Wednesday, December 12, 2012

SUCCESS - TWO OUT OF THREE (RUNNING OSX 10.8) AINT' BAD

The hardware part of this mod has already been completed, for the most part.  The next step is software and finding a build that will run Mountain Lion without much compromise, is the goal.  Out of the 4 boards I am working with, I have had tremendous success with one, partial success with another, hit a dead end with a 3rd, and the 4th is somewhat of a backburner side project (upgrading my previous sandy bridge mod to core i7 Quad and Mountain Lion).

 

Lets start with Success: THE EPI-QM77

THE BUILD

This is the EPIC board, it is slightly larger than the ECX board, but fits easily within the dome.  As always this is a purchased retail copy of Mountain Lion using the brilliant tonymac's Unibeast/Multibeast install method (Thank you again tonymac).  Changing the SATA from IDE to AHCI was the only change I had to make in the bios, otherwise it installed natively.  Interestingly, I had trouble getting the USB to function from a USB 3.0 port, but when I plugged it into the apple keyboard's USB via the USB 3.0 it worked fine.

An Ivy Bridge "MacBook Pro" in an iMac G4 shell
I am still tweaking the multibeast settings somewhat, but will report them with final recommendations shortly.  As you can see, this build eschews the optical drive for the native PSU.  Although this is cleaner as there is no power brick, I have mixed feelings about loosing the aesthetics of the drive.  Its getting harder to justify what is really a cosmetic feature at this point.  I am still trying to devise a use for this and to somehow incorporate a usb powered motor to open and close the door revealing a hot plug or extra ports.

I will have to see what might be needed from a cooling perspective, but I may need to upgrade to a larger heatsink, but can not be sure until the computer is fully assembled.

This is likely the build I will keep as this board has everything I need, Core i7 Quad Ivy Bridge with HD4000 graphics, Enough USB 3.0 slots and 2 SATA 6.0 ports.  Even a quality 7.1 Realtek Audio Chip is included.

 

The "Looks Promising" Board: THE INTEL DC3217BY

Rear ports

On tonymac's forums I have seen successful hackintosh builds using the sister model which has ethernet and two monitor support.  This is the "higher end" model because of the inclusion of a thunderbolt port.  With the help of mikeboss' tip to set the graphics to 128mb, this board was able to post.  I did not go further as a mSATA is required and I did not have one large enough until now.  I have installed this Crucial 128GB mSATA, as well as a broadcom half height wifi card.  As this board is nearly identical, I suspect I will have similar success.  The question will be the thunderbolt, which I am hopeful will work natively.

With RAM, Wifi, and mSATA installed
I doubt this board will end up in this build permanently, but its an important proof of concept.  I believe that this tiny form factor has potential and Intel is currently pushing it for hobbyists.  Hopefully they will continue to improve and expand this line.  However, this first generation is underpowered with a core i3 vs the other boards.  Also it has few ports.  While the thunderbolt is intriguing and the idea of having all the ports in the back connect to one thunderbolt internally (ethernet, extra display, usb's etc) similar to apple's cinema display, thunderbolt accessories are currently way overpriced.  This board, as its the most compact, is the most versatile and is likely to have many uses in other projects.  That said, nothing is certain, and I will see this through.

 

NOT AT ALL: The Gene HM-76

I had high hopes for this ECX board, but I am currently having issues with the DVI display.  I am unsure if this is a failure of the board or its ability to communicate with my DVI/TMDS mod.  There are a few things I still want to try. 

 

WAITING IN THE WINGS: THE KEEX-6100

As Lion ran so well on it, I doubt Mountain Lion will be a problem, but I will test this as well as the core i7 processor.

OTHER OPTIONS:

A New QM-77 Ivy Bridge Board:

Quanmax will be releasing the Ivy Bridge KEEX-7100 and 7101 which contain embedded Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors respectively.  ALthough I have a fondness for Quanmax and its KEEX boards have served me well, this board is not yet available and this is somewhat late in the game.  As I frequently change processors and tinker, I try to avoid embedded systems if possible (no other option with Intel NUC, but price is actually reasonable for a processor included system), but it remains a viable alternative.  

The Old Mac Mini:

I have been looking at ebay and the white polycarbonate Core 2 Duo systems are falling in price.  While the new boards are too big, the older style will work, but price to performance has been a limitation.  Although underpowered, there is a huge advantage in a native OS X machine and the final iterations (2.5+ Ghz) are still capable machines.  I will have to see if I can obtain one at a reasonable price.

Thanks for reading, will keep updating as I go.

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