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How family-friendly is the setup? And how does it compare to Apple's media-centric option, the Apple TV? I was after a completely tricked-out Mac media center and that's what I built.

Death to Apple's Mac Mini: I made a Hackintosh - CNET

I could throw together something nearly as functional for not a lot more than the price of the mini, however. For example, the Mac mini's GB internal hard drive is slow and it doesn't hold a ton of media, but if much of my media is stored and accessed on network drives, who cares? Toast Titanium is helpful for many things but Handbrake, though slow on this Mac, is a capable ripper and converter.

Handbrake can also replace RipIt. RadioShift is another luxury if I'm willing to listen to radio live via iTunes or a Web browser. And, if I can stand using half-a-dozen remotes instead of just one, I could do without the Harmony Once I had the parts it took me the better part of a day to upgrade the mini and configure it as I've outlined. At the end of that day the mini functioned much as I'd planned. With iPhone in hand I was able to play music, videos, and podcasts; watch slideshows; access Hulu and Netflix; and purchase and rent iTunes content from the couch without much bother.

With this setup I was confident that I could do without my DVD player, the receiver's radio, and much of the content currently offered by my satellite TV provider. I have very little interest in televised sports so no loss to me on that front. But if you do follow sports, it's unlikely you'll want to toss out your cable box or satellite receiver. Live sports just isn't served very well via the Internet. The same is true of premiere movie channels such as HBO and Showtime. You can purchase--or rent, via Netflix--shows from these networks, but they're released sometimes a year or more after the season has concluded.

Dealing with discs

Through the week, visitors to our forums have asked, "Yeah, but how does it look and sound? Will it match what my AV components now provide? To me, the quality of DVDs and audio from a Mac mini is no better or worse than what you get from typical AV components. If you've got a standalone DVD player with remarkable upscaling capabilities, one that plays multiple discs, or are concerned about region coding you play lots of DVDs from other countries and don't want a DVD player that locks after five region switches , you'll want to stick with that DVD player.

Otherwise, the mini plays DVDs just fine. The mini supports 5. Video is another matter. Apple would have you believe that the Apple TV is the perfect media centre; we disagree. Though the Apple TV is sleek and comparatively cheap, it's too restrictive. No, for our money you need a Mac mini. It's a proper little Mac, so it's ready to be expanded, added to and turbo-boosted to do everything you need it to. The Apple TV, on the other hand, is pretty much a closed box and you can't do anything with your films, television shows and music apart from play them back.

Oh sure, it has an HDMI port that makes it easy to hook it up to your modern television, but that doesn't, in our book, make up for the pain of being pushed towards buying your content through the iTunes Store. Worst of all, it doesn't do the one thing its name suggests it should; you can't use it to watch regular television.

Yes, you can buy TV shows from the iTunes Store to play back, but you can't simply switch it on to watch the news or to activate the electronic nanny that is CBeebies. Admittedly, we did give the current models a bit of a kicking in our review, but that was just because they're quite expensive for what you get; they're capable little machines, and we think buying an Apple TV is a false economy.

So, let's get started. First, you'll need a Mac mini. Don't be tempted to buy a second-hand G4 model; though the processor will be perfectly capable of playing back standard-definition video, the PowerPC models lacked the unobtrusive infrared receiver tucked in at the corner of the optical drive slit.

In and of itself it can't do anything. Would be helpful to know your specific objections or problems with it. Because James hasn't bothered to put in the time to find the plugins to make XBMC awesome, but absolutely loves making broad-sweeping statements that discount the positive experiences of thousands of users. The meta-data handling of files is terrible comparing to Plex , so you need another external app to create all the relevant XML files and download artwork or a plugin, presumably. There's nothing out there with the number of extensions, though.

If I can imagine it I can find an extension for it — everything from watching CNN to live hockey games to Reddit and beyond. Metadata handling is fine, provided your files are named consistently. I've been naming video files the same way since Boxee, so it doesn't really miss anything for me. Are there apps that can magically figure out disparate naming schemes? We should argue about this stuff out loud, once a week, in a forum where people can be entertained. And we should host it at makeuseof.

Plex does, yes. You don't need to mess with naming, it just infers it and looks up and finds the best match.

My robot butler dreams are getting closer to reality

In the age of web automation, I shouldn't need to rename things to conform with some archaic scheme. That's just nonsense. Excellent idea about http: I am curious why XBMC is not considered, especially since it's a great media center application that can be adapted or installed to many of the platforms mentioned in the write-up. Perhaps, as Justin states, you don't use plugins. Of course it's free, so that may be the reason.

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Are there not other alternatives? That would play everything! Where's the Windows PC? I have two Android TV dongle thingies I'm reviewing now - they should be up later this month for a giveaway. Didn't include as I hadn't had a chance to play with them yet. I'd already mentioned at the start that you could of course use a PC, but I wouldn't be listing it since they vary so much. Top Deals. Email Facebook Whatsapp Pinterest Twitter. Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter! Enter your Email. Read our privacy policy.

Mac mini media center: Is it worth it?

Setup was pretty much plug and play copying some files to an SD card was the hardest part and I can control all functions via the TV remote yes, no additional remote is definitely a Plus Then there are all these Plugins: I love my MacBook Air, but silent it is not. I can even access it when I'm not on my home network such as work or a friends house.

Running XBMC on the raspberry pi is the way to go. It works great! I think the only y point is to have a Class 6 SD card and leave confluence as skin. Having said that, we love him.

My New Mac Mini Plex Server!

Not sure why, but we love him. And I don't really watch TV, so screw that. What about the WDTV? Or any GTV device?

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Or any Rockfish based Android TV stick? I would be cautious of Chinese made products. Are you serious? All my products for the TV, of, laptop etc are made in China Scroll down for the next article.