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Apple Mac Mini Media Center Print E-mail
Friday, 09 May 2008
ImageThe Basics:
The Mac mini is the least expensive Apple computer on the market, targeted at the digital-media fan who wants to import and manage digital content via iTunes and iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand, and iWeb) and navigate it using Apple’s Front Row interface. Consequently, it has become a popular choice for those who want to build a Mac-based media center. The specs above reflect the basic Mac mini configuration, but you can upgrade to a 2.0GHz Intel processor, 120GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM and a SuperDrive with DVD-RW/CD-RW capabilities for $899. Neither version includes internal TV tuners or DVR functionality, although you can add these features through third-party software from companies like Elgato Systems.

The Mac mini has a very basic set of connections: It has a single DVI video output, with an included VGA adapter and a single mini-jack that serves as an optical digital audio and headphone output. The unit has a built-in speaker, four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port and an optical digital/line audio input. It connects to the Internet via built-in Ethernet or 802.11b/g.

As the name suggests, the unit has a compact profile, with Apple’s signature white cabinet. It comes with an IR remote. The standard package does not include a keyboard/mouse option, but you can add Apple’s wired keyboard/mouse combo for $98 or its wireless keyboard/mouse combo for $129.
The Upside:
The Mac mini has a small, HT-friendly form factor and the unit is very quiet. Mac operating systems are known for their stability. This is a less-expensive option than a full-fledged Mac for the computer user who is especially interested in digital media.

The Downside:
The Mac mini lacks internal TV tuners and DVR functionality, and its connection panel is limited. It can output 5.1 digital audio, but it requires special set-up and adapter cables. While you can purchase music and TV shows through iTunes, you can’t rent HD titles using a Mac mini, as you can with Apple TV.

Out of the box, the Mac mini isn’t a full-fledged media center; it’s more of a foundation for a media center. You can add Elgato’s EyeTV tuning/DVR software for as little as $149.95 and get a more complete media center experience for $748.95. The Mac mini would also make a good secondary drive for streaming content to the Apple TV.

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