A Change of Heart
When I first ordered the Intel NUC, my purpose was to see if this form factor had promise for the future. I also figured that this small board would be useful to test projects and perhaps even wind up as a little media center somewhere. In truth, I did not expect to seriously consider this board for the iMac G4 project. After working with this board for a while, I have to admit, its pretty fantastic. For one, the size is remarkable, especially when it is removed from the case. This makes even ECX boards look big. Secondly, its dead simple, it uses EFI bios, requires only RAM, a half height WiFi mSATA, and a full size mSATA SSD. The mSATA in particular makes the system even smaller. There is no need for even a 2.5" drive and nearly all wires are eliminated in this fashion.
As opposed to the other boards, this board only contains a Core i3 processor and there is a paucity of USB ports (only 3), mSATAs (one half height, one full height), an HDMI connector, and either a Ethernet + extra HDMI or Thunderbolt. (Depending on which of the 2 models you choose).
|A Look Inside|
Despite these negatives there are other advantages this board has. The availability of 2 RAM slots for a max of 16GB. Thunderbolt while (at this point) is expensive and has few compatible devices does leave open impressive possibilities including hubs, a second display, and even a pci express graphics card. The size also leaves most of the base available as it fits between the native PSU right under the fan and allows you to keep the optical drive (though a USB connection would be needed as there are no regular SATA hookups).
The Software/A Mountain Lion Hackintosh
The only method I use is tonymac's retail Mountain Lion Unibeast/Multibeast install method. While the other boards took a very long time to get right, this could not have been easier. I did know in advance to change the graphics to 128MB and of course AHCI instead of IDE (for the SATA controller). Except for these small changes, there is almost no way to go wrong. I used the Easy Beast Install with the Mac Mini 6,1 definition. Now the reason for this is that there isn't much to the board, while other motherboards are loaded with other chipsets for gigabit Ethernet, SATA controllers, Touchscreen controllers, other I/O controllers, and business related QM chipset features, this board is really only about the basics. But, with hackintoshes, less is more. Having to clear your CMOS after you mistakenly enable some feature is no fun. Neither is having to reinstall the OS because you decide to try to get native audio to work one last try. This makes it very time consuming when it comes time to upgrade your OS.
One note, I have read HDMI audio does require a work around, but this obviously does not apply to this mod. Without any other audio cable out, a USB audio card will be needed. But, so far airplay seems to work flawlessly, and can make for a wireless alternative. So, in short, if a modestly powerful Ivy Bridge Hackintosh is your goal for this mod, I would recommend these boards above the others. Being the easiest to find and the most affordable also doesn't hurt.
|About This Mac|
1) Ports: 3 USBs is simply not enough and for basic function more is needed. Thunderbolt hubs are absurdly overpriced right now, but either a Thunderbolt to SATA and/or USB or a regular USB Hub will be needed. One USB is needed for the 5V "backlight power on" signal.
2) Fan: there is a directional fan, but due to the faraday cage, I would still like to add the case fan in some manner. This may involve replacing the existing fan and situating it directly underneath the iMac's case fan, splicing the fan wire to power it. Or, running both, using the PSU to drive the fan (though a manual control knob may then make sense).
3) Power switch: This is hard soldered to the board. A bypass will need to be wired up and I am fairly sure this can be done in an easy to reverse way.
4) Audio: A USB audio solution is needed. This is not a difficult thing to find, but I am considering an airplay or Bluetooth based solution.
5) Bluetooth: I have been unable to find a Wifi/Bluetooth combo half height card that will work so far, so I will have to go with a Bluetooth dongle.
6) The Optical Drive: Using this solution means using USB to SATA to connect to a drive, but it will still need to be powered. May require 12V to 5V downconverter.
7) Power: Worst case Scenario would involve connecting AC to the small power brick that comes with the NUC, but this seems like a waste. Unfortunately as this board needs 19V, either an upconverter or downconverter will be needed to go from either 12V or 24V.
Although I'm not certain, I am actually leaning towards this board, If this was an i5, putting it on par with my previous system (with more RAM and better graphics) this would be a slamdunk. Each EPIC or ECX board requires different connectors, drivers etc. As Intel is likely to continually upgrade this form factor, getting this right may "future proof" future designs. I am likely to build this out and see what the final project looks like and how it functions.
I will certainly post detailed instructions and may do a video guide if there is enough interest. Thanks again for reading!