By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review ] EFi-X Boot Processing Unit, unleash your PC’s true power
Until Vista’s launch, I’d always been a Windows and PC hardcore fan and used to make fun of people using a Mac… Then Vista was made available to the public… a couple of weeks later I bought a MacBook Pro with OSX 10.5 and have never ever regretted it.
Happy with my MacBook Pro but still struggling to find a decently powerful and affordable desktop replacement, lead me to buy several Mac Mini. And That also lead me to tweak them with more RAM, change the Core Duo 1.6GHz to a Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz CPU, add a 500GB HDD until realizing that nothing could beat a real desktop, not even these iMacs with their fancy mirrors more commonly known over at Cupertino as SCREEN… Leaving me with the only option to invest a lot, into a Mac Pro in order to finally get something that would fit my needs… But then again, Apple’s limitation as being capable of running only 2 OS natively on their computer as well as their insanely expensive options led me to seek another alternative.
Yep, I am a Geek and like most of you gals and guys who are reading this blog, you may well be able to understand my wish to experiment, to test new OS, to improve my hardware.. I had up to 2 or 3 Video cards just for the fun of it in my rig and also changed my computer’s CPU whenever I wanted or could…
However although so far I had been content with my MacBook Pro and OSX, I was still hoping to do more…
The Only solution I had was to go rogue, and jump into the dark side of OSX by installing Apple OS, along side with Windows 7 and Ubuntu on a PC… And since Apple made the stupid decision of switching from PowerPC to Intel (Stupid as now they have no way to control the way people use their OS anymore), I could find several ways to make my dream possible and to get a fully loaded i7 Desktop running whatever I want on it.
I believe I tried every single solution I could put my hands on, from “Shady” OSX version with some reptilians loader, up to Psystar’s latest and lamest Boot loader software that only worked once on my rig and failed to install once they updated it…
No, really, things were tough. I was desperate to get my ultimate system running… Then, after surfing the web, I found a Company, ASEM, founded by a German fellow and operating its business in Taiwan, that happen to develop and sell the ultimate Plug & Play EFI loader enabling you to install almost every OS (I said almost) on a Windows Based computer…
This little wonder is called EFi-X, and I am sure that lately you’ve heard quite a lot about it, either in good ways or very bad… I will try to ignore for a second the accusation that has been made on ASEM and just concentrate on the product itself.
EFi-X is a simple BPU (Boot Processor Unit) that will add on top of your motherboard BIOS and EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface), that will control ALL OS installed on your PC and let you choose between them in a simple menu and let you access your Windows XP, VISTA, 7 HDD or your Ubuntu one or OSX (10.5 /10.6).
Getting Started with EFi-X
Yes, the EFi-X delivers what it promises, but you will have to make some sacrifices, in many different aspects.
First of all, despite being a “simple” USB 2.0 BPU, EFi-X cannot be installed on any PC. You don’t purchase an EFi-X and just plug it on the first computer you may own. You actually have to build up your system based on ASEM HCL (Hardware Compatible List). An HCL restricting you to only 3 Motherboard brands (Gigabyte, Intel and DFI) and what’s more, the same applies for Video Cards, where NVIDIA is the big winner and just only 5 ATI cards are supported.
For CPUs, things are even more limited since AMD is not yet supported, however, Intel CPUs ranging from the Atom to the i7 (i5 not yet officially supported) are.
When it comes to the additional network card, only 4 cards are listed on the HCL and for sound cards things are a bit better but once again… not more than a few choices.
Once you selected your hardware and made sure to be 100% EFi-X HCL compliant, it is still possible that something goes wrong and locks you out. Many EFi-X users had different experiences with normally supported NVIDIA Chipset. For some the system worked, however, they could plug 1 Screen only on their card… So, yep, in spite of ASEM’s work of testing many different pieces of hardware, it is still probable that something goes wrong. But on the other hand, you have to admit that it is almost impossible for a company to test everything, so just cross your fingers just like I did when you setup-up your PC.
As for my test, here you have the hardware that I am running, and I hope it will give you a better understanding of what to get if you are interested.
CPU = Intel i7 920
RAM = 6GB (3×2) of Century Micro CK2GX3-D3U1333
MOTHER BOARD = Gigabyte EX58-UD4P
VIDEO CARD = MSI GeForce N9800GTX PLUS-2D512-OC
HDD = Barracuda 7200.12 Desktop Hard Drives 500GB 3X, Barracuda 7200.11 Desktop Hard Drives 1500GB 1X
POWER SUPPLY = Antec TP-750
ENCLOSURE = Antec P183
Installing and running EFi-X
Once you get your hardware fitted together, you have plugged your EFi-X to your motherboard via its internal USB 2.0 port, tweak your BIOS first to get your EFi-X run as well as other small tweaks including AHCI and so on…
Once everything is in order, you are now ready to boot-up your computer and install your OS (several of them)… The good news is that OSX can be installed directly from its DVD drive, but first you will have to remove your AHCI setting in your BIOS in order to see the OSX DVD installed. Once done, and once landed on EFi-X boot page, select your DVD drive and just install OSX like you would do on a regular Mac. Installing XP, VISTA, 7 or Ubuntu is a bit different, you will in fact have to install these OS without EFi-X running and once done, just plug your EFi-X back to your computer. You should normally see your other OS in the EFi-X Boot menu and run them smoothly. Beware, however that for Ubuntu you will have to play with GRUB to get it running, while with Windows XP, Vista or 7, it is probable, well actually for me it happened ALL the time, that the first run will disable your EFi-X from the Bios and will force you to reset your computer.
Once All 3 OS have been installed on their own HDD (EFi-X do not support Drive partition) and once you succeeded to boot them all… You will get a real multi OS computer that you can maintain and upgrade at will, and despite some small glitches while running OSX 10.6, each OS are running like magic and you won’t notice anything as if EFi-X does not exist at all.
The true wonder of EFi-X is that it won’t install any crap unlike other boot loaders on your HDD, and you could virtually take your OSX HDD out of your PC for example and plug it into any real MAC and won’t suffer any glitches…
Now while Windows XP, Vista & 7 (32 or 64bit) as well as Ubuntu are running just fine, OSX 10.6 is however a bit different. As for today, for example, there is a nasty bug where both reboot and shutdown won’t physically reboot or shutdown your PC. Other EFi-X users running no i7 PCs do not suffer from this bug.
All other features like Time Machine or Apple update are fully operational.
Now that everything is running and after weeks of testing… I have to admit that I am impressed. I’ve finally got my dream come true with a powerful Computer capable of running what the hell I want to run on it… This being said and despite ASEM efforts to make EFi-X the ultimate tool, our small BTU is still dedicated to a niche of Geeks (like myself) who happen to have time in their hands and who are not scared of tweaking both their hardware and software… Building an entire “fleet” of EFi-X powered computers for a company would be a risky thing to do with several difficulties and maintenance issues. And also installing OSX on a non Apple Hardware is breaking Apple EULA and this could, depending your country of residence, go from harmless to being pretty serious.
But once again, I have to admit that I am very impressed by the EFi-X and hope that ASEM will continue to improve this product with a better support with future hardware… Made by Geeks for Geeks, EFi-X is truly a blessing and it will be hard for me to get back to a single OS oriented computer.
Finally, special thanks to MTG Inc http://www.mtg.co.jp/ in Osaka (Japan), for sending us the EFi-X, and if you happen to search for an EFi-X here in Japan, just make sure to order it from them !