Mike Rundle Builds A Hackintosh

4 July 2016

Medium:

People used to build Hackintoshes because they were a good bit cheaper than an equivalent Mac you could buy from Apple. Now though, since the Mac Pro hasn’t been updated in 3 years (and the components on the board were already about a year old) people are building Hackintoshes because you can build a Mac that is faster than the fastest computer Apple can sell you and, oh yeah, it costs $1,000+ less than even the base Mac Pro model. If you’re a professional photographer, programmer or video editor that currently owns a Mac Pro, Apple has forsaken you. Maybe it’s time to look into building a Hackintosh.

An inexpensive ~$1200 Hackintosh build is faster than any Mac hardware Apple currently ships as well as being significantly cheaper. I’m not surprised that buying your own components and assembling it yourself is cheaper than what Apple sells pre-configured; there’s a huge price gap between pre-built and self-built Windows PCs too. Official Apple Macs also come encased in custom-designed enclosures and casing that will never be matched by a generic ATX tower, which again mitigates the price difference somewhat.

Another reason why the Hackintosh solution compares so well on the price-performance scale against a Mac Pro is because Apple has left it languish and hasn’t updated its internals (or compensatory price drops). The 5K iMac is a great counterfactual here; a powerful computer that represents very good value for money, having been refreshed recently.

Obviously, I wish Apple would strive to make everything cheaper but the bigger strategical issue, in my view, is this power differential when Apple abandons products for years a time, an increasingly common occurrence.

Apple’s business model is to sanction only a handful of products for its platforms which is normally fine and attracts most of the total market. However, not updating these hardware lines on a regular basis is a disservice to the Mac platform. If they are no longer interested in these segments, the products should be discontinued, not left to linger like a rotting fruit. Right now, the biggest offenders are the Mac Pro and Mac Mini.

I’m not demanding year-over-year major overhauls but a pipeline of spec bumps and component improvements in line with the industry should be a requirement of these product categories staying in the lineup. I don’t really care if Apple wants to charge even more money than they do already for this … but it should be possible to buy sanctioned top-spec internals for Macs.

For average techies, Rundle describes how making a Hackintosh is actually pretty easy as long as you stick to the online community guides for what to do and what to buy. It seems as painless as building any computer from parts (which is not very hard at all, it’s like a 3D jigsaw puzzle where you have the assembly instructions for the solution).

A standout annoyance is the lack of iMessage support as it is seemingly tied to hardware serial numbers. My guess is this is related to the underlying iMessage encryption processes somehow. I would worry that this is a trend and incompatibility would spread to more Apple services as the company continues to enforce higher security policy across the board.

I think the biggest drawback is the necessity to wait when new software updates come out for others to verify compatibility. This is related to the perpetual looming threat that, one day, Apple software could cut the Hackintosh industry off completely (whether on purpose or just by coincidence) and nothing will work ever again. This is fine if you can bear converting your hardware investment into a plain Windows PC as a final backstop.