Apple Mac OS X on x86: a first test

Apple Mac OS X on x86: a first test

Summary: Steve Jobs might not approve, but Apple's latest operating system can be installed on any x86 hardware. How well does it function? Read our preliminary labs test to find out.



Installation from a bootable DVD takes about two hours, and the operating system requires 5.9GB of hard disk space. It's possible to set up a dual boot system with Windows and Mac OS X thanks to a boot manager that's installed along with the Apple OS.

For 3D graphics effects, you need a suitable driver, but these are not available for ATI or nVIDIA cards. In June, Apple delivered the developer platform on an Intel motherboard with integrated graphics (the 915G chipset). If this platform is used, 3D effects work fine, and you can also adjust the screen resolution. All drivers, including audio and network, are installed automatically on the Intel 915G platform. We installed version 10.4.1 of Mac OS X on a Toshiba Portégé M300 notebook equipped with a 1.2GHz Pentium M processor and 512MB of RAM.

Mac OS X x86 setup on the Toshiba Portégé M300. See the image gallery for more pictures.

GUI-driven setup and disk partitioning
The setup process is driven by a graphical user interface, which simplifies things compared to a Windows PC. There is generally less user intervention required, and where interaction is needed, the procedures are intuitive. For instance, when setting the time zone in Windows, you must select it from a list; with Mac OS X you simply click your region on a map of the world.

Partitioning the hard disk is also straightforward thanks to the efficient Disk Utility program. Unlike in Windows, this requires no data entry, but lets you use the mouse to create and resize a partition easily. Windows users will also be surprised by Mac OS X's disk imaging and backup capabilities. All this is possible simply by starting the setup CD; a Windows setup is light-years away from the user-friendliness of a Mac installation.

Mac OS X x86 also runs on the AMD platform.

Topics: Operating Systems, Reviews, Software

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  • Just an ordinary user here, but I kind of think Jobs is right to keep it on the Apple hardware. The pressure on price would also be a pressure on quality, and while Apple machines may be high margin, I've had mine go on and on while the PCs of my friends fall apart around me (never mind how much they swear over the software). But people will buy cheap, it's always tempting, and then the whole brand is tarnished by cheap crappy hardware that fails and leaves a bad feeling. Jobs has been down that great software on any hardware road with Nextstep too, which I remember as a thing of beauty, and it didn't go anywhere for him then. Buy the Mac. Life's too short.
  • "So far, mainly because of performance and price issues, the Apple platform has failed to tempt many Windows users."


    Other than that a fairly normal ZDMSNET review...
  • As I read your article I felt that an important item in Application performance was omitted. You briefly mention Rosetta emulation for the PPC applications. Rosetta is used for PPC programs and they do run significantly slower. x86 programs are not through Rosetta and are a lot faster. iTunes is still being compiled and released as PPC and not x86. If the Rosetta/PPC version is that much slower (not much) than the x86 version will be much faster than that at release. If you want to really test performance closer to final version speeds, test using an x86 application running natively against the Windows version. Your article is somewhat misleading because of this.
  • Why are you comparing iTunes performance? This is kind of the worst choice one could have done... iTunes apparently still is a PowerPC application, meaning it gets emulated by the integrated Rosetta emulator. (Check Information on application to check that)
    Now you wrote:
    Mac OS X x86's slower speed in this test is possibly due to the Rosetta emulation environment, under which some x86 programs run.
    This should be:
    iTunes on Mac OS X x86's slower speed in this test is actually due to the Rosetta emulation environment, under which this PPC application (among others) runs.
    That's it. It's not that Apple is actually running x86 programs under the Rosetta emulator. Rosetta translates PPC calls to x86 calls.

    I understand why Apple tries to keep Development System from public, since this is nothing more than bad press on something that's not ready for the public...

    Just my 2 cents
  • Saying that the only reason OSX only runs on Apple hardware is to keep margins up is not entirely true. It also makes it much easier to integrate the software in with the hardware, to make it run faster, more reliably, and easier to use. In other words, it helps with the overall user experience, which is what Apple is all about. Windows and Windows applications are saddled with all kinds of crud because of the all important requirement of backward compatibility with all the random hardware out there. Apple will not have the same problem. The result is that Macintosh software -- both the OS and the applications -- optimized for Intel processors on Apple designed hardware -- is going to beat the heck out of Wintel software.
  • Do you know EULA ???
  • Who Cares?
  • Your tests and your conclusions are totally bogus. You could have easily skipped this article. You did not say which build of OS X you installed but I'm sure it wasn't one from Apple with their blessing and it probably wasn't current. They've already tightened that little loop hole. And by the time the final release if finished you wouldn't be able to install it on a generic box anyway, so why bother commenting on it? As one of your readers stated earlier that's the reason Apple keeps this from the public and I whole heartedly agree. You need better research, testing a little more integrity before you go posting bad press without the true facts in hand.
  • wow all the steve jobs ass licker fangirls come out of the closet. Go back to blowing that hippie fag while he charges you $5000 for a machine made of 99% off the shelf parts.
  • What a poorly written article!

    Among other things, its a bit stupid to suggest that Apple's restricting Mac OS X from generic PCs because 'their own margins are higher than other PC makers'.

    If Apple were only interested in short term cash, then licensing Dell would be the first thing to do, since margins on software are obviously higher than the very narrow margins possible in hardware sales.

    Specious speculation is not fact, even if you present them as such.

    This isn't even a story. You simply followed some web instructions to install an outdated version of pirated software, and aided a developer in violating their NDA contract for some ad clicks.

    Along the way, you offered some ignorant misinformation (clearly you know nothing about Rosetta, despite much of its details being widely known) and wrote a lot of personal fanboyism as if it were facts you had researched.

    ZD is a leader in ensuring tech journalism stays in the toilet, as long as they can profit from worthless web advertising next to their sensationalism.
  • I could care less if OS X will run on Dells, and other WinTel PCs.

    What does matter?

    New Intel Apple macs (iBook, Powerbooks, iMacs, Mac minis etc.) *need* to support dual boot to Windows XP/Vista.

    If they do that you can bet my hard earned dollars are going to a new Powerbook AND iMac ASAP.
  • I admit, I'm disappointed in this article. I've seen the developer box (my company has 9 or so in-house) and its performance is really quite good. The non-x86 applications are not particularly fast, but that's what you get when running PPC-to-x86 instruction translation.

    Please, stop with the FUD. If you're going to test applications' runtime, you'll be stuck with apps that are x86 binaries without any OS-specific code. iTunes fat binary running under direct translation will _never_ be as fast as a native binary.

    I realize that ZDNet tends to be something of a FUD / marketing tool for MS, I had hoped that if they were to write anything, it would at least be fully researched and factual.

  • The statement that the 80x86 version of Mac OS X looks good at this "early stage" is somewhat odd. Mac OS X has had an 80x86 version under development for almost five years now, based on Jobs' statements at WWDC.

    Mac OS X itself is more or less ready for release on 80x86 platforms; at this stage, it's really only waiting for 80x86 Macintosh hardware to be released to the marketplace, and should take off once the number of 80x86 drivers and Universal Binary applications reaches critical mass.
  • "The margins on Apple-branded computers are much higher than is usual for standard x86 PCs" because buyers will pay for quality--not just backlit keyboards and built-in cameras, although those are terrific features on PowerBooks and iMacs--but because the whole widget, which Apple controls, just works. Those who have worked both platforms--read the Apple Slashdotters for abundant evidence--will agree that "It's the software, stupid," which also happens to play on beautiful machines.
  • Apple Hater....don't you realise that all computer's are built from "off the shelf" part's?...the difference is that all Apple computer's are all built from the same "off the shelf" part's...using software designed for just those "off the shelf part's"....unlike the other crowd...all sort's of part's...some of wich wouldn't even make it to the shelf....depending on whose machine you buy/build...
  • I really can't believe some of the opinions that this article is disappointing. Take it for what it's worth. What an exciting time in history we are in with the potential of righeousness coming back in this business. I'm so totally amazed that we may have an alternative for the masses - without the high price as it stands.

    As true diehard Apple user's defend a great product - both the software and (off the shelf, hand-picked) hardware, let's not forget the fact that many Windows users need and want an alternative - an affordable one.

    As Steve Jobs only knows his strategy, let's not be fooled by the security on the software. I truely believe his intent is to release the operating system to the x86 platform in the near future and allow that choice in the marketplace. With such a lucrative market, why not?

    Even if OSX was developed for a few chipsets designed to work very well, an alternative at an affordable price is needed. If it doesn't come from Apple then they're missing a huge opportunity. Apple with it's simplicity is the perfect choice for the alternative, as Linux was and still is designed against the masses. It's a great op for development and technical folk, but not for the average user. Although I have installed Fedora, Mandrake, etc, and love Linux, the too many flavors / choices complicate the decision to buy from the masses.

    Windows make a standard because everyone uses it. People use it because the market is seeded with it. If Apple can also seed the market as well - even with a carefully listed product compatibility list for effecient application operation, look out MS.
  • I bought a mini mac to check out OS X but i found that it was much more limiting to work with than Windows.

    I couldn't stand the inconsistency. For instance, sometimes when you close the last window of an application it quits the application. Other times it doesn't and there's no good indicator that the program is still running. Windows programs that do that will minimize to the system tray, a good indicator...

    Other inconsistencies that i've noticed are that the keyboard doesn't work the same in different applications. For instance, the END key or HOME keys work like they should in some apps, but not in others. Also, you can't even CUT and PASTE files, you can only COPY and PASTE files. And you cant create new folders in the "common file dialog".

    Windows does not have this problem. Application startup times and boot time were also dismal compared to my similarly spec'd PC.

    Basically, if you're a power user or a business user, I don't think that OS X is for you. OS X isn't built for this, it's built for simpler users.
  • Rotten Apple: Your part of your post you said that your Mac mini was too slow, and suggested that if you are a power user to use a PC instead. Dude, if you are a power user, why did you get a Mac mini? A typical mac power user would find the Mac mini slow also. The Power Mac G5 would be the computer for a power user, and if you try that one, you may find it more to your liking.

    As far as your other issues, with the inconsistencies with closing windows with the buttons and other times it quits the program, I agree with you on that. It should be more consistent with the close buttons.

    I have found that most of the apps I use, do have the option to create a new folder from within the save dialog box, so I don't see that issue. Not sure what app you are using but all the OS X apps I use, that option is available.

    Perhaps the reason you cannot cut and paste a file, instead of copy and paste the file is because the interface is easier to work with multiple windows at once, and it is just easier to drag the icon into another Finder window, or hold it on a closed folder and after a few seconds the folder with 'spring' open and you can do this to drill down to where you want to move the file.
  • Re. the comments about Rosetta: unfortunately there was an error in the original ZDNet Germany article (of which this is a translation). Both articles have now been amended.
  • As some said, what's the legitimity of such news? I mean, that it seems that the test was done with a pirated and modified version of the x86 version of OS X to permit it to install on the ""test"" box. So, it break the EULA.

    Them, the test is done with iTunes on encoding mp3, wich is, if i'm not wrong, kinda Altivec intensive. But, Rosetta don't run Altivec instruction... So, it's more like an emulated G3. It'd be - more - fair if it was done with the x86 binaries, on a legal test box (where the system hasn't been modified at all).