What we found is that the process of building your own computer isn't for the average Mac user. It helped that we were able to call on folks like PCWorld Lab Manager Tony Leung, who has years of experience assembling PCs from scratch. We also took advantage of the many online forums devoted to this kind of activity. Resources like tonymacx86.com and InsanelyMac are very helpful, and the knowledgeable and supportive users of their forums offer help to anyone stuck during the process. Users in these forums have been able to create Haswell-based computers running Mavericks. Lifehacker.com is also a good resource, as it keeps an updated list of known working components and has a list of DIY resources.
In the Macworld lab, we were able to find all the pieces and parts we needed:
- Asus P8Z77-VPro/Thunderbolt motherboard with USB 3, Thunderbolt, and 7 PCI slots in a variety of flavors
- Quad-core Intel Core i7-3770 processor
- EVGA Nvidia GeForce 660Ti graphics card
- Seagate Barracuda ST11000DM003 7200-rpm hard drive
- Blu-ray drive
- 16GB of Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR-1600 RAM
- Antec EarthWatts 750W power supply
- Cooler Master ATX Mid Tower Case with room for up to 8 drives
If you don't have them sitting around your lab, such parts are available from resellers like Newegg.com for about $1200 total. That's some $1000 less than the price of Apple's entry-level 2012 Mac Pro, with its (old) 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Xeon processor, 6GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, Superdrive, and ATI Radeon HD5770 graphics.
How fast is it?
To see how our illicit Bride compared with the currently shipping Mac Pro in performance, we turned to our system performance benchmarking suite, Speedmark 8.
Bride of Frankenmac (1TB HD) 246
Bride of Frankenmac (240GB SSD) 278
2012 Mac Pro 12-core (1TB HDD) 215
2012 Mac Pro 12-core (240GB SSD) 249
2012 Mac Pro quad-core (1TB HD) 200
Higher results/longer bars are better.--Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Albert Filice, and Jeff Sandstoe
Our custom-built OS X computer was faster than the $2499 Mac Pro in all 15 of the individual tests that make up Speedmark 8: Overall, it was 23 percent faster than the Mac Pro. A few of the tests were close; exporting an iMovie project was only 4 percent faster on the Bride of Frankenmac than on the Mac Pro. Unzipping a large file archive was 9 percent faster, and running our Photoshop action script was 10 percent faster.
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