Will the New Apple TV Make the Mac Mini Obselete?

Apple TV

When I wrote about my hopes for the future of the Apple TV, my arguments largely revolved around a desire for the ability to download iTunes and get access to the Internet. Well, with “Take 2” of the device, we didn’t get the latter, but I suppose one out of two isn’t half bad.

And we did get a download that offered a slew of improvements, including bringing the Apple TV to the level of functionality for which I had initially hoped. That said, does it stand up to my Mac Mini, which is connected to another HDTV in the house, or does it fall short?

By and large, the new Apple TV Take 2 is a great upgrade that makes doing what you want to do on the device much easier. And although it wasn’t until Apple launched iTunes movie rentals that they finally started offering the features we want, I’m delighted the company finally came around.

The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up your new Apple TV Take 2 is its menu. Instead of the old Front Row look, the company has installed a system with an interface similar to that of the iPod that is quite easy to navigate.

Once you’re comfortable making your way around, you’ll notice that you can download movies directly to the Apple TV from the menu; downloading songs, podcasts and music videos, meanwhile, can be done in a matter of seconds. I was extremely pleased with the length of time (or lack thereof) it took to download files and couldn’t have been happier with the overall feel of the upgraded software.

In fact, I would say that the Apple TV Take 2 is an extremely important upgrade and should be a definite consideration the next time you head to the store looking for a set-top box that allows you to play music, movies and more.

But what about the Mac Mini?

But alas, we’re not just here to wax poetic on the Apple TV. I’ve always been a strong proponent of the Mac Mini, but after a little over a week using the Apple TV, I just don’t see why anyone would use it anymore.

Prior to the Take 2’s release, the Mac Mini was clinging to its ability to offer online video and iTunes content directly on an HDTV without the need to download files elsewhere and wait for two devices to sync. Sure, it’s also a full-fledged Mac, with the ability to download outside applications and play non-Apple content. But with its slightly underpowered specs and the general lack of attention given to it, the Mac Mini’s only redeeming quality was its ability to do exactly what Apple TV Take 2 can do now.

With the new update to the Apple TV, you can do everything you’re able to do on the Mac Mini other than browse the web, check your email or perform tasks with the software found on Mac OS X — but without the hassle (and expense).

And while I’m not advising Mac Mini owners to run out and pick up an Apple TV, I do advise Apple TV owners — or those that don’t own either product — to stay far away from the Mac Mini. Although the added functionality may seem fine on paper, the additional $370, plus the cost of a keyboard and mouse is a tough pill to swallow no matter how great your desire to enjoy media on your HDTV. And let’s not forget that the Mac Mini is also lacking component or HDMI inputs, so you’re limited to what you can do right off the bat.

Before the release of the new and improved Apple TV firmware, my vote for best Apple multimedia product would have gone to the Mac Mini. But now that Take 2 has added a slew of functionality that makes the Apple TV worthwhile, I simply can’t justify buying the Mac Mini.

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