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Old 03-05-2009, 01:37 AM   #1
yermej
 
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I should maybe go to a hardware forum, but I figured I'd check here before signing up somewhere else. Besides, I figure I'll at least be better off than that guy looking for a Realtor.

Anyway, I've been wanting to build or buy a media center computer for a while now. I don't need it for DVR stuff, the DishNetwork box is fine for that. I'd mainly use it to play downloaded videos, play a couple games, and general internet ass-hattery all on an LCD TV at 1920x1080 (via DVI, HDMI, or VGA).

My main issue is finding a relatively quiet machine that can run Portal well at 1920x1080. I say Portal because that's probably the newest/most demanding game that I'd be playing on it. I don't do much PC gaming so I'm not worried about running Left 4 Dead at a brazillion fps or anything like that.

I have a media center-ish case and was planning on building something with that. However, Apple's recent update to the Mac Mini is making me wonder. Anybody have any idea if the Mac Mini graphics chip - NVIDIA 9400M w/256MB shared RAM - would be up to the challenge? I know it can handle the resolution for desktop type stuff, but I'm not sure about Portal. It's new to the Mini, but they've been using it in the MacBooks for a little while now - maybe somebody here has experience with it?

I'm sure I could build something for less, but the case I have is huge compared to the Mini and I'd have to clear some stuff out to make room for it. The Mini would be right at home with the Wii and external hard drive. (Plus I've always wanted a Mac, dammit.)

I'd also appreciate other suggestions if you've done something like this recently. Graphics card suggestions are especially welcome as I'd like to find something relatively quiet (fanless even?) that can do what I want if I end up building my own.

Thanks.

 
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:56 AM   #2
KYB
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I'm a little confused as to exactly what you are doing and want. I would suggest building your own media center. If you've never built a computer, it's very easy. You just plug things in and screw things down, and you get to choose your own parts and save money compared to what a manufacturer charges for the same parts. Oh, and as far as Macs go, IMO they are WAY overpriced. You pay for a "cool" operating system. Yea they have decent hardware, but you can get the same hardware for half the price (I even compared a Macbook and a Dell laptop with a camera built in, half price for the same parts). Do you need a small graphics card? Or can you fit a bigger card in?

 
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Old 03-05-2009, 03:39 PM   #3
yermej
 
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I am building or buying a machine that will always be connected to a 1080p TV (i.e., the TV will be the only display). It will be used to watch downloaded videos & music (avi, mp4, mp3, flac, etc. - mostly streamed over the network), play some older games, and as a computer (email, web, etc.). I won't use it as a DVR so I don't need video capture.

I can't get the same parts as a Mac Mini for less because the form factor is impossible to match with any reasonable amount of money. I'd basically have to buy a full laptop and either run it with the lid shut all the time or gut it and put everything in a custom case. Dell's closest is their Studio Hybrid which only has low end, Intel graphics - and it wouldn't be that much cheaper than a Mini. The Mac Minis, due to the form factor, might be the most competitively priced Macs at this point.

I'd have no problem building one - I've built all my computers except my laptop and my Sun. I guess my main concern in building or buying one is the graphics card. I want something that can perform respectably at 1920x1080, but that doesn't sound like a jet engine or cost an arm and a leg (ignoring the "Apple tax" for now).

Basically, I have two main questions:
"Can I comfortably play Portal at 1920x1080 with a new Mac Mini (NVIDIA 9400M)?"
"What's the quietest, normal graphics card that could play Portal at 1920x1080?"
But I'd appreciate other advice from anybody with similar experience or anybody who's familiar with current graphics cards - I haven't kept up with them in quite some time.

 
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Old 03-05-2009, 10:46 PM   #4
UnaBonger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yermej View Post
Basically, I have two main questions:
"Can I comfortably play Portal at 1920x1080 with a new Mac Mini (NVIDIA 9400M)?"
"What's the quietest, normal graphics card that could play Portal at 1920x1080?"
But I'd appreciate other advice from anybody with similar experience or anybody who's familiar with current graphics cards - I haven't kept up with them in quite some time.
Portal is just built on the Half Life 2 engine, which means its a fairly out dated graphics engine and most cards in the Nvidia line say 6000 and up would be able to run it maxed out with no problems...

If you want a quiet graphics card you should be looking for a "fanless" card... Anything in the Mac-Mini line would be fanless due to its form factor. If you want to run Portal on a Mac Mini, you'll need to boot camp a Windows partition for Steam. As I understand it, Steam will not run on OSX...

Hope that helps.

 
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Old 03-06-2009, 02:34 AM   #5
yermej
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UnaBonger View Post
Portal is just built on the Half Life 2 engine, which means its a fairly out dated graphics engine and most cards in the Nvidia line say 6000 and up would be able to run it maxed out with no problems...
Cool. That should help a lot. I didn't think to check which engine Portal uses. Thanks.

 
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