Media computer, Mini Mac or fanless PC?


2007-03-18 9:22 am
I got a new TV and it can display 1024x768 very well.

I started looking at building a QUIET media PC.
Then someone suggested a mini Mac.

I have a reasonable USB sound card.
All of my music and video is stored in a shared directory on a PC at the other end of the house, I will move the data to a Network storage box soon. It would be easy for me to run a network cable.

I dont need anything particularly powerful, Just something to play music, watch video and view photos as a screensaver. Most importantly it needs to be quiet and relatively easy to use. I have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

I've never had a mac before and the fanless PC was looking expensive and bulky.

Has anyone had experience with both?
One of my buddies has a Mac mini for this ap. With the built-in Front Row software & the included remote, it is easy to set up, use & has an excellent UI. Buried in my email is a link to even more proficient software for media control., and i have seen some references to "TIVO" software. The available TV tuners also seem to work pretty well

You need to have DVI in on your TV (or i guess DVI to HDMI converter cable)

The mac mini is at the top of my list for this purpose. For now i just use a Mac for music interface (whichever one is most convienent -- a $250 iBook at the moment)

I don't buy the concept of fanless computers - I'm not saying they don't work, but they certainly are not needed for a QUIET PC.

It's not hard to have less noise from fans than a CD spinning in a player. Custom making a case (like I am at present) or chopping open various gaps in the rear, then funneling them into a single tunnel to an internal fan should more or less make it silent to any human being. Sure you have to use a quiet fan to start with, but they're not overly hard to find, so combined with some smart thinking you should be set.

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with the mac-mini as an option either, naturally they're far more compact.

You can also go the route of miniITX motherboard based PCs too which include an onboard CPU, some have some interesting outputs such as digital audio, DVI, and even svideo/composite/component video outputs. Some are even fanless.

If you're planning for HD playback, you'll want a pretty good video card that has hardware acceleration for H.264 and all that. There are some fanless video cards that qualify; check out AVSForum for lots of good info on HTPCs. Combo DVD/Bluray/HD-DVD drives are available now from LG for around $200, so having your media computer double as a Bluray/HD-DVD player isn't unreasonable.
Re: HD?

dangus said:
If you're planning for HD playback, you'll want a pretty good video card that has hardware acceleration for H.264 and all that.

I don't know to much about that, but H,264 is Apple technology built into quicktime and none of the current Macs seem to have any issues with throwing the bits up on the screen. The Mac Mini does have the slowest video of them all thou (maybe the MacBook is the same)



2007-03-18 9:22 am
Blu-ray and HDTV is wasted on me, I'm nearsighted.
Also our television all comes via satellite and is highly compressed, it's very poor quality to begin with. Trees in the wind and running water are made of large rectangles.

I don't mind having a separate dvd player.

I mainly need a convenient way to play music, My HP laptop is too noisy, especially with the external hard disk and I need it for work. It's time for a dedicated media machine.

Good point about fanless PCs, we do have an air conditioner running virtually all year, fortunately that is a very quiet ducted unit but it does noticeably raise the noise floor so I can accept some noise from the computer..

The Mac mini is looking good then. Theie main shortcoming is the Graphics aren't all that great which doesn't matter to me.