Alright, so I’ve done some testing. I was researching frapplications (to see if I could bring the yt (youtube) frapplication (front row application) to Leopard’s front row. Turns out the kernel is different for the front row so it doesn’t work.
But along the research way, I found a SA thread devoted to the subject of the AppleTV vs the Mini. Originally that was my idea too, to just use a Mini with the ATV interface. At the time, the ATV front row was unique to ATV, it was different than the front row on Tiger. Leopard has the same interface as the ATV, though.
The result is, the SA thread whines about how minis (someone referenced the same mini I bought when I was worried that the rumors about Apple discontinuing the mini were true, the 1.83ghz core duo) can’t play 1080p well. I decided to test this stuff on the appletv using the “NitoTV” plugin, which I have installed perian AND the mplayer codecs package on. Nicely, you can switch in the settings between processing videos with Quicktime, Mplayer, or Mixed (which doesn’t really work too well, considering some extensions are shared between the two where they shouldn’t be, so it picks mplayer).
Alright, my results. I played a 720p .mp4 in h264 (encoded with the wonderful visualhub from an HD-DVD .evo) on the ATV streaming over the network with mplayer. It worked, but like a slideshow. Switched to Quicktime, it took a few seconds to ‘catch up’, but then worked beautifully. Neither can handle the 1080p content I have (same HD-DVD, another title encoded at a higher resolution) properly. When pausing, the video would catchup, but it would not even play while the video was in play mode (audio did however). However, this was over the 802.11n network from a USB drive on my macbook, so I’m transferring both test files over AFP to the drive right now. We’ll see.
Results: Mplayer on NitoTV seems to be unable to properly process H264 content. I also told Perian to NOT replace the Apple H264 decoder with it’s own. I do not know if changing it to the perian version would have helped, but more testing is needed. All in all, I think that with some more apps and functionality from the hackers, this device can be rather cool. Just, leave the quicktime to quicktime. (Perian didn’t help play xvid it seemed, or it would and I’d see no video [just the last shot of the menu] and hear the audio).
Mixed mode could be better with some file extension checking, but possibly a program like ffmpeg telling what codecs are being used and determine from there which app (qt/mp) will handle it best. As well, on the apps side it would be nice if the RSS feature could download .torrent files from RSS torrents to the ~/Torrents directory, so that ATVTorrents could grab them immediately. Perhaps setup a background rss reader with filters so one could filter a TV torrent site for new eps in the series you’re following.
I don’t know which would be best, ATV (with apps to do the torrents properly) or a mac mini with already-existing programs rigged to do it in the background. I will say this: YouTube is too addicting to sacrifice.