I discovered a long time ago that having a dedicated computer that can manage your media, download 24/7 and play everything back in a simple fashion is truly something to behold. With that said, the Mac mini is easily the best (and least expensive) way to bring a powerful Apple computer into your living room without having to utilize a Windows based PC and all the headaches that go along with it. At only 7.7″ square and 1.4″ tall the Mac mini is easily an eighth of the size of your cable box, but at the same time it can perform cable functions and so much more! You can use any Apple Computer as your Media Center, but once you have the hang of it, getting a dedicated Mac mini for your TV is the best solution!
Current Models (2011)
The 2011 Mac minis all received a significant upgrade from the previous Core 2 Duo chips (2010) to the latest Intel i5 & i7 processors, all while reducing the base price by $100. However, while the processor speed has been wildly increased, Apple did so by removing the Superdrive (CD/DVD Burner). This doesn’t make it any less of a Media Center, but if you are just starting out and plan on ripping your music & movie collection, you will need to get an external CD/DVD drive (see FAQ below for more info). There are currently three versions of the Mac mini available, two consumer models and one ‘pro’ model intended for use as a server. My recommendation is to purchase either of the two ‘standard’ options below (I have not included the Server model). They are both more than capable for everything listed on this website.
If you need to get a CD/DVD Burner for your 2011 Mac mini, I would highly recommend getting this Samsung External Drive. Apple sells an external Superdrive for nearly double the price and the reviews are a far cry from this Samsung. The best part is that it still runs entirely off of USB, just like the Apple Superdrive.
If you are new to the Mac mini or even Apple Computers in general, you may have some questions you want answered before you spend your time and hard earned money on a dedicated Media Center. This list of Frequently Asked Questions discusses a majority of the questions I have received over the years in regard to Apple Media Centers. If you have a question that you don’t see listed, please message me from the Contact Page so I can answer it for you and add it to the list.
If you have a previous generation Mac mini, check this page out for detailed Specifications, User Guides and links to tear downs so you can perform your own repairs. Just because you don’t have the latest model doesn’t mean are are left in the dust! This section will be updated as new models come out.