The Psystar Open(Q) and the iMac trade wins on our Photoshop and iTunes tests more or less as expected. Multi-core CPUs tend to impart an advantage on Photoshop, and fast single-core CPUs typically have an edge on iTunes. The multimedia multitasking test has typically gone to Apple when we compare it with competing Windows systems, however, regardless of the CPU, since the lightweight OS X operating system lets fast CPUs shine. Pitted against a quad-core chip in the same operating system environment, however, you can see that the Psystar's quad-core CPU helps outperform the iMac by more than a full minute.
We shouldn't find the Psystar's quad-core benefit that surprising. After all, the quad-core OpenPro and Apple's own quad-core Mac Pro both showed gains in OS X in their own reviews. Our Cinebench test provides another view of the benefits of fast dual core versus slower quad core in OS X, depending on the workload. We tend to find multitasking, and thus simultaneous demands on multiple processor threads, one of the more valuable performance measures for mainstream desktops, and as such, the Psystar Open(Q) shows that under that kind of workload, it's faster than Apple's iMac.
Even if the Open (Q) can be faster than an iMac, it's lacking in some of the iMac's core features. It has no wireless networking, no Webcam, and no display. It's also missing some features we take for granted in $800 Windows desktops, like a media card reader and modern connectivity options. The Psystar Open(Q) might be the first new PC we've seen in more than two years with parallel and serial ports, for example. You can expand the Open(Q) with up to two PCI expansion cards, but it has no free memory slots, and inexplicably only a single hard-drive cage, which is of course occupied. With no FireWire, eSATA, digital audio, or other more recent inputs, that leaves the Open(Q) with few selling points out of the box other than the fact that it gives you OS X in a fast computer for less money than a similar performing iMac.
|Raw (annual kWh)||246.45822|
|Energy Star compliant||No|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$27.97|
We were actually very curious about the Psystar's power efficiency, as Apple has claimed that its outstanding power consumption scores are because of the effect of its hardware and software working together in some kind of mysterious synergy. For a variety of reasons, we can't really call the playing field level when we compare the power ratings of a midtower desktop with those of a 24-inch all-in-one. That said, the Psystar demonstrated respectable power efficiency for a quad-core midtower, but Apple's iMacs are still far and away the most efficient computers on the market.
The other mystery at play in this review is that of Psystar's capability to support its systems if Apple sues it into nonexistence, or if it can get Psystar to shut its doors via a settlement. Since Psystar is actively shopping its technology for homebrewing an OS X system to other system vendors, our uninformed guess is that Psystar is in this for more than just a paycheck, so we expect this one will play out until the end. When exactly the legal fight will resolve itself is anyone's guess.
As we've said in past Psystar reviews, it's reasonable to suggest that the majority of shoppers heading to Psystar know what they're getting into. While Psystar offers one year of parts and labor coverage for the Open(Q), that coverage is useless if the company no longer exists. Psystar does offer toll-free customer support via the phone, and it also has a useful, up-front collection of support resources on its Web site, including downloads for system restore discs.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
System configurations: Psystar Open(Q)
Mac OS X v10.6.1 Snow Leopard; 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9400; 500GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive
Apple iMac (24-inch, Winter 2009)
Apple OS X 10.5.6; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
Apple Mac Mini
Mac OS X v10.6.1 Snow Leopard; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 1GB 1067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400 integrated graphics chip; 120GB 5,400rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
ZT Affinity 7334Ma
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (SP2); 3GHz AMD Phenom II X4 945 Quad Core ; 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 384MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.
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- Release date09/1/09
- Processor Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 / 2.33 GHz
- Memory 4.0 GB / 8.0 GB (max)
- Hard Drive 500.0 - 7200.0
- Operating System Apple MacOS X 10.6
- Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL)
- Graphics Processor nVidia GeForce 9400 Integrated Graphics