Hackintosh Dell Mini 9 OS X: Is it Worth it?

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.

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