FrankenMac as a HTPC?

Thanks to Psystar and their “Open Computer” Mac clones (aka FrankenMacs) have been all over the Internets lately. As a Mini owner and a FrankenMac dabbler I thought I should weigh in on the issue as it relates to the Home Theater environment. The short version of the story? Move along, nothing to see here. The long version is that there are really 5 main reasons to choose a Mini over the Psystar box.

1. It’s small.

The Mac Mini lives up to it’s name. It’s compact and it’s form factor integrates easily with most home theater setups. If you think that having a mini tower sitting on the floor next to your entertainment stand is 733t then there is a reasonable chance you’re not a huge fan of OS X anyway.

2. It’s not ugly.

Let’s face it… Apple has some kick <bleep> designs and the Mini shows it. It’s clean lines and understated brushed metal finish look very much at home parked underneath your fancy new flat panel set. This is in sharp contrast to almost every other PC maker’s beige/black/silver box offerings.

3. It’s quiet.

Listen… Do you hear that? Nope, me nether – I don’t hear a peep out of my Mini in my home theater rack. Compare it to my Xbox 360’s “this is what a small turbine engine sounds like” noise level the Mini is a godsend.

4. It’s not really cheaper.

Admittedly the Psystar box seems like a good deal at $399. Now add $155 for OS X, $50 for Firewire and $90 for wireless networking… Maybe not such a hot deal after all. (To it’s credit the Psystar does have the Mini beat in the Memory and disk areas though.) Oh, and by the way you can’t use Software Update on the Psystar box – how much is that worth to you?

5. It’s a Mac

You don’t have to drink the kool-aid to recognize that there is just something about a Mac that makes it different. It’s not just the software, the hardware, the design or the innovation… It’s a Mac!

In summary I can’t say that I would give the Psystar a second look as a home theater PC. In fact as a FrankenMac builder I can also say I really wouldn’t consider a Psystar for any use at all.

Matt Brinkhoff

6 Responses to “FrankenMac as a HTPC?”

  1. Peter Bessey Says:

    Why would you want to compare the Psystar Tower to a MacMini?

    It has nothing in common with that very limited Apple product.

    Anyway the Mini is almost totally un-upgradeable and has no choice of video/graphic card

    A Tower box is better compared to the Apple Pro towers if anything. Surely that is the attraction of them – potential power, potential spec choice and scope for upgradeability.

    The Psystar and any home built FrankenMac, has the ability to be modified to suit the user’s particular needs. The Mac Tower is so very limited.

    If Psystar can improve the updating issues, which they appear to be doing, and tweak the fan noise issue, which should be possible with relative ease, then this is going to make the units more appealing still as an alternative to an Apple build.

  2. Eric Says:

    1. It’s small.
    Don’t care.

    2. It’s not ugly.
    Not a big deal; besides, I think the Psystar box is kind of attractive.

    3. It’s quiet.
    I’d be looking to replace my Power Mac G4, which isn’t exactly quiet either.

    4. It’s not really cheaper.
    The Psystar blows the socks of a mini in all the posted performance comparisons. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a Mac Pro. Software Update is still unresolved – Psystar is already offering updates directly from their site.

    5. It’s a Mac
    The crux of the matter. If Apple offered a mid-range, expandable, upgradeable, desktop then I wouldn’t consider a Psystar either But they don’t offer such a product and they have consistently refused to for years. So my Apple loyalty (and I’ve bought Macs consistently since my first Mac Plus in 1986) is not what it used to be.

  3. M. Brinkhoff Says:

    If you would prefer to buy a clone I encourage you to do so. This article was intended to address the clone versus Mini issue in the home theater environment.

  4. TSPhoenix Says:

    In all seriousness the only reason you’d buy a Mac clone would be the money (or some kind of crusade against vendor lock-in). If you cared about any of the other things you’d be ponying up the cash at Apple’s doorstep.

  5. wenmiester Says:

    another tip towards the mini… if you’re looking to stream netflix watch instantly with your HTPC, you’ll need an authentic mac and not a hackintosh… currently, due to silverlight/DRM issues, netflix’s streaming service won’t work on hackintoshes. i’m assuming this is also the case for psystar.

  6. freakqnc Says:

    I really wonder how long will take Apple to enter the HTPC realm… Minis were never intended to be one, nor was the AppleTV (which is basically and older sibling of a Roku-like or a younger one of Cable/Sat STB for On-Demand/PPV).

    Sure one can sort-of turn a mini into something that may yield the resemblance of an HTPC, but there are inherent limitations to it which I will not analyze here (suffice to say lack of HDMI, Bluray bitstream support, Surround sound, expandability and so on). And the AppleTV it’s even worse with its underpowered and insufficient specs is definitely a no go unless you just want to play some stuff off iTunes Store… but why would you with NetFlix? ;P

    There may be deals being sealed behind the scene among the key players (which we mere mortals know nothing about), but if such deals are not in the making, I’d suggest those smart businessman that’s what they should be doing, so hopefully Mr. Jobs and Mr. Hastings are reading this! ;P

    PS: a word about clones… were tried in the past, were a major failures for too many reason to condense here and I wouldn’t get a clone even if they were being given out for free… wasting your time to make them work like the “real thing” and trying to find workarounds to unsupported features or unexpected incompatibilities it’ll be way more expensive and frustrating than just getting an original mac, more so today than in the past when hardware was way different.

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