Mac mini or budget mini pc

I’m thinking to buy a mini pc to run a home server with home assistant , docker, mariaDB, portainer, influxdb, grafana, owncloud, Plex and a few cameras.

My budget is quite limited so I’m contemplating to buy a second hand Mac mini late 2012, 2.5 ghz 4 GB ram and 180 GB SSD for 260 dollars.

Or an i5 7200u, 8GB ram DDR4 128 GB SSD for 280 dollars.
AliExpress mini pc

I’d like to run Ubuntu and MacOS would be a plus in case I need to use it as a spare computer later.

What do you guys think? Any suggestions?

Buy server that exceeds YOUR Plex requirements based on Plex recommendations

Plex transcoding and video processing(image display in HA or camera image processing) have highest requirements. If PC handle this well you will likely be happy

I got a “HP Elite 8300” 4gb and 250hd runing Hassio and it has not miss a beat yet.
does what I need

The Aliexpress machine is clearly superior, but probably won’t run OSX.

I tried the Mac Mini path (had one spare) - ended up forking out about $150 (AU) for an ex-lease computer off ebay. Ended up with a Lenovo tiny thinkstation (i think, no pun intended) that i put Ubuntu on.

I found Docker on MacOS had a few quirks and a few odd things happened that I was never able to pin down the root cause.

I’ll probably upgrade again soon (possibly to something like the AliExpress machine you’ve linked to) only because I want the machine to do a little more.

My only recommendation is to go with something you’ve comfortable with (or willing to become comfortable with operating) - @tmjpugh does raise a valid point about Plex though

Yes the Plex requirements are vague, it depends if @badstraw needs to transcode video. Frankly I am not a plex fan. I simply serve my videos over SMB from a linux server and have my Kodi clients pay the media. No transcoding required on my server.

Thanks for your suggestion, apparently I need at least an Intel Core i5 3.0GHz for 1080p, so I think I’m gonna keep using my tv box with kodi, since it outputs 4k 60hz and supports plex. I didn’t know plex requires so much CPU processing power. :confused:

Good advice, but It seems that it consumes more power… Maybe I’m wrong.

Yeah, check out this comparison:

The mac mini is on the right and the chinese pc on the left.

So you didn’t like the mac mini then, why ? If I buy it I’m planning to create another partition and run docker in ubuntu. I tried a macbook (pro late 2013) 2.4 ghz i5 with 8 gb ram and ssd and it feels really snappy. But man, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to buy a computer that old, or to get the chinese one with low resale value.

After checking plex and its requirements, I don’t think I’m gonna use plex anymore. I’ll keep using kodi.

Plex can direct stream supported videos which uses minimal CPU resources, though there are instances when transcoding is used, such as displaying subtitles (basically burns subtitles into video frame) and maybe for h265 or 4K content. It is dependent on the Plex client app and whether direct streaming is supported on the client hardware. I also read here that GPU-accelerated transcoding is locked behind the Plex Pass subscription, though it wouldn’t be used with your two options.

I’d push you towards the mini PC route since you will be getting a brand new PC versus a 2012 out-of-warranty Mac, but it’s up to you.

Great idea !! I could attach a hard drive and use kodi, I don’t have that many tvs…

BTW It would be nice to use the mini pc with a few cameras that I’m planning to buy. I just want to buy something that I could use for HASS for the next couple of years or more.

Everyone gets wrapped up in Plex transcoding requirements without stopping to consider the client. With the right clients, there is no need for transcoding on your LAN. I watch everything on my Plex server without any transcoding on a fire TV stick 4k.

If you have some content that needs to be transcoded you can always transcode it prior to watching it.


I think I’ll use kodi … But I’m tempted to buy this mini pc, It looks like a NUC and it comes with DDR4 ram and M.2 Nvme SSD. It’s an overkill…

You’re saying something really important, but honestly I don’t think I’ll get a warranty from a chinese manufacturer either no matter if it’s a brand new computer, it’s more like a gamble.

Its not that I didnt like the Mac Mini (a Macbook Pro is my daily driver) - I got frustrated with a few foibles and issues, some were MacOS and some were me and I decided that rather then battle on I’d switch tracks. It also helped being on a similar platform to most people in the HA community (and other communities for some of the other stuff im running) - problems were easier to find solutions for

I was upgrading from raspberry pi to ‘‘server’’ not that long ago.
I decided to build one myself. I bought Asrock J4105 MBO, 16GB ram, Fractal Node 304 pc case (it has 6 slots for HDD), and installed Unraid on it. I’m not using Plex, but am using Kodi on my android TV to watch media stored on my unraid machine. As @flamingm0e said, if you are watching localy on 4k capable device you won’t be doing any transcoding - I have tested Plex for a week or so, but decided to keep Kodi, as I’m more used to it.
I’m running HomeAssistant in docker along side other containers (20 containers ATM), and CPU sit’s @ 10-15% most of the time.

I’m still not sure what to do lol …

Now a guy is offering me a NUC 7i7bnh with 120SSD and 8 Gb RAM for 390 bucks.


I am looking at a refurbished HP Elite 8300 to replace my Raspberry pi. did you use the NUC image to install ? Or what steps did you take ?

Thanks for any info

snap bro that what my first one until lighting hit it

MY Steps

backup put snapshot in a safe place

get the

the Intel-nuc one

download etcher

hope you have a USB to sata plug thing Heap out there

  1. put “hassos_intel-nuc-3.13.img.gz” on the a hard drive with the USB to STATA
  2. put said hard drive back in PC and turn it and PRAY (LOL)
    plug in monitor just to see what happening once word stop scrolling
    goto router look in DHCP find the IP address
    on differance computer put IP address : 8123 into browser

should see HA logo that a good sign smoke tiime (was this 18 months ago)

just wait …

do the wizard thing


goto the supervisor and install SAMBA share ONLY set that up

now in my computer \ \ ???.???.???.???

goto backup folder and copy last snapshot there


goto back to supervisor / snapshot


pray and smoke time again


you be a happy camper

buzz me not

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thanks for the quick reply ! Daunting task…