Since I did spent more and more time waiting for my computer in particular Lightroom to finish processes and beachballs appeared more and more on a daily basis, I decided to upgrade my hardware. I usually don’t buy the latest Macs since you can always find great deals on the used market. However, after some research in the internet I decided to go for the alternative way – the so called hackintosh.
My first idea was to follow the buyer’s guide on tonymacx86.com website and buy compatible hardware to setup my own hackintosh. Then I found on eBay the offer of a ready pre-installed GIGABYTE BRIX Pro.
The Computer was equipped with the 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7-4770R 3.90 GHz processor and had already a 128 GB mSATA built in.
The technical specification of the BRIX Pro
- Dimension 62 x 111.4 x 114.4 mm ( 2.4” x 4.3” x 4.5”)
- CPU 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7-4770R 3.90 GHz
- Chipset Intel® HM87 Chipset
- Memory 2 x SO-DIMM DDR3L slots (DDR3 1.35V) 1333 / 1600 MHz Max. 16GB
- LAN Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8111G)
- Graphics Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics 5200
- Audio Realtek ALC269
- HDMI Resolution (Max.) 4096×2304 @ 24 Hz
- Mini DP Resolution (Max.) 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz
- Expansion Slots 1 x mSATA slot, 1 x Half-size mini-PCIe slot occupied by the WiFi+BT card, 1 x SATA slot
- Front I/O 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x head phone jack with SPDIF
- Rear I/O 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x RJ45, 1 x DC-In, 1 x Kensington lock slot
- Storage Supports 2.5” thickness 7.0/9.5mm Hard Drives (1 x 6Gbps SATA3)
I added 16 GB RAM (2 x 8GB 1600 MHz modules), exchanged the mSATA with a 512 GB and built a 2.5″ SATA HD in. After copying the existing version of OS X to the new mSATA drive the system was ready to go.
The speed compared to my old MacBook (MacBook Pro early 2011) is impressive. Lightroom is opening lightening fast and the image conversion within Silver Efex Pro is done in a fraction of time compared to my MacBook. To improve the speed of Lightroom I recommend to keep the Lightroom libraries on the local mSATA while the photos can be stored on external HDs.
The fan noise – or how to exchange the internal hair dryer
The only drawback of the little power computer was the noise its generated du to the high performance processor caged in the small housing. Again I searched the internet where I found someone who changed the internal hairdryer to a much quieter NOCTUA fan. I didn’t follow exactly his Brix Noctua fan installation since I didn’t like the huge cutout.
I cut out only the diameter of the fan and installed the Noctua fan on top of the case. The noise difference between the old and the new fan is massive with an improvement of the cooling in general. I recommend to assemble the fan blowing air in direction of the heat sink, which is different to what is shown in above linke video. With this small mod I’ve now almost a complete silent power machine, almost the size of a Mac mini.
So far the system is working very stable, fast and silent. I’m still keeping an eye on the temperatures which didn’t get higher than with the original fan.
Update 01. March 2018: After the mainboard had an issue with the fan speed control, I changed the wiring that the fan was running all time at full speed. However, the computer still kept shutting down automatically after a certain time in operation. I tried hard to find a solution but ended up in buying an old MacMini 2.3 GhZ i7 from 2012. I exchanged the RAM and HD from the Hackintosh into the MacMini. It took me some time to get everything from the old Hackintosh up and running on the “new” Mac Mini. But finally I made it and so far I’m happy with the performance.
A side note: I highly recommend the older MacMini from 2012 since the performance is similar to the latest 2014 (also already old) models. The fact that you can’t extend the RAM in the new MacMinis is in my opinion not acceptable. The age of the latest MacMini model shows clearly that Apple focuses more on mobile devices like iPhone and iPad than the computer hardware. Yes – I also believe that Apple lost a great amount of creativity and uniqueness with the dead of Steve Jobs. Steve might have not been an easy personality but he was someone with visions who knew exactly what the people need before the people even knew that they need it.