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Mac Mini As Plex Player

LongChairLongChair Plex Dev TeamPosts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja
Hi everyone,

I have using plex for a while and I'm very happy with it.

I have been lokking on this forum for the best possible plex player to hook up on my HD TV and stream movies from my NAS.
I need something very silent, with low consumption and with very low maintenance needs.

From what I have read, Mac mini would be the best option.
I don't want the mac mini to do anything else than playing plex.

I am not used to the mac world really, and I am not sure which mac mini to get knowing that I need to have the cheapest player possible able to run & stream movies.
My NAS is a DS713+ running a 2.13 Ghz Dual core Atom. I can have PMS run on the NAS, but it wont be able to transcode everything from what I have read on this forum.

So I guess I would use the NAS as server and then the Mac Mini as a player.
What would be the minimum processor / RAM requirement to have a mac mini play flawlessly basically anything ?

I have seen some affordable 2Ghz 2009 mac mini versions, but not sure this would be enought to transcode properly 1080p movies.
If anyone can get me some feedback, that would be appreciated :)

Comments

  • jmerrilljr@gmail.comjmerrilljr@gmail.com Posts: 67Members ✭✭
    LongChair wrote:

    Hi everyone,

    I have using plex for a while and I'm very happy with it.

    I have been lokking on this forum for the best possible plex player to hook up on my HD TV and stream movies from my NAS.
    I need something very silent, with low consumption and with very low maintenance needs.

    From what I have read, Mac mini would be the best option.
    I don't want the mac mini to do anything else than playing plex.

    I am not used to the mac world really, and I am not sure which mac mini to get knowing that I need to have the cheapest player possible able to run & stream movies.
    My NAS is a DS713+ running a 2.13 Ghz Dual core Atom. I can have PMS run on the NAS, but it wont be able to transcode everything from what I have read on this forum.

    So I guess I would use the NAS as server and then the Mac Mini as a player.
    What would be the minimum processor / RAM requirement to have a mac mini play flawlessly basically anything ?

    I have seen some affordable 2Ghz 2009 mac mini versions, but not sure this would be enought to transcode properly 1080p movies.
    If anyone can get me some feedback, that would be appreciated :)

    I have the 2009 Mac Mini. Pretty much dedicated to PMC and PMS. I don't use a NAS. It all works really well. No issues at all. I use Screen Sharing on my iMac to do any maintenance.
  • LongChairLongChair Plex Dev Team Posts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja

    I have the 2009 Mac Mini. Pretty much dedicated to PMC and PMS. I don't use a NAS. It all works really well. No issues at all. I use Screen Sharing on my iMac to do any maintenance.


    Which version of the 2009 mac mini do you use ? As far as i have seen on the after sales market, it seems that the processors & RAM can be different.

    I am not familiar with mac environement but is there any way to remote access a Mac Mini from a PC ?
  • adriandbadriandb Posts: 946Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    I moved from a late 2009 Mini that I repurposed as an OS X Server machine. It worked fine but did have issues with some transcodes. High bit rate files could also cause it to struggle. Given that most people are ripping content to less and less compressed files it may not be a good option long term.
  • jmerrilljr@gmail.comjmerrilljr@gmail.com Posts: 67Members ✭✭
    LongChair wrote:

    Which version of the 2009 mac mini do you use ? As far as i have seen on the after sales market, it seems that the processors & RAM can be different.

    I am not familiar with mac environement but is there any way to remote access a Mac Mini from a PC ?

    The processor is 2.53GHZ with 4GB of RAM. When I worked in a Windows environment I used VPN and Remote Desktop to access my Macs.
  • davek0974davek0974 Posts: 295Members ✭✭
    Using a late 2009 mini here, works well, I have a wired Ethernet network to my server upstairs which is a late 2010 mini.
  • LongChairLongChair Plex Dev Team Posts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja
    Ok so looks like late 2009 mac mini is the base config fromwhich it starts to work.

    I guess a cpu above 2ghz is required for proper transcoding.

    As these mini are running core2 duo, do you guys run them under OSX or windows for plex ?

    I have also read that the 2009 mac mini did not handle the audio throught the display port -> hdmi is that correct ?
  • jmerrilljr@gmail.comjmerrilljr@gmail.com Posts: 67Members ✭✭
    LongChair wrote:

    Ok so looks like late 2009 mac mini is the base config fromwhich it starts to work.

    I guess a cpu above 2ghz is required for proper transcoding.

    As these mini are running core2 duo, do you guys run them under OSX or windows for plex ?

    I have also read that the 2009 mac mini did not handle the audio throught the display port -> hdmi is that correct ?

    You will need a dvi to hdmi cable for video and a toslink to optical cable for audio. My environment is all MAC.
  • mshemshe Posts: 194Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    edited January 2013
    Or, perhaps you can try a Windows nettop instead... they're probably cheaper than a Mac Mini.

    Or Android TV player with the Plex Android app?
  • itsmrjonitsmrjon Posts: 15Members
    I personally use a 2011 mac mini (base model with i5) as my server/client. It's honestly amazing.

    The setup is as follows:
    FreeNAS 8 holds all the files
    2011 Mac Mini acts as server/client in the living room
    Jailbroken ATV2's on all other TVs running Plex as clients

    I've run a stress test on the mac mini to see exactly how much it can handle at a time and this is what it can do:
    1) Can run handbrake + client watching a bluray (cannot handle streaming on other devices at the same time)
    2) Can watch bluray on client + 2 apple TVs watching bluray + iOS watching bluray at same time (cannot scan at the same time)
    3) Can watch bluray on client + 2 apple TVs watching bluray + content scanning at same time
    4) Can watch bluray on client + 2 apple TVs watching SD + iOS watching SD at same time + scanning

    If you plan on turning it into a whole home solution (with multiple other clients in the house) the mini is the best route. I've been considering moving up to an i7 mini in the future to get a little more out of it.
  • LongChairLongChair Plex Dev Team Posts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja
    Well From what I have read, nettop are a bit underpowered to make proper transcoding.

    I have looked into the used mac mini market and The Core I5 minis are quite expansive.
    I have found some Core 2 Duo 2.26 Ghz around 250€, but i'm wondering if that would be enought to properly play & eventually serve the files.
  • mrchris76mrchris76 Posts: 12Members ✭✭
    I have a late 2009 Mac Mini dedicated to running PMS and Plex Client, with all my media sitting on an AFP share on a Synology DS213+ NAS. Connects to my LG telly via HDMI and optical to the AV receiver. Works flawlessly. Also have SabNZBD, Couchpotato and SickBeard running on same box. Couldn't recommend one highly enough :D

    mrchris76
  • mattnadmattnad Posts: 441Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    LongChair wrote:

    Well From what I have read, nettop are a bit underpowered to make proper transcoding.

    I have looked into the used mac mini market and The Core I5 minis are quite expansive.
    I have found some Core 2 Duo 2.26 Ghz around 250€, but i'm wondering if that would be enought to properly play & eventually serve the files.


    I'm using exactly that model for my server, upgraded to 4Gb ram. It works fine for most of my media I have some very high bit rate 1080p titles (peaking at 25 Mb/s) that can cause problems with jerky video sometimes. Depends on what device it's going to and what local bandwidth that's at work.
  • LongChairLongChair Plex Dev Team Posts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja
    Ok then i,ll try to target at least a 2.26 core 2 duo, 2.53 or 2.66 would be nice, then 4go of ram seem reasonable.

    Last question is : are all mac minis equipped with an IR sensor for the remote ?
  • JonnyVJonnyV Posts: 43Members ✭✭
    LongChair wrote:

    Ok then i,ll try to target at least a 2.26 core 2 duo, 2.53 or 2.66 would be nice, then 4go of ram seem reasonable.

    Last question is : are all mac minis equipped with an IR sensor for the remote ?


    Yes all have the IR.

    You can also pick up a PS3 Bluetooth remote and purchase a program called Remote Buddy. Great combo that gives you a lot more options versus the standard Apple remote.
  • LongChairLongChair Plex Dev Team Posts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja
    Okay,

    Finally found a used mid 2010 2.4Ghz core 2 duo mac mini. Will extend its ram to 4Gb, should be a good Plex player for the living room plasma :)
  • adriandbadriandb Posts: 946Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    LongChair wrote:

    Okay,

    Finally found a used mid 2010 2.4Ghz core 2 duo mac mini. Will extend its ram to 4Gb, should be a good Plex player for the living room plasma :)

    Great find. It should work well for you.
  • LongChairLongChair Plex Dev Team Posts: 629Members, Plex Pass, Plex Ninja Plex Ninja
    By the way one last question I have :

    Does the Mid 2010 mac mini outputs audio via the HDMI connector or do we still need a toslink cable to get the digital audio ?
  • bpjobinbpjobin Posts: 3Members ✭✭
    edited July 2014

    Hey LongChair,

    I'm planing on buying the exact same mini as you. I'd like to know if you ran into any problems using the setup you described above. What's the maximum bit rate you can stream from your server from a 1080p file for example?

    I run PMS on my mac pro and I'd like to use the mini as PMC on my TV. Both will be connected through ethernet. Most of my files are mkv 1080p and weight between 10 and 20gb (I don't have the bit rate under my eyes at the moment). Also did you get audio via HDMI?

    Thanks!

  • sharpie00sharpie00 Posts: 37Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    I skimmed through this thread, but didn't see what type of files you were going to view?

    I started with a similar setup as yours.  I have a DS412+ that was acting as both the server and storage for my media files.  I've ripped my entire Bluray collection to MKV using MakeMKV and stored them on the DS412+.  Transcoding wasn't an issue for me as I was using Direct Play to my LG TV using Media Link.  After some time, I started to notice stuttering on the television (didn't know if it was related to a software upgrade), so I decided to invest in a Mac Mini (the latest one available in the Apple Store...mid-2012?).  Reading everyone's comments, I decided the base model was good enough with the i5 processor.

    I decided to move the PMS from the Synology to the Mac Mini thinking it would be good enough to transcode (to stream to my iDevices as I decided to take advantage of it).  Well, that didn't work out so well.  My smaller MKV files (i.e. TV Shows) worked fine, but my Bluray movies didn't.  Constant buffering.....

    It was time for me to upgrade my main desktop anyway, so I decided to by the new Mac Pro (2013).  On a side note, this thing is a beast of processing power :).  Anyway, I obviously moved PMS to the Mac Pro and left the storage on my NAS.  Finally, everything works as expected.  I bought the WD Velociraptor Duo Thunderbolt drive for additional storage, but noticed I couldn't properly stream that way.  For some reason, it would stutter quite a bit going from Thunderbolt > Mac Pro > Gigabit > Mac Mini > TV.  So I left the storage on the NAS and it works well.  Transcoding is no longer a problem and I can watch my raw Bluray movies just fine on my iDevices.  It's a big investment, and I use it for more then just Plex, but ultimately everything works.

    Hope this helps.

  • madeirabhoymadeirabhoy Posts: 26Members ✭✭
    mshe wrote on January 10 2013, 10:55 PM: »

    Or, perhaps you can try a Windows nettop instead... they're probably cheaper than a Mac Mini.

    Or Android TV player with the Plex Android app?

    i use both a mac mini in the bedroom connected to a tv, and android box connected to the tv in the lounge. its a 2009 2ghz mini, and a cheap android box that you can get for 50 quid. to be honest I'm glad that I'm using my mini because it was my main machine for 3 years, but i wouldnt buy a mini just to do this, i find the android box does plex just as well for a lot less money. the lack of audio on the hdmi is a pain, i have speakers plugged in but means can't use the tv remote to turn it down. i broke the IR antenna when fixing the hard drive one day, so i use Remote Mouse on my iPad which works great. my mac mini just does tv and music now, iTunes match, plex and filmOn for tv streaming. 

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