Hackintosh vs High-End iMac: Is It Worth It?

Hackintosh_logo_by_kossnocorp

This is a re-post from a response I recently added to a Creative Cow thread about the value of Hackintoshes. I built one late last year and I’m happy with it. But I know that happiness comes with a cost. The system does not have a high resale value and has many potential troubleshooting issues down the line.

I came to terms with the reason why I wanted to build one: because I wanted to know IF I could build one. It was a challenge which was frustrating but fun. I love learning about all the tech we use in our daily lives. It was a satisfying DIY project.

I ultimately feel that buying Apple provides a better value over building a Hackintosh. But you don’t necessarily gain knowledge about your system and it’s components if you purchase a Mac. It’s like buying a refrigerator. If it breaks, you call a repair man. You’re most likely not going to open it up and fix the compressor (unless you’re a repair man!). So you might never understand how a refrigerator, a very important piece of tech in your life, works.

—–

Hackintosh part prices below are current and possibly not reflective of what I paid. But it’s very close. This gets you mostly in parity with a top of the line iMac (minus Bluetooth and WiFi, which cost about $46 total for the components). Here are my specs:

Intel Core i7-3770K $320
Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5-TH (has 2 thunderbolt ports) $245
32GB 1600Mhz DDR3 $217
Corsair Carbide 500R $158
Corsair 650 Watt Modular $90
GeForce GTX 680 $497
480GB SSD Drive $363
Syba SATA III 6Gbps PCI-e Card $17
StarTech.com 3 Port 2b 1a 1394 PCI Express FireWire Card Adapter PEX1394B3 $63
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO: $33
I owned a Kona 3, which I installed and is working fine.

TOTAL: $2003

iMac System Specs:
3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM-2X4GB
1TB Fusion Drive
NVIDIAGeFrc GTX 680MX 2G GDDR5: $2600
AppleCare: $170
RAM from OWC: $270

TOTAL: $3040 (before tax)

Now, here’s the kicker. While Geekbench isn’t the be-all end-all, I think it’s a nice cross-reference for the technologically-barely-informed (such as myself ;-)).

My iMac 27″ top o’ the line gets a healthy 14268
The Hack Pro gets a substantial 14124

For all intents and purposes, they are equal systems. One costs $3014 and comes with a warranty. The other costs $2003, works great, and is expandable, but has risks. Again, if you need to purchase a monitor, keyboard and mouse for the Hackintosh, that will add an additional amount and bring them much more in line price-wise.

Let’s look at the percentage difference if we take out AppleCare to get the systems more in line.

iMac: 2845
Hack Pro: 2003
Percent Difference: %30

Now, let’s look at potential resale value and upgrade costs. This is assuming a new iMac will cost about the same amount in 2 years:

iMac late 2012 resale value in 2 years (conservative): $1250 
iMac 2014 (high end) potential cost: $ 2900
Out of pocket difference: -$1650
Time needed to reinstall software and test new system: 1 day (based on purchase of iMac)

Hackintosh upgrade option 1, resale and build from scratch:
Hackintosh Late 2012 Cost: $2003
Hackintosh Resale Value in 2 years: $400 
Hackintosh Late 2014 potential cost: $2000
Out of pocket difference: -$1600
Time needed to research new system and find best prices on parts: countless nights on Hackintosh boards
Time spent building system: 1 day
Time spent testing parts and debugging: 2 days (conservative)

Hackintosh upgrade option 2, upgrade CPU, Mobo, and RAM
New Motherboard, Processor, RAM (assuming all current PCI Cards work properly and base prices stay the same): $782
Time spent researching whether all parts will work with new system and what CPU/Mobo to get: 2-3 evenings on hack boards
Time spent installing new parts: 2 hrs
Time spent reinstalling OS, debugging: 1 day (conservative)

So there you have it. At most, there’s an $870 difference (not including time spent) in favor of an equally spec’d Hack Pro and a top-end iMac over a 2-year period. Divide that out by 2 years and that’s $37 per month.

The ultimate question I propose (which I’ve already answered for myself): Is it worth it for you to build one?

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11 Responses

  1. Right, except the cost of those hackintosh parts are ridiculous, and you can cut corners in a million ways compared to your build.

    If you live near a microcenter, take 50-60 off of the processor. Also, if you buy a motherboard with a cpu at the same time at MC, you get 30-40 dollars extra off. And the ga-z77x-ud5h is the same motherboard without the dual thunderbolt ports for less than half the price.

    Also, you put in a 480GB SSD? Why?? Just put in an SSD for the OS and a normal sub-$100 1 TB hard drive for the rest. Another 200 bucks saved.

    1. I originally bought these parts over a year ago. Those were the prices back then.
      1. I don’t live near a Micro Center. It’s over an hour away. The cost of gas and my time would negate the savings.
      2. I needed Thunderbolt since I now use Thunderbolt drives. I also use a Blackmagic Ultrastudio which also require Tbolt.
      3. I bought a 480gb SSD because I needed the space and there was a deal on the drive at the time. I have a ton of SFX and Music that I like to keep on my local drive. Also, I’ll often export large files to my desktop, so I need extra space. And exporting files to an SSD is sure a heck of a lot faster than to a platter drive.

  2. This is a very helpful post. I’ve been spending time on the hackintosh boards and chuckled at your late night comment. Yes I’m sure we’ve all been there.

    I also came to the conclusion that resale value of the Mac is an important factor and your estimates would seem to confirm that.

    Time is also so important. For some people building computers is important to them, so great, they should do that. But for me I have certain priorities that could benefit much from extra time. I think that’s it for me, no more hackintosh dreams. I’ll wait to see what happens with Mac pro prices later in the year, and then presuming they’re exorbitant, get a high end iMac 😉

    1. I need to write a new post about all of this. I feel the scales have tipped back in the favor of Apple, especially with the new Mac Pros on the horizon. To prepare myself, I actually sold both my late 2012 iMac and Hackintosh. Both were very much on par in terms of speed. I was able to recoup 50% of the Hackintosh investment while I made 75% of the original cost of the iMac.

      After posting the Hackintosh on Craigslist, it took about six weeks to sell. I was able to sell the iMac in just under 1 week.

      My net out-of-pocket cost to upgrade from the late 2012 iMac to the late 2013 iMac was $700 (about as much as it would have been to upgrade motherboard and CPU in the Hackintosh — but not the gfx card). The late 2013 iMac outperforms the Hackintosh by about 1000 points… and I get an updated graphics card, to boot.

      No matter the cost of the new Mac Pro, it will still make the most sense to me to purchase it and upgrade yearly. Again, assuming I can retain 75% of the value of each Mac (Mac Pro, iMac, MacBook Pro), I should have to spend roughly $2725 yearly on computer upgrades or $8175 over three years.

      Three-year old macs retain approximately 45% of their value. In the same scenario, I’d end up selling my systems for about $4905. Best guess on the new purchase price would be about $11,000. Net out-of-pocket after three years is $6095.

      While it seems to make the most sense to sell every three years, I prefer to now upgrade every year so that I can stay on top of the technology. I do this because I require the fastest systems for my work. Another side effect of selling every year is that I know I’ll sell quickly on Craigslist. So, I can time out my purchase much much better.

      In the end, it has now come down to the value of my time. I could have upgraded the Hackintosh and been happy, but it would have taken many hours of troubleshooting with no guarantee of long-term reliability.

      Hope that helps you make your decision.

  3. This is a pointless comparison. Fortunately, the only people who will find it useful are people who know nothing about computers and would therefore purchase an apple product anyway. Aside from the afore mentioned errors, you also spec the hack as 32gb of ram compared to 8gb in the Mac. Its possible to make something for closer to 1000 that is so close in real world performance to the iMac you’d be hard pushed to notice the difference.

    1. 1. This was written about a year ago. Prices change in the PC parts world.
      2. You are incorrect about the RAM. I added 32GB of RAM from Other World Computing into the cost. At that time this was the only way to get to 32GB. That has since changed as you can add up to 32GB through Apple.

      In the future, if you wish to comment here, please consider consider reading the posts correctly and in context before writing a negative response.

  4. Totally agree. Is worth doing a hackintosh if you have the time and you want a challenge. I build a 17 inch hack-book MacBook i5 8gb ram, intel HD4k because i needed a 17″ macbook and Mountain Lion for some projekts i received from my clients, and took me almost a year to troubleshoot and make to work almost everything included power management and hdmi output. I had totally no idea of anything regarding macs before this. I finally done it and now my 17″ ultrabook has ML on it. The thing is, i tried updating to mavericks for finalcut pro and other software, but i needed to start all over again so no way, this is my first and last hackbook. My time as a pro in my field of work is very very valuable and the hackbook i made in my spare time but to start all over again, not to mention mavericks is still young an i will not find many kexts.Unfortunately macs are not an option, they are a must for anyone doing serious projects like it or not.

  5. Hi, i’m not here to argue with anyone… I’ll just share my experiences with you, ok?
    About 2 years ago i decided to build a so called hackintosh for my girl who is a professional graphic designer. Her workstation at the time was an Imac 24″ early 2008 which was having more an more troubles, freezing, crashing etc. Long story short, she needed something more powerful. A new Mac Pro was about € 2600,- ($ 3520,-) at the time…
    After some research i compiled a system with the following specs.:
    – Gigabyte GA-X68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard
    – i7-2600K (overclockable) quad-core CPU
    – 16 Gb 1600 Mhz Ram
    – Radeon HD 6870 1Gb GDDR5 Graphics
    – 120 Gb SSD for OS+apps
    – 2 x 2 Tb 7200 rpm HDD 1 for data, 1 for backup
    – 750 W PSU
    – Corsair carbide 500R case incl. 4 fans
    – Corsair H60 watercooling
    At a total price of € 1250,- ($ 1695,-), warranty 2-3 years on most parts, lifetime on Ram.
    I ordered all parts online, delivered within 3 days.
    I spent about 2 days assembling/installing(this was the 1st build, the 2nd and 3rd took me less than a day, installation of all my applications included)
    Geekbench score around 13000.
    In human terms: she has been using this system professionally for 2 years/6 days a week/10-12 hours a day now with lots of applications(Photoshop/Indesign/Illustrator etc. and of course Outlook & Firefox) + 2 HD screens + Trackpad(had to buy an €8,- USB Bluetooth dongle for that) and has been smiling ever since…..
    I chose the 2600K CPU + watercooling to have the ability to overclock, just in case…Haven’t had a need to use that option yet….
    If you ask me: was it worth it? I say: YES!!

  6. All the compares misses that the iMac have LCD Screen (IPS panel).

    I’ve build hackintosh’s for work and friends since 2007 but now for my home, I’m buying an iMac… reasons: small room space, low noise, better look and time on support.

  7. I built a hackintosh pro and a hackintosh Mini. Have had zero problems with either AND both nearly 12 months old. Compare that with my original iMac, which is only a few months out of warranty period. Spend two and a half grand on top of the line (at time) iMac, and the bloody thing has broken down and will cost about $700 AUD to fix. Problem? iMac uses notebook size parts in their iMac and the thing has simply overheated one too many times and stressed out a component. Good design on outside, cheapest and low longetivity parts on the inside. Sure, if you have no time and are not well versed about computers apple is your best bet, but my experience makes me feel like I have the best Mac money can buy. My own. Sure one might have troubles, I have not …but it is like comparing a mcdonald hamburger to a home made hamburger. Mine takes more effort and sure … It won’t be a McDonald burger… But some of us like that…

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