intelNUC_OSx

Intel NUC DC3217IYE and OS X 10.9

As many of you know by now, contrary to my recent article ‘Heading Over to the Dark Side‘ about moving away from Apples iPhone operating system and experiencing Android in any great anger, I am still a big fan of Apple’s products, including their very expensive Mac Pro starting at an eye-watering at $A3,999.00 and heading on up to their heart stopping $A5,299.00 for their 6-core system.

As much as I would like one of those, even their base Mac Mini at a little more reasonable $A749.00 is a little too expensive for me at the moment.

If you are familiar with this blog you will have read my tutorial ‘A Mac Pro at Quarter of the Price‘ where I go through selecting the correct hardware (similar to what Apple uses in their systems) to build yourself a powerful Mac Pro for a quarter of the price of buying a genuine Mac from them.

When I moved to Australia earlier in the year, it was simply impracticable for me to pack up my prized computer and ship it over, and now I have gotten somewhat settled in to my new life Down Under.  I am desperate to be using a proper computer again, and not relying on my MacBook Air to do all my work (as great as it is).

I should point out, this time around this article is not intended to be a step-by-step guide to getting Apple’s OS X Mavericks to run on non-Apple hardware, there is some fantastic guides available to follow, I will put links to the best ones at the end of this article.

I had looked at the possibility of building a computer again, but this time I have decided to go small, really small.  Computer hardware, specifically the motherboards are getting closer and closer to the hardware used in Apple systems.  The most important of these is the graphics card.  I am no hard-core gamer so I don’t really need high-end graphics and unlike my previous build, the Intel HD 4000 series graphics cards are really great for my needs and what’s even better is that they are compatible with Mac OS X.

This time I have chosen the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) Kit DC3217IYE system from Intel.

Intel_NUC

Here is some of it’s specs:

Features and Configurations
Processor Intel® Core™ i3 processor (soldered down)
Memory Dual channel DDR3 1333/1600 MHz, 2x SODIMM slots, 16 GB maximum
Chipset Intel® QS77 Express Chipset
Display Dual HDMI* ports supporting HDMI 1.4a output
Audio Intel® High Definition Audio (Intel® HD Audio)
Peripheral interfaces Five USB 2.0 ports (3 external ports, 2 via internal header)
Expansion capabilities 2x mini-PCIe* slots (1x half-length + 1x full/half-length)
Included in the box Fan heat sink

It certainly not as powerful as my last computer, moving to an Intel Core i3 Processor that unfortunately cannot be upgraded is certainly not the fastest at only 1.8GHz, but is suitable for what I need it to do.

Plus with a maximum of 16Gig of RAM is a little limiting, but couple this with a fast Solid-State Hard Drive the computer should be really quick.  Ever since I got my MacBook Air with an SSD, I said to myself if I ever build a computer again the first thing I am putting in there is an SSD for the Operating System to run from.

These little boxes are a feat of engineering, measuring only 4″ x 4″.  Not a lot of room for expandability but an amazing footprint to say the least.

379INTEL BOXDC3217IYE

Since I built my last computer in 2011, the process of getting Mac OS X on to a computer that has not been built by Apple has got even simpler, smoother and less of a headache.

I got the Intel NUC Kit home, installed the SSD, Memory, and Wifi/Bluetooth card inside, plugged in the power, inserted the bootable USB drive you make in the tutorial and wait for OS X to install as if it was a Mac.  It was not that simple last time, thanks to Tony over at TonyMacX86 and the community.

Pros

  • Amazingly small footprint.
  • Reasonable cost, despite the requirement to purchase additional hardware.
  • Ideal hardware to install Mac OS X.

Cons

  • The purchased kit is bare-bones and will require you to purchase an SSD Hard Drive, Memory and the Optional Wifi/Bluetooth Card to get it up and running.
  • If you intend to use this as your main computer, you are going to need to factor in the purchase of one possibly two HDMI to DVI Cables if you are planning on a two monitor setup like me.
  • As a result of using both of the HDMI Sockets you have no sound output.  You can remedy this by purchasing a USB Sound Card compatible with OS X, or get a USB Bluetooth Dongle if you have a Bluetooth speaker.
  • Also as a result of adding in all of this – in my current set up, I have a USB Keyboard, Mouse and a Bluetooth Dongle – All of my USB ports have been used up.
  • As much as I like Intel hardware, I can’t listen to the Intel Theme Tune every time I open the box or when the computer starts, thankfully that can be switched off.
  • You don’t get a power cable.

You would have thought, with that many cons against it, it would not be worth it, but when you think about the cost of the computer, and the resulting set up, then I think it is going to be worth it.  I have yet to live with it for a while (which I will post about my experience in the coming weeks) to see if it has been worth the extra cost.

One point that I will make is that, during my implementation stage I found that if I ran the MultiBeast options afterwards it seemed to disable the On-Board Graphics and I would be restricted to 1024×768 Resolution (not good).  This may not happen to you, but if you find no matter what you try, you cannot get a higher resolution for the monitor you’ve bought then try running the system without MultiBeast and manually seek out the .kext files for the other system hardware like the Wifi Card.

Final Setup (planned):
(All prices are in Australian Dollars, and will vary dependent on where you buy.)

$369.00 – Intel NUC Kit DC3217IYE – Intel® Core™ i3
$100.00 – 1 x 8 Gigabytes of RAM Corsair
$145.00 – 128 Solid-State Hard Drive
$   40.00 – Wifi / Bluetooth Card*
$178.00 – 2 x 21.5″ LG E2211T-BN E11 Series LCD Monitors
$   90.00 – 1 x 22″ DELL P2210F Widescreen LCD Monitor
$   30.00 – 2 x HDMI to DVI Monitor Cables
$   15.00 – Basic Keyboard and Mouse

Extra Cost

$    20.00 – 16 Gigabyte USB Stick (Not needed if you have one)

A system total of $809.00 (£439.12 at 0.54279 Exchange Rate)

*Be warned the Intel Centrino 2200 series dual cards do not work with OS X.  I have had to resort to a Wifi Card in the computer and a Bluetooth USB Dongle.

My plan was to get two 22″ Monitors, but had some problems securing them.  I order two, turned out they were put on the website by mistake, ordered a second lot, those too were wrongly advertised…

Found another company and order another two, they were delivered only one did not work and they were out of stock.  If I am going to have two monitors, I would prefer them to be the same make and model to reduce the possibility of quality between them.  The Dell P2210 Monitors are professional grade monitors, so now I have to go on the hunt for a second one, but get great resolution from the one I do have.

So I bet you’re wondering if I have spent $809.00 on building this system instead of just getting a Mac Mini when their hardware works with OS X, is able to take a larger hard drive, and their hardware is higher than this one, well lets take a look:

Base Model Mac Mini:

Specifications

  • 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

  • 4GB memory

  • 500GB hard drive

  • Intel HD Graphics 4000

  • OS X Mavericks

Granted, the processor is faster, it has a much larger hard drive.  However, it has half the memory, I would not need 500Gig because much of my Software, Photographs, Television Programs and Movies are stored on External Hard Drives.

The cost, if we take into account the two 21.5″ monitors I plan on using, which cost $180.00 this brings the cost of the Mac Mini to $929.00 ($72.00 more).  There is likely to be additional costs involved because it is not easy to add additional monitors without additional cables, so this is likely to increase.

Okay, I have read through your set up, and been out and bought the Intel NUC Kit and all of the extras, and I want to set up OS X 10.9 Mavericks on to it.

Head on over to TonyMacX86 and follow the instructions for installing OS X 10.9 - You will need a couple of more things before you start:

1. A Download of OS X Mavericks from the Mac App Store
2. A Free Registration to the TonyMacX86 Community

You will need to download UniBeast and MultiBeast from the site, and for that you need to register, it is easy and it’s free.  Plus if you get stuck there is a forum you can ask questions or search for answers.

The instructions in the Step-by-Step guide is fantastic and really easy to follow, it will help if you are aware of the hardware you have installed in the computer to install the correct drivers at the end of the process.  But it should be really easy and smooth and before long you will be enjoying a fresh install of OS X which can be updated and used as if it was a real Mac.

If you do have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section below, but everything you need to know about troubleshooting your installation can be found over at TonyMacX86.

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