I finally decided to pull the trigger on a netbook – and that’s when the fun began. 🙂
I basically narrowed my choices to the Dell Mini 9 and the Lenovo S10, after reviewing the available choices and reading up on the process of getting Mac OS X running on them. I decided to order both so that I could try them out – the major difference I expected was going to be the form factor, and you can’t really go to a store to test them out.
My initial reaction after receiving them was that the Dell was much more pleasing to hold/touch. It was a little more compact, felt more balanced, and I was surprised to like the taper effect (thicker in the back). The Lenovo feels heavier, less balanced, etc.
The specs on the machines were about the same, except the Lenovo had a 160GB 5400rpm HD while the Dell had a 32GB SSD drive. I’m a big fan of SSD drives after having a MacBook Air for about a year, so this was a big plus for the Dell in my book.
I tried to get the Lenovo running on OS X first using the great video tutorial here (with follow-up here and here). While the videos were great, I wasn’t initially able to get the USB drive working properly and thought I’d bricked the machine. Turns out, removing the battery for 30 seconds or so brought it right back.
After a few more attempts I was still unsuccessful, so I decided to try getting OS X running on the Dell. This was dead simple. Follow the instructions here – they worked great for me. That night, I happily took home the Dell Mini and used it a bit. That was when the honeymoon period started to wane.
The Dell form factor is smaller and feels nicer, but at the expense of reasonably sized keys. Some of the guys in the office couldn’t type on it at all. I was able to – but not that easily. Some of the key positioning was awkward as well – particularly the apostrophe/quote (‘/”) key being on the bottom row with the spacebar instead of the home row of keys. It was usable, but not comfortable.
After a day of using the Dell, I decided to try the install on the Lenovo again.
The Lenovo keyboard is far superior to the Dell. I can touch-type on it with few mistakes and little concentration. That ended up being the killer feature for me. The Lenovo isn’t perfect – among its problems are:
- A small trackpad, with uncomfortably stiff buttons.
- No SSD (which I’m solving by getting a 3rd party drive).
- Poor battery life (which I may solve with a 6 or 9 cell batter from ebay).
- A bigger power brick/cord.
On the plus side, the Lenovo doesn’t experience the “0” issue on wake (acts like the “0” key is being held down, hit any key to snap it out of it) that the Dell does.
I brought the Lenovo with me to SxSW and was really pleased with it as a conference machine. Easy to get out and use in cramped quarters – easy and light to carry in a small bag (no backpack or messenger bag needed). It’s not replacing my Air anytime soon – I don’t see myself doing development on it – but it’s great for quick communication needs, browsing and note taking. I’m looking forward to getting the more stable SSD drive to make it a real “take anywhere” machine.
I’m probably going to put the Dell Mini 9 on eBay. If you’re in the market for one with 2GB RAM, a 32GB SSD and OS X already installed, let me know. No longer available.
Alex, why did you give up your MacBook Air in the first place. Do you find these 2 options better than the Air?
Thanks for sharing. I’ve been thinking about the Lenovo – I’ve had a few ThinkPads over the years and they’ve taken all the abuse I’ve thrown at them, after Apple machines Lenovo kit is my second choice.
The Samsung N110 (almost available, review here – http://bit.ly/1bm6Aw ) looks like a contender too, it addresses the criticisms of the NC10 well (bigger and better touchpad, better battery life), though the official pages states a 1GB maximum RAM capacity which is a let down… Though their (Flash-based – FAIL!) manual states the memory is a DDR2 SODIMM so it should be upgradable.
So the Lenovo, the Samsung, or wait for the Mac-daddy iNewton later in the year? 🙂
Aaron– I still have the Air. This is a supplement, not a replacement.
Nick– The Samsung looks nice, but I’d guess it will be a little while until it’s easy to hackintosh it.
So how exactly do you envision this being a supplement for the Air? Specs aren’t better and weight probably is the same or maybe even a bit more? To me I’m eventually eyeing the Air as my ‘netbook’. I have no need for something I can’t type on very well.
You need a laptop-sized bag/usage area for an Air – not so with a netbook.
My Mini 9 with Ubuntu just arrived a few days ago. I find I am adjusting to the keyboard, but that’s exactly what you have to do…adjust. I understand how it could be a deal-breaker for some. Otherwise, I like it a lot.
I ordered a Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu and absolutely hated it. Took it back and got an Acer Aspire One 8.9″ with 160 gb hard drive, 1 gig of ram, Windows XP. Fabulous. Only 2 pounds and an easy to type on keyboard. Have never looked back. Love it.
Selling off computers with OSX? Alex is turning into Psystar…
Have you seen the Dell 10? Its keyboard is vastly superior and totally usable IMHO. But I’ve not heard anyone talking about hacking Mac OS onto it… have you heard anything?
I agree, the Dell Mini 10 looks to have a great keyboard and industrial design. There are a couple of problems with it:
1. The screen resolution is *less* than the Mini 9 (1024×576 instead of 1024×600)
2. It’s more expensive
3. It doesn’t come with an SSD
4. It’s (currently) limited to 1GB of RAM
So yes, the keyboard and design look great, but there are some pretty serious drawbacks.
I’m hearing that the new 10, due out…June? is going to be HDTV enabled, both for viewing and for picking up signal over the air. Oh and I think 2gb RAM
But…It looks like from what I’m reading that the 9 and 10 use different processors and the 10 is using one that can NOT be hacked… hopefully I’m reading this wrong.
The specs I reference are the ones on the Dell web site, where you can purchase the Mini 10 today:
The hackintosh process for Dell Mini 10 is far less refined than for mini 9 i.e. its still hit and miss, in fact I’m not even sure its been confirmed possible.
the biggest minus for the 9 is the key board. Stupid quote key placement… who did the product testing?!@?@e
Apart from keyboard, it can’t be beat for a hackintosh, and you can get it for a STEAL at the dell outlet. I paid 520 AUD for mine w/ 16Gb SSD, 1Gb RAM, Bluetooth AND the 3G WWAN card! (thats around 350 USD at current exchange rates). That 150+ USD saving is enough to tip the scales in the dell’s favour comprehensively IMHO
[…] to Alex King’s review, Lenovo’s S10 won at the end. “I brought the Lenovo with me to SxSW and was really […]
Just emailed you as well, but I’m certainly interested in the possibility of buying your Dell 9. Ping me and let me know if you still have it!
Sorry, it’s gone.
So, publicly posting about how you are violating Apple’s EULA?
I’m not without sin and I’m not casting any stones… Just thinking “out loud”.
[…] a few days ago,Â Alex discussed his selection process and some highlights of what he’s had to do to get OS X wo…. I’ve mentioned the techniques that some people have detailed about installing OS X onto a […]
This is an excellent review/comparison, thanks Alex!
I’m really looking for a light-weight Mac, and stuck between the Macbook Air, Lenovo or Dell.
I might spring for the Air and Lenovo, like you did. But I already have a Macbook and Macbook Pro, it seems like overkill. 🙂 Ahhh, so many choices!
I’ve heard a lot of people mention the keys on the Mini 9 and when I saw one up close I finally got the picture. I went with a Mini 12 and think its awesome but the whole XP/1Gig RAM thing is a huge bummer.
My wife is an accoutant and low tech. But she need a lightweight netbook for her job. Most of the time she uses Excel, sometime for movies and music.
I considered between Dell mini 12 and Lenovo S10. Mini 12 seem have better monitor but I’m not sure about Atom Z520 and Atom 1.60. Seem that mini 12 is much slower than S10.
Could you give me some suggestions on it?
[…] Dell Mini 9 vs. Lenovo S10 I basically narrowed my choices to the Dell Mini 9 and the Lenovo S10, after reviewing the available choices and reading up on the process of getting Mac OS X running on them. I decided to order both so that I could try them out â€“ the major difference I expected was going to be the form factor, and you canâ€™t really go to a store to test them out. By Alex King. Continue here. […]
I’ve always wanted to get myself a small-laptop but what I’m really looking for is a small-laptop
, and NOT a netbook. I think a small laptop should have specs as a laptop should, only the physical size is smaller. This is a very nice post, giving us a comparison between a Dell and Lenovo, so that we can have a view on the good and bad points they both have.
I’ve been looking around at a good OSX netbook (my Aspire One can’t sleep with OSX = dealbreaker) and I found that there is a replacement keyboard for the Mini 9, directly from Dell, that puts the ‘/” key back where it belongs, among other things. Definitely makes things more interesting.
[…] were a new toy – I experimented with them in the spring, then got them for the whole team for the […]