We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Budget PCs Reviews
15,669 Reviews

UPDATE: Psystar Open Computer budget Mac review

£275 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Psystar

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Yes, we are diehard PC fans, and yes, we like Apple's products. (We're PC enthusiasts, not idiots.) But with Macs oh so expensive, we think it informative to see how OS X performs on a computer that isn’t a Mac.

Yes, we are diehard PC fans, and yes, we like Apple's products. (We're PC enthusiasts, not idiots.) But with Macs oh so expensive, we think it informative to see how OS X performs on a computer that isn’t a Mac.

So when our sister magazine, Macworld, ordered a Psystar Open Computer about a week or so ago on which to test a copy of OS X, we were naturally a little intrigued. Psystar touts its Open Computer as a low-cost alternative to Apple’s hardware and, at just £275 with OS X preinstalled, it's certainly that.

The Psystar Open Computer features a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of 667MHz RAM and a 250GB hard drive (specifically, a Hitachi Deskstar). The base model includes Intel’s integrated graphics, though if you have any spare cash you can grab an nVidia GeForce 8600GT for an extra $110 (£55).

First impressions

If Psystar is all about giving you the Mac OS X experience at a more affordable price, it was immediately obvious that product packaging is one area where the company is looking to trim costs. When the box arrived, we found it stuffed with white foam packing peanuts, making the unpacking process a big mess - we hate those things. Indeed, the Psystar Open Computer was swamped with packing peanuts, and not a lot else. Some of the doors on the front of the case that cover the optical drive and the USB ports were ajar, with little pieces of packing peanuts lodged inside. After we cleared out the offending bits, the doors closed properly and the computer appeared to be no worse for wear.

We had a bit of scare, however, when we tried to start up the Psystar Open Computer. On hitting the power button the machine made noises as if we'd switched on a garbage disposal; rather, one of the power cables was getting caught in the fan. After rerouting the cable and restarting the machine, the fan was still pretty darn loud. You wouldn't want this computer sitting on your desk.

Psystar's Open Computer booted up and immediately recognised a FireWire drive, then questioned whether this should be used as a Time Machine backup drive. However, while the drive icon changed to reflect its new status, the backup would immediately fail each time it attempted to run.

Psystar's website lists available software update downloads, including one for fixing Time Machine errors. Psystar turns off the Mac OS’s automatic System Update feature, so you need to download and install updates manually. One might think that the company would send you a Psystar Open Computer that’s as up-to-date as possible, but that’s not the case. Tech support told Macworld that a download would be made available in the next couple weeks to enable Psystar users to take advantage of Apple’s Software Update utility.

For Mac testing, we use Migration Assistant to transfer our Speedmark user files and folders to our test system from a clean system booted into FireWire Target Disk Mode - and that process worked just fine with the Psystar Open Computer. We found, however, that we were unable to boot the Psystar Open Computer into FireWire Target disk mode. The tech support person didn’t think that Psystar offered that feature. Other startup options, such as SafeBoot, zapping of PRAM and startup drive selection via the Option key, were also unavailable.

We successfully cloned the internal drive to an external FireWire drive using Carbon Copy Cloner, but were unable to boot from it. It sounds like a couple of folks in the Psystar forums were able to find a way to do it, but they weren’t giving out specific instructions. We’ll continue to look into that.

>>NEXT PAGE: Test Centre performance

Psystar Open Computer Expert Verdict »

2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo prcoessor
Mac OS X
2GB 667MHz RAM
250GB SATA hard drive
integrated Intel graphics
Gigabit Ethernet
  • Build Quality: We give this item 8 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 9 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

This discussion of raw numbers ignores the elephant sitting in on any talk about Psystar's Open Computer - is it ethical to consider the machine an option, considering that it calls on the user to ignore Apple's licensing agreement for OS X? The feedback that Macworld has received from its readers suggests that there's strong feeling about this issue. Macworld maintains that measuring the performance of Psystar's offering is a necessary exercise, although it plans to follow up its report with a discussion of the very valid concerns surrounding the Psystar Open Computer.

  • Mac mini vs iMac comparison review

    Mac mini vs iMac comparison

    We compare the Mac mini and iMac - Apple's two most popular desktop PCs. Which is best for you - Mac mini or iMac? Read our Mac mini vs iMac comparison review to find out.

  • Apple iMac review (21.5-inch, 27-inch)

    Apple iMac (21.5-inch, 27-inch)

    The new Apple iMac design lends itself more towards use as central part of a home entertainment centre, as well as boasting top-end performance. [Updated with Quad-Core i5 and i7 speed tests, November 20, 2009. See LATEST 2012 iMAC REVIEWS link below]

  • Apple iMac 3.06GHz review

    Apple iMac 3.06GHz

    When Apple updated its consumer Mac line in March, notably by revving up the evergreen Mac mini, it also took the upgrade spanner to the iMac range. Top of that range of consumer all-in-ones stands the flagship model Apple iMac 3.06GHz, featuring an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 3.06GHz.

  • Mac mini Core 2 Duo

    Mac mini Core 2 Duo

    It was a welcome surprise when Apple quietly updated the Mac mini to include Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

  • Apple 27in LED Cinema Display review

    Apple 27in LED Cinema Display

    Apple's 27in LED Cinema Display is essentially a 27in iMac without the computer, matching closely that popular iMac's display in both specifications and design.

IDG UK Sites

Best camera phone of 2015: iPhone 6 Plus vs LG G4 vs Galaxy S6 vs One M9 vs Nexus 6

IDG UK Sites

In defence of BlackBerrys

IDG UK Sites

Why we should reserve judgement on Apple ditching Helvetica in OS X/iOS for the Apple Watch's San...

IDG UK Sites

Retina 3.3GHz iMac 27in preview: Apple cuts £400 of price of Retina iMac with new model