Testing a new iHac contender

Having got a bit fed up with the other AIO unit not working how I wanted, when an opportunity to replace my other desktop with an ex-display ECS G11 came up, I quickly took it.

The G11 follows the Thin Mini-ITX spec exactly, unlike the M650 which deviates in order to provide better usability.

The motherboard I chose was ECS’ own H61H2-TI, as its the only one with HDMI input, and it all looked good. having been well practiced in getting Mountain Lion running on these, I was quickly able to “establish battlefield control”.

in short, the good news is: from the iHac side, it all seems to work. HD 4000 runs with full acceleration, sound works with Voodoo HDA, Ethernet is the same as the other one and runs great with the realtek drivers, and Wi-Fi is also running well. so all is good then? Well, if you are looking for a cheap iMac replacement, then yes, yes it is. Sadly, as of yet, it doesn’t yet meet the bar for me. You see, once I got it all running, the shortcomings of Intel’s reference design became clear.

When in HDMI input mode, all sound is routed at maximum volume through the internal speakers of the chassis. plugging speakers or headphones in either of the 3.5mm outputs makes no difference in this mode. If you just want to watch TV on it through a set-top tuner that has its own volume, then again, this may suit you. but if you plug an XBOX 360 in there, you are treated to a loud and horrid torrent of ear abuse that refuses to be contained.

My next step with this is to try and somehow hardwire internal stereo speaker header to the HD_AUDIO header, to force the sound out of the speakers, then I can start using it.

Obviously, this was discovered as a problem by MiTAC on the M650 unit, as that has a separate ARM board on it that provides proper sound routing and volume control when HDMI-In is being used. If only I could solve that bloody display pipe problem!

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Building a hackintosh All in One with Mountain Lion

Apple don’t (yet) make an iMac that I want to buy, nor do they seem interested in doing so. Previously there were several reasons, but to date the only thing left is the ability to use the iMac as a display for my games console or any other HDMI device I wish to use it with.

Earlier ones had target display, but this was only available on the 27″ model ,which is far too big for me, and the only way to use HDMI on it was via an adaptor that would only support 720p and was reported to be not that reliable anyway.

The fun finally started when barebone AIO chassis started to appear with the Thin Mini-ITX standard, meaning you could build yourself a decent AIO and upgrade later also. Then came the Ivy Bridge processors with built-in graphics that I would consider just about good enough to use.

Moving away from my self built windows PC, which was a Core 2 Quad and Radeon 4830, which I was happy with performance wise, I set out to build an AIO hackintosh, as closely powerful as I could make it. The result so far:

  • Quad Core i5 3475S Ivy Bridge CPU (HD 4000)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • AIO Chassis with H61 chipset motherboard including HDMI Input
  • OS X Mountain Lion 10.8
  • Broadcom 4322AG a/b/g/n half size Wi-Fi

The target is, to use the software with no changes to the OS. Additional Kexts to make it work are acceptable.