Mac Mini as HTPC - Feedback or thoughts?
I've been waiting for Apple to update the Mac Mini and using it as a HTPC. Today is the day! While I wasn't expecting a form factor refresh, I was expecting the new GPU and possibly HDMI. Either way today's update (minus the price bump) makes the Mini an even more viable HTPC.
So, here is my plan. Does anyone have anything similar or have any comments or areas I should be concerned about?
Here is the equipment I plan on using...
Key Equipment -
My main goal is to have the Mac mini pull local video files in various formats (.mkv, .avi, .mp4, etc) and resolutions (480i to 1080p) from the Drobo FS as well as from online sources such as Hulu and Netflix. This content will be displayed on the TV with a easy to use interface.
I want this to be as 'hands off' as possible. Meaning I don't wanna fiddle with settings to get a show playing. I just want to turn on the TV, use the remote, and get to watching content like a STB.
I plan on installing either Boxee or Plex (anyone prefer one or the other?) on the Mac mini and leave it connected to the TV via HDMI. Boxee/Plex will be the main application running almost all of the time.
I'll be loading video files onto the Drobo FS remotely from other computers in the house. The Drobo FS and Mac mini will both be directly connected to the Airport Extreme...
To control the Mac Mini, I plan on installing an application on the iPad called 'Rowmote' which will have a virtual keyboard and track pad. This way I won't have to get a mouse/keyboard setup for the living room if I need to mess with any settings that requires text input.
Additionally Rowmote can also have 'remote buttons' instead of a trackpad/keyboard if I wish to manipulate content that way. While thats an option, I'd prefer to use the Apple Remote to navigate through the Boxee/Plex UI as I prefer the 'physical remote' instead of the touch screen remote. This should mimic the STB experience a bit more closely than just using the iPad.
Are there any thoughts or concerns with the setup? Anything I should keep an eye out for? Any suggestions on how I can improve the setup?
3 years and counting
I've been using a late 2006 Mac Mini as an HTPC and never looked back. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, there are remote apps you can use in lieu of the Apple remote, which is tiny and easy to lose or break.
ITunes, Hulu, Netflix, which users Microsoft's Silverlight of all things, YouTube, and any site with a video stream work great. The World Cup stream from ESPN3 isn't sharp, but I'm not paying for cable.
The downside is to record off air HD, the older Minis aren't powerful enough, mine cannot even stream HD (also due to bad reception so I watch off air HD directly and toggle to the Mini during commercials), but the new ones should be able to, assuming you have good reception and a good antenna.
My viewing habits have totally changed - appointment TV is gone except for major sports events and barely any more commercials as you can have multiple streams going and many video podcasts don't contain commercials. Instead of thinking of the time and what to watch, you think of what you want to watch and bring it up. A regular old TV just seems so limiting now.
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