Why I'm buying a Mac mini to replace my Apple TV

When Apple announced earlier this month that it was releasing a new Mac mini that featured an improved design and far better specs than what was previously available, I was excited. As a long-time Apple customer, I have everything from an iMac to an iPhone to an Apple TV running in my house. But as Apple continues to call the Apple TV a "hobby," I'm left wondering if it's really true.

I'll be the first to admit that I use my Apple TV more than any other device connected to my television. It's my entertainment hub for when I want to watch some of my favorite video casts, listen to music, or watch some movies that are made available for rent. But in those moments when I want to check IMDb for an actor's name or Google something related to a show I'm watching, the set-top box isn't the device I use. I'm forced to put my Apple remote down, pick up my iPad, and check the information out on that instead. It's a major issue that Apple, for the past few years since the Apple TV has been available, refuses to address. And it's about time that it did.

But rather than wait on the company, I've decided that it's time to replace my Apple TV. Although I understand that the Apple TV is designed specifically for my entertainment needs, Google's promise of Google TV, its platform that's expected to run on several devices later this year, makes me wonder why I'm even considering running the Apple TV anymore. After all, if there are so many other options available to me that will perform all the tasks I expect, rather than just a few, why should I keep using the hobbled alternative?

And that's where the Mac mini comes in. Although I can pick up home-theater PCs from Dell or Acer, the Mac mini is far more viable. Not only does it run Mac OS X, which would preclude me from needing to worry if my virus definitions are up-to-date, it will work seamlessly with my expanding iTunes library. And thanks to its new HDMI-out port, it's effectively Apple's answer to Google TV and all the set-top boxes, like the Logitech Revue, that will be making their way to store shelves over the coming months.

But there is more than just entertainment to like in the Mac mini. The device provides a full-fledged Mac OS X experience. Rather than be forced to only use the applications Apple allows me to on the Apple TV, the Mac mini affords me nothing but opportunity. I can run Microsoft Office on it, and have easy access over the Web to any site. Plus, thanks to its browser, I can view any Web content that I want right on the device.

That could be a key reason why the Mac mini is so appealing to me right now. I can access all the content available to me on the Apple TV through iTunes, plus I can view Web content. I can even go to Hulu and watch some television shows I might have missed for free, rather pay per download on iTunes. It's a major step forward for those of us who spend so much time in front of our televisions.

It goes beyond the Apple TV. A Mac mini is a far better device than anything Google can muster with the Google TV. It can search the Web just like Google TV and access content like the search giant's software. But it adds full computing functionality that Google TV devices won't be able to muster. Simply put, the Mac mini is the best of all worlds. And its functionality is second to none in the HTPC market.

So, I'll be buying a Mac mini soon. It's not that the Apple TV isn't a great device — it is — but it doesn't provide all the functionality that I need. And I'm unwilling to wait for Apple to finally improve it.

Enough is enough, it's time to move on. And I'm moving on with the Mac mini.