Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Dell mini 9 running OSX
Accelerate Your Mac reports: [edited]
For $488 you get a 1.6 GHz hyper-threading processor (a poor man's dual core), 2GB RAM, a 16GB SSD, 8.9" screen, 4-hour battery, and wireless. It also has an SD card reader and three USB ports. This amount includes the purchase of a copy of Mac OS X.
The Dell is surprisingly well constructed. It's small but not too small (at least not compared to the netbook crowd). It's very sturdy. It's light and completely silent, because there are no moving parts (not even a fan), yet the bottom of the case never gets more than slightly warm. It's about the size and weight of a small hardback novel. It could fit easily in a woman's purse.
The screen is small, but at 1024 x 600 it's not too bad. It's very sharp and the Spaces feature of OS X was made for this kind of machine.
Netbook keyboards are simply not ideal for touch typing unless you have small hands or are patient. Like the iPhone, I have learned how to be competent typing on it, but no one would want to write "War and Peace" using one. These things are for light duty typing, like iChat or short e-mails.
Probably the biggest question is whether the Dell functions like a Mac. The simple answer is absolutely! I was very surprised at how few issues I found. Every major piece of hardware worked as expected, including wi-fi, bluetooth, the webcam, sound in and out, the SD card reader, the Ethernet port and the USB ports. You wouldn't know this machine wasn't made by Apple except for the Dell logo staring you in the face. Even the power on LED pulses gently when the Dell is in sleep mode, just like Apple hardware!
All connections (i.e., Airport, Ethernet, USB, sound, etc.) work as expected. The webcam worked with iChat, Photo Booth, Skype. The built in mic and speakers work very well. The speakers are quite loud and sound better than you might expect for their size.
Though the machine has only a 1.6 GHz Intel processor and the Intel 950 integrated graphics, it felt similar in many respects to my 2.5 GHz MBP. For example, Safari loaded in less than one dock bounce, iTunes loaded in about three bounces, and Mail loaded in one dock bounce.
Overall, I found this experiment to be a huge success. The Dell-to-Mac conversion process was relatively painless, and there were no on-going tweaks required to keep the machine running in daily use. You just use it like you would any Mac.
The only consideration is the price. After you properly configure the Dell, the price creeps toward $500 (assuming you don't already own a retail copy of OS X), which means you are only another $500 from buying a refurbished Macbook Air or true Macbook. On the other hand, those machines are considerably larger, and The Dell at $500 is still significantly less than $1,000 for a true Mac.
I wouldn't recommend this Mac to a first-time Mac user or very inexperienced Mac user, since there are bound to be some glitches from time to time. But for the experienced Mac enthusiast, the conversion is a lot of fun.