Earlier this week, I couldn’t resist the gadget-upgrade gods and picked up a new NVidia-based Mac mini to drive my home theater.

Now to be clear, I’ve actually been waiting for this to happen for awhile now – since I push live HD over my network via an HDHomerun, and run tons of H.264 encoded movies through Frontrow, having hardware decoding of H.264 was essential. Quick summary: Love the box.

Anyways – this post is about what’s running behind the scene, the ‘central nervous system’ of my setup, the media server. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to run a massive machine with 4 drives with a RAID array, and switched over to a small Intel-based Mac mini. Since I’m using very little storage on the box – 20gb or so (all my media is on 2TB of external storage), I wondered what impact switching to a solid-state disk would have on boot time (for those occasional software upgrades), heat, speed, energy consumption usage, etc.

Here’s some information on the machine: It’s a standard configuration (as of 2006) 1.83 ghz Intel Core Duo, 1GB of Ram, 80gb 5400 RPM drive.

Based on some simple research (searching google), I decided going with a G.SKILL 64GB SATA II. I figured, for $139 and reported high write speeds, why not. I also liked the fact that the drive also had a built-in USB connector on the back, making the clone from the internal disk simply a matter of plugging the drive in, using SuperDuper to clone, then replace the old drive.

So, that’s what I did. The hardest part, as you can imagine, was getting the Mac mini apart and installing the drive.

And here’s what I found:

Boot Time

Basically, it cut the boot time in half.

Power Consumption

Using a Kill-A-Watt, I tested the power consumption of the Mac mini. When idle, I noticed a small power usage difference (18w on SSD vs 20w on HD), but otherwise, nothing terribly notable here. I should compare it to the new Mac mini, which claims to be at 13w while idle.

XBench

Using the latest version of XBench (1.3), I saw the most dramatic differences.

Conclusion

Was it worth it?

Sure – basically got a faster boot time, less heat, and about double the performance. The SSD drive didn’t come close to the performance of my Macbook SSD (SLC vs MLC memory), but it was an interesting enough experiment to call it worthwhile.

Now, what I’d really like is a 2.5″ 1TB drive, so I could get rid of those enclosures…. :)