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Topic # 30274 3-Feb-2009 15:19
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Hi

I'm looking for opinions.

I'm thinking of getting a mac mini + 37" lcd tv and use that for the family computer. I'll use the mac to play cds, dvds, itunes, avi's both with front row and the other .apps. Has anyone set up similar? The TV itself will have a tuner, and I won't be recording with the mac. A wireless keyboard (Apple's smallest one) and mouse.

Another question - do you get keyboards for the mac with a built-in trackpad?

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Reply # 193716 3-Feb-2009 15:22
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We use a Mac mini as a Media Center with a LCD in the lounge - but in our case I am running Windows 7 under Bootcamp. I tried Front Row but it didn't work well when it came to playing some codecs.

Other than this, that's the ideal size for a Media Center, and very quiet too.





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  Reply # 193719 3-Feb-2009 15:27
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I haven't had a Mac mini for a few years now but I used to have mine running similarly to what you're talking about.  I had it connected to a projector using the DVI-TV cable which had several video outputs from memory, RCA and S-Video were on there.  You'll likely connect up to the LCD using a straight DVI-DVI cable.  Are you going to have a standalone speaker for it or plug it into the TV to play through the same AV port as the video output?

It's got inbuilt bluetooth from memory so you can either get a BT mouse and keyboard, or one of the trackpad keyboards like you've suggested.  It's personal preference I guess. 

The small apple wireless keyboard is great, but you might want to think about getting another brand of mouse because the mighty mouse is quite crap.  Especially if it will be used as a family or shared computer - the trackball gets really dirty and stops moving the cursor smoothly after a short while of use, and becomes harder to clean over time.  I've been through 2 replacements since 2005.

Apart from that, give CenterStage or MediaCentral a go for the media management on the Mac.  Or better yet (and cheaper) XBMC for Mac.  Boxee is in beta for Mac too from memory.  All are better than Front Row.

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  Reply # 193721 3-Feb-2009 15:51
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I dont have a mac mini but ill promote xbmc when i can! Use it for your media centre application over frontrow etc.. Boxee i beleive is a different port of xbmc, its the same program but its going in a different direction from xbmc..  I use xbmc on my laptop connected to my 42" and works very well, its also on my xbox for taking to friends for movie nights / partys etc etc..
Have a look at it here

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  Reply # 193770 3-Feb-2009 19:32
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One thing I'd add is do your research on the TV - it appears my Panasonic TV and the Mac Mini won't drive at a proper "native" resoltuion under Mac OS (I haven't tried the latest version and also haven't tried windows).

Front Row / Movies / Videos were fine, but trying to drive a normal desktop failed.

I was utilising a DVI -> HDMI cable.

Also - +1 on the crap mighty mouse comment.  If you go for a bluetooth mouse, either the logitech or kensington work really well.


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  Reply # 193820 3-Feb-2009 21:37
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The mac mini's are meant to be updated soon, maybe you should wait, or have they already been updated?
Oh yea, those mightymouse are absolutely rubbish go for logitech or similar

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  Reply # 193824 3-Feb-2009 21:44
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JMatt94: The mac mini's are meant to be updated soon, maybe you should wait, or have they already been updated?

The rumour was they would be updated during MacWorld ... but it didn't make it.

The rumours currently appear to be on the iMacs - I imagine that this time round will be an announcement rather than the last update and the white MacBook updates ...

We'll have to wait on the Apple folks to announce ...




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  Reply # 193845 3-Feb-2009 22:50
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wow. Nice replies everyone - thanks.

I've not used a mac mouse since forever. At the mo' on my G5 I'm using a sweet Logitech MX Revolution.

Point about resolution noted.

Also thanks for the info about the cabling. I'll probably hook up a speaker system later - 1 expense at a time. I expect that this rig should cost $3500. I saw a 40" Sony LCD on special in the Farmer's leaflet today. Will check that out, but may opt for a TV with Freeview built in. It'll be critical to run the desktop as well as the media player.

I did look briefly at XBMC et al, but considering my I'd like my wife and 6 year old to have access to media as well, simpler software will be better. I can always make sure the media is optimised for FrontRow. Also I've read of people having some issue or the other making Apple's bundled remote "just work" with third party software.

Overt reason for buying this is to test websites under Windows, but if the business will buy a new tv and media centre for me too, well why not!

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  Reply # 193847 3-Feb-2009 22:56
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I had mine plugged into a 1080p screen playing pretty much anything I wanted using the Perian codec. Worked fine either with FrontRow or Plex (XBMC offshoot).

Getting it to output 1080p instead of 1080i is a bit of a task as Apple appear to have attempted to cripple it for some reason so you need to muck around a bit.

Otherwise, you can just output 1360x768 over a standard DVI/VGA connection and it looks fine. Getting FrontRow to output AC3 is nigh impossible, but stick Plex on there and it's not an issue, apart from the 10-15% CPU usage while idle which is a bit ridiculous.

I made the mistake of replacing it with an AppleTV, bloody useless device. I'm not sure why they even bother selling them in NZ as unless you hack them they're glorified MP3 players, (unless you can afford the time & bandwidth to download the 2GB+ movies). Even hacked it's pretty flaky.

Mac Mini's are wonderful devices. Compact and relatively powerful little computers, I'd upgraded the CPU, HDD and RAM in mine so it was a pretty grunty little thing. Wait a few weeks and see if they do finally upgrade the things, as a newer video chipset may well have the hardware H.264 decoding built in, and possible an HDMI output, but knowing Apple they'll probably make that available via an "optional extra" mini-displayport adaptor.

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  Reply # 193875 4-Feb-2009 07:06
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stevenz: I'd upgraded the CPU, HDD and RAM in mine so it was a pretty grunty little thing.



Hmmm. I'd be interested in upgrading ours - I know more memory can go in but didn't know about CPU replacement. Care to provide more information please?




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  Reply # 193943 4-Feb-2009 11:36
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I have the smaller (recent) mini mac i.e. 1.8ghz, 1gb memory driving a 52" Plasma Panasonic via the monitor port very successfuly using Media Portal v1.0.

I bought the wireless keyboard and mouse, but also installed an MCE remote and USB receiver. I almost never use the keyboard or mouse. One of the cool things about the wireless mouse, is when running under Windows it operates just like a regular windows mouse i.e. right and left click options.

Never regretted purchasing the Mini Mac - very useful piece of kit.

Cheers Mike

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  Reply # 193959 4-Feb-2009 12:30
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freitasm:
stevenz: I'd upgraded the CPU, HDD and RAM in mine so it was a pretty grunty little thing.



Hmmm. I'd be interested in upgrading ours - I know more memory can go in but didn't know about CPU replacement. Care to provide more information please?


Was this a CTO upgrade perhaps?



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  Reply # 194096 4-Feb-2009 19:22
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You couldn't go more than2g ram right?



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  Reply # 194408 6-Feb-2009 01:58
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For thos interested, I found this nifty nmber for my potential setup:

http://macrecon.com/hardware-review-logitech-dinovo-mini/

It's a mini keyboard specially built for the living room.

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  Reply # 196287 17-Feb-2009 14:05
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I had problems getting my mac to drive our PDP at 1360x768. But a little tweaking with SwitchresX fixed that. I also used it to reduce the tearing I was getting.

HDD & RAM upgrading in the mini is simple enough. But cpu? I thought apple would have soldered it in, like with the notebooks.

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  Reply # 197336 22-Feb-2009 19:21
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gehenna:
freitasm:
stevenz: I'd upgraded the CPU, HDD and RAM in mine so it was a pretty grunty little thing.



Hmmm. I'd be interested in upgrading ours - I know more memory can go in but didn't know about CPU replacement. Care to provide more information please?


Was this a CTO upgrade perhaps?


What's CTO? I did all the upgrades myself, no big deal.

The Mac Minis use standard notebook CPUs in a standard socket. Just a case of finding a compatible one, and replacing the existing one. I think the highest you can go is a T7600 Merom CPU which is a Core 2 Duo 2.33Ghz.

And once you've installed Perian onto it, FrontRow will play just about anything you throw at it, although it won't do AC3 passthrough. FrontRow also doesn't use up 10-20% CPU when it's idle like XBMC/Plex does, causing the fan to run fast all the time. One day maybe they'll fix the bug, but it's been in there since day 1.

Mac Minis can recognise 3GB of RAM, but running 3GB instead of 2GB, you lose the dual-channel speed benefit (a couple of % difference). You can put 2x 4GB modules in to get it back into dual-channel mode, but the system won't see more than 3GB.

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