—Followup: Trinity, 6 months in (CustoMac Mini 2011)

May 5, 2012

So it’s been 6 months since I breathed life into the machine I’ve come to know and I’m immensely pleased with this project. For me it represents the culmination of several skills I’ve picked up over the years, and there’s still much to learn (can’t wait). There’s something really gratifying about turning a stack of parts and instructions into something that actually works. I guess anything one builds with their own two hands takes on special sentiment.

The “CustoMac Mini 2011” is probably the easiest hackintosh project for beginners, all due of course to the good work of people like tonymacx86, MacMan, toleda, notshy, and a host of others. The price is low and the rewards are many. Sure I’ve had a few hiccups, but nothing catastrophic (yet).

What I like:

  • Ease of setup – The compatibility testing’s been done already, and there’s a USB installation tool. How easy is that? Can you imagine the old days of trial and error?
  • Performance – I did some video conversion with HandBrake. Sure my previous computer is like nine years old, but even with that grain of salt performance is impressive. I average about 20 minutes to convert a 2½  hour HD video. I haven’t even been able to overwhelm the processor as of yet.
  • Aesthetics – Though nowhere near as awe inspiring as a Mac Mini teardown, the mini ITX form factor sits nicely inside my home theater shelf. With its unassuming black finish and mirror face it blends in nicely with the rest of the room. It also has an almost minimalist quality to it, compared to the grotesque PC towers some enthusiasts turn to.
  • Price – A sub $350 Mac Mini that performs like a PowerMac. I’d say that’s a plus.

What I hate:

  • Flaky PSU – The included 250W PSU is a bit wimpy, and often causes my unit to false start, especially when I’m digging around in the BIOS or try to reboot from a lockup. I’ll need to upgrade to something more reliable, probably 80 plus gold, and hopefully modular.
  • Tight space – I know I said this was a plus, but managing the wiring and components in this thing has been tough, and it’s always a pain when I have to swap something out. It also limits future expansion options. I guess it makes you think long and hard about optimizing for your true needs.
  • Heat – The PSU sits right on top of the CPU, both of which generate heat that needs to be dumped somewhere. I’ve been using a pair of fans in a cross-ventilation setup, but temps bounce around the 45°C – 65°C range. Not a meltdown, but not ideal.
  • Faulty USB ports – Two of the rear USB ports (closest to the VGA port) keep acting up and fail to recognize devices on startup. I suspect the Gigabyte On/Off Charge feature, but nothing conclusive yet.
  • Bluetooth connectivity – This particular Gigabyte motherboard doesn’t include onboard bluetooth or even wi-fi, so I bought a bluetooth USB dongle. I never thought a Belkin product would disappoint me, but the one I chose seems to be very finicky. Again, this could be related to the USB issue, but it works perfectly in OS X and I only have trouble with it when I boot into Windows 7 (it uses Vista drivers) right after exiting OS X.

There are still a few bits of icing I’d like to put on this cake but, as I may have mentioned before, the hobby budget has been slashed and I’m going to have to make do. It’s a really great home theater PC. I had to give away my Roku, as I really saw no reason to use it ever again. And that’s weird because I used to rave about that thing. Interested in building one, or have one already built? I’d love to hear about it.

—May the 4th be with you

*Full Build Specs*

*Tony’s Official CustoMac Mini 2011 Guide & Notes (in progress)


One Response to “—Followup: Trinity, 6 months in (CustoMac Mini 2011)”

  1. […] —Followup: Trinity, 6 months in (CustoMac Mini 2011) (waypastwarranty.wordpress.com) […]

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