With the help of a friend who already successfully completed the process, I managed to install OS X on my new Dell Mini 9. This was my first and, hopefully, my last Dell purchase. Sorry, Apple. I became too curious. Everyone appeared to love their hackintosh […]

With the help of a friend who already successfully completed the process, I managed to install OS X on my new Dell Mini 9. This was my first and, hopefully, my last Dell purchase. Sorry, Apple. I became too curious. Everyone appeared to love their hackintosh netbooks, so I decided to go for it.

For me, the Dell was the obvious choice for this project for a few reasons:

  1. Boing Boing has a chart that indicates which pieces of hardware work on netbooks with OS X installed.
  2. Gizmodo provides a thorough tutorial on how to set it all up.
  3. I heard there was an active and helpful forum.

Here are my specs:

  • Inspirion 910 Intel Atom Processor N270, 1.6Ghz, 533 Mhz 512k L2 Cache
  • Obsidian black color with gloss finish
  • 2GB DDR2 533 Mhz, 1 DIMM (purchased from Crucial.com)
  • 8.9-inch wide-screen WSVGA TL
  • Intel graphics media accelerator (GMA) 950
  • 32GB solid-state drive (my first SSD!)
  • Wireless 802.11g mini card
  • Integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • 77WH 6-cell battery
  • Bluetooth 2.1 module via USB I/F

The 77WH 6-cell battery was purchased through eBay. It provides both amazing battery life, and it elevates the back of the Mini which gives the keyboard a comfortable slant. I only need to charge it every couple of days.

6 cell time left

Installing OS X took a couple hours, but that was mostly spent watching the screen. As soon as it was complete (Apple software updates, too), I installed Google Gears and offline access for Google Apps (Gmail, Calendar, Reader, and Docs). Fortunately, there were no surprises with software downloads or installations. Airport works, and downloads are fast. When I turn off Airport, the Safari 4 beta has no issues switching to offline mode. When I turn it back on, changes sync back to Google. Success!

My goal was to build a browser-focused netbook that would primarily be disconnected from the Internet. The occasional synchronization would allow me to catch up on emails and write more posts for TheAppleBlog.

Now, for the verdict.

Don’t buy a Dell Mini 9 even if you want to use Windows or Ubuntu. Although surprisingly useful and fun to show off (techie people will most likely be impressed when they see a real dock on a Dell), the keyboard is an absolute deal-breaker — OK, not just a deal-breaker, a nightmare. I constantly make typos. Using quotation marks, something I occasionally do while writing, is a challenging task considering the quotation key’s random placement near the space bar. Perhaps with more practice I will learn to be efficient with such a minuscule keyboard, but so far, it doesn’t appear that way.

This was a fun experiment (and an extremely expensive blog post). I feel like it bumped me up a notch or two in terms of Apple user cred. However, if you have the desire to go through with this, just keep in mind that it’s a toy and not a serious business tool.

My recommendation: Check out the HP Mini series since the keyboards are only 7 percent smaller than a full-size. Personally, I’d like to save up for a Macbook Air to experience the ultra-light, ultra-thin Apple. In fact, someone nearby has one on the train, and I’m jealous.

  1. I found the dell mini 9 to be a fun little project, and I use the book as a portable network tablet. I am just using the default battery but I still get about 3 hours on it, so it’s definitely fine for watching videos on a plane or IMing. I would hate it if I had to type anything real on it or attempt to write code though, as the keyboard is godawful.

    For just web browsing and IMming though, I think it’s one of the most fun and appropriate devices I’ve owned.

  2. Wow – you took the words right out of my mouth.. I bought the identical machine as you last month… Hacked it to osx, installed 2gb ram, and had about a week honeymoon period with it, till I decided enough was enough. The keyboard was way too small for my short stubby fingers, and the layout was absolutely horrible.. I never really thought much of keyboard layout before until this machine.

    In the end, i sold the Dell mini 9, and got a Macbook Air (like you describe). I’m MUCH happier with it.. And it seems to have much more horsepower than the Dell did (Core duo processor, i think).

    I’d like to add, I don’t think the Dell Mini 9’s processor can handle OSX (even with the ram maxed to 2gb, like I did). It was just too sluggish, even having issues playing music over my network.

    I woudln’t suggest a dell mini 9 to anyone.

  3. I have an eeePC 901 (running Windows XP) and a Rev A Macbook Air (I bought a refurb). I have often thought about changing my eee to a Mac eee, but the keyboard is just a killer. Frankly, although I bought the eee to be my travel computer, it stays at home. The keys are just too small for me. I am terrible typist as it is, and the micro-keyboards on netbooks make them nearly unusable for me. So, I bought a refurb Air to be my travel machine (and it has become my primary machine.) My Air is light and and has a great keyboard, so my eee gets left at home. Though my kids just love the eee. The netbooks is perfectly sized for wee hands. I added a BT mouse and the kids now have their own computer to play on…it has saved my laptop a lot of wear and tear.

  4. Lenovo hackintosh user Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    I don’t know how long you tried the keyboard for, but I was very frustrated when I first started using the keyboard on my Lenovo s10 Hackintosh (with a 10″ screen). However, within a few days, my accuracy and comfort with it increased quite a bit, and I have fairly large hands. Just took a bit more getting used to than other keyboards. Been using it for about a month now and I’m more satisfied with it now than at the start. I don’t have experience with the Dell Mini, though.

    For me the big benefit of the netbook form factor is the overall small size, not just the the depth. I never “got” the MacBook Air — so long as it has a 13″ screen, I don’t care if it’s 1 mm tall since it will still take up a lot of table space due to the screen.

    I have a 13″ MacBook and a 15″ MacBook Pro but I find I don’t use them as much anymore since it’s so easy to pack up the netbook with me and use it wherever I happen to be.

  5. The Samsung NC-10 has a rocking keyboard. Best I’ve found in a netbook. No idea if it can run OSX though…

    1. LOVE my Samsung NC10 as well…2gb/160/6cell but you can’t run OS on it without major issues. Almost ready to sell it and get a dell to run OS

  6. I have the Dell Mini 9 (about $270 with 16 GB SSD and 16GB SD) 1 GB Ram, with Mac OS 10.5.7. Yes, the keyboard is small, but you CAN adjust after a few days. No, it is not 100% a Mac, but pretty close. the only Mac feature I do not (have (yet) is using the keyboard shortcuts for cut/copy/paste, get info., etc.

    It is a great hackintosh. It is small, light weight, gets better wifi than my PowerBook or MacBook Pro. And plus, if something happens to it then there was no great initial expense.

    It is not for everyone, just wish the reviewer were more open minded.

    1. dude, use the alt key on the dell mini 9 as the command key. Then you can copy and paste. (so it’s alt c, alt v… etc)

  7. I did this to my MSi WInd and I’ve never had a problem with the keyboard. It think it’s awesome. I do have to admit, that if I’m at work (surrounded by PCs) and I want to work on a little iPhone dev during lunch, I do plug my PC’s keyboard. monitor, and mouse into it. It’s the perfect dev machine on the go.


  8. I just built a Hackintosh with a Dell Vostro, the business version of the Mini9. I’m typing on it right now. I hate the apostrophe key. It’s connected to a 22″ HP monitor, which makes it acceptable, but its screen is too small. 12″ would be ideal. Yes, I had a 12″ AluPB.

    So, it’s fine as a travel laptop. I think I’ll eventually spring for a MBA, refurbed.

  9. I’ve got the identical specs, and I agree. I’m hardly using it despite how cool and fun this little project was because of the keyboard. I’m planning to sell it. An expensive experiment, but….. nah. not for me.

  10. Wow I’m enjoying all of the “I agree” comments. Haha.


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