Break free of Apple’s limitations. OS-X on a PC.

shuttle1.jpgI’ve blustered on and on about how Apple doesn’t offer anything like a Shuttle PC for Pro Mac users who need something smaller- or something that is rack mountable, to easily integrate, remain connected to, and travel with all the other video gear.

Pictured here is Shuttle’s Quad-Core Xeon Processor. I pitted the Shuttle against the Mac Pro, similarly configured, and guess which costs more? Moreover, there’s an article on LifeHacker which can make the Shuttle (or any similar build your own) system the cheapest Mac Pro anywhere…

First lets talk CPUs.

shuttle2.jpgThis could be called an unfair match in many respects. macpro.jpgThe Mac Pro is a behometh of a machine while the Shuttle is designed to be as compact as possible. Clearly the Mac’s size makes it easy to hold as many as 8 cores (two quad-core processors) as well as four hard drives two opticals and three full-size PCI slots.

But what if you don’t need ALL of that. What if you don’t want to deal with a nearly 50-pound silver case that doesn’t easily fit anywhere, except the floor. What if you just need a single quad core, a single PCI slot, and three hard drives. What if you just need a box that thinks fast and hard.

Well, lets compare the two machines then.

Shuttle v. Mac Pro

I chose Windows XP X64 versus 10.5 Leopard
. . . (Apple gives no choice of a previous OS)

Intel Xeon Quad 2.66 GHz v. two 2.66 Dual Cores
. . . (Apple gives no single quad core choice)

8 GB RAM as 4 x 2GB sticks in both.

750 GB drives in all three bays in both
. . . . (Apple offers a fourth bay, I left it empty)

NVIDIA Quadro FX 4600 v. 4500
. . . (The closest match IMHO)

20x v. 16x DVD Burner
. . . (Despite Apple CEO Steve Jobs calling 2005 The Year of HD, Apple still does not offer any HD optical drives (wtf). Shuttle offers a Blu-ray for $545)

Front slot for floppy drive/accessory v. slot for another optical drive.
. . . (you could stick another hard drive in that floppy drive slot…)

PCI slot, PCI Express Mini slot v. three full length PCI Express slots
. . . (the big case does provide space for something)

Fingerprint security v. none.


Dual SATA ports on back v. none.
. . . (as much as this is a no-brainer, Apple still doesn’t get it)

One year Warranty on both.

WiFi B/G v. WiGi B/G/N No bluetooth on either.

Optical audio on both
. . . (Shuttle also offers SPDIF coax)

8 USB, 2 FW400 v. 5 USB, 2FW400, 2 FW800
. . . (only Apple keeps pushing on-board FW800)

Microsoft Office versus iLife/iWork.

And I threw in a Shuttle XPC black expandable carry bag for $45.


Shuttle PC:
20 lbs. – 13" deep. 9" tall. 9" wide. – $4818.

Apple Mac Pro:
46 lbs. – 19" deep. 20" tall. 8" wide. – $7,672.

I dunno about you, but I find the Shuttle a lot easier to carry around. For portable tricaster.jpgproductions where you need Pro horsepower, You could carry 2 Shuttles and accessories and have less weight than the Mac Pro. Ugh!

Maybe this is why Newtek uses shuttle-like PC’s for their Tricaster live video switcher / production systems. (though, with all the other rack mounted video gear, it would be nice for the Tricaster to play nice in the rack with everything else.) Don’t get me started on the 30" deep, 40 lb, and too noisy for words xServe as Apple’s only rack-mountable solution. Pros need silence!

The next Mac Pro ought to look like this:

and be designed to easily fit into a rack. (i.e. 2 RU)


But you can’t run X on the Shuttle?

BAH! I say.
A great article on details the process for putting Leopard onto a PC. This "Hackintosh" is not just a "skin" over windows, but the actual intel-based Mac OS on an Intel-based machine that you choose.


Adam Pash does a good job detailing the little niggles you have to go through to get this to work, and even then, because it’s a hack, it may not work perfectly. Kudos to those at the OXx86 Project who are working hard at doing what really needs to be done- giving end users the choice to use the OS they want on the hardware they want.

When a company that makes the quality software that Apple does, and gives you so much capability in their Final Cut Studio, it’s a downright shame that the only desktops they offer are an underpowered Mac Mini (the cheapest portable blows the Mini away) or a nearly three foot tall, nearly $8,000 behometh.

This, from a company that offered us as many as NINE different iPod models.
Try the 1 gig shuffle, 4 gig nano, 8 gig nano, 80 gig classic, 160 gig classic, 8 gig touch, 16gig touch, 4 gig phone, and 8 gig phone. Sure, they may not offer the 4 gig iPhone now, but you can bet there’s a 16 gig iPhone on the way.

So, if Apple is so adept at offering their customers a – w i d e – r a n g e – of choices, why does Apple stiff their "Pro" customers with such limited choices?
Why can’t you buy Final Cut Pro all by itself any more?
Why is there only one Pro desktop model?

Why hasn’t it been updated since the G5 days, several years ago?


5 thoughts on “Break free of Apple’s limitations. OS-X on a PC.

Add yours

  1. I’d say there are only 5 different iPod models. I don’t think the same model with more storage counts. You could configure the Mac Pro with more storage and use the same argument.

    But I do agree that Apple hasn’t been offering nearly enough Mac Pro updates as it should have. I thought when they made the Intel switch they’d offer more updates, not fewer. When Apple was on the G5, they could make all kinds of excuses like the fact that you can’t directly compare clock speed, etc, but now they can’t and they are falling behind.

    You said that they don’t offer a smaller high-end machine. I would disagree with this because Apple targets this market with the MacBook Pro (I don’t know if this is a viable machine for such a market as I haven’t got one).

    But overall I agree with you that Apple hasn’t been the same since it took “Computer” out of its name.

  2. First off in order to dispell any thoughts of fanboyism- I do not own a apple anything nor use one for work.
    You forgot the iMac is also a desktop, that’s three. If you are going to count every variation of ipod, it would only be fair to give some credit to the different configurations of mac’s as well, at least the different processor speed options.

    It is dissapointing that a company that can be so progressive in adding features into products- LED back lit notebooks, and advanced touch screens and sensors in a phone- that they really are so slow to update the parts as vendors release new parts. How long after you see new intel chips in HP and Dell notebook do they end up in Macbook pros, or new graphics cards available in mac pros.

  3. Interesting thoughts. I do think the same “model” with different storage counts because it has a different SKU and a different price. It’s not a BTO you do after picking the device. This is especially the case when the last-gen Nano 8g was only available in one color- black. So if you wanted 8g, you got black. If you wanted Blue, you had to get the 4g model. So they _are_ disparate models.

    I have a MacBook Pro and use it far more as a portable than a desktop- though I do know people who buy a laptop and wire it all up as a desktop. The problem is that it lacks several of the niceties of a real “desktop” model- like the ability to put in a gargantuan 3.5″ internal hard drive, PCI slots for uniquely required I/O, change out the optical drive to whatever you want, etc. Laptops are, for the most part, pre-configured and that’s it.

    I disagree with the iMac as desktop because it suffers many of the same failings. Aside from one model which was designed for end-user access (and that saved Apple’s bacon with the horrible capacitor issue that hit several computer manufacturers) the iMac is not user-serviceable. It does not use a desktop optical drive (slot-loads cannot handle DVD camcorder media) you generally cna’t open the case to change out the hard drive. You can’t put in any sort of expansion card- PCI, PCMCIA or ExpressCard- even the laptops can do that.

    Moreover, I’ve seen LCD displays fade over time. You can’t replace the display. You can’t decide the 17″ you got should now be a 30″. You always have the 17″ display. Just like laptops, the display is part of the system. So, if anything, the iMacs are clunky laptops with a detachable keyboards more than desktops.

    I would be fine with Apple’s sluggish product improvements if they gave us a machine that allowed us to jump on the latest advancements. Let me drop in a Blu-ray burner. Let me swap out the dual core with a quad-core. Let me rip out the small drive and plop in a terrabyte. Give the Pro user some respect for their desires and capabilities.


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