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Apple TV vs. Mac mini - Which one is right for you?

Written on January 16, 2007 by Iyaz Akhtar and 123 people have commented
Apple TV vs. Mac mini

A Mac mini is more than double the price of an Apple TV - is it worth the money? Here’s a handy table comparing the two products (information on the Apple TV was found at Ars Technica citing AppleInsider).

  Apple TV Mac mini
Price $299 $599
Audio Output HDMI, optical audio, analog RCA stereo audio Combined optical digital audio output/headphone out
Hard Drive 40GB 60GB
CD/DVD None Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
Processor 1.0GHz Pentium underclocked on a 350MHz bus 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo
RAM 256MB of 400MHz DDR2 512MB (Video RAM shares this RAM)
Software (selected) Apple TV interface (modified Front Row) Mac OS X, iLife, Front Row
Video RAM nVidia G72M with 64MB DDR2 Video Memory Intel GMA 950 graphics processor with 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory
Wireless Features 802.11b, g, n 802.11b, g and Bluetooth 2.0
Weight 2.4lbs 2.9lbs
Video Output HDMI, component video DVI, VGA with included adapter, S-Video and composite video with optional adapter

What the Apple TV offers that the Mac mini doesn’t

First off, the Apple TV offers you a $300 savings. You could get two Apple TV’s for the price of one entry-level Mac mini. The Apple TV also offers HDMI output, a true one cable hookup for audio and video and is designed to work with TV’s out of the box. Mac minis do not necessarily work with TV’s without a bit of tweaking.

The Apple TV features 802.11n technology which should allow for stutter-free wireless streaming of larger files if you have an 802.11n router. As an aside, the Apple TV allows you to playback protected content from the iTunes Store - a feat that is not replicated by any other extender-like device. Additionally, the Apple TV does not have integrated Intel video. This should allow for better video playback capabilities.

Apple TV is also dead easy to use. It is built around a modified Front Row program which locks the user out of any real power settings. It’s an excellent device you could place in your guest room and have your guests figure out how to use it even if they have never used a Mac before. All you have to do is run the network behind the scenes.

Apple TV and the Front Row Interface

The slick Apple TV interface is effectively a modified Front Row.

Apple TV Menu: Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts, Photos, Settings and Sources.

Front Row: Music (contains a Podcasts submenu), Photos, Videos (contains Theatrical Trailers, Movies, Music Videos, TV Shows, Video Podcasts), DVD.

Why buy a Mac mini then?

Let’s face it, the Apple TV doesn’t do much at all. It is not in the same class as the Mac mini. The Apple TV is merely a box that pulls your content from your computer to your television. These devices are not meant for the same audience, however the Mac mini could easily take the place of an Apple TV should you chose.

Alright, so what do you get for the extra $300 if you chose an entry-level Mac mini? A quick note: the following calculation is far from scientific and these numbers may vary depending on vendors; if you come up with other numbers, feel free to post them in the comments. I used Froogle to find some pricing information. A Mac mini includes a DVD player and CD burner. A DVD-ROM reader can go for as little as $20, a stand alone can cost a consumer $30. Let’s say this combo drive feature is worth $20 for argument’s sake. The Mac mini also includes Mac OS X and iLife which retails for $129 and $79 respectively. The Mac mini has a 60GB hard drive compared to the Apple TV’s 40GB hard drive - that 20GB difference is worth about $20. $248/$300 covered so far. There is an extra 256MB of 667 DDR2 SDRAM in the Mac mini which runs about $45 from Crucial (I am sure there are cheaper options for RAM, but Apple products have been known to be temperamental with RAM). $293/$300 covered. So far, $7 are not accounted for.

However, the Mac mini has capabilities not offered by the Apple TV that are not so easily priced (well, by me). Expandability through four USB 2.0 ports and one Firewire 400 port is offered through the Mac mini. The one USB port on the Apple TV is not meant for the end-user. I would imagine the only way to expand the capacity of the Apple TV is via a networked computer or hacking the device with another hard drive. Since the Mac mini runs a full version of OS X, other video formats are supported such as DivX, Xvid, and VIDEO_TS. What is that capability worth to you? The Apple TV does not have this ability at all.

What should you get? It depends.

Should you shell out $600 or $300 for your next Apple product? It depends on a number of factors.

After you decide how much money you are willing to spend, the main factor to consider is content - what kind of content do you already have? Do you have DRM’ed iTunes music and video? Both machines play DRM’ed iTunes media. Are you a DivX fanatic? Then the Apple TV is incapable of handling your media. Keep in mind that the Apple TV can play anything an iPod can. It is effectively a headless 40GB iPod with an HDMI out. If you want to be able to run backed-up copies of your homemade DVD’s, then an Apple TV may not be the best option for you.

Also consider maintenance. As great as Macs are, they are still computers. Computers need maintenance, but the Apple TV is positioned as an appliance and should rarely need anything like repairing permissions or other repairs initiated by the user.

Don’t overlook your television. If you have an older TV that has neither HDMI nor component video, you will need some kind of adapter (if one exists) to hook up the HDMI or component output of the Apple TV to a RF or composite input. Sticking an Apple TV into a guest room may be tricky if your television doesn’t have the appropriate inputs. The Mac mini has an adapter which allows for S-Video and RCA composite output which costs $19.

Consider how long you keep equipment. If you are planning on keeping either device for a long time, a Mac mini can be repurposed in numerous ways. In a couple of years, it may not be the latest and greatest computer, but it may make a fine server or project box. An Apple TV is a single purpose device that will inevitably be hacked. Its usefulness over time depends on what kind of hacks will be available. A Mac mini does not need hacks to be useful, however.

After considering these factors, don’t forget about the all important spouse-factor. Your spouse may not be thrilled with your Mac mini + HDTV dream, but may be more amenable to the Apple TV + HDTV combo. Why? Just ask your spouse.

I am sure there are more considerations to ponder in making your decision, but if you get lost or confused just ask yourself, “What do I want to do with this thing?” Once you know the use of the product, you may have a clearer idea of what to chose.

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Comments RSSComments

  1. #1 wph says:

    I like the comparison of the tv to a headless iPod. It’s quite true, the tv even shows up on the iPod section of the apple website. That’s the way people should think of it, not as a computer or a DVR (Which I wish it was)

  2. #2 Clark says:

    Note the aTV doesn’t do 5.1 sound and won’t play most HD content at proper frame rate.

  3. #3 b3 says:

    I’ve been debating this as well. One more thing going for the Mac Mini is that it is a backup machine in case anything happens to your primary one. My wife’s Macbook had to be sent in for repairs. We back up our machines daily to a bootable external drive.
    Right now, she is without a computer of her own, just relying on mine when it’s available.
    If we had a Mac Mini, she could boot from the external drive, and use it just like her macbook without skipping a beat.

    this is not possible with the AppleTV

    not to mention, with the mac mini and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you can purchase iTunes content from your couch. again, not something that you can do with the AppleTV.

    I think i’ll start looking into getting a mini. With Leapord coming out and front row 2.0 (which will most likely be very similar to the aTV interface) it’s worth the extra money.

  4. #4 D9 says:

    Yes, I agree…this comparison is a bit of stretch in an “apples to apples” evaluation. Remember too that an TV requires a computer to provide it with the content, whether stored or streamed.

    I’ve had a Mac mini-HDTV setup for about 8 months now and I truly like the experience of having it both as an oversized desktop (42″ @ 1900×1080) and as a media center (FrontRow & EyeTV HD). The ability of “working” on a mini as well as serving up media content justifies the price difference, including the EyeTV hardware.

    The only real improvement I see needed in the mini is a dedicated video card (128MB +).

  5. #5 macminiman says:

    Like the blog, but without a left hand margin, the text is hard to read! Needs white space on the left hand side!

  6. #6 Josh Pigford says:

    macminiman: Please use the contact form for suggestions…not blog posts.

  7. #7 Marco Burelle says:

    Was questionning myself since second one I saw the aTV. So thanks for the comparaison. Other thing I’m looking for is to surf the web and record program tv so the aTV is not for me it seems.

  8. #8 Marc Pelletier says:

    A mini will also run Windows Media Center through boot camp…

  9. #9 rjschwarz says:

    You can check your email and websurf on a MacMini. Why they didn’t include this functionality in the Apple TV I don’t know. I’d much rather have my guests check their email and surf on the television than on my computer. Hopefully version 2.0.

  10. #10 dikern says:

    The Mini also works perfect with the matching IOMEGA-drives. A stack of two Iomega 500GB drives, and a Mini with 60GB - will definitly give you storage for the next five years.

    My choice will be a Mini - optic audio to the surroundreciever, DVI to the HDTV. Also it lets me use plugins for xvid, divx and other piracy formats :P

  11. #11 Teddy Hwang says:

    The Apple TV will be able to play XviD and DivX!

  12. #12 Teddy Hwang says:

    The Apple TV will be able to play XviD and virtually any video file that Quicktime can play. The Apple TV can play anything you load onto iTunes. Though iTunes does not accept AVI files, you can take quick and easy steps (without encoding) to import such files onto iTunes. Here’s the solution I’m referring to:

    So to put it simply, if you have videos that can be played in Quicktime, they can be played in iTunes (using the method above). This means you should be able to play the same files on Apple TV. After all, even the Apple website advertises “if it’s on iTunes, it’s on Apple TV”.

  13. #13 Oli Young says:

    The 802.11 b/g/n v b/g comparison will be a non-issue once 10.5 is released; most new macs are coming with a dormant DraftN chip and you could assume that 10.5 will enable them ..

  14. #14 720pHD says:

    “Note the aTV…won’t play most HD content at proper frame rate”

    What are you basing this comment on?

  15. #15 Oli Young says:

    #11 - No, it won’t. That method of enabling XVID/DIVX support requires access to the QuickTime components, because the only way Quicktime can play them is through new codecs and the only way you can install them is by dropping the XVID codecs into ~/Library/Quicktime

    We can easily assume that that TV won’t have that kind of access, it’s a black box.

    You’ll still need to convert them to an acceptable format, but it’s easy with something like VisualHub or iSquint

  16. #16 thok says:

    interesting comparison and worth a comment. of course, as computer users, hackers, people interested in the underlying technology-this is an interesting comparison. as it clearly shows that apple is doing a fine job of it making its launch into businesses that could do with a bit of ‘dumbing down’. Thats what they are good at. Apple is has always been good at abstracting: abstracting technology into something that is understandable for normal human beings. they have done it with all their products, in both hardware and software terms to make things more easily accessible to normal human beings, with the added touch of trying to make that abstraction easier and easier to use. recent macword simply codified this in terms of hte iphone and this aTV thing. They are going after the basic couch potato in one sense as well as those who simply couldn care less which branch of bsd they have built it on. as long as it works, easily, simply and my spouse can use it. Even the mini is a far cry from the mac clasic in this sense. Good comparison.

  17. #17 luke says:

    Teddy, creating a reference movie for every movie in my collection is hardly a good solution! out of the box Apple TV DOES NOT play DivX and Xvid. If it did I might be interested.

    As it stands a mac mini is a far better solution, and what the OP fails to mention is that AppleTV needs a mac in the first place to get content from.

  18. #18 Andre Helmstetter says:

    I have had a mac mini + elgato eyetv 500 + a usb based digital surround card (connected digitally to my sound system) connected to my HDTV via DVI since the original mini’s came out. I have a 300GB firewire drive connected and I use content from the iTunes store as well as backed up DVD’s and other home made content. I stream content (photos, music, video) to other laptops and desktops in the house from this setup and it works fine. I can also sit on the couch and actually use the computer to play games, check mail, or surf the web with my bt keyboard and mouse. The system kicks a**, and I will definitely NOT be switching to iTV. I WILL be getting one of the new core duo mini’s so that I can get full res 1080i through the eyetv. To me there is now comparison between the two. The mac mini rules the media room hands down. Oh yeah, I shouldn’t forget to mention that eyetv can export recorded tv shows to itunes, so that I can watch in the media room, or shared to any other iTunes running computer in my house.

  19. #19 dave says:

    Of course, what you should really get is an easily-expandable vanilla box PC for around $400 that comes with a 160gb hard drive and 2gb of RAM.

    But if you want to pay Apple for looking “cool,” go right ahead.

  20. #20 Jerry Moore says:

    All the technical specs and press materials for the Apple TV imply for use on wide screen TV’s only. So what happens if you connect an Apple TV to an HDTV with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Black bars on top and bottom, edges cut off or no display? I know the Mac mini works fine with a 4:3 LCD, but info on Apple TV for 4:3 doesn’t seem to exist.

  21. #21 Teddy Hwang says:

    Oli Young, ah so that’s what I was missing. Let’s hope that Apple will include the components then.

  22. #22 Mark Jacobson says:

    The author also makes no mention of the CPU difference. A 1 Ghz Pentium M vs the Core Duo, imho that more than makes up for the dollar difference, and then some. Not to mention USB ports and peripheral support.

    It can be “apples to apples” there are just more angles to take than what was covered here.

  23. #23 Mike says:

    heck, for 300 bucks I can build a PC to do all this stuff and not worry about a Mac. I would take $600 and build a nice PC with a HUGE hard drive and use Media Center to do all my TV Recording as well as Playback.

  24. #24 John says:

    Clearly Apple expects buyers of the tv to already own a computer, so considering a computer as an added cost isn’t quite fair.

    It’s a convenience device. If you can handle setting up your mini to be a TV, you’re not the target market.

  25. #25 Jon says:

    Mac Mini will also allow you to surf the Internet on your big screen TV from your sofa. Just add an RF wireless keyboard. Potentially, it could also act as a DVR.

  26. #26 scott hodson says:

    The Mac Mini is a full-purpose computer. You could play games on it, watch YouTube videos on it, etc. Get a wireless keyboard and mouse and you’re set. Plus, you could add elgato to make it a DVR. I’m pretty disappointed with how little the aTV does, it’s just a media extender, for just $100 less than an entire XBox 360! I’d wait until they upgrade the mac mini though, you’re gonna want the extra horsepower of the Core 2 chips, maybe a better video card, more RAM and bigger HDD are to come, but who knows when. Until then I’ll just attach my MacBook pro to my TV when I need to…

  27. #27 Jon Henshaw says:

    I think it’s as simple as “what kind of TV do you have?” If you have a widescreen or HD TV, then you should get the AppleTV. Otherwise, you pretty much have to either get the Mac mini or the HomeDock Deluxe (to be used by your video iPod).

  28. #28 Motorcycle Guy says:

    I’d definitely spring for the mini. I’ve been kinda wanting one not because its a mac, but because its so small.

  29. #29 Shane4x4 says:

    I still think with the HDMI, the Apple TV will be better for the average home user. Most home users are not ‘advanced’ enough to install a full Mac in their home theater. The lower price is also an advantage.

    Shane Williams

  30. #30 curiouslyvague says:

    remember that the Mac Mini is also expandable with hardware tuners and software such as is sold by Elgato, so ontop of being a media centre, it can act as your digital (DVB/ATSC/Analogue) TV tuner, internet programmable PVR and even terrestrial radio (eg, in the UK radio channels are available on DVB). Hard to beat that.

  31. #31 Jon Hart says:

    There is one critical difference that no one has mentioned.

    The mini is capable of outputing a dvi signal at the native resolution of your tv ( in my case it is 1366×768 ), bypassing the scaler built into the tv.

    In fact, with my current setup the signal goes through two scalers, one in my cable box which only outputs a fixed HD resolution ( I choose 720p ) and that then gets scaled to my tvs native res. 1080i material looks pretty shit.

    A solution here is to use the firewire output on the cable box and have the mini decode the mpeg stream and scale it to tv native res.

  32. #32 Mojo says:

    Dave and Mike
    For $300 I can have someone deliver a steaming pile of manure to my living-room, but I’m not going to do that either. For my money the aTV has too few options as a living room device. It’s especially useless outside the US where you can’t yet buy video content from iTunes. Unfortunately the Apple’s choice to favor very small form factor over price really makes it too expensive when you compare it to the iMacs. For a couple of extra inches on all dimensions they could have put a standard 3.5″ drive in and quadrupled the storage for he same $’s.

  33. #33 dr burke says:

    I have my Macmini 1.66 hooked up to my Panasonic 42″ plasma
    PC input to DVI from my Macmini. The picture is surperb. I
    can also use a DVI-HDMI, but the picture s squeezed, so I go
    with a frontal PC input. I watch iTune movies, cruise the internet, load applications, watch podcast; etc. I even have my Mac
    split; with Mac OS on one side and Vista on the other, with a reboot. I have
    external HD for expansion. I have the stereo output hooked up to my
    plasma internal speakers and the fiber optic hooked to my receiver
    amp for big sound. I would go with the more expensive MacMini,
    just for more options it gives you. I wouldn’t be locked in to a system,
    that is already outdated.

  34. #34 Bozo the Engineer says:

    I think this is posing the wrong question. Either way, you need a system to act a a server - minimally, a Mac Mini. So the real question becomes, “is it worth the extra $300 to have a second Mini?”
    You could look at it as either a $300 insurance policy, or as $300 of extra capabilities. On the basis of extra capabilities,
    * the value of the combo drive is zero because the server machine presumably already has one.
    * the value of Mac OSX and iLife is zero for the same reason.
    * the value of the extra RAM is zero because the AppleTV already has enough to perform its function, so you don’t get any utility from the extra.
    * the extra drive space is worth the $20, minus any difference in the system software requirements that would take up some of the extra.
    * the connector is worth the $19 if you need it, $0 otherwise.
    * DivX support is worth whatever it is worth to you.
    * the USB connector could be worth something to you, particularly if you attach a flash card reader to it and gain some “instant slideshow” capability you didn’t have otherwise. It probably would be a multi-step process to get the same thing on the server side, though it could be scripted.
    * the firewire connector could be very worthwhile if you have a set-top box with a firewire output. Due to FCC rulings, this is often required (my Comcast box has one). The value comes down to whether you want to record an MPEG Transport Stream off the box, and whether the streams you want are unencrypted from your set top box.

    Nice comparison - it certainly crystalized some of the questions for me.

  35. #35 dr burke says:

    PS; I also have a WiFi Nikon camera I use with the MacMini,
    wireless keyboard and mouse. Everything works fine.
    Pigford; what’s the diffenece between blog and contact?

  36. #36 V Sorte says:

    I’ve been using a Mac Mini… PowerPC with 1Tb of external storage. I am running Front Row(shh don’t tell Steve) and I also use Eyetv and Matinee for Ripped DVD Viewing. I use the S-video output and connects through my stereo. With QT addons I can play all my other favorite videos, divx, wmv etc. through Front Row.

    Why would I need AppleTV when I can jump from Front Row and all my protected itunes music and movies to live TV just by cmd Tabbing. My only problem is space… I still have more DVDs to rip to hard drives.

    It’s worth the price of admission.

  37. #37 hlwimmer says:

    i didn’t catch it in the above posts, but the mac mini will also play DVDs and CDs — a simple enough thing, but the core of the home-theater experience. while many of my movies are “backed up” digitally, creating a QT file for each could get painful and i’d still miss the DVD extras. also, while not a fair comparison, my macbook hooked to my sony XRB1 via a DVI/HDMI cable looks awful (overly sharpened and not the ight scale). i’d hate to pay $300 for a non-returnable computer to find that the true HDMI hookup is also cruddy. oddly, the signal via VGA/DB15 is quite nice. the mac mini will be an inch or so taller, have a few more cables coming out the back and not be “n-ready” (yet), but i think the mini will be a better solution for me — even with a house-server and a few laptops lying about. if they came out with an aTV with a DVD reader and the ability to newwork to places other than an iTunes library, i’d be sold… but that product is essentially a mac mini with an HDMI port. if you were starting the digital home-theater thing, working with the aTV’s nuances might be worth the hassle, but to go back and retrofit everything could get messy — fo that, the mini seems the better buy.

  38. #38 The_Ogre says:

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I went a decidedly lower tech & less-expensive route; I have an iPod Universal dock connected to my AV receiver (miniplug to dual rca audio and S-video to rca video). I have a remote control for the dock. Everything works, and I spent less than $100.00. Currently all my music and the one iTunes-purchased movie fit easily on my 80GB video iPod. I can’t stream, but I really see no need to.

  39. #39 silas says:

    Here’s what the comparison should really be (let’s make it apples to apples): First, assume that the prospective buyer already has another Mac in the house that will do normal computer stuff, and this purchase will act specifically as a streaming media server. Let’s also assume that Apple will introduce a Core 2 Duo Mini with 802.11n networking at the same $599 price point in the near future.

    NOW, compare the Mini at $599 to an AppleTV at $299 plus a new Airport Base Station at $199 plus a small hard drive… around 100GB for $100. For just about the exact same price, how do they compare?
    - they both can run headless/keyboardless/mouseles (VNC on the Mini)
    - they both can easily stream media to a TV and stereo
    - they both can broadcast a wireless network and share an internet connection (see system prefs/sharing on the Mini)
    - they both contain small hard drives that are easily accessed by the desktop Mac for backups, media storage, etc
    - they both can display live and archived TV on the television (the Mini uses an EyeTV unit, the AppleTV sits next to a TiVo that can export recordings to iTunes with the new Toast software)

    Basically it’s a wash… one is very nearly as good as another. The real difference this highlights is a philosophical one. The Mini approach (which I’ve embraced, btw) is your standard “media server.” Google ‘iServe’ for some thoughts on this from a few years ago, or look at the product M$ announced at CES.

    Rather than sell an iServe, Apple (rightly I think) questioned the very premise of the product. If there’s a big powerful desktop that can do all sorts of normal computer work, including media creation and transcoding; and if that computer is on a superfast wireless network; and if you can hook your TV up to that network to grab and play media from the desktop computer; then why centralize? It’s unnecessary, and unnecessarily complicated for the average Joe.

    As I said, I personally choose the centralized, Mini-based option. My home server is kickass, and some of the ones described above are too. But I definitely see the value in Apple’s decentralized strategy.

  40. #40 hav says:

    you could also purchase a core xbox 1, for $125 and install xbox media center. It’s a incredible piece software and for the price its the best fully functional media center. XBMC plays all file formats and can even stream a video compressed in the RAR format. The xbox also includes a 20 gig hard drive but can easily be upgraded to more. This is the still the ideal choice for me as I have three other media centers but I bought a second xbox to use as my alternate in our other movie room. Anyone serious about media capability should consider it as a extremely viable option.

  41. #41 peter says:

    The hard drives capacities are comparable. That is with Mac OSX and a few apps, you end of having only 4OGb of space left for media files on the Mac mini. So this is the same as Apple TV, except you can add in external drives on the mini to ramp up storeage (I’ve got 400 GBs already filled with only 3GB free). And you can use FTP which is much faster then a finder transfer over the network.

  42. #42 Linh says:

    I’m going to have to side w/ the mini here. There’s just too much up in the air about the Apple TV playing non-iTS content. Slap on an external 500GB HDD and it could be my media server too. Or just have it stream stuff (more than likely I’d have it hardwired). Only problem is that it’s $100 too much right now just for that purpose. And I want to stick w/ intel macs right now. the xbox does it’s job for now.

  43. #43 themacthinker says:

    Pretty nice comparison. I can’t wait to see the true capability of the Apple TV. How is that different from windows media center?

  44. #44 bill says:

    So the real question that hasn’t been answered here is what’s the cheapest way to hook a mac mini up to an hdtv set via hdmi, hd-dvi, component, and/or s-video and have it display at least 720p hd?

  45. #45 kingbee says:

    I’ve been running a Core duo Mac mini as a media center and it is a very flexible solution, but it is not really possible to set up to run 100% by remote only — which to many end users is a HUGE stumbling block. The Mac mini IS still a computer and there are a lot of things to do with it that demand the use of a keyboard (either wireless or via VNC).
    I imagine that the aTV is mainly designed as an media extension appliance that offers convenience and no-hassle setup combined with easy streaming of audio and video from another computer (Mac or PC) that’s running iTunes. If you’ve got everything in a format that is used by iTunes and you want to be able to use the device 100% with a remote and you have a wide screen TV with HDMI, and you just don’t want to hassle with maintaining the device as a computer via a keyboard, the aTV is the only way to go (vs. Mac mini option.) If you’ve got audio and video in other formats that demand QT components with the proper codecs and you want flexibility and possibly DVR funtionality via sometheing like eyeTV, then the mini or some other media center is the way to go.

  46. #46 Ray says:

    Heh, I’m just waiting for the core 2 duo mac mini to come out, as well as panther.

    I’m a “divx lover”… can’t have any apple tv goings on.

  47. #47 D says:

    Allow me to clear up two points here:

    1) the Mac Mini does not include support for 802.11n. The enabler will only work on Core 2 Duo Macs (except 17″ 1.83GHz iMac) and the Mac Pro. Mac Mini is Core Duo. Apple has already confirmed this.

    2) Apple has already confirmed that the Apple TV will be able to play unprotected, non-ITS content. There is a Podcast menu. None of this content is sold by ITS or has DRM attached to it. Also, how absurd would it be for the Apple TV not to support your iMovie home videos? If iTunes will play it, Apple TV will play it. Period. Just rip your DVDs into h.246 and be done with it.

  48. #48 Dan Ridley says:

    The chart says the tv has a 1 GHz Pentium processor, but it actually has a Pentium M (that’s a world of difference).

  49. #49 Steve K. says:

    Iyaz Akhtar,

    Would you please explain how to hook up a Mac-mini to an HDTV through an analog component connection? There has been ZERO rate of success of this on the Apple Dscussion Forums. Apparently the Mac-mini does NOT contain the circuitry to do this on it’s own.

    If you can actually shed some light on this it would be greatly appreciated. Until then, the Apple TV will probably be the ONLY way to get your media to display on an HDTV with component only.

    Best regards,


  50. #50 Roald Marth says:

    I personally have a Mac Mini connected to a plasma now, and like that fact that I can use it to surf the net in addition to using it as a media player.

  51. #51 northlondonhippy says:

    For me, the choice was easy; I went for a Mini.

    I think the Apple TV is a great product and for many people will be very useful. I decided the additional capabilities of the Mini were worth the additional cost. Specifically, the ability to playback all sorts of video files, as I didn’t want to be locked into iTunes content only.

    The Mini is connected to a 32″ Bravia and the pictures are stunning. My partner can’t tell the difference between playback on the Mini and playback from our SKY+ (a Tivo like device here in the UK that also receives digital satellite). I’m also using it as a music server, streaming to an AirPort Express as well as being connected to my main amp that’s with the TV. Overall I’m very happy with the set-up.

    If you can afford the extra dosh, go for the Mini, you won’t be disappointed. The one thing I wish the Mini had was 802.11n, but perhaps Apple will offer some sort of replacement wif-fi card in the future, that they will charge you to install.

    - northlondonhippy

  52. #52 tugger says:

    Dave: No-one buys a mac to look cool. They buy a mac because it’s an alternative to windows, and therefore have an os that actually works properly, day after day after day, period. In this particular case the mac mini is a good option because of it’s form, which works for me because I can mount it right BEHIND my plasma. If you want your beige box sat next to your TV, you go right ahead.

  53. #53 Luca says:

    That’s the reason why I’ve choosen the Apple TV:

  54. #54 gear says:

    I use a mac mini with a sony HD LCD TV, digital cable and a Tivo series 3. They just work great together. I would like to find a way to play my DIVX through front row (currently I start the DIVX player) and I would like Tivo to rent downloaded movies. Otherwise I can’t imagine a need these three devices don’t provide.

  55. #55 Dan says:

    It’s just a shame the aTV didn’t include a DVD Player, and more codec support that’s really all it would of needed for me.

    I don’t own a Mac Mini, does anyone know if you can get a Mac Mini to boot straight into Front Row… and hence make if GF friendly. Oh and how can you get it to play DivX, XVid and backed up DVD ISO’s (Preferably over network).

    It seems like there’s no perfect solution and no solution that suites everyone.

  56. #56 Mike G says:

    I would choose the Mac Mini again in a heartbeat; I can play emulated console games on it to my heart’s content using a bluetooth or USB game pad or plenty of other controller options… Can’t do that on aTV!

  57. #57 robreams says:

    I’ve been thinking about going the Mac mini route for a while, now. Does anyone have any favorite RF/bluetooth keyboards that have a smaller form factor & an integrated trackball or pointing stick?

  58. #58 Curious says:

    Nice article and interesting comments.

    For those of you who are using your (Intel) Mac mini as your home media center….Can you get 1080i (or “p”) to replay *without dropping frames*? This is a problem with first-gen Mac mini’s, of course. Curious to know if, with the Intel chip, the on-board graphics are up to the task?

  59. #59 Ryan says:

    Excellent comparison. #18, Andre, sounds like a sweet setup… wondering how far away your bt keyboard and mouse are from the actual Mac Mini? I gave up a bt mouse because of lag time between hand movement and on screen pointer… it just got too frustrating.

    ~Ryan H.

  60. #60 Bish says:

    Just wanted to comment that the AppleTV can output 5.1 digital audio through the Optical Audio and the HDMI connections. Also there is no reason why the Apple TV could not play back HD video (720p in the case of the AppleTV) at the correct frame rate. It would be foolish for Apple to release this if it could not play back 720p content as stated. So the assertions in post #2 are not correct.

    I’ve been debating between the two of these as well however I’d like to see the Mac Mini with an HD drive of some sort (blu-ray or HD DVD) and an HDMI port. Not being able to play other codecs like divx is a big reason why I probably won’t get an AppleTV.

    I do however think for a a first appearance, the AppleTV is a great start that will hopefully be upgraded with more features as time passes.

  61. #61 cjtv says:

    I use the mac mini and love it

  62. #62 cjtv says:

    I have an issue with screen resolution on my HDTV though. Does anyone know how to get the resolution to match up so i can see the whole screen on the TV? It is a Panasonic 34″ HDTV (Tube TV).

  63. #63 Will says:

    I’ve thought about the same question (ATV vs mini). My biggest problem with going the mini route is .. it’s not just $300 more that I’d be spending. I’d upgrade the memory, of course, and I’d *have* to get the wireless keyboard/mouse (how frustrating would it be to have a mac in the living room and not be able to check your email with it?), and if I’m going to have a mac as a media device it of *course* has to be able to do DVR, so there’s an Elgato to buy. And, probably a couple extra hard drives for all the DVDs I have that I’d want to have online instead, and .. and .. And before you know it I’m talking about spending $1000. :p That’s when the “only $300″ starts to look attractive. Unfortunately, my TV’s too old for the ATV to plug into, so it’s not really an option anyway. :\ Ah well. Guess I’ll just have to start saving the money. :)

  64. #64 Jonathan says:

    To answer POST 54 and 55
    1. You can view DIVX and XVID and h.264/x.264 in Frontrow if you download the Perian quicktime component (do a google search for “Perian”)
    2. You can get Frontrow to boot on startup by downloading “remote Buddy” and configuring startup options

  65. #65 MiniTvMe says:

    My .025: I have a MacMini - and ordered the Apple TV as well. Why? Well, to quote the author above “Also consider maintenance. As great as Macs are, they are still computers. Computers need maintenance, but the Apple TV is positioned as an appliance and should rarely need anything like repairing permissions or other repairs initiated by the user.” That would be the primary reason in my case. I want something that let’s me watch videos, look at my pictures and listen to music from my living room.

    Everything I have tried so far, has fallen short - primarily because something stops working - or just runs too slow. To say that what Apple TV does can be done cheaper by using other solutions is missing the point. Just like when the iPod came out - there were many cheaper solutions but nothing worked as “cleanly” or consistently. I have said from the beginning that most non-technical people do NOT want a computer hooked up to their TV. At least not a computer in the traditional sense. The best solution (even for a geek like me) is something that performs the necessary functions (music, video, pictures) with ease but doesn’t have the software “bulk” of a full OS. I don’t want to edit documents, create presentations, run databases or even surf the internet. I just want to listen to music, watch videos and display my digital photos. If the Apple TV can do that - then it’s a perfect solution for MOST users and may even be the best solution for a geek like myself that just wants a STABLE clean/easy solution. Perhaps this isn’t ideal - but I am willing it a shot. The biggest disappointment for me is not the limitations on video format or the HD size - but that it lacks gigabit. That really makes NO sense to me; it would have added almost nothing to the cost.

    I think Apple is way head of the curve here - more than people realize. I only hope is that that they aren’t too far ahead (think Newton) or that it doesn’t catch on as well as it should because it’s not well understood by the majority of the public (TiVo).

  66. #66 Dave M. says:

    I would choose the Mac Mini over the AppleTV anytime. I currently have my MacBook hooked up to my Sharp Aquos 42″ LCD HDTV with a Mini-DVI to DVI connecter, then DVI to HDMI connecter to plug into my TV. I then got TOSLink to digital audio cable to plug into my receiver. Works great. I get a smallish black border around the screen, but the movies and TV shows I watch are great looking. I also got the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I could access the Mac part of the setup from the couch.

    I just can’t see what use the AppleTV will be other than a device for folks that don’t understand computers. Problem is, if they don’t understand computers, they probably won’t be using iTunes and won’t be buying movies off iTunes or listening to podcasts via AppleTV’s podcast menu, etc…

    So, I’m not really sure what the point of the device is. I suppose for those who don’t want to spend the money to buy a Mac Mini, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, cables to convert the output from the Mac Mini to the TV’s inputs, AppleTV is the way to go. I just don’t see it.

  67. #67 Alex says:

    #62 cjtv…
    This is a known issue with Panasonic tube sets. The Audio Authority transcoder is known NOT to work with Panasonic sets. Apparently one of the expensive ($300!) Key Digital transcoders will work, but I sold my 34″ widescreen set to a friend, and bought a 37″ LCD with a VGA input instead. Problem solved, with a net cash outlay of $100. :)

  68. #68 Jean says:

    I choose both :)

    Reason is simple, simplicity at the living room and i keep my Macmini in my office where it belongs.

    High speed wireless ? I don’t need it. I ran a Ethernet Cable upto my TV from the basement. Nothing beats a wire.

    Have you ever tried to connect a Macmini to a component video TV ? I did and the results are pretty bad, so I changed my TV for a model that has a DVI input, but if the aTV would have existed then I might have kept my old Sony 51 inch that was 1080i capable using Component video but had no DVI. There are a lot of people with projection TV’s out there with only Components video connections.

    For anyone who have not done it yet, a Keyboard in the living room is not practical nor elegant (not counting the mouse). And reading emails on a HDTV (event at 1080i) from 6 feet away, is not the way i want to treath my eyes (too hard to read)

    Playing games with a Macmini, forget it, The chipset of the machine was not designed to do this. Frame rate is sluggish and not practical, i abandonded the ideal long time ago.

    1080 resolution vs 720p ? Granted the Macmini can play 1080i and possibly 1080p resolution, not shure about frame rate tough, but don’t forget that most of us out there have native HDTV TV’s with only really 720p resolution. 1080p is far from being the norm. And the difference betwen 1080i and 720p is hardly noticeable.

    As for the Divx stuff i would gladly take the time to convert them to H.264 if i really want to see my ‘Illegal’ videos on my aTV. I also think that the Apple community will quickly find out ways to add other Codecs to the aTV.

    HD-DVD or Blueray, the battle is going on strong and why would Apple take a camp when the winner is not yet annouced !? And meabe they don’t need to make that decision now because apple wants to promote buying content from Itune store. But let’s not forget that the aTV is running a strip down version of OSX (not said but obvious) and it has a USB port ! So I can easily figure out that eventually you will find upgrades in the form of a USB connected HD-DVD or Blueray external drive… eventually when a clear winner is known.

    So, while i do have some Divx content, once I have access to download movies and TVshows (i’m in Canada) then I know i won’t copy Pirated stuff anymore (well… a lot less i’m sure)

    Cheers !

  69. #69 Dave M. says:

    “I also think that the Apple community will quickly find out ways to add other Codecs to the aTV.”
    If the AppleTV is an open system, I am going to be very surprised.

    “…but don’t forget that most of us out there have native HDTV TV’s with only really 720p resolution. 1080p is far from being the norm.”
    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. As the prices of HDTV’s drop, their allure is going to grow. Most newer TV’s are being made with 1080p native resolution. They are also coming with HDMI ports which make attaching a Mac Mini pretty easy using the DVI-HTMI cable.

    As for iTunes content. The day they have HD content for sale or rent, I’ll consider an AppleTV. I was flabbergasted that Job’s didn’t announce that they would sell HD content when he all but released the AppleTV to the public. What good is an HD set-top box if there is no content to play on it?

  70. #70 Aaron says:

    I am so sick of people distributing incorrect information about the Apple TV, iTunes movies, and 5.1 surround sound.

    From Apple’s support web site:

    “Will movies support surround sound?

    Yes. Movies include audio which is encoded using Dolby Surround which delivers multichannel audio when played using Dolby Pro Logic systems.”

  71. #71 Sikosis says:

    AppleTV is for n00bs and as you said “locks the user out of any real power settings.” Mac mini all the way baby and loving my media centre. I’m still waiting for someone with a PC to come remotely close to something as elegant and as easy to use.

  72. #72 Martin says:

    How about comparing it to a 17″ imac.. an older one of those can be got for around $600 still with Mac OSx and for those without an HDMI TV could it offer a realistic budget option?

  73. #73 James Adamson says:

    Have any of you actually USED the appleTV? I have, and if you try to fast forward or rewind a video, you can only go up to 3x, tops. Thats THREE TIMES speed folks. And there is no way to advance any faster. There is NO RANDOM ACCESS or chapter access,and It is not blind, so you are forced to WATCH (spoil) the movie as it is rewinding or fastforwarding. So for example, you are watching a movie with your wife, she gets a phone call, and when she gets back, she has to WATCH what she missed at 3x speed. This would spoil the movie for her. THe only other option is to restart the film from the beginning. So, if you do the math, It will take exactly ONE HOUR to fast forward to the 120min mark in Lord of the Rings. Does anyone else think this is HUGE, GLARING deal breaker for the AppleTV? I am quite honestly shocked no one has mentioned it thus far.

  74. #74 Last Chance Rand says:

    I also have Mac Mini Core Duo integrated into HD home theater/recording studio. Mini stores and serves all of my content, including full house audio via Airtunes. I love it, and wouldn’t change a thing.

    However, I would like to use an Apple TV for my HDTV in our informal family room so we don’t have to fire-up the home theater to view content.

    I’m concerned that my Core Duo Mini will never support the “n” wireless standard, as the newer Core 2 Duo machines will.

    Will my Core Duo Mini ever be able to run at “n” speed? If yes, will it be simple, like a new Airport card? If no, then I’m doubtful that my current Mini will adequately stream to the Apple TV.

    Also, since we have a house full of wireless Macs, the Apple TV and new Airport Extreme hub will have to be on a separate network from the other non-”n” Macs. AND, what ever Mac is serving content to the Apple TV will have to join one network for streaming content, and a second for file exchange with non-”n” computers. This is necessary because the “n” network will slow for all users to the speed of the slowest wireless connection. I’m supposing that with “n”, streaming to the Apple TV will be poor.

    Of course, since the Apple TV has a hard disk, one could forego streaming and rely on syncing via iTunes.

    Any thoughts?

  75. #75 Vishanti says:

    regarding #70, Aaron there is a world of difference between Dolby Surround and Dolby 5.1

    Dolby Surround is the old 2 channels with the back channels encoded into them. If you get a movie from iTunes you will note that the sounds is just ’stereo’ (presumably Dolby Surround) not D5.1

    The optical out is nice but if there is a QT movie format that supports 5.1 yet I haven’t seen it and you get Dolby Surround support with just a L & R hifi connect.

  76. #76 Jesse David Hollington says:

    I started out with a Mac Mini last fall and began primarily with streaming content from my Powerbook G4 through Front Row on an 802.11G (Airport Extreme) network. This was generally 640×480 content either purchased from iTunes or converted into the new baseline-LC profile, but at no point did I have any issues with streaming, even over a ‘G’ network.

    I eventually attached my external drive (2TB LaCie FW) and iTunes library directly to the Mac Mini, but that had more to do with the back-end machine being a Powerbook (that therefore wasn’t always at home or plugged in ;) ), then any kind of performance issues (there was a secondary consideration in that the playback position for streamed content was not tracked either by Front Row).

    Ultimately, 802.11N is not necessary for streaming of content at current resolutions and bitrates. As we move to 720p or 1080p content, I’m sure it will be necessary, but it’s worth keeping in mind even then that the Apple TV also has an internal 40GB drive so you don’t necessarily have to stream if your network doesn’t support the kind of speeds you would like (40GB combined with some creative smart playlists in iTunes is all you’d need to keep a current roster of content queued on the device itself).

    I’m contemplating getting an Apple TV for my bedroom, with the only consideration being that I don’t (yet) have an HDTV in the bedroom :) However, since the TV that is in there is getting old, it’s going to be time to replace it soon anyway….

  77. #77 Joe Cassara says:

    Getting a second-hand, early generation Mac Mini is a fine alternative if you want the benefits of being able to play a wider range of file formats and you don’t want to upgrade to an EDTV/HDTV.

  78. #78 Monte says:

    Sorry if someone else has already stated this, but has anyone tried to use the mini FireWire port plugged into your cable companies DVR to record content from the cable box?? If so, what do you use to record the video from within OS X - iMovie? Searching around but haven’t found the answer yet. basically want to record video via the Firewire directly from Motorola DCT-6416 HD DVR onto my Mac Mini.


  79. #79 Simple man says:

    Will the Apple TV be able to simply receive my laptop current screen and sound and transmit it to my HDTV system?

    If not, is there a device that will do this?

  80. #80 Jimmy Webster says:

    Apple TV Technical Specs:
    Storage: 40GB;
    OS: Mac, Windows PC;
    Wireless: Wi-Fi, Airport Extreme;
    Video: MP4, MPEG-4, H.264;
    Audio: MP3, WAV, AAC, AIFF;
    Photo: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, TIFF;
    More Apple TV features:
    I purchased Apple TV mainly because I want to put videos downloaded online to the device and enjoy on my TV.

  81. #81 nagora says:

    A digital TV product released in 2007 that CAN’T play DivX?! Apple must be insane! Thank’s for the warning; I’ll stick with a Mac-Mini.

  82. #82 Andrew says:

    I look at this blog while waiting for the atv to hit Australia, and decided that neither the atv or the macmini were really suitable. So I bought a G5 1.6 tower off ebay, these come with a decent video card with a DVI output. I swapped out the factory installed 80G SATA and put 2 x 320G drives which retail all of 120 bucks here now. I use a DVI to HDMI cable to drive a LG 42 plasma screen. Worked right away, the OS had it figured as soon as it was switched on. I dont compress movies as it takes too long to rip them. So I have heaps of video_ts folders which are ripped by Mac the ripper and organised by Matinee and played by apple DVD player. I use a bluetooth mightymouse as the remote and logitech wireless headphones as well as a airport extreme card to connect to the internet. I havent figured a way to the get the sixpack out of the fridge remotely yet. This system cost less than a mac mini and acts as a complete media centre.

  83. #83 Ion Control says:

    Not sure if it was mentioned here, but the 1.8GHz mac Mini ($799) also plays HD-DVD…

  84. #84 Justin says:

    I agree with #38.

    If you already have an ipod video (30gb, 60gb 0r 80gb), you are better off just getting a dock to hook up to your TV. Even if you don’t have an ipod video, it is still cheaper, plus you can take all of your media with you, and have up to twice the storage as apple tv.

  85. #85 Neo says:

    How about a real TV from Apple. Is it coming next?

    For more read -

  86. #86 apple says:

    A digital TV product released in 2007 that CAN’T play DivX?! Apple must be insane! Thank’s for the warning; I’ll stick with a Mac-Mini.

  87. #87 Ar3d says:

    Your posted article captured my attention, it was very nice and entertaining for those who’s also in this kind of field or in the field of entertainment. Here’s the two my Blogs; Bleach Movie and TV Land. Hope you will find it also nice and a good relevant.

  88. #88 Swiss says:

    That was a good article . Apple has the coolest and most innovative products ever .

  89. #89 iTunesSharing says:

    I was thinking of getting the aTV, but after this article I’m now thinking I should get a mini. If I get a Mini, can I still manage all of my music on my iMac but access my iTunes through front row on the Mini?
    Also, can I access youTube through front-row on the mini?

  90. #90 chris says:

    whats about renting movies from apple? this new feature of appleTV was presented at the key note some days ago. kann i use the same feature in front row? with the same easy using?

  91. #91 chris says:

    i mean on the mac mini…

  92. #92 Matt says:

    Oh yeah, for those of you that would rather pay $25 for a Mini instead of $599, then go here. you may have to pay a small fee, you may not, depending on what other offer you want to sign up for. The reason I think this is the best way to go is you only have to sign up for 1 offer, and they seem pretty interesting. If you don’t, forget this comment. If you don’t like it, then don’t comment. This is for those that want to benefit.

  93. #93 m lamont says:

    By attracting a new audience, surely the Apple TV will at least heighten new opportunites for dating at Apple stores around the country. In light of Apple’s just announced acquisition of (, this can only be good news.

  94. #94 nick says:

    I am actually about t buy a mac mini to hook it up with my tv. I wanted to ask whether the software that the aTV uses is available for download anywhere, or one that is similar to it. The thing with front row is that you cannot go and preview movies from the iTunes store and then buy them. Front row only accesses what you already have downloaded. In order to buy movies from the mac mini you have to go through itunes using a mouse/keyboard and Having a keyboard and a mouse lying around the sofa/bed is not the most convinient thing. I was wondering whether i could just preview/buy movies with a remote through front row (or front row like program) with the mac mini. Anyone can help?


  95. #95 Telebatdotcom says:

    Here is another comparison of Apple TV with Mac mini and other similar products, totally 7. Quite interesting:

  96. #96 DrFredEdison says:

    I choosed mac mini. It’s more powerful and it’s a computer at all!
    With a Bluethoot mouse and keyboard near the TV you can use it by 100%!

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