The cheapest MacBook you’ll see this year: MSI Wind with OS X

Even with the possibility that Apple might actually release a sub-1000 dollar tablet PC this is still less expensive and is likely to have a better battery and more compatibility with everything because simply put my MacBook is not a MacBook.

My MacBook is a PC.

You might have heard of the term “Hackintosh” before: a word that uber-geeks carry around with them as if to say “I made this this is my badge to wear” a Hackintosh is a PC that has been built to run Mac OS. With Apple’s move to Intel chips this is now a lot easier to do than it was before as the system architecture between that of a Mac and a PC is very similar.

The idea is very basic: because my PC runs an Intel chip theoretically it should be able to run Mac OS too.

But the problem in the past has always been finding parts. How do you know what video card and motherboard combination will work? Will the end result be less expensive than just buying a Mac system and if not why shouldn’t I just go out and buy that?

Normally that would be the problem but not in the case of the MSI Wind. This new portable computer finding itself in the newly formed Netbook category – an area filled with Asus Eee’s HP MiniNote’s and Dell Mini Inspirons – is capable of running Mac OS quite easily. So easily in fact that all you really need to do is plug in an external drive and put in a Mac OS installation disk and you can get it running. At less than $700 Australian this could very well be the cheapest portable Mac you’ll find this year or next.

But before you go plonking down some cash on your next portable Mac here are some of the current problems with running Mac OS on your MSI Wind:

Wireless doesn’t work right out of the box:

Sure it might seem like an obvious thing to have but MSI didn’t exactly put themselves in the legal quagmire that consumers won’t exactly find themselves under. As a result the mini PCI-Express card that MSI chose to go with for the Wind doesn’t actually have drivers for Mac OS. If you leave your Windows XP partition installed you’ll be able to get Wireless working under the b & g standards there quite fine but if you want to get it working under Mac OS you’ll need a different approach: you’ll need to spend about thirty bucks.

Because the MSI Wind can be opened up you can replace components like say the hard drive memory and wireless card. In this instance you’ll want to grab a Dell 1490 PCI-Express card which will find itself quite compatible with an operating system like Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

The sound ports on the side don’t work

I hope you’re not planning to use your headphone out or microphone in on your Hackintosh Wind because they won’t work. Much like with the original WiFi card found in the Wind it’s another driver incompatibility that no one could have really expected. The Wind is after all made to run Windows XP and not Mac OS.

But there is already a way around this: you will need to find yourself a USB sound card. Turtle Labs make them as do Creative and you probably won’t be hard pressed finding companies that make Mac OS compatibly USB sound devices. Whatever you find plug it in and that’s your workaround.

And that seems to be the bulk of what doesn’t work. So what does work?

Everything else.

For the sub-700 buck price that the MSI Wind will set you back you can a 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom processor 80 gigs of hard drive space and 1 gig of memory. Add in the ability that you can upgrade your computer without messing with the warranty (provided you don’t screw anything up in the process) and you’ve got an easy to work with and well-designed Netbook. I threw in a 250gb SATA notebook drive and an extra gig of memory and once you’ve put the Dell mini PCI-Express card in you have yourself a decent MacBook Air competitor that is only 10 inches and has a battery that will last between four and six hours.

The interesting thing that needs to be remember about the MSI Wind is that it is not a MacBook in any way. You’re not paying for the style design or functionality that you’d normally get if you’d plonk down the cash for say a MacBook. But until Apple release something in a smaller form factor – something that Apple used to do before they moved to the Intel chips – this is about as good as it gets if you want the power of both operating systems in something that’s a little bigger than a book.

You can find out more about how exactly to turn an MSI Wind into a Hackintosh here at the MSI Wind forums. Of course the legal aspects of sourcing a modified OS X installer disc that makes installation onto an MSI Wind easy are your problem entirely. As always at APC we recommend you follow Apple’s licence agreement to the letter…