Choosing the Apple TV over the Mac Mini

Recently there have been many articles explaining the merits of using a Mac Mini for a home media center over the Apple TV. Our own Wayne Dixon debated the same issue in an article just a few months ago.

Last week I made my first video purchase from the iTunes store. I bought Doctor Who Series 1, if you are wondering. I owned a Mac Mini and thought it would make a great choice for my new media center. I read many articles talking about all the great features I could have with the Mac Mini over the Apple TV. Quickly I was sold on the idea that with the Mac Mini I could replace my DVR and even watch DIVX encoded movies. It seemed like a no-brainer. I ran down to the Apple store to get the three cables I would need to hook up my new media center powerhouse. While I was there I thought it was only fair to actually look at the Apple TV. Not many people look at the positives of it over the Mini.

The first difference I noticed was ease of setup. The Apple TV has an HDMI output so I only needed one cable to plug it into the back of my TV. The second advantage over the Mini is the ability to rent movies from the iTunes store. I like many other people rent movies but forget to return the to the store until late fees have piled up. And even better the iTunes store doesn’t close early like my local video store. I could decide to rent a movie at three in the morning without even getting dressed.

Those were all great but not enough to convince me to buy the Apple TV. The deciding factor was much simpler than that. The feature that made me buy the Apple TV was how easy it is to use. It is another excellent Apple design that is functional but easy to use. The Apple TV was easy enough my grandmother could use it. If you remember this is what made the iPod corner the market on MP3 players. On the other hand if I chose the Mac Mini I would need to set it up every time someone in my house wanted to watch a movie. Clearly the correct choice for me was the Apple TV. I have owned the Apple TV for about a week now and I simply think it is one of the greatest Apple purchases I have ever made.

Am I telling you to ditch your Mac Mini and run out and buy an Apple TV? No, not at all. I simply think if you are about to purchase one of these solutions for a home media center that you consider who is going to be using the technology. When you look at the issue from the point of view of your end users sometimes you find the most powerful solution is not the best. It wasn’t in my case

Do you think I made the right choice, or should I have stuck with the Mac Mini?