I have been looking at the Dell Mini 9 for quite a while. We needed a very portable, but full featured, laptop for a host of reasons.
I didn’t buy one previously because of operating system support. I refused to use Windows — that was a complete non-starter for me. Ubuntu lacks adequate mobile wireless (EVDO) support — it’s a hacky endeavor and ridden with slow performance. Otherwise, I love Ubuntu and use it extensively.
I didn’t want to use a hacked version of OS X that could readily be downloaded from various torrent sites. Pirated, closed source software could be full of malicious exploits. And the OEM install disks just won’t work. Plus, I wanted to buy it. The Mac Box Set with iWork and iLife work well for me.
The notion of the user experience of OS X on a highly portable laptop using legit software (even though it violates Apple EULA) was appealing to me.
I bought the base model with 512MB of RAM and a 4GB solid state drive that came with Ubuntu pre-installed. Then I immediately upgraded to 2GB RAM with a 64 GB Runcore SSD. The upgrade itself took no more than 5 minutes — it’s a few screws and a cover. There are many options for SSD upgrades, but apparently the Runcore drives are the fastest — they’re also on backorder unless you want to pay an ebay premium.
Here are some pros and cons of using OS X on the Dell Mini 9:
Boot up speed
OS X boots up really, really fast. There’s no spinning disk to slow this thing down, so it’s quite snappy on boot-up.
This thing is tiny — it’s not meant to be your primary laptop. It easily fits into a messenger bag or my wife’s pocketbook. It’s very lightweight, surprisingly so considering how versatile it is.
Installing OS X was relatively easy. If you’re comfortable with software, it should be a breeze. I started off using an external DVD drive, but that method didn’t work well, so I adapted to the two USB drive method. A smaller USB drive is used to bootstrap the OS X installer located on the larger USB drive. Sounds complicated, but not that bad.
Most things work
Most things seem to work well. The built-in camera, wifi and ethernet, USB, keyboard shortcuts and video work as expected.
No hacking of OS
No hacky and potentially dangerous OS downloads from Piratebay.
The user experience from OS X! Nuff said.
Great for bedtime/couch
Makes for a great bedtime reader.
No sleep (till Brooklyn)
OS X doesn’t sleep properly on this netbook. I think that’s generally a problem with most Hackintosh style implementations. Not a show stopper, but you can’t just close the lid and expect it to wake up properly. Actually, I just realized that I needed to disable USB Legacy Support in the BIOS. Now sleep works just fine.
The keyboard is tiny, frustratingly so at first. I grew accustomed to it over the period of a few days. Now it’s not a problem. I can type just a fast on this as I can with a larger keyboard.
Video gets hot
On a positive note, the Dell Mini 9 can use our 52″ Sony Bravia rather well as a dual display (but mirroring seems to be an issue). But watching a standard length movie using the TV seems to be a rather big problem — it gets really, really hot. Ubuntu seemed to do the same thing, so it’s not OS X specific from my experience.
Time machine backup slow
Backing up using Time Machine seemed 20x slower than it should be. Not sure performance was so poor. Need to investigate further.
Monitor mirroring doesn’t work
Though it worked as dual display for my Sony TV, it worked neither as a dual display or with mirroring for my Dell monitor.
Touchpad hokeyness while typing
There’s some touchpad hokeyness with both OS X and Ubuntu. With OS X, the Clicking option under Trackpad Gestures needs to be disabled. Otherwise, well, hokey things will happen while typing. With Ubuntu, syndaemon needs to be setup.
I’m really happy with OS X on the Dell Mini 9. If you’re even remotely thinking about doing this — you should. It’s worth it.