Despite the newly released Apple TV's impressive improvements and easy-to-use interface, you don't need to limit yourself to renting flicks, or even wait for Google's new system to launch. If you don't mind a bit more work, and like having all of your content available on your nice, big HD screen, I can tell you how to set up a kick-ass home theater system using a Mac Mini, and a free software download called Plex. Follow along in this handy how-to and prepare to be entertained when you read more.
What you'll need:
Before you begin:
Let me start by saying that yes, the new Mac Mini's are a bit pricey at nearly $700. The good news is, once you get set up, you can use your TV as your computer, home theater system, sound system, and email hub. It's your all-in-one media center!
What is Plex?
Wondering what Plex is, exactly? It's actually a powerful download that allows you to organize your content in one clean and sleek spot. It gathers information on the kinds of content you're using, and populates album and film covers for you in a snap. What's more, Plex comes with a ton of apps, like Netflix, Pandora, WB, The Daily Show, and Flickr, just to name a few, so you can get content from your favorite channels and shows right from the interface.
How to set up:
- Connect your Mac Mini to your HDTV via the HDMI output on the Mini. Make sure you set your TV to the correct channel for an outside source, then fire up the Mini.
- Go through the set-up on your new Mini as you would normally.
- If you have an external hard drive that holds your photos, movies, and music, now is the time to hook it up and find a nice spot for it to live. The Mac Mini we're using here holds 320GB of data, but you're free to use an external in conjunction if you're storing more content.
- Get organized by creating new folders, and separate your content by movies, music, and TV shows. This will help Plex organize your data seamlessly in the server.
- Download Plex. It's free! Plex will download to your Mac Mini and ask you to point it to where your content is located. This would be your hard drive (or your external hard drive if you're using one).
- Plex will then scan your content and organize in its interface (this could take a while). You are then free to launch Plex, and play around with its sleek interface.