?

One of the biggest changes here is the fact that the new Mini comes with an HDMI port!  Apple has refused for some time to integrate this little bugger but now with the inclusion the HTPC market may just change dramatically.  Aside from the inclusion of the much anticipated HDMI port, the Mini is smaller than a Wii at just 7.7 inches wide/deep,  just 1.4 inches tall and only uses 10 watts of electricity when idle!!!

The Mini also provides an SD card slot, Gigabit Ethernet, 1 Firewire port, and 4 USB 2.0 ports to boot.  If you were worried about a brick for power, DON’T… it doesn’t have one!  Accompanying the Gigabit Ethernet port is a built-in wireless N adapter and Bluetooth adapter.

Whats else is under the hood:

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (2.66GHz available)
  • 2GB memory (expandable to 8GB) SO-DIMM
  • 320GB hard drive (500GB optional)
  • 8x double-layer SuperDrive
  • NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard

What should be included free:

  • Wireless keyboard ($69.00)
  • Wireless mouse ($69.00)
  • Apple Remote ($19.00)

With the small design comes a bit of flexibility that we are not used to with the previous Macs. The bottom of the Mini reveals a removable bottom panel and a simple twist will allow you to remove the panel and add more RAM all by your lonesome; saving you the hassle of dealing with the sandal wearing fan fare at the Mac Store.

Without owning one yet, the only complaints I have about the new Mini are that it doesn’t have the option of a Blu-ray drive and that it is made by Apple.  From the technical specs, it features more firepower than my latest HTPC build and comes with all the amenities (except the mouse and keyboard) I would expect for the same amount of money while saving me a ton of space and using far less energy.  Lacking an included wireless keyboard and mouse puts a small damper on my excitement, but can be overlooked by spending only $19.00 on an optional remote.  If you are deadset against running Mac OS X on your HTPC, install Windows on it!  So how much will this thing set you back? $699.00

About Joe D

I have always had a passion for everything computing. In early 2000, I decided to take my passion to the web. Thus, C.O.D. was born. Through the years we have made many great friends at C.O.D. and hope to continue our journey for years to come.

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10 comments

  1. I am using an Acer Aspire Revo R3610 with Windows 7 as an HTPC and it rocks. Only cost about AUD350 too. Mac Mini is way overpriced for an HTPC.

  2. People should be more concious about the power that this thing uses. It's pretty amazing.

    They don't include a BD ROM yet because of

    1. DRM

    2. It's likely the drivers can't display HD Properly… Note, this aint Apples fault. NVidia/ATI should spend more time writing drivers for Darwin/Linux/BSD. Especially as more people move from Windows to these platforms.

    That price is honestly more competitive as well. To those of you who focus on windows products I would also especially suggest spending some time with Linux' Myth TV..

  3. $699 is wayyyy too much – it should have come with a blu-ray drive and software to allow for Blu-ray playback with audio bitstreaming over HDMI.

    As it is, the only thing you can play are pirated movies or the poor-quality iTunes "HD" shows and movies @ 720p @ low bitrates.

    Oh well – if you have more money then brains go get this. 🙂

    • With that said – I think you'd be forced to install Windows to get lossless surround sound audio, then purchase a BD-ROM drive to play blu-rays. But it would have to be in an external enclosure.

      I really don't see the benefit of a Mac Mini for Blu-ray playback.

      • It would have been much more attractive had they included the BD-ROM. I just don't understand why they didn't… they tout how advanced they are all the time. That would have been a killer move had they included it.

    • Based on the systems I build now, (with a LEGAL version of Windows 7) I am paying the same amount of money.

      100.00 for Motherboard with HDMI onboard
      150.00 for Processor
      80.00 for Ram
      130.00 for decent htpc case with Power Supply
      150.00 for windows 7
      60.00 for hdd
      70.00 for bluetooth keyboard and mouse

      Total: $740.00 (doesn't include Blu-ray drive or software)

      That builds you a system that is far bigger (dimensions) and uses much more power. Also in my experiences (50 or so HTPC's built to date) I have seen that the on board video doesn't do such a hot job of playing HQ vids… I have been purchase ATI 4350's to accommodate this which adds another 50.00 to the mix. I cannot definitively say that this is the ultimate HTPC without getting one for testing, but it is enticing.

  4. Be a bit wary. I have found that Mac Mini and Mac Pro video card drivers often don't properly scale to the HDTV or audio video receiver's resolution. They either substantially underscan or overscan. There are utilities for tweaking the resolution but it can be painful.

    I have found Windows video drivers do this much better.

    I do a substantial number of home theater/HTPC setups as part of my business, so I writing from real experience in lots of homes.

    The Mac Mini form factor, connectors and quietness are real pluses but the video issues are real downers.

    • Those are some of the things I had been afraid of. Given my experience with HTPC's and Home Theatre giddups, I can say with great confidence that Media Center and a Home server makes for an awesome team. However, being that this uses an nvidia graphics controller, worst case scenario would be running Windows on it (provided I can get driver support for the hardware)

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