Chrome’s Hackintosh Review

My OS X Desktop

My OS X Desktop

I’ve been researching Hackintoshes for a while now, and for compatibilities sake I saw that the Dell Mini 9 was the best netbook that you could get.  When I saw a deal on it for $199 I decided to bite the bullet.  Of course I wanted more memory and Solid State Drive space than stock, plus adding the webcam and bluetooth brought my final bill up to $469. Still way cheaper than a macbook, plus its in the netbook form factor.  The screen is 8.9″ and is bright and vibrant.  It’s about an inch bigger than my kindle 2 all the way around and about the same thickness with the cover on.

I actually wound up buying two – one for me and one for my wife.  My wife didn’t necessarily want the Mac OS on hers, so I didn’t order hers with an upgraded SSD, just kept the stock 8GB in there.  After she saw what mine could do though, I wound up ordering a 64GB for her though through mydigitaldiscount for slightly more than I would have paid for it from Dell, but the upgrade process for that is relatively painless. Unfortunately you can’t use the old 8GB SSD because the mini PCI-E form factor isn’t really compatible with anything else.

It took almost a month for Dell to build it and ship it.  When I finally got it, I thought that it would come in a bigger box, but boy was I wrong. The shipping box was smaller than a shoebox. I have to applaud companies for using all recyclable materials and less waste (no styrofoam).

Just a quick word on Hackintoshes – Although it may be quasi-legal to use non apple approved hardware, I have legally purchased family licenses for both OS X and iLife ’09 from  I do not condone software piracy, and I firmly believe that if the software is worth it, then by all means pay for it. It cost me less than $200 total for 5 licenses of each. End PSA.

My Dell Mini 9 complete with Horde Sticker!

My Dell Mini 9 complete with Horde Sticker!

I got to work following instructions from the Dellmini forums. As always, it’s important to read over all of the steps carefully because I missed the step of formatting the drive using GUID and when it went to reboot 3 hours later after loading it would not work properly, so I had to reformat it all over again and start over.

But once that was all done, it worked pretty much flawlessly.  The wireless G works fine, the speakers and headphone jacks all work, as does the built in mic.  The webcam works in iChat and the bluetooth connected to the Apple Wireless keyboard and Apple Mighty Mouse.  Once I downloaded drivers, the Sierra Cellular Wireless USB card I have works as well. I tested an SD card in the memory card slot and the video out over Analog VGA works in mirror or in dual display mode.

The screen runs at 1024×600 (the native resolution for the lcd panel) and I havent had any problems with this except in GarageBand where certain elements are below the bottom of the screen and I cant rescale the screen (even using the DisplayScale hack I was unable to get to the record options). When using an external monitor in mirror mode it also puts the monitor in 1024×600 which will result in severe letterboxing.  I preferred to just run it in dual screen mode. I relocated the dock to the right side of the screen and shrunk it down considerably to fit everything I wanted.  It just took up too much real estate underneath all of my windows when on the bottom, especially because it’s a widescreen display.

World of warcraft runs, albeit slowly.  But I made my way around Dalaran and was able to fish some in the sewers.  Ogrimmar was also slow, but definitely serviceable.  I wouldn’t want to run raids on it, but for bank checking and running a few dailies, it passes muster. I would definitely recommend an external mouse though.  The trackpad is horrible for games.  Starcraft and Warcraft II all were loaded perfectly with games running full speed as expected.

I tested Boxee on it as well, and although it crashed a few times (it’s an alpha and to be expected), it was still a pleasure to use.  I was able to use the Boxee iPhone app as well to control it which was a nice touch. It was able to see all of my network shares and the internet channels or “apps” as they are called all work pretty much flawlessly.  Even Hulu worked after they switched their feeds to require a browser (Boxee has a built in browser).

The Apple Wireless keyboard I have is amazing for it as well, and I wish I could swap it out for the built in one.  Its semi confusing to see a windows key and have to use Alt instead for the Apple key.  The Apple keyboard fixes all of the keyboard’s shortcomings. It’s small enough to carry with the Mini 9 if I really need to do some heavy typing.

My only gripe with the system so far – the track pad is pretty bad.  I understand that its basic support, but you can’t click by tapping the trackpad, you have to use the dedicated buttons which is a pain.  I wasn’t brave enough to try any of the beta drivers which offer more functionality, but perhaps when development matures, it will be ready for primetime, but in the meantime, I say go external.  And I’ve griped about it before but the Apple Mighty Mouse is utter crap.  I quickly switched to a Logitech VX Nano after about a week of torture.

I love this clock screen saver.

I love this clock screen saver.

It does get hot, so I also recommend a cooling pad but I’ve gone through several days with it on my desk all day long with no issues with excess heat interrupting anything.  I have yet to get timecapsule working with Windows Home Server, mostly because the steps to make it work are incredibly long and detailed.  I wish it just worked. I loaded on Open Office and was pleased to be able to take notes in class with no problems.

Overall being primarily a PC user for 20 years, I’ve come to find that OS X really is a viable alternative to windows.  Put that into the netbook form factor and it’s pretty spectacular. It’s not super fast when it comes to World of Warcraft, but then again I didn’t pay $1000+ for it, so I wouldn’t expect it to.  It browses the web, works with all of my documents and I can do pretty much anything that I can do with a Mac or a PC for that matter. I’m absolutely happy with it and it’s worth every penny.

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