Compact Leopard Laptop: A Comprehensive Review

Whenever I find myself feeling uninspired, I often come up with a new project to tackle. This latest endeavor was sparked by a previous article I wrote about Paul O’Brien from Modaco successfully installing Leopard on a netbook. Further inspiration came from another TUAW post by Mike Schramm.

Netbooks, which are compact and affordable laptops, often retail for under $500. They typically feature 1 GB of RAM, a 16-20 GB SSD or a 160 GB HDD, Wi-Fi capabilities, and a built-in webcam. Considering their size and cost, they’re comparable to or lighter than a MacBook Air, making them quite appealing.

However, they usually operate on Windows XP or Ubuntu Netbook Remix, but I have a preference for Leopard.

Brands like Asus, MSI, Acer, and HP have been active in the netbook market. My interest piqued when I saw Dell’s Inspiron Mini 9 in a catalog, which led me to consider installing Leopard on it.

Despite my anticipation of Apple releasing an affordable netbook, I went ahead and purchased the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 to install Leopard. This article details the steps I took, using various online resources.

Caveat Geektor (Let the geek beware…)
Before embarking on creating your own Leopard netbook, be aware that this violates the Mac OS X end-user licensing agreement, which prohibits installing the software on non-Apple hardware. This is legally risky, and Apple could potentially take legal action. The only way to completely avoid this risk is to not install Mac OS X on a non-Apple machine.

After this project, I might switch to Ubuntu Netbook Remix to clear my conscience.

The specs
The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 I used came with the following configuration:
– Intel Atom Processor N270 (1.6 GHz, 533 MHz FSB, 512 K cache)
– 1 GB DDR2 RAM at 533 MHz
– 8.9″ glossy LED display
– Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950
– 16GB Solid State Disk Drive
– 802.11g mini card
– 1.3 Megapixel webcam
– 32 Watt-Hour 4-cell battery
– Bluetooth 2.1
The total cost, including shipping, handling, and taxes, was $530.90.

Why?
The main appeal of running OS X on a non-Apple device is the cost savings and the thrill of experimentation. For someone who doesn’t want to risk a more expensive laptop in harsh environments or potential theft, a $500 netbook is a less painful loss.

My Mini 9 arrived on October 3rd, after I missed the first delivery attempt. I ordered it with Windows XP installed because it promised an earlier delivery date than the Linux version. Below is a comparison of the Mini 9 with a MacBook Air.

The Mini 9 is slightly thicker than the MacBook Air:

Here’s a comparison of their screens, with the Mini 9 on the left and MacBook Air on the right:

After reading Paul’s article, watching his video, downloading some large files from torrent sites, and burning them to DVD, I was ready to start. However, a Twitter user named Keviano directed me to a post on UNEASYsilence that simplified the process.

Dan Dorato from UNEASYsilence had briefly documented his experience loading Leopard onto a Mini 9.

Tj Luoma

Gary is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Apple. With a keen eye for detail, Gary covers everything from the latest iPhone and iPad releases to in-depth reviews of the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers navigate the ever-evolving world of Apple technology. Gary’s expertise and clear writing make him a trusted voice in the Apple community.