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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Anyone use a G4 Cube as a media center?

Anyone use a G4 Cube as a media center?
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olePigeon
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Sep 9, 2008, 12:49 PM
 
I got to work with not just one, but TWO G4 Cubes at work today. Man, what an awesome computer. Perfectly silent. Still blows me away. I love the vertical DVD and the touch sensors on the display and the machine.

Has anyone here used a G4 Cube as a media center? Does a stock 500MHz Cube have enough umph to run Tiger & Front Row?

Since the mini came out, I can find G4 Cubes on Craig's List for $200 or less. I've seen a lot of upgrades for it, too. Seems like a fun project. Could attach a 750GB HDD over Firewire, rip most of my DVDs to it.

What do you guys think? I know the mini would be a better choice, but I love the Cube's design. It's like a TAM in the sense that people see it and don't believe you when you tell them it's a Mac.
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idykenano
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Sep 9, 2008, 01:11 PM
 
I use a Sawtooth G4 as a college student's media center (it was my main computer for my first 2 years...), it does alright.
The processor is a bit slow to rip dvd's in and so forth, but I have it attached to an Elgato EyeTV 250 and it records and plays live tv just fine. Exporting the shows is generally an overnight project, but alas, no complaints for the cost of the project.

Compared to the noise and size of mine, I can say that the cube would be an attractive cheap alternative. It will lag a bit though, so watch for it getting slow.
     
Eug
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Sep 9, 2008, 01:20 PM
 
For DVD ripping it's fine... assuming your DVD drive actually works right, or you even have one. (Many don't have DVD.) For DVD transcoding it's EXTREMELY slow.

It's completely useless for XviD and H.264 playback.

It's not very good for DVD playback, because you can't make use of the high-end deinterlacing features.

It's good for iTunes.

And as for Front Row, there is no IR support.
     
olePigeon  (op)
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Sep 9, 2008, 01:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
For DVD ripping it's fine... assuming your DVD drive actually works right, or you even have one. (Many don't have DVD.) For DVD transcoding it's EXTREMELY slow.

It's completely useless for XviD and H.264 playback.

It's not very good for DVD playback, because you can't make use of the high-end deinterlacing features.

It's good for iTunes.

And as for Front Row, there is no IR support.
By ripping DVDs I mean I'm just making disc images of each DVD (including menus and extras) and playing it through DVD player. I'm not transcoding anything. Also, the Cube I found is upgraded with 1.87GHz G4, 128MB nVidia card, 8x DVD, and 1.5GB of RAM.

For the IR, I found the Mira USB IR reciever, it's made just for the Mac especially for the remote AND it's only $16. It'd fit nicely under the Cube.
"…I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than
you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods,
you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen F. Roberts
     
anthology123
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Sep 9, 2008, 03:18 PM
 
I have a G4 Cube. I will use it mainly for songs, music videos, TV Shows and Movies with iTunes. I'm ripping my DVDs and CDs on an Intel Mac and migrating the files over via firewire and them import them into iTunes.
I only upgraded the Hard drive to 500GB. Put it on a nice glass table and it looks great.

I was fortunate to still have the matching USB Speakers and a 17" ADC Cinema display.
     
olePigeon  (op)
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Sep 9, 2008, 04:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by anthology123 View Post
I have a G4 Cube. I will use it mainly for songs, music videos, TV Shows and Movies with iTunes. I'm ripping my DVDs and CDs on an Intel Mac and migrating the files over via firewire and them import them into iTunes.
I only upgraded the Hard drive to 500GB. Put it on a nice glass table and it looks great.

I was fortunate to still have the matching USB Speakers and a 17" ADC Cinema display.
Cool. The one I'm looking at has the 15", but it still has the speakers.
"…I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than
you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods,
you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen F. Roberts
     
goMac
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Sep 9, 2008, 04:44 PM
 
I would say it they don't have enough omph for video. Mine is even a bit pokey for Flash content.
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P
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Sep 9, 2008, 05:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
It's completely useless for XviD and H.264 playback.
H.264 goes without saying, but Xvid? Really? I know that I could just about barely watch (PAL resolution) DivX on my old G3/400. I know Xvid is slightly worse, and there are features (multiple GMC points, for instance) that would cause it to drop frames, but it was doable in a pinch.
     
selowitch
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Sep 9, 2008, 05:43 PM
 
If I happened to own a Cube, I might consider sticking the admittedly unsupported NVIDIA GeForce 6200 in it as an upgrade. For under $50.00, your Cube can support DVI output and is suddenly more credible as a media center.

But I wouldn't buy a Cube now because the mini is so much more powerful. Heck, even the AppleTV can be hacked to run as a pseudo-Mac that is probably better for this purpose than the Cube. So as much as I love the Cube, I wouldn't get one unless it was just for the joy of owning a great piece of industrial design and a work of art -- not so much as a computer or media center.
     
Eug
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Sep 9, 2008, 07:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
H.264 goes without saying, but Xvid? Really? I know that I could just about barely watch (PAL resolution) DivX on my old G3/400. I know Xvid is slightly worse, and there are features (multiple GMC points, for instance) that would cause it to drop frames, but it was doable in a pinch.
Let's just say, it's not always a pleasant experience, esp. if you want to actually navigate the video instead of just watching it all the way through. For the record, my Cube is a 450, not 500. BTW, even on my G4 800, XviD at SD can take 60% of my CPU, and that's with a faster system bus speed.

XviD SD is OK on my 1.7 GHz Cube. (Yes I have two Cubes.) However, H.264 still sucks on the 1.7 GHz Cube.

If I were buying today, the only desktop Mac I would recommend for a media centre is a top of the line Mac mini. Minimum CPU speed - Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz.
     
red rocket
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Sep 10, 2008, 03:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by olePigeon
Perfecty silent.
Originally Posted by olePigeon
Also, the Cube I found is upgraded with 1.87GHz G4, 128MB nVidia card, 8x DVD, and 1.5GB of RAM.
Bear in mind that that Cube will NOT be silent. All those CPU upgrades come with fans, convection cooling isn’t sufficient for a card of that speed. If you want a silent Cube, you’ll have to stick with the original CPU speeds.
     
Eug
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Sep 10, 2008, 08:19 AM
 
I undervolted a fan for my 1.7. It's basically silent, unless I put my ear right up to the vent.
     
red rocket
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Sep 11, 2008, 04:15 AM
 
Interesting. I’d heard of a ‘nearly-silent’ 800MHz upgrade, wouldn’t have thought you could get away with that sort of thing on faster cards. No overheating issues, then?
     
Eug
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Sep 11, 2008, 08:12 AM
 
The 800 is a 7455 I believe. The 1.7 is a 7447 (a generation and several revisions later) so that helps. Remember, it's the same chip that is used in the last G4 PowerBook.

There is still airflow. It's just that the fan isn't running at fullspeed anymore.

In fact, the main barrier to Cube upgrades IMO is not the CPU. It's the GPU. There is very little airflow by the GPU, and the CPU fan doesn't really help the GPU airflow at all. The GPU also sits right be side the memory. The heat-related issue I had was due to the fanless Power Mac GeForce 2 MX I stuck in it toasting my memory. I have a flashed PC GeForce 6200 in the Cube now. It's significantly cooler than the GeForce 2 MX (although nowhere near as cool as the ATI Rage 128), and much, much faster.





OpenMark also tells us what level of OpenGL is supported by these GPUs:

ATI Rage Pro 128 - OpenGL 1.1
GeForce2 MX - OpenGL 1.1
Radeon 9200 - OpenGL 1.3
GeForce 6200 - OpenGL 1.5

However, the ATI Rage Pro 128 is a major problem in that it doesn't support Quartz Extreme. That's what causes performance problems with OS X (besides the fact that it's just slow). The added benefit of the 6200 is that I also get Quartz 2D Extreme - Dashboard ripple. You don't get that with the Radeon 9200 or GeForce 2 MX.



BTW, I also have a GeForce 6200 in my G4 450 Cube as well. It adds a nice boost to OS X performance over the Rage 128.
( Last edited by Eug; Sep 11, 2008 at 08:50 AM. )
     
Cadaver
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Sep 19, 2008, 11:02 PM
 
I have a 1.7GHz Cube with a 256MB GeForce 6200 running 10.4.11.
It'll do fine for DVD (video_TS) but, as said above, its pretty useless for H.264 and Flash video.
My Apple TV serving up m4v's streaming off my desktop makes for a far better media server. And the Apple TV is silent, too.
     
anthology123
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Oct 7, 2008, 01:49 AM
 
The maximum size internal hard drive a Cube can use is 120gb? Can it use a larger hard drive partitioned into smaller volumes, or is the internal drive pretty much maxed out at 120gb (127 to be precise?) and anything bigger will have to be attached via firewire?
     
P
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Oct 7, 2008, 05:51 AM
 
Originally Posted by anthology123 View Post
The maximum size internal hard drive a Cube can use is 120gb? Can it use a larger hard drive partitioned into smaller volumes, or is the internal drive pretty much maxed out at 120gb (127 to be precise?) and anything bigger will have to be attached via firewire?
The problem is the BootROM, which doesn't support drives bigger than that to boot from. If you install a certain third-party driver and do some clever partitioning, you can still use a bigger drive.
     
Koralatov
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Oct 9, 2008, 04:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
H.264 goes without saying, but Xvid? Really? I know that I could just about barely watch (PAL resolution) DivX on my old G3/400. I know Xvid is slightly worse, and there are features (multiple GMC points, for instance) that would cause it to drop frames, but it was doable in a pinch.
I’ve used both XviD and DivX on a stock Cube (specs in sig) — pushing a 22″ ACD through ADC on a 32MB GeForce 2MX — and it ran very smoothly. The only issue I met was scrolling through the video, which got a touch choppy, but cleared up pretty quick.

Overall, I’d say yeah, as long as you don’t expect miracles, it’ll work.
     
   
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