Apple Mac Mini : Best HTPC?

Apple Mac Mini : Best HTPC?

Warning before reading on: ¬†I do love Apple products, so I am in a way biased ūüôā

After much testing in regards to the Best HTPC on the market, when it comes down to it, I think the Mac Mini is a solid contender for the best HTPC on the market today. ¬†Let’s outline the feature set of the Mac Mini as it pertains to home theater PC’s.

Pro’s – Mac Mini as the Best HTPC

  • Plethora of inputs for connecting devices. ¬†The Mac Mini packs 4 USB 2.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, Firewire 800, Ethernet, plus a audio output jack that with a Mini-Toslink cable can actually output 5.1 audio.
  • HDMI built into the device that also carries audio.
  • Enough processing power to be able to run your HTPC app (our favorite Plex), plus download clients, file server, transcoding, FTP server, and probably anything else you would need your HTPC to run.
  • Powerful enough to run full 2K video if you are viewing RAW video files. ¬†Can definitely handle your 20GB 1080P Blu-Ray rips.
  • Can run both Windows and OSX depending on which OS you prefer.
  • Small footprint in your living area, as well as being very visually stimulating to look at.
  • Low power consumption and next to no noise.
  • Apple Warranty for nearly anything.
  • Plenty of options for connecting storage, you can do a DAS (direct attached storage) via USB, Firewire 800/400, or Thunderbolt.
  • Price tag of $568 on Amazon.
The inputs on the Mac Mini are pretty excellent and one of the top reasons I consider it the best HTPC. ¬†Although it does lack USB3.0 that’s not the end of the world. ¬†Let’s do some data calculation, let’s say you are downloading via Usenet on a 50MB line (which is high for home users) that’s 5MB/s plus you are viewing 1080P Blu-Ray rip with a 10MB/s data rate, plus a file copy on your local gigabit ethernet (10MBps) that’s 25MBps. ¬†The theoretical limit of USB 2.0 is 40MBps although you NEVER will see that because of the design of the bus itself, USB 2.0 can almost handle it. ¬†However, if you look at FW800, thats 80MBps theoretical (more like 50MBps real world) and you are rocking. ¬†My point being, that with FW800 or Thunderbolt, you are rock solid for transfer speeds. ¬†Thunderbolts bandwidth is 20Gb/s, 20 GIGABITS PER SECOND. ¬†Now.. that is QUICK, and also overkill ūüôā
Another reason I consider the Mac Mini as the best HTPC is how¬†aesthetically¬†pleasing it is to the eye, this is a slick looking device that will definitely get your friends noticing. ¬†They will ask you, is that a Mac connected to your TV? ¬†That’s when you get the glory of showing them how awesome your setup is and how the best HTPC automatically downloads all your content and presents it to your whole family in an easy to use interface that will inspire them to do the same. ¬†If you get one of those STB looking HTPC’s, sure it might have some extra juice, but let’s be real, it’s not as nice looking as the mini. ¬†This is what Apple does! ¬†They make shiny products that are easily recognized and look amazing. ¬†Even if you don’t like OSX, which I understand some of you don’t, install Windows on this bad boy and it will still handle everything like OSX would.

Cons – Mac Mini as the Best HTPC

Some of the limitations we have seen that people might say hold it back from being the best HTPC on the market would be the following:

  • No built in Blu-Ray player.
  • Video card not powerful enough to play newest games on full resolution.
  • Hardware isn’t scalable and most components not user replaceable.

To all the naysayers that complain about lack of built in Blu-Ray, to you I say, sorry… There is no Blu-Ray and from the looks of it, Apple has no plans to adopt the technology anytime soon. ¬†For those who want to game on their HTPC, I say the following: your HDTV only supports 1080P resolution, you can run even the latest games on 1080p with medium settings (basically the same thing as Xbox360 or PS3) on your HTPC and wont know the difference unless you are inches from the screen. ¬†And regarding the hardware not being scalable, it doesn’t need to be! ¬†That’s the beauty of it, you set this bad boy up and run it, and it just simply works. ¬†You don’t need to add a new video card to get good quality video, you don’t need to change CPU’s to get apps to run quicker. ¬†The only upgrades, that I suggest, would be a memory bump from 4GB to 8GB (Corsair chips are CHEAP and quality) and possibly an SSD. ¬†I threw a Crucial M4¬†in there and this bad boy RIPS. ¬†I get boot times of less than 10 seconds with 8GB of memory and the SSD. ¬†Granted, that puts you in the ~$800 range, but what you will get with that $800 is amazing.

Mac Mini : Best HTPC in Summary

The reasons I feel the Mac Mini is probably the best HTPC on the market today are endless honestly. ¬†I haven’t regret one cent of the sub $600 I spent on mine and from the other units I have observed and tested, there’s no reason I should regret it. ¬†There are other HTPC’s that are home built out there that are pretty sweet with LCD panels on the front, but they look like DVR’s on steroids. ¬†I don’t really want another ugly STB in my entertainment center. ¬†In my setup, I don’t really need it to play Blu-Rays, I don’t need it to be able to play Battlefield 3 on Max settings, I don’t need to bump the hardware in the box. ¬†It just works, and works hard it does. ¬†My Mini works as the server/main brain for my whole HTPC setup. ¬†I have multiple clients connected to it including remote clients on my iDevices. ¬†It all just works, and thats why I believe the best HTPC is the Mac Mini.

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