Metrotuned Apple G5 PC Hackintosh by Wilson Tai
I’m not an Apple fanboy, but a long-time fan of their Power Mac G5 case, something that in the glory days of 2003, Steve Jobs, legendary CEO of Apple, piped hard about being the “Fastest Computer in the World.” The Power Mac was a first for Apple in many ways including 1) their first aluminum case, moving away from the colored jelly and clear plastics 2) their largest computer at 20 x 8 x 18″ with nine fans inside the drilled aluminum case and carry handles that were integrated by design and 3) the heaviest computer at 39 lbs.
The G5 case looked industrial and smart, future modern, yet classic, not “futuristic” which typically looks teenager pimple popping cheesy a couple years later. Think Honda or Acura versus Mercedes – one is trendy and cheap, the other is classic and luxurious, with designs that translate in a linear fashion.
Up until this project, I refused to own an Apple product, except the iPod Shuffle which remains the minimally cleanest MP3 player on the market.
Ironically, refusing to participate in the consumer culture of Apple products was about to change as my creative company, Metrotuned, won a bid to design a transit app for a large city. Complete with UX research and UI digital display elements, it was an exciting project to take on. My brother and I have been enamored with conceptualizing and designing iterations of the platform, Bridgegood, and Shaun insisted on utilizing Adobe Experience. It is so much more powerful and efficient than Photoshop and Illustrator. No problem I thought as learning on the fly is something I excel at, except Adobe had just released XD and it was exclusively for Apple. PC support was slated for the future “end of 2016” and I couldn’t wait due to the urgency of the project scheduled to wrap up by end of July 2016.
I was forced to acquire a Best Buy/Apple “sponsorship”, electing for a maximum performance Mac Book Pro complete with the Retina high-definition display – at the devastatingly expensive $1,850 out the door. Another option was the brand new minimal gold Mac Book, outrageously expensive at $1,500 out the door. It didn’t have a DVD drive or even have a USB port, needing an $80 accessory just to plug a USB into the notebook. Silly, but still a beautiful form factor. Long story short, I designed and completed the project using Apple hardware and even after the sponsorship was over, I was left longing for the aesthetics and retina display. My primary desktop Windows OS computer was built years prior and still going strong through the 1920x1080p high definition Windows 10 era.
Enter 4K, known as UHD ultra high definition. Because I’m so myopic, investing in visual tools is a required luxury and one example is using a 37″-40″ LED UHD display while others are still on 20″ something monitor’s. My video card was sufficient for processing 1080p video but was lagging on streaming 4K YouTube videos. Further, the problem became a priority when I upgraded my 1080p display to a 4K display. I tried everything from 40″ to 55″, with the latter, a 55″ Sony being ludicrously large, so large that I had to literally move my head to see the left and right sides of the screen.
Above: Sony’s thinnest LED TV, the 55″ 900-series, thinner than your smartphone
I have to admit the marketing deliveries of “the world’s thinnest TV” connected to “the world’s fastest computer” was an appealing concept. It became clear that a computer upgrade might just be the summer project to undertake. Timing couldn’t have been better, as AMD just released the RX480, a $200 graphic card that immediately sold out like some limited edition Nike’s at a Supreme pop-up. And in line with American culture of choosing sides: Ford vs Dodge, Republicans vs Democrats, East vs West, the Nvidia GeForce 1060 vs AMD RX 480 became the great debate for a $200 consumer budget card. The culture was mesmerizing and I instantly became hooked to searching for the latest news of when the 1060 card was going to drop. The morning of the release, I grabbed my smartphone and credit card upon waking up before the 6:00AM PST launch and placed my order for the Founder’s Edition immediately. The bug was so potent that I had even placed a pre-order the night before on Amazon for a Gigabyte 1060 and on launch day, placed an order for the ASUS Strix at Newegg just because it was in stock that morning. I had three cards coming in the mail with the idea that I’d choose only one for the build.
The build turned into a zen DIY maker’s practice:
- Hack a G5 Power Mac and make it more powerful than the best Apple computer for less than their entry level notebook, meaning out the door, total build was to be less than $1,500
- Go 4K ultra high definition, VR ready for um, you know, email and spreadsheets, otherwise known as future proofing as best possible
- Utilize smart shopping such as Newegg, Ebay, Amazon, Google Shopping, Tiger Direct, Slickdeals, Reddit, to find and source the best prices and availability
- Build and complete before the July cut off for digital legacy entitlement upgrades from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10
How to Fit Your PC in a Power Mac G5 Case
Sourcing the G5 case was easy, I looked up “Power Mac G5” on Craigslist and ebaY and found a number of them for $25-50. The best option for me was getting it shipped directly to my door. Then literally just tearing out the guts of the computer. It struck me as amazing how much garbage is actually inside. Like how many fans, processors, memory sticks, cables, even glue. Once cleaned out, the case reveals as a quality piece of kit – thick aluminum panels, bead blasted anodization. I had to take a moment and give a shout out to Steve Jobs for insisting on absolute advanced perfection in every detail possible when pencil pushers around him were killing the vibe with mundane, generic, cost-saving, and status quo average. Anything but dirty beige.
In 2003, the big news was Apple’s move away from IBM to Intel processors in their pursuit to make the world’s most powerful computer. Today, I am using the consumer equivalent of the most powerful consumer processor, the Intel i7 4.0ghz Skylake processor. It’s in the choosing of the processor when it helps to compare your build with the next best thing on the market.
To Be Continued…