As I posted last night, I’ve hooked my new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini to a Vizio 42″ 1080P LCD.
If you read the specs at Apple, it says the Mac Mini, with 64MB DRAM driving it’s Intel GMA 950 video, can support a 1920×1200 based resolution on a monitor. I assumed that this meant it could drive any 1080P display, which is 1920×1080.
It turns out, there are a few hurdles that could get in the way of succeeding in getting a Mac Mini to drive a 1080P TV display. Some of the hurdles are simple, but one was quite tricky.
Here is the solution, for all those intrepid Mac warriors out there:
- Getting the Max Resolution on the Vizio. The Vizio display says on the box it only supports 1366×768 for computer display. This turns out to be the onboard limitation for their VGA port. If you use a DVI to HDMI cable, you can drive the full 1920×1080 through the HDMI port. I used a 10ft DVI to HDMI gold plated cable from Fry’s. (Price $19.99)
- How to Get Sound on the Vizio. I bought a cheap 3.5mm Mini Plug to RCA Red/White 6 inch cable (Price: $2.79). I then used a standard 12ft Red/White RCA Audio cable to plug connect the Mini to the Vizio TV. The second HDMI port on the Vizio is paired with an auxiliary set of RCA Red/White jacks, seemingly designed for this situation where your HDMI does not actually carry audio.
- How to Get 1080P, not 1080i, out of the Mac Mini. This is the tough one. When you go to the Displays control panel on the Mac Mini (Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5), you are given lots of video choices. However, the maximum resolution says 1920×1080 (interlaced) at 60Hz. What gives? I’m not sure, but it seems like a bug. The secret is to enable the checkbox that says “Show displays in menu bar”. If you do then, a displays icon appears in the menu bar. Click it to get a drop down menu of all display resolutions. Interestingly, there are now two 1920×1080 options, which are labeled identically. Choose the other one! You’ll now be driving full 1080P (confirmed by the Vizio).
I’ve searched the web, and this issue is tricky enough that lots of people complain about the lack of the ability to drive 1080P from the Mac Mini. Most of the debates seem to argue that it depends on the TV. I don’t buy it. I think the issue is a bug in the Mac OS display detection in DVI/HDMI scenarios that is somehow hiding the 1080P option. Either that, or the Mac Mini for some reason thinks that 1080P is too much for it for some other reason, and the drop-down menu is missing that filter to remove it from the list.
I’m not going to spend time on the why. The point is, if you are looking for the how, you just got it.
BTW Leopard is a huge improvement for applications like this. The improved network browsing and FrontRow application are incredibly well-timed. It’s going much better than I expected.