Like a lot of techophiles, I have struggled mightily with bringing computer apps and internet content to my home theater set up. I’ve tried full size computers, small computers, various streaming solutions and all sorts of other equipment, all in the name of television and internet convergence.
Everything works a little and it seems like nothing works really well.
This weekend, I found my answer. A Mac Mini. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best solution I have found so far.
By a wide margin.
Sure, I tried a Mac Mini before. But it died a premature death so I took a while to try again.
I also recently tried a Dell Inspiron Zino. These are nifty little computers, and its small footprint will find it a place in the house, likely as a replacement for my kids’ older and bigger shared computer. Plus, it has a Blu-ray drive, which the Mac Mini stubbornly lacks (thereby prolonging the need for a stand alone DVD player). But the Windows big screen media experience is just not satisfying. I don’t like things to be too simple in a desktop environment, but when you’re on the couch chilling, simple is good.
And for better or worse, Apple tries to make the media process pretty simple.
I also tried- and loved- Apple TV. But three things make the Mac Mini a better choice.
1. It does what the Apple TV does, plus the entire range of other computer and internet functions.
2. I don’t know what Apple has in store for the Apple TV, but the two most likely things are massive changes or death.
Parallels is a pretty nifty program that lets you run Windows 7 and Windows apps inside of and along with OS X. So I can have the best of both worlds. As we speak, I am installing Windows Live Writer on my Mac.
Scary thought: if I find little or no performance degradation when running Windows apps on a Mac via Parallels, it could lead me to make my next desktop a Mac. I just need to find an extra $10K or so to recreate the dual monitor Windows setup I have now. People try to tell me that Macs are not overpriced, but one trip to the Apple store to configure a Mac Pro with lots of storage and two monitors proves otherwise.
Front Row is a beautiful app for viewing photos and videos and for listening to music. I just wish it had iTunes store integration so I could buy movies from within the app (and completely avoid that blight that is the iTunes app). The inability to purchase media within Front Row and the need to suffer iTunes is, by far, the biggest feature deficiency in the Mac Mini as home theater experience.
But it’s still the best option out there.
At the end of the process, I’ll probably have two Mac Minis in operation. One in my study (where the current one resides) and one in the theater room, so my wife and kids can access our music, photos and home movies.
It’s hard to believe how far I have come in my Apple journey.