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Turning PC into Apple Macintosh: Hackintosh Computer

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Hackintosh Computer Performance

I wanted to update my 2006-vintage Mac Pro to get better performance. The hardware I used for my Hackintosh should provide a significant performance boost relative to my old Mac Pro:

Apple Mac Pro PC Hackintosh
CPU Two dual-core 2.66GHhz Xeons One quad-core 4.0GHz Core i7-920
RAM 9GB 667MHz ECC DDR2 FB-DIMM 12GB 1520MHz DDR3
Video NVIDIA 8800 GT Mac Edition ATI Radeon 5870
Primary HD Two WD Barracuda 7200.10 500G in RAID 0 One WD VelociRaptor 600

For benchmarking, I used CINEBENCH 11.5 (yes, there’s a Mac version), Handbrake video encoding, and GeekBench to compare the performance of the Hackintosh with my existing Mac Pro.

CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks

Maxon Cinebench is a real-world test suite that assesses the computer’s performance capabilities. Cinebench is based on Maxon’s award-winning animation software, Cinema 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. Maxon software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-ManStar WarsThe Chronicles of Narnia and many more. Cinebench Release 11.5 includes the ability to more accurately test the industry’s latest hardware, including systems with up to 64 processor threads and the testing environment better reflects the expectations of today’s production demands. A more streamlined interface makes testing systems and reading results incredibly straightforward.

The Cinebench R11.5 test scenario uses all of a system’s processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene, “No Keyframes” the viral animation by AixSponza. This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The OpenGL graphics card testing procedure uses a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase with which the performance of your graphics card in OpenGL mode is measured. During the benchmark tests the graphics card is evaluated by way of displaying an intricate scene that includes complex geometry, high-resolution textures, and a variety of effects to evaluate the performance across a variety of real-world scenarios. The chart below summarizes the benchmark results.

CINEBENCH R11.5
Apple Mac Pro PC Hackintosh % Difference
OpenGL FPS 18.9 40.5 +114%
Multi-Core Render 2.75 6.95 +153%
Single-Core Render 0.75 1.39 +85%

With a modern video card, faster processor, and faster memory, the Hackintosh thoroughly trounces the Mac Pro. The CineBench rendering test uses Hyper-Threading if it’s available, and the eight virtual cores from the i7-920 CPU have a decided advantage over the four real cores from the pair of Xeons in the Mac Pro.

GeekBench 2.1.6 Benchmarks

Primate Labs’ GeekBench is a “one-click” benchmark utility that performs a number of processor and memory tests; it does not test video cards or disk I/O. There are 12 integer CPU tests, 14 floating-point CPU tests, 5 basic memory tests, and 8 memory bandwidth tests. All tests comprise a mixture of single-threaded and multi-threaded versions. It produces a weighted composite score based on the individual scores.

GeekBench 2.1.6
Apple Mac Pro PC Hackintosh % Difference
Integer 6078 12176 +100%
Floating Point 9576 21248 +122%
Memory 2231 6631 +177%
Mem. Bandwidth 1916 5802 +203%
Composite 6116 13605 +122%

“Pure synthetic” benchmarks like GeekBench are generally poor predictors of real-world performance. However, the results here seem to be roughly in line with what we’re seeing in the other benchmark tests.

Handbrake 0.9.4 Benchmark

Few consumer applications will make good use of a six-core processor, or even a four-core processor. Extra cores can give you a system that remains responsive when performing a computationally-intensive background task, but will rarely accelerate the execution of an individual program. There are several reasons for this:

  • Few users have more than two cores. According to Steam’s August 2010 statistics, dual-core systems comprise 54.77% of its users, quad-core systems 27.49%, and six-core systems a miniscule 0.03%. Thus developers tend to concentrate their efforts elsewhere.
  • Relatively few computational problems scale well with the number of threads available. (One common task that does is rendering, which is why modern video cards have dozens or hundreds of cores).
  • Writing good multithreaded code is difficult and time-consuming. Developers generally realize a better return on their effort for other code optimizations.

All that said, media transcoding (converting to a different format) is something that does scale well with the number of available cores, and the free and open-source Handbrake 0.94 video transcoder is an example of a program that makes full use of the computational resources available. For this test I used Handbrake 0.94 to transcode a standard-definition episode of Family Guy to the “iPhone & iPod Touch” presets. The encoding times are in seconds; lower is better.

Handbrake 0.9.4
Apple Mac Pro PC Hackintosh % Difference
391 178 -119%

The Core i7-920′s eight Hyper-Threaded cores easily beat the old-school Xeons, encoding the video in less than half the time.


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