Mac mini: The original Apple TV alternative

Apr 02 2007

If you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you might have missed the AppleTV launch. To much dismay, it turned out to be a bit of a dud. However, for a bit more you can have a full featured Mac Media Center. We, of course, are talking about the mini. The little brother of the Mac world, can be used as a Media Center and Ars backs that up with mini-reviews of all of the available software. They forgot to mention SageTV in the mix.

ars technicaMedia Central began its a life as the first really usable alternative to Front Row as a way to get around the file format limitations. After being bought by German developer Equinux, the updates came fast and furious, but at a price (currently $29). But it's been worth it in my opinion. Media Central has grown into one of the most full-featured, stable, and consistent interfaces to be found in HTPC on the Mac OS. The downside of the purchase has been a heavy case of feature-itis, with lots of features that distract from the central functions of accessing your media collection. A good example of this are the "online components" littered throughout the interface. One nice feature is the ability to subscribe to photo streams from Flickr or .Mac under the pictures section. But by default, you'll find a half a dozen or so photo streams chosen completely at random (as far as I'm concerned-I'm sure they make complete sense to the developers of Equinux). It clutters up the interface quite a bit. A similar instance puts an Evanescence stream in my music area. You can turn all of these options off with a single check box in the preferences, but it's an all or nothing deal. That being said, I absolutely recommend doing so in order to cut more than half of the initial startup time (which is absurdly long by default).