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Build-Your-Own Macbook Pro?
September 6, 2011 3:50 AM   Subscribe

Can you make a cheap hackintosh version of a Macbook Pro?

It seems to me that these days the Macs are using enough standard parts that there is very little other than that Apple secret sauce separating them from their PC cousins.
I'd really like a newer Macbook Pro to begin iOS development, but I just hit hard times and there's no way I'm going to be paying $1500-$3000 for a computer now. As this will be replacing my primary laptop (which will have to be sold to be able to afford a new one), it needs to be a pretty damn nice machine for my needs on the Windows side.
My question is, can you not simply build/customize/order a laptop with extremely similar components such that going Hackintosh is fairly trivial? I'm assuming the issue is the motherboard is custom and maybe a couple other parts aren't so easy to get. But regardless I feel like things are at a point where I should be able to build a 15" version of the top-of-the-line MBP for almost 33% cheaper.

Macbook Pro 17" ($3000)
2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 w/ 8MB shared L3 cache
Intel HD Graphics 3000
AMD Radeon HD 6750M w/1GB GDDR5
8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x4GB
500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 RPM
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
posted by nmaster64 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I believe it's possible, yes. I think this is the Hackintosh site du jour: Specifically the "iBoot + MultiBeast" method. You'll find reasonable hardware specs under there.

Hackintoshes generally work well. A friend ran one in his studio for a long time. However, hardware compatibility isn't guaranteed, and I believe there are sometimes snags when upgrading the OS. It's also probably easier to get a desktop running than a laptop. But it's all possible if you're willing to spend a little time on it.

IMO the main thing you'll be missing out on when buying a non-Apple laptop is the great battery technology they have. I'd consider getting a used Macbook Pro. Kit it out with 8GB RAM and an SSD, and you'll have a machine that will be able to handle anything you throw at it for years to come.

In general use, a recent-ish machine with an SSD is going to trump the newest Sandy Bridge machine equipped with a hard disk. (Keep this in mind too when speccing a laptop if you're going the Hackintosh route).
posted by krilli at 3:57 AM on September 6, 2011

* recording studio (ProTools)
posted by krilli at 3:58 AM on September 6, 2011

You can run OSX on older versions of virtualbox, no need to dualboot -- just run both OSes at the same time.
posted by delmoi at 4:42 AM on September 6, 2011

I think one of the main questions here is why are you even looking at the 17" Pro? for one, Apple themselves has a 15" quad-core i7 machine for $1,529 right now in the refurb store. the video card isn't as good as the 17", it's 2.0GHz rather than 2.3GHz, the hard drive is the 500GB one, and it has 4GB RAM, but you can buy your own RAM pretty cheaply for it. the rest may be in the "willing to live with it" category depending on what you want to do. they have other refurbs, too, if you're willing to go dual-core rather than quad-core and/or get a somewhat older machine. without knowing what you need, it's hard to say what you can skimp on; XCode itself really doesn't require too much unless you're going to work with huge projects or whatever.

HP has machines close for $949 (comparable more to that refurb than to the 17" specs); they also have a 15" machine that more closely matches that 17" (different video card - not sure if it's better or not as it's an nVidia Quadro rather than a Radeon, and a 500GB disk, dual-core 2.7 rather than quad-core 2.3) for $1,649. Dell's prices are comparable. a MacBook Pro is essentially the same internally as most any other Intel-based Windows PC - it's got an Intel CPU and Intel chipset. the only real weird thing is the Thunderbolt chip, which you're not going to find on a PC right now.

of course, with the PC, you're going to supply your own copy of OS X. there are other caveats, too - for the most part, you're beholden to the community for updates (because the official Apple ones may strip out custom kernel models your non-Apple machine may require to boot), no one's going to support it, and doing it goes against the terms in the EULA (if you care about that). if you have problems actually running XCode, Apple's not going to lift a finger to help you. to be honest, if none of this bothers you, I'd just go buy a nice Windows PC that you like and run OS X in virtualization (as delmoi suggests). if all you're going to do on OS X is run XCode, you can do that in full-screen mode and use Windows for everything else, and, if you manage to screw up OS X, you can revert back to a working config with snapshots or whatever.
posted by mrg at 10:05 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to be one of those "lol, why would you spend so much on a Mac when you could buy a PC for half the price" guys. I have since been converted. Granted, I've only been a full-time Mac user for about a year now, but I can't imagine going back. For me, the Mac experience is about 20% "Yay, OSX is so nice!" and about 80% "Wow, I haven't had a crash or a hardware issue, ever." Not so sure you're going to get that with a Hackintosh.

As others have suggested, how about picking up a used MBP and doing some minor upgrades? I'd bet you wind up still saving a tidy sum, and you'll have the seamless Apple thing going on too.

Also, IANAProgrammer, but are there any possible caveats to doing iOS / Mac development on non-standard hardware?
posted by xedrik at 11:34 AM on September 6, 2011

Laptops installs are few and far between. Scour hackintosh forums for laptop models that people have had successfull installs on. Biggest issue is power management/sleep/standby, which isn't a big issue on desktops, but is a deal killer on a notebook.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:23 PM on September 6, 2011

Tonymac's iBoot and MultiBeast are definitely geared towards desktop Hackintosh builds, not laptops.
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:53 PM on September 6, 2011

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