Is the New Mac Mini your Home Theater PC?

June 19, 2010

Should the new Mac Mini become your home theater PC (HTPC)?  While the $799 cost is steep compared to some of the other options out there, it does have some compelling features.  In it’s new aluminum small form-factor enclosure, it’s ultra-quiet and requires little power to run.  The addition of an HDMI port should make it easy to connect to your current home theater receiver and HDTV.    Intel’s 320M graphics should allow it handle 1080p video.  On the flip side, there’s no blu-ray option and it’s not an out of the box solution.  While you could run the included FrontRow software, it’s really only made to play iTunes content.  You could do that for a lot less money with AppleTV.  There’s no easy way to run Hulu or NetFlix without using a clunky mouse and keyboard solution in your living room.  Alternatively, you can load up other solutions such as Boxee, MythTV or XMBC with a bunch of supporting software.  But if you are going through all of that trouble, why not just get some generic hardware and run Windows 7 (with it’s slick media center) or Linux.  Yes, it won’t be as aesthetically pleasing and your electric bill will be higher. Or you would be better off just moding an AppleTV or getting a Boxee box (when it’s released) which will cost you a lot less money. 

So, continues my quest to find that perfect box to connect to my home theater.  For now it’s still a separate blu-ray player and the series3 TiVo.  In the end, the Mini is meant to be an all purpose computer and you land up paying for it.

Addendum:  What is the mini good for then?  Well, if you are looking to make the move from Windows and are looking for a desktop, it’s a great way to do it.  You can potentially reuse your existing keyboard, mouse and screen.  It also makes an interesting server for a home or small office and includes a server version of Snow Leopard.  I didn’t know about this version, but it comes with a bunch of workgroup applications for collaboration such as iCal, mail and wiki server as well as remote based web access.  Pretty neat for $999.  

Tags: Apple, Apple TV, Mac mini

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