With this article we conclude our reporting on Project Mäcki and draw our final conclusions.

This text was translated with the help of DeepL.

Part of Project Mäcki

This marks the end of a long journey that began exactly one year ago.. The first part of the project involved the preparation and assembly of the hardware, which took more time than originally planned while waiting for ordered components. We have described our work in a worklog – from the presentation of the project and the hardware to the photos of the finished system.


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The second part of the project was mainly dedicated to the Hackintosh. Here we have reported in summary in five articles about our experiences with the Mäcki system and other important aspects. After commissioning the system, we deliberately took a few months to gain experience.

Why?

As you can see, we have examined the topic Hackintosh from different sides. However, we have saved ourselves one question until the end: that is the question of why? So what are the reasons people want to run Apple’s operating system on their own hardware? We have already mentioned our personal motivation in one of the previous articles: We wanted to write about Hackintosh a long time ago – which is no longer a problem, as even large media openly write about it and Hackintoshs are a reality regardless of legal issues. We were interested in whether a hackintosh makes sense and what you have to pay attention to. Now we want to look at the issue on a more general level.

We see the Hackintosh as the result of a conflict that some users have: They want to use the macOS platform, but for various reasons they do not want to use a device from Apple’s hardware lineup.

Apple’s Hardware lineup

Apple builds very compact devices such as notebooks and all-in-one desktops, all based on miniaturized mobile hardware. As a result of the compact form factors, today’s Macs are designed so that they cannot be upgraded after purchase. Processor, RAM and flash memory must be ordered in exactly the same configuration as the device will be used throughout its lifetime. When it comes to slim chassis, engineers always have to balance design and performance – and if a slim design is at the expense of performance or hardware equipment, these are the wrong priorities in our view.


Source: Shutterstock

What is missing from Apple’s hardware portfolio is a classic desktop computer that adheres to industry standards and where individual components can be expanded or replaced. However, this concept would probably not fit Apple’s hardware philosophy at all.

Another topic is according to which criteria and within which periods of time Apple updates its hardware. Here a visit to the Buyer’s Guide of MacRumors is very informative.


Source: Screenshot macrumors.com (30 May 2018)

A downright sad example is the MacMini, which has been sold unchanged since October 2014. It could actually be used in many ways: as an entry-level computer, as a server or simply as an alternative to an all-in-one, since the MacMini allows you to freely choose the monitor.


Source: Screenshot macrumors.com (30 May 2018)

Since its last refresh, several new architectures from Intel and new versions of interfaces have been released – but these have never found their way into the Mini. The obvious question is why you should buy hardware this old at all. Intel has shown for years with the NUC platform that compact desktop devices with up-to-date interfaces and powerful hardware can be built.

The MacMini also shows a weakness in the Apple Store: Apple never indicates on which Intel generation a device is based. For example, if you compare an iMac and a MacMini, the technically inexperienced customer does not realize that technologically speaking, the two devices are world’s apart.

As a customer you can also have very specific hardware requirements because you want to use a certain technology. For example, if you want to use CUDA technology, you need an NVIDIA card. And the only way to use an NVIDIA GPU with a „real“ Mac is to connect an external graphics card in its own chassis via Thunderbolt 3 – and older Macs only have a Thunderbolt 2 interface.

These criticisms of Apple’s hardware portfolio are nothing new. They must also be seen against the background of accusations that the „Mac“ is no longer so important to Apple and that they neglect the „pro“ customers. However, Tim Cook never tires of emphasizing „We love the Mac“ – a look into the store with devices, some of which are several years old, speaks a different language. It is also fitting that in marketing the iPad Pro models are repeatedly presented as the „new computers“.

But keeping obsolete models in the portfolio is also a burden for Apple: With the mobile devices, innovations such as the high efficiency file formats for photos and videos are pushed forward, looking at them on the Mac is not so easily possible and strongly dependent on the respective hardware generation. Apple must also continue to provide support and services on the devices for years to come.

From our point of view, the ball is in Apple’s court to finally listen to the wishes of (potential) customers on this topic. Despite all the criticism, we must not forget that Apple is also dependent on the technological developments of its suppliers in certain areas.

Apple’s high price policy

Besides the hardware itself, the price is always an issue: Apple is known for its high-price policy and is often criticized for it. This applies not only to the sales prices of the iPhone, but also to the Mac hardware. Here again, the entrance fees to the Apple world are quite high.

In addition to the sales prices, however, it is also a question of the ratio between the price and the computing power or the hardware equipment that you get for it. A notebook with a maximum of 4 GB GPU memory and 16 GB RAM for around 3200 Swiss francs simply doesn’t look up to date compared to some Windows devices from different manufacturers, especially if you consider that 4 GB graphics card memory must supply a retina display with high resolution. The question of modern hardware equipment can also be asked about the Fusion Drive used in iMacs. Today, other manufacturers offer pure SSD systems or they use a SSD and a HDD as two separate drives.

But even the upgrade prices (for example, to upgrade the SSD from 512 GB to 1 TB on an iMac) are hardly comprehensible from the outside. In addition, Apple does not lower the prices for aging devices either: Today, the MacMini still costs the same as on the day it was launched. The MacPro has become even more expensive.

However, you shouldn’t forget that with a Mac you’re buying more than just hardware: a Mac is part of a comprehensive eco-system that connects devices and services together and provides users with a user experience unlike any other manufacturer. In addition, each original Mac comes with a comprehensive software package, as we already mentioned. In case of a hackintosh you have to buy all applications from the App Store.

There is a price to pay

Following from the topic of high-price policy, we would like to comment on the often-heard statement that a hackintosh is cheaper than an original Mac. To put it simply, this is not true, the issue of costs has to be viewed in a more differentiated way. The total cost of a self-built Hackintosh system with individual components does not have to be automatically cheaper than an original Mac. Of course you can choose inexpensive hardware components, how hack-suitable they are is another question.

The topic of costs should be understood ambiguously – and not only in relation to the price of a single hardware component. It also includes the invested working time, which one must spend for the training on the topic, the procurement of the hardware, the assembly, the installation, the fine tuning and the current support. And you also pay a „price“ for things like compromises in security or the risk that new updates no longer run on the hardware used.


Source: Shutterstock

Let’s look in the following, where costs arise with a hackintosh. Let’s start with self-compiled individual components, since a hackintosh will rarely be a notebook or an AIO device.

  • Basic system: Large price range for the individual components, depending on the desired performance.
  • Additional components: Bringing hardware base closer to an original Mac. Example: WLAN card from OSXWIFI.
  • Peripherals: Mouse, keyboard, monitor etc. according to individual needs. Here, too, the price range is wide.
  • Dedicated graphics card: You can use a more powerful graphics card than Apple has in its portfolio and use it for gaming under Windows 10.
  • Hours of work: Time for training in the topic, procurement of hardware, assembly, installation, fine-tuning and ongoing support.
  • Repair costs and hassle: You have to bear all costs yourself, as there is no protection plan as insurance. Excluded are warranty claims for newly purchased hardware.

A really meaningful price comparison is not that easy. For example, if you compare the price of an iMac with a shopping cart you put together yourself at an online shop, you have the end customer prices including margin on the one hand. On the other hand, there is a complete system whose price is calculated completely differently by the manufacturer Apple. Not only does Apple as a bulk buyer pay completely different prices for the individual components, but there are also factors such as access to the ecosystem, services and a software package, as mentioned in the previous chapter.

In the eye of the storm

A hackintosh can be seen as a criticism of the hardware policy, but also as a compliment for macOS as an operating system.“ We wrote this sentence over a year ago in our article Stürmische Zeiten für Apple (article in German).

To be fair, with all the positive aspects of the operating system we have to say that macOS, like all other operating systems and applications, has bugs and areas that are not so well designed. Similar to the hardware policy, Apple is facing a lot of criticism in online media and forums. We have dealt with this in detail in the article linked above.

One topic is the fast steps with which Apple continues to develop macOS. New versions are released every year – like macOS High Sierra (10.13) last fall. And again this year there will be a big update. The resolution of bugs and underlying problems – so the criticism – falls short. We think Apple should invest more time and resources to release more mature versions. Because the annual release of new OS versions also means additional stress for customers and developers. In return, however, Apple is driving the updates in the ecosystem: If you want to unlock your Mac with Apple Watch 3, for example, you must have macOS High Sierra installed.

A macOS problem that caused us headaches last fall, was the so-called SMB-Bug (Server Message Block Protocol) under High Sierra 10.13.2. The Finder was paralyzed when accessing network drives, which could only be solved with a cold restart of the system. The temporary solution even meant that we could no longer log on to the domain controller. This was definitely not a Hackintosh problem, as many „real“ Mac users also reported the problem in forums. As Hackintosh users, we were of course not able to make any support claims against Apple in this case – this just as a side note.

A question that is asked in such contexts is why Apple does not simply release the operating system macOS for everyone to use. This would of course be great news for the hackintosh scene.

For the operating system, this would perhaps increase market share, but with the clear risk of cannibalization by cheaper hardware vendors. Apple has already had bad experiences in this respect in the mid-1990s, when System 7 was officially licensed for hardware from partner companies.

But it would also mean that Apple would have to abandon its concept of hardware and software from a single source and lose control of the user experience for the most part.

Conclusion

After these general considerations, let’s return to our Mäcki system for the final chapter: What happens with our hackintosh now?


Source: Shutterstock

Even though we have had basically a good experiences with it, we have reservations about the „Hackintosh“ concept. Much of the positive user experience is due to the operating system macOS, from the Hackintosh itself we rather have to draw a mixed conclusion: Our Mäcki system runs reliably, but we also put a lot of time into the whole setup and also the ongoing support is time-consuming.

The overall impression remains, the Hackintosh is a great handicraft solution. You need to keep up to date with updates from Apple and tools and drivers from the hack community. From our point of view, a hackintosh is therefore only suitable for people who are keen to experiment and who are willing to constantly adapt settings or update drivers and tools on their system. In addition, you should have the technical know-how for installation and operation.

Therefore, one may ask oneself how smart it is to use a hackintosh – or whether it is not much more about a playful or sportive aspect, like „Can I get macOS to work on this hardware?“ And whoever wants to use macOS productively, i.e. in the sense of gainful employment should, in our opinion, better buy an original Mac anyway.

Also for the ongoing support you are completely responsible as a user, problems can only be solved in dialogue with the community. There are no official contact persons or service contracts. If you use a hackintosh in everyday life, you take some risks in the area of security, as we have described in detail. If you’re unlucky, suddenly data recovery becomes an urgent task. Also the aspect „Sword of Damocles“ should always be kept in mind.

For us, we see the medium-term goal to switch to original hardware, because a hackintosh can never be a 100% replacement for an original Mac. However, it also has its purchasing price, but you also get a lot of what a hackintosh can never offer: You don’t have to deal with all the technical terms, the device works „out-of-the-box“ and support is guaranteed. This gives you more time, which you can use for other things, as well as hardware of lasting value, high manufacturing quality and a secure system.

Technically speaking, a hackintosh is no witchcraft and it also works reliably in everyday life, but we remain critical and wish Apple would listen to its customers and expand its hardware portfolio accordingly, giving its customers more real freedom of choice when purchasing computers.

And to cut to the chase:

A Hackintosh stands for:

  • Wide range of hardware
  • Duality with 2 OS installations: powerful gaming-PC under Windows 10 and macOS for productivity
  • You are responsible for everything yourself
  • No support claims
  • Search for updates yourself
  • Compromises on safety
  • „Damocles“ problem

A Mac stands for:

  • „All-round carefree package“ of hardware, software and ecosystem
  • Works „out-of-the-box“
  • Hardware of lasting value and high manufacturing quality
  • Support and updates well organised
  • Secure system

All post for Project Mäcki

Project Mäcki by hitzestau
Project Mäcki: First pictures of our Heatkiller Tube
Project Mäcki: Working on the metal plate for the aquareo
Project Mäcki: A brief update
Project Mäcki: Installation of new CPU waterblock
Project Mäcki: Photoshooting with the new CPU waterblock
Project Mäcki: Cleaning the GPU-waterblock
Project Mäcki: We are waiting…
Project Mäcki: …we can continue
Project Mäcki: Installation of the WLAN card
Project Mäcki: Cleaning the fans
Project Mäcki: New litz wire for the DDC pump
Project Mäcki: Installation of the front radiator
Project Mäcki: SSD and Cabling
Project Mäcki: Tubing and Filling
Project Mäcki: Pictures of the complete system
Project Mäcki: What is a Hackintosh?
Project Mäcki: What makes macOS attractive as an operating system?
Project Mäcki: Installation
Project Mäcki: Our experiences with the system
Project Mäcki: Two concepts
Project Mäcki: Final Thoughts


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