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Whether a Mac mini or Apple TV is the best solution for a home cinema computer (HCPC or HTPC) is a common question asked by those looking for an all in one media playing solution. In this, the first of a two part article, we take a look at both units to try and answer this question. Apple's Mac mini was introduced in January 2005, being described by Steve Jobs as the 'most affordable Mac ever'. It is a fully featured computer but is squeezed into a small form factor just 16.5 cm square by 5.1 cm high. The unit weighs just 1.31 kg. There are two versions of the product available. The cheaper model has a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM and a 120GB 2.5" hard drive, while the more expensive model gets a 2.26 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. The most recent update to the Mac mini really helps its home cinema credentials with the unit getting the faster Core 2 Duo processors and nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics chipsets. The Mac mini also now features the Mini DisplayPort connection which allows the latest digital picture connections such as HDMI and DVI through one port. The wireless networking also sees an upgrade to the faster 802.11n specification. An integrated CD/DVD drive and external USB2 ports allow for the playback of media not stored on the internal hard drive. The Apple TV is another small form factor device but is solely dedicated to the function of media play back. The specification consists of an Intel Mobile Pentium 1.0 GHz Crofton Processor, an nVidia GeForce Go 7300 graphics chipset, 256MB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. The casing is slightly bigger in size than the Mac mini at 1.97 cm square but is not as tall, measuring just 28mm high and weighing 1.09 kg. The Apple TV does not have a CD or DVD drive. The unit has the same 802.11n wireless specification as the mini. The Mac mini and AppleTV are similar in the sense that they are both comparable in size, both have a remote control, a media browser interface, digital video connections and digital audio outputs. Both units also share software similarities in that they come with iTunes and Front Row, which allows simple navigation of media from the comfort of your armchair. We have now covered both of the competing products specifications and the similarities between the two devices. In the next article we will look in more detail in the Apple TV vs Mac mini argument so see which unit is the most suitable as a home cinema computer.

Whether you're a home cinema expert or just starting out, we a hope a free Mac mini is all you need to get you going, both as a home media player and as an Apple Mac computer. You really do get two devices in one with the mini, and as an added bonus you get it all wrapped up in Apple's great styling.

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Mac MIni vs. Apple TV