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4K HDR support means the Mac mini M2 Pro could be ideal for your home theater

When Apple released the new Mac mini (M2), one of the interesting tidbits was that its HDMI port had been upgraded, but only if you got the version with the M2 Pro chip.

This model now supports 4K at 120Hz, or 4K at 240Hz using Display Stream Compression (DSC) technology, both are good – but what really made me sit up and notice is that 4K HDR is now supported, for the first time.

We’re only talking about HDR10 (the most “basic” and most common form) for now, but it’s still an important step up from our previous “no HDR at all”. Apple does support the more advanced Dolby Vision HDR format in macOS (as we discussed in our MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) review, the mini-LED screens on its Pro laptops take full advantage of it), but not Supports HDMI port now.

However, with onboard HDCP 2.2 support for this, it immediately raises the question of using the Mac mini M2 Pro as an HTPC (Home Theater PC) connected to one of the best TVs around. HTPCs used to be something to behold, but have recently faded away with the rise of the best streaming devices that can do most of the same for less money.

But HTPCs still have their uses (and their fans). After all, you can watch video from anywhere that can serve video to your web browser — not just services supported by your device. You can also play any digital movie file you own, regardless of format, or connect to any kind of streaming server (or, of course, create one powered by a Mac mini).

Check out that humble HDMI port—you’d never know it’s new HDR capabilities at a glance (Image source: Future)

And because it’s the M2 Pro version, you can use it for anything you want — including entertainment. As ever, Macs aren’t usually the go-to choice for gaming, but there’s still a ton of releases old and new (especially strategy games), and you can be sure that anything you throw at them will run fine with a 19-core GPU.

It’s also ideal for music lovers—plug the Mac Mini into a great AV receiver with professional speakers connected, and you’ll be able to play your Hi-Res Audio collection in superb quality.

shortcoming

There are some issues with using the Mac mini M2 Pro as an HTPC. The first is that the HDMI port lacks a Dolby Atmos output – supports multi-channel audio, but not in the Atmos format, so you effectively get surround sound, but not full 3D object-based audio effects One of the best Dolby Atmos sound bar.

Likewise, macOS supports Atmos, and you can get Atmos spatial audio from the iMac 24-inch (2021) speakers or when watching content and using AirPods Pro 2 — but Atmos won’t output via HDMI.

The new Apple TV is a fraction of the size of the Mac mini and a fraction of the price (Image source: Future)

Then there is the price. $1,299 / £1,399 / AU$1,999 Yes quite That’s a lot for an HTPC. You can get the latest Apple TV 4K (2022) for almost 90% less than that, leaving you with enough money to buy a PlayStation 5 and An Xbox Series X game hit. Then you also get support for Dolby Vision and Atmos.

But you won’t have flexibility. I’m not saying people should rush into buying a new Mac mini as an alternative to watching the best streaming services; One of the more interesting devices around.

You can read our full Mac mini (2023) review to learn more about the machine—yes, we got to test the M2 Pro version.



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