So much of our media is related to the computer. Between iTunes downloads, Hulu, YouTube, DVR recordings, and Netflix Streaming, the days of the disc are ending. Sure, Blu-ray will keep them alive for a little while longer but I wouldn’t call them mainstream yet and HD Movies are available digitally through iTunes.
The Home Theatre PC is all about containing this entertainment / media in one place, digitally and on-demand; storing videos, pictures, music, playing DVDs, games and streaming content. Now that large flat-screen TVs are becoming reasonably priced, what’s better than having a gigantic 1080p LCD TV? Getting your Mac to display video on it!
Why not just use an AppleTV?
Yes, an AppleTV has built in HDMI for audio and video. It’s not really about what the AppleTV can do, it’s all about what the AppleTV can’t do. Play DVDs? Rip CDs? DVR Television? Use common audio / video formats such as Divx, Xvid, Flac, Ogg, or .Avi? Do anything without having to make an iTunes purchase?
The answer to these questions is pretty much – No, No, No, No and No. That’s why a Mac Mini makes a much better HTPC.
Connecting a Mac Mini (or other Mac) to an HDTV:
Before we get started, take a look at the inputs on the back of your TV. If you have a DVI input, you are all set. Just get a DVI to DVI cable and connect the Mini directly. If you have HDMI, read on.
1. Get a suitable DVI to HDMI cable.
2. Properly connect the HDTV to your Mini.
3. Turn on the HDTV and Mac, then view the screen.
Chances are it may look “clipped” or “chopped” and / or have black bands around the desktop. If so, this is a common ailment called Overscan.
How to fix Overscan with a Mac and HDTVs.
1. Open system preferences.
2. Click on Displays.
3. When the Mac is connected to the TV, there should be an Overscan button.
4. Check the checkbox to turn it on. This will reduce the picture a bit to fit it better.
5. If this doesn’t fix the problem, adjust the resolutions until you get one that looks good for you.
6. Try checking and unchecking the Overscan box until your picture looks right.
7. Adjust settings in your HDTV’s preferences if necessary.
Each HDTV from different manufacturers treats overscan differently. Some will give you a hard time, others will just work. It’s really a matter of switching different resolutions and the overscan checkbox in both the OS X and HDTV’s preferences.
Sometimes it takes a little bit of trial and error to get everything to work right. When it does, write down the settings so you don’t have to go through this again. Just remember, to keep the image looking “right” (not squished or stretched), maintain your HDTV’s optimal image ratio – most likely 16:9.
Getting Sound into your HDTV:
With all the video fiddling to get the picture right, you might miss something important – there’s no sound! This is actually normal.
OS X doesn’t send audio over the HDMI cable, even though HDMI supports it. If you’re using DVI, that’s video only. What you can do is use your Mac’s analog output to send audio to your HDTV. You can use a simple 3.5mm headphone to RCA cable if simple stereo is fine for you.
If you’re looking for 5.1 Surround Sound, this article is for you.