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I own an old Mac mini from 2006 (maybe early 2007). It's got an Intel Core Solo 32-bits CPU and 512 MB RAM. 160 GB HDD. The GPU is an integrated chip…

Currently, my Mini is sitting under my LCD TV (720p). It's plugged in via a DVI to HDMI cable. It's currently running Leopard. And unfortunately, Snow Leopard can't be installed on a device with less than 1 GB of RAM…

So, my Mac mini isn't exactly powerful. Also, it's slow and Mac OS X is not a pleasant experience on my Mini right now. It feels slow and heavy.

I want to use my Mac mini as a media center/player. I want to be able to play video files in 720p (H.264, Matroska/MOV files). So basically, playing high-def videos is all I want to do with my Mini.

What OS should I install? Stick to OS X? Optimize for video playback? Or should I install another OS — like Win XP, Ubuntu or any other Linux dist? Then, will my Mini be able to play 720p videos smoothly, even though the CPU and GPU aren't that powerful and with the limit of 512 MB of RAM?

Appreciate all help. Thanks in advance!

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2 Answers 2

I have a mac mini, a later model it's a core 2 which will make a difference, it has 1GB of ram and plays HD films flawlessly, my advise would be to try doubling the ram to 1gb it should be quite cheap (you can do it yourself if you want). If you haven't already also install perian (http://perian.org/) which allows front row, quick time etc to play just about anything see if that makes a difference, also don't run any apps in the background while trying to play HD video.

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as well as upgrading the ram, it's also possible to upgrade the CPU to a core 2 duo, which would easily handle 720p MKV's - http://www.oreillynet.com/mac/blog/2007/07/levelling_up_a_mac_mini.html is one example. Then, with the RAM upgrade, you can have your choice of OS's:

Snow Leopard, Ubuntu, or XBMC live (or Snow Leopard with XBMC as an application)

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