The State Of Hackintosh: Which Netbooks To Hack

The State Of Hackintosh: Which Netbooks To Hack
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BoingBoing Gadgets’ netbook compatibility chart is a great resource for putting Mac OS on netbooks. But before taking the Hackintosh plunge, here are the major contenders’ strengths, pitfalls and quirks to consider, plus guides for when you (carefully) jump in.

Rob’s chart, with all its scary red marks and mysterious orange ovals, has the tendency to give the impression that the outlook is fairly bleak; almost every row of “confirmed working!” ticks is broken up by at least one pesky caveat, and some netbooks on the list are not sold anymore. But your prospects really aren’t so bad. Buck up, kids! Here’s what that chart means, practically, with a real-world rundown of what these netbooks can offer, what they can’t, and how best to try your hand at Hackintosh.

The HP Mini 1000
Status: In production
Now that the Dell Mini 9 has passed on, in retail terms, this is your best option. Main components are compatible across the board.
What you get: A well-styled 10.2-inch machine with respectable guts, a notoriously great keyboard and an increasingly reasonable price. In fact, the Windows-less 16GB SSD version, a prime candidate for OS X-ification, is listed on Best Buy’s site for $US280 right now.
What you sacrifice: I think the styling works; some people get turned off by the large bezel around the screen, though it’s on par with other 10-inch netbooks. Many Hackintoshers find little gremlins after install—lack of fan speed control and temperamental Wi-Fi control, to name two—which can generally be fixed, though rarely simply. By and large, though, this is as good as OS X gets on a cheap netbook.
Resources: Install guide, with video; support forums.

Dell Mini 9
Status: Out of production
This was, and still is, a fantastic candidate for Hackintoshing. As such, they’re not that easy to find for a reasonable price. Even Dell’s been getting in on the post-Mini-9 action, rereleasing the little laptop for brief period last week.
What you get: Just like the HP, Dell’s Mini 9 lays claim to near-total hardware compatibility, including mobile broadband support. The fact that everything just kinda works is pretty wild, if you think about it.
What you sacrifice: Battery life isn’t great. And since release, the Mini 9’s hardware has aged a bit. That said, entry-level netbooks all more or less live on the verge of obsolescence by definition, so having a slightly older Atom processor than your friends shouldn’t be much of a concern.
Resources: Our definitive install guide; support forums.

Dell Mini 10v
Status: In production
For some time after release this Mini 9 replacement was held up by Mac driver difficulties. Now it works fairly well, and could serve as a replacement Mini 9 for some Hackintoshers.
What you get: In some ways, this is better than the Mini 9. It’s a newer unit, updated to address some of the general population’s broader problems with the Mini 9: The screen is slightly larger, and more importantly, the keyboard has some room to stretch. It’s cheap—often cheaper than the a coveted used Mini 9—at about $US300 new.
What you sacrifice: The Mini 10v is patchier than its predecessor across the board. The onboard microphone is difficult to get working, video drivers are still a little precarious, often causing crashes when external monitors are connected, and sleep and hibernation modes aren’t very reliable, which is crucial for a totable netbook. If you’re willing to bet on driver support improving, it’s a prudent purchase. That’s a big if, by the way.
Resources: The Anguish Install+Fixes Guide; User forums.

Lenovo S10
Status: Out of production
Like the Mini 1000, the S10 is a worthy replacement for the Mini 9. Or, it was, before it was replaced by a touchier, more erratic S10-2. (More on that below).
What you get: Another capable machine, though it was—and still is—a little too expensive for what you get. Hardware works across the line, down to the webcam and two-finger touchpad scrolling.
What you sacrifice: Ethernet doesn’t work, which could kill the S10’s usefulness as a travel device (old hotels, etc) and the 3-cell battery is a little anemic. It too suffers from age: The cheapest version and most popular spec comes with 512MB of RAM, which will suck the joy right out of your OS X experience.
Resources: Multi-boot guide (attached to linked post in PDF); User forums.

Lenovo S10-2
Status: In production
This bears the outward appearance of a minor update to the S10. As far as Hackintoshing is concerned, it’s a major step backwards.
What you get: Compared to the S10, a better touchpad, bigger keyboard, nicer case design, slimmer profile, more default RAM, and lower price. Great!
What you sacrifice: Any semblance of usability in OS X. Adding to the lack of ethernet support, everything from sleep to external video to stability is lost, to the point that the S10-2 isn’t really much of an option.
Resources: The same S10 guide, with caveats; User forums.

MSI Wind U100
Status: Out of production
A perennial Hackintosh classic, it’s still a safe choice, and fairly easy to track down used.
What you get: A Mini 9 level of compatibility, with very similar hardware. Styling is clean, but not as pleasing as the Dell, Lenovo, or HP alternatives, and the keyboard is usable.
What you sacrifice: Again, we’re dealing with old-ish hardware here, and again, the three-cell battery won’t run marathons. The touchpad is janky, and, I almost forgot, this guy really doesn’t like them.
Resources: A whole bunch of install guides and support info.

Acer Aspire One
Status: In production
A hugely popular, widely available and all-around decent netbook, the Aspire One is a cautionary tale: No matter how tempted you are to pick one up, Hackintosh development has come too slowly to justify buying one for that. This rule applies to other netbooks not shown, too.
What you get: An expensive-looking, cheap-as-chips workhorse.
What you sacrifice: Virtually everything, including the biggest dealbreaker of them all: Wi-Fi. Lots of netbooks don’t work, but I wanted to include this one as an example: Just because a netbook is wildly popular and bolstered by a huge community of support forums doesn’t mean that Hackintosh will eventually work. Some hardware and software issues are just beyond the hobbyists’ purview, so don’t buy a netbook with the hopes that issues will be resolved. They might not be, and you’ll be stuck swapping out hardware components just to get basic features working.
Resources: Install guide with some fixes, wi-fi recommendations; user forums.

Despite losing its greatest soldier (well, almost), the Hackintosh netbook movement is still alive and well, to the point that buying one of the more compatible netbooks listed above with the express purpose of turning it into an unofficial mini-MacBook is a great idea. Take your pick.