Mac mini vs MCE2005 media showdown

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by jon stallard, Jul 1, 2005.

  1. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Planning to do a direct comparison between the two.

    However..... but ....... well things never go smoothly eh? .....

    I'm not used to the mac so can anyone tell me if a mac mini is compatable with a widescreen LCD via DVI input? Before I get 'yes,it should do as it's got a DVI connection', let me explain the query.

    First connected to a 4:3 lcd monitor, via DVI, no problem at all. Detected the monitor and set the resolution, refresh rate etc ... spot on.

    Connected to a 27" LCD only via VGA and I thought it detected that OK (but in retrospect, I can't be sure) the TV picture was true 16:9 so it must have I guess. Now connecting via DVI to a 32" LCD (no, I don't live in a TV shop, I've just been shopping a lot recently) and it's detected it as 800x600 at 75hz, which was the first shock (and shouting at the mini mac "It's a widescreen TV you idiot" strangely doesn't make a bit of difference:))

    When I go into preferences (in XP it would be control panel) and go to displays, the only resolutions are 4:3 ones. There is a detect monitor button but appears to have little effect. Could it be that it's detected 4:3 screens first via DVI and needs some sort of reset to detect other types of display or is it that it simply doesn't support widescreen displays? (which I would find mighty odd if that was the case).

    BTW the twinhan USB alpha TV card works a treat with both XP and Macs. In fact it's so small, you can plug one end into your USB socket and the other end of it plugs into the aerial. For those old enough and who used to smoke, it's about the size of a packet of 10 No. 6 cigarettes (or cadets). I'll write up a bit more once some kind person has pointed me in the right direction with my query.

    Thanks,
    Jon.
     
  2. Jez_W

    Jez_W
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Jon,

    Yes it does. I have a Mini that's plugged into a 20" widescreen via DVI and it detects it fine and provides a choice of widescreen resolutions. If I remeber correctly, the title bar of the display options window should display the name of the screen that it thinks it's connected to. It will also automatically detect if you change the display it is connected to without having to reset anything and will change the list of offered resolutions as appropriate. I'm guessing that OS X needs an additional file to recognise your brand of LCD?

    Also I'm not sure that the graphics card in the Mini will have the guts to drive your 32" screen at its native res though?! (What is the native res BTW?)

    HTH,
    Jez
     
  3. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks for the reply Jez,

    I hadn't thought that the screen might be too big for it. Major dissapoinment if that is the case. It's native res is 1366x768, WXGA. I wonder then, if the mac can't do that, it defaults to 800x600 which is about as safe as you can as a display res for a monitor.

    It does actually come up with the name of the monitor but the resolutions look like a standard set to me and none of them widescreen.

    Looks like an intensive web search tonight to see if there is anything I can do about it. Shame cos the mac mini is just so stylish in it's look and the way it goes about things.

    Jon.
     
  4. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Jon,

    Grab DisplayConfigX and add a custom resolution and you'll be fine.

    Or SwitchResX if you prefer free (but not so good) to cheap (but works better) :)

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  5. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks Carl,

    I'll try them in the morning. I connected it back up to another LCD TV with 1280 x 720 WXGA resolution and it was fine.

    In trying to build up my showdown then and it's clearly going to be a showdown over a length of time, I'll offer some personal views. Like my MCE2005 machine, the mac mini is going to require some fine tuning (already ably assisted by the respondees to this thread). I've yet to try centre stage and until a remote is sorted out, it'll never come close to using that brilliant Microsoft remote for MCE.

    I must say that the mac mini as an out of the box media device is pretty good, I've got it talking to my two XP machines and viewing recorded TV over the network as well as listening to tunes on the mac from xp machines. So far, the big advantage for MCE is that interface. I'm beginning to see why my mac head brother was impressed by MCE... because in a sense (OK it's tenuous) the MCE interface is a bit mac - or in other words, it has style.

    I'd imagine that if Apple brought out a similar application, a media centre mac mini would be pretty formidable in the living room thanks in part to it's size but also because it's easier (in my view) to use than windows, despite using windows for several hundred years - or so it seems :)

    The MCE2005 machine has the advantage in terms of everything is in one box but it's such a big box. My mac mini sits beside the TV almost un noticed. The power supply (which it must be said, isn't the smallest of power supplies) sits on top of the wardrobe and is thus hidden. The twinhan alpha tv module is so small it can be considered 'in-line' between the aerial lead and the usb socket on the mini so it's a neat, if somewhat spaghetti installation.

    Thanks for reading this, more later.
    Jon.
     
  6. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
    Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Messages:
    8,331
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Ratings:
    +261
    just discovered this and am interested!

    Can you tell me some more about the mini me?how much where is a good place to shop,will it rum my sim2 via vga at 800x600 res?

    thanks a lot!
     
  7. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    It's cool. The case is cool, the operating system is cool.... it's so cool, I have to wear thermals to use it.... Even the packaging is cool fer goodness sake! It comes in a tiny little box with a carrying handle!

    Best place to buy one? I bought mine from the apple shop online mainly because of extra bits (airport/bluetooth internal card, extra ram) and it took an age to get here. However, Anything else I need for it I head straight for my nearest John Lewis store as they (well the one in Southampton) sells almost the entire range including the accessories. I'm not sure if they can order you one with the extra bits in but if they do, you can badger them instead of having to follow your machine's journey via the TNT tracker website.

    It comes with a DVI socket on the back and a VGA converter. I've used both and your resolution isn't a problem, in fact I think it defaults to that. I know that cos the bigger LCD TV I have has a resolution that the standard graphics board can't detect - so it gave me 800x600. Not sure what a sim2 is mind.

    As I said before, what really stops it being a viable alternative to a MCE machine at the mo is the lack of a remote (IMHO). It displays TV and DVD's pretty well but you can't control either without bringing up a control window in front of the picture and using the mouse (Bluetooth, naturally).

    There are ways to overcome this with programable remotes apparently but I'm reluctant to try them since they rely on recreating keystrokes and I'm not too sure it's that easy.

    Once set up with a wireless network, it does make a neat media extender.

    Jon.
     
  8. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Jon,

    If your Twinhan thingy is AppleScript-able (open ScriptEditor and see if you can find a dictionary for it), then a Keyspan remote would do the job (it definitely supports DVDPlayer). I happen to have a spare one kicking around if you're interested (I'm sure I can do it at a good price :)).

    Or, if you have a bluetooth phone, Salling Clicker might be worth a look (although it'll be harder to customise that the Keyspan remote).

    And on an unrelated note .... if you're using a Mac for music then you really must have a play with CoverFlow. Very much a work-in-progress, but fantastic nonetheless ;)

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  9. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks Carl, I knew about the bluetooth phone thing and it was something I was going to attempt this weekend. Was a bit worried that in trying to select a channel, I might inadvertantly dial up an armed response unit to set up outside my house though, or worse, interupt my girlfriend's phone call to fast forward a DVD - she'd never believe me :)

    I'll look into the applescrpt-able thing too and may well enquire about said remote.

    Coverflow? Do expand on what it does please :thumbsup:

    Cheers,
    Jon
     
  10. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Coverflow is a neat little application for browsing your music library by cover art (rather than boring lists).

    I'd suggest you download it and give it a try because you'd have to see it in action to appreciate just how nice it is. It's not quite complete, and would probably work best as an iTunes plugin (the developer has left it out of iTunes to simplify things while he tests it), but even so it's worth the download.

    Be sure to read the Tips-n-tricks on the site - there are lots of ways to use it (cursor keys to scan through; search as you type; pick an album from the deck etc).

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  11. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
    Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Messages:
    8,331
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Ratings:
    +261
    Just got back from the apple store at bluewater.What a great piece of kit!

    Gotta find one now,the missus loved it!(mind you she uses mac at work...)
     
  12. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
    Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Messages:
    8,331
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Ratings:
    +261
  13. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    I have to confess that my McMini is laying in a heap on the bedroom floor at the moment (had a reappraisal of all things Media over the past week) but it's only temporary. I'm moving soon so it will be integrated into my new kitchen as the the TV/Music/radio/DVD player. Oh how my girlfriend laughed when I told her that:)

    Thanks for the link Phil, I'll investigate it tonight. As for streaming, I've only tried playing music on the mac from a PC and watching recorded TV on the PC from the mac hard drive. It was as much experimental as anything but it worked in both cases. It gave me the inspiration to carry on.... which was halted by the lack of a remote that you don't have to program. I did notice though that the video on the PC via the mac looked a bit jerky but then so does a lot of PC based TV until it's set up correctly. The music however was ace.

    More later tonight (I hope).

    Jon.
     
  14. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
    Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Messages:
    8,331
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Ratings:
    +261
  15. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Phil, what a star! I can tell you want one....... :)

    To show the mac mini's physical versitility, I've just scooped it off my bedroom floor, together with a relisys 17" widescreen TV and set it all up in my kitchen. The biggest drawback is that it's adjacent to the fridge which contains my beer! So I've had a quick look at the 3 websights and must say I'm excited enough to look again but sober.

    There does seem to be a momentum building up for Apple to produce a dedicated remote and a MCE rivaling bit of software. In the meantime, I'm seriously interested in using my phone as a remote (as it's listed as one to use on the Salling website). The two biggest drawbacks so far is that it's US based and that no one mentions the excellent (and cheap) Twinhan alpha TV PVR.

    My personal drawback is that I've still got L plates when it comes to using a mac. That will change soon of course, just using it tonight (from which I'm typing this) is enough to get those techie juices flowing:)

    So to answer one of your questions, the mac mini used for streaming, I've started up my MCE HTPC tp see what the replay is like on recorded TV.

    Well I don't seem to be able to select anything. I can see the files alright but they are greyed out. It's possible that I'm not using the right software although I've tried Quicktime, imovie HD, DVD player....

    However, musically, it works a treat. I can see my tracks on the HTPC and transfer is as quick as you like. Hopefully, someone who is into macs can pick this up and tell me why I can't replay recorded TV on my MCE HTPC.

    And a word on my relisys 17 inch TV/Monitor. I've just plugged a lead from the mac mini to it's sound input and have to say that as a stand alone TV, the sound quality is pretty impressive. Equal to any small DAD player.

    Anyway, can anyone help with the video files?

    Jon.
     
  16. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Equal to any small DAD player? That must be as in DAD, open your wallet and repeat after me.... "Help yourself"....

    What I meant was DAB player.

    This mac mini.... it really is sensational. And small. And quiet.

    Jon.
     
  17. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Jon,

    Try VLC for video playback.

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  18. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    By the way, what software are you using with your Twinhain ? If you can point me to a download I'd appreciate it - I want to go and have a play (and you never know, I might just knock-up some scripts for Salling Clicker support :)

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  19. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Nevermind, found it.

    Looks quite cool, and the iTele app it uses looks quite neat, and it's applescriptable. So Salling Clicker support is certainly do-able. I'll have a play tomorrow evening.

    Where'd you get your twinhain from ?
     
  20. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks for the link and info Carl. I did wonder if I'd get to play my recorded TV files if I upgraded Quicktime, it's but a mere $18 which is what, just over a tenner? But free is free so I'll give the VLC a go first.

    I bought my Twinhan Alpha from here

    http://specialtech.co.uk

    You'll be amazed at it's size if you get one.

    Look forward to your next post.

    Jon.
     
  21. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Thanks Jon, order placed. Doubt I'll get it 'til Saturday though since it'll need signing for, but I'll see if I can get some rudimentary remote control going this evening :)

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  22. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    Saved myself some effort ... here's a Salling Clicker script for iTele -> Clickety-click
     
  23. TheCrow

    TheCrow
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2004
    Messages:
    660
    Products Owned:
    2
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    London
    Ratings:
    +76
    How about changing the title of this thread as it is very misleading. :nono:

    I can see no mention of MCE2005 never mind a "Mac mini vs MCE2005 media showdown"
     
  24. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks again Carl.

    So this salling clicker..... You need to buy it first don't you? Then download and install on your mac? Then presumably, you establish communication with your mobile via bluetooth and you download the file contained in the zip file you located to the phone?

    I have a Sony Ericsson Z600 So it would actually make a pretty decent remote. What can I expect to see on my phone though? Ideally, I'd like to press a shortcut and then the screen would tell me which buttons do channel change, record, pause etc.... is it that simple?

    Questions, questions questions:)

    Jon.
     
  25. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    You can download it as a trial version, which is good for 30 clicks at a time - plenty to get an idea of whether it does what you want or not (I think it just stops responding for a bit - then you get another 30 clicks. I only needed 10 or so to know it was plenty good enough :).

    It installs as you suggested - there's a service that runs on your Mac (it installs into System Preferences, and appears in the top Menu bar if you so choose), the downloads a small app onto your phone.

    Download and give it a try ... I can't speak for what the iTele control is like since I've not tried it, but the EyeTV control I use is pretty straightforward (I use a PDA instead of a phone though).

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  26. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
    Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Messages:
    8,331
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Ratings:
    +261
    G ot to try and be online tomorrow morning for the apple refurb store,wondering if prices will be a lot different to say cancom's refurbs???????


    I am pretty excited by the whole thing yes ;)
     
  27. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    With regard to the title of this thread, it was my intention to do a direct comparison but it became clear that the mac mini needed a bit of 'work' and thus the thread has become almost totally mac mini related.

    I've no idea how you change the thread title so here's a comparison so far:

    MCE2005:
    The interface and remote control place it way ahead of the mac mini, it has become, in my living room at least, an integral part of my AV experience. Albeit after a lot of grief which in the main, was probably of my own making. The EPG is stunning! The quality of the output to both my LCD screen and Denon amp is a pleasure to sit in front of both visually and aurally (sp?).

    We are all familiar with windows and thus can get round most problems with a bit of thought AND the peripherals for it are generally pretty good price wise. You also know that it's fully upgradable so long as your motherboard can accept upgrades.

    It's biggest drawback is the sheer size of it and the amount of air you need to shift to keep it cool and thus you introduce noise. Although I have to say that mine is reduced to a very gentle .... um...... swishing noise I guess.

    Mac mini:
    In a word, it's simply exciting. If Steve Job and co come up with a similar interface and remote, it will (IMHO) blow away the MCE2005 .... as it stands. Unfortunately, it's achilles heel is that it's set in stone, what ever spec you decide on is by and large, it. You can probably dangle hardware from it's USB or firewire ports but then it starts to get messy.
    It's big bonus is it's miniscule size and it is so quiet. The software is a joy to use, I especially like the fact that each application gets a dedicated drop down menu structure at the top of the screen. When you select an application, the icon magnifies itself which is good for when trying to use it from a couple of meters away. But MCE2005 does that better.

    So in my view, the mac mini makes a great media extender and that is probably the way I'll use it until a better interface comes along. It networks easily with both my PC's for example.

    That's it for now in terms of a comparison from me. Maybe others have a different point of view?

    Jon.
     
  28. cwick

    cwick
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,231
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Reading
    Ratings:
    +95
    I assume you're all aware of the CenterStage ? It's an attempt to build an MCE-like interface for Macs. It's moving quite slowly, but there are clearly some talented people involved, and going on some of the GUI concepts posted, they're aiming high.

    One to watch, I'm sure.

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  29. jon stallard

    jon stallard
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Yes, downloaded Centre stage but part of my newness to Mac's means that I'm not entirely sure what to do with it after installation.

    Also downloaded the VLC software but it still wont play my recorded TV files on my MCE2005 HTPC. It sees them OK and even appears to play them (in that the playing slider is moving and the time display shows it's counting the seconds) but no video. Then I get an error message saying it does not support the file format (or similar to that).

    So i thought about upgrading quicktime to qucktime pro. Says it can handle mpeg2 & 4 plus a few other features for the princly sum of $19. So you get directed to the UK site and bugger me if the price isn't £19. Rip off Britain once again. That's not far off double the price!

    Sso that's it in a nutshell it seems to me, I need software for a mac to see mpeg2 & 4 files. Is that a fair assumption?

    Jon.
     
  30. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
    Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Messages:
    8,331
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Ratings:
    +261
    Ah well, the apple refurb store only has powermac g5's in......nice:)
     

Share This Page

Loading...
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice