My High Def Life: Comparing the Mini and Apple TV output

by Erica Sadun

Amadeu writes "Hi Erica. One thing I have not yet seen in your series: how does the AppleTV compare with the MacMini, as for output quality? The AppleTV has a better graphics card but does this result in noticeable differences when displaying pictures or movies on the TV?"

I honestly don't see a quality difference between the two. Both produce crisp watchable pictures. But then again, I'm neither an audio nor video perfectionist so take my opinion with the skepticism it probably deserves.

Also remember that Apple TV works out of the box and is pretty bullet-proof but isn't meant for general computing. The Mini offers Front Row, but it's pretty easy to leave that mode. Apple TV is $299 and the Mini costs significantly more.


2007-04-03 16:32:24
Anything else to add? I think all you did was state the obvious, and not much even at that.
Erica Sadun
2007-04-03 16:36:10
Sorry about that Steve but I'm not sure how much one can go into depth when the answer is "I didn't see a difference".
john e
2007-04-03 17:11:38
it should be noted that only the newer Intel Mini's support core image processing, which definitely provides much better display image quality on a TV than than the older Power PC Mini's do. i've tried both.

and it is reasonable to expect the next generation of Mini's sometime this year will have even more advanced hardware built in to support Leopard's new graphic features.

right now, hooking an Intel Mini to an HDTV brings up issues of choosing various possible resolutions settings and overscan on/off, and the Menu Bar size can't be adjusted independently (needs to be bigger), although desktop items can be enlarged. of course, if you only use Front Row (equivalent to Apple TV) that does not really matter, but if you want to see the entire desktop it does.
check out this MacMini Apple discussion Forum for many detailed comments: Using Displays with the Mac mini.

it'd be much easier if Leopard includes display output setting options specifically optimized for HDTV's.

2007-04-03 18:14:43
I have an Intel Mac Mini hooked up to my 720p HD projector and have a 106" screen. I use the mini as my DVD librarian and replay box, DVDPedia rocks. The picture quality is stunning. It is awesome even with DVD quality video.. it is not as good as HD, but it looks great. I looked at an AppleTV in the Apple Store last week. I think my mini looks better by far.
2007-04-04 06:50:34
Using Quartz Debug (included with the Developer Tools) you can change the resolution of the Mac mini's interface and make the menus considerably larger. Albeit this brings in room for some crazy tiling issues (in some applications), but all these problems _should_ be fixed in Leopard.

If you haven't played with quartz debug, install the developer tools, bump the resolution factor up and play around with it.