On Tuesday I detailed how how I built a Hackintosh Mac from start to finish on the cheap, but one obvious question remained unanswered: How does my Hackintosh stack up to the Apple-built competition? To find out, I put my Hackintosh, a Mac Pro, and a MacBook Pro through the paces. Here's what I learned. First, it's worth noting that none of these setups is a perfect match for benchmarking comparisons. The Mac Pro is running dual 2.66 GHz processors versus the single 2.21 GHz Hackintosh and 2. GHz MacBook Pro processors. Likewise, the Hackintosh has a whopping 4GB of RAM versus a measly 1GB in the Mac Pro and 2GB in the MacBook Pro. Also, the Hackintosh and MacBook Pro are both running Leopard, while the Mac Pro is still running Tiger. These aren't necessarily the ideal test subjects, but they're the machines I have access to. That said, the results are still very interesting.
I ran each Mac through the Xbench Benchmarking tool, which runs a series of tests covering memory, processor speed, read/write access to the hard drive, and various graphics tests. In these tests, higher scores are better.
As you can see, the Hackintosh stood up to and even surpasses the Mac Pro on several tests, but on the threading test the dual processor Mac Pro blows away the Hackintosh and MacBook Pro alike. Surprisingly enough, the Hackintosh actually bests the Mac Pro's overall score. If you're interested, you can see the full score results for each computer on the Xbench comparison site:
To get a better idea of how some of the differences will actually affect your real world computing, I ran a few benchmarking tests of my own.
Real World Benchmarks
For my real world performance tests, I timed compressing a 1.6GB file, copying a 730MB, system startup times, and video encoding and audio transcoding performance. Obviously in these tests, shorter times are better. Here's how it ended up:
As you can see, the only place where the Mac Pro blows my Hackintosh out of the water is when it comes time for the processor-intensive work—particularly video encoding—which makes perfect sense, considering the Mac Pro's running two dual core processors versus the Hackintosh's one. If you do a lot of video work, a Mac Pro will definitely provide a significant boost. On the other hand, you could easily boost the Hackintosh's performance by buying a faster processor, which wouldn't require that much of an increase to the price of your build. Unfortunately I wasn't able to test the Hackintosh against a Mac with similar specs, which would be an interesting test. A comparably spec'd (and priced) iMac test would be very useful.
Alternatively, it's very clear that the Hackintosh bests my MacBook Pro in every test but the startup test. One thing to note is that my build still requires the install DVD in the drive to boot, which takes at least an extra eight seconds. This can be fixed (it just hasn't bothered me enough yet to work up the motivation, but I will update the howto when I do), but even after the boot update the Hackintosh will probably remain the slowest booter. Most of the time is eaten up at the first BIOS screen and could probably be sped up significantly with a few adjustments to the BIOS settings.