Why Someone Might Want the Mac Mini Instead
The Apple TV has so much to offer in terms of digital, streaming entertainment, but it does have some limitations. One such disadvantage is that it is, at the end of the day, just a streaming box. Now, for some people that is going to be an advantage, as I suggested earlier, but for others, it is a limitation. The Mac Mini would allow you to manage files and have more control over a media library. They have relatively large hard drives now and they output in at least 1080p via HDMI.
The Mac Mini, as a full computer, will allow you to go to Netflix, Hulu, and any other website that you like to get digital content from and stream it through the actual website instead of a 3rd party app. This can take a little more time, but you will have much more access - to anything on the web.
The other advantage is that the Mac Mini will be able to play CDs and DVDs, which the Apple TV will not be able to do. Neither device, at present, is able to play Blu-ray discs yet, which is disappointing.
The other thing to take into consideration is that while the Apple TV is only $99, the Mac Mini is going to run at least $699. That's a big price different in order to just store files, access more websites, and play discs. It seems that this would only be justifiable if you don't have any computer at all; then, you could have the Mac Mini meet both needs - home computing and home entertainment. But, if you already have a good computer that you use, your home entertainment needs might be best met by going the way of the Apple TV. In reality, the Apple TV versus Mac Mini debate is going to come down to what kind of setup you currently have. In the past, this debate was like comparing apples to apples, as it were, but now these two devices are so unique, the decision is much easier to make once you know what each of the units do.
Images are copyright of Apple, Inc.