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April 18, 2014

The Best Hackintosh Laptops of 2013-2014 - Mavericks Edition

It's very difficult to find a laptop that can easily be turned into Hackintosh. As mentioned in our Hackintosh compatibility guide, most laptops aren't good Hackintoshes, because the compact design of laptops makes it very difficult to replace non-compatible parts. With this in mind, we are proud to introduce our long overdue list of Hackintosh-compatible laptops for 2013 and 2014.

All of the laptops on this list can run OS X Mavericks, and use 3rd-generation Intel processors ("Ivy Bridge" generation). Unlike in previous iterations of the list, all of the laptops in this year's list will require at least one hardware replacement-- the WiFi card. Unfortunately, the number of laptops using Mac OS X-compatible WiFi cards in the last few years has shrank dramatically, to the point that it's no longer practical for us to maintain the "no hardware replacements" rule.

On a positive note, the laptops on this year's list tend to work much better with Mac OS X than laptops from previous lists. Laptop Hackintoshing has gone very far since we last touched upon it-- these days, advanced DSDT patching has essentially become the norm, and more laptop-specific kexts and drivers are available for users than ever before. While it's still true that no normal laptop will ever run Mac OS X as well as a real Macbook, these days, some laptops can get pretty darn close.

LATEST UPDATE (June 10, 2014): Added Dell Latitude laptops to the list.


HP ProBook 4540s ($600)
What You Get: The HP ProBook 4540s is a standard sized laptop with a 15.6-inch screen at 1366x768 resolution, and a pretty great keyboard. At 2.4 kilograms and 3.4 centimeters of thickness, the 4540s isn't the prettiest laptop in the bunch, but it's reliable enough for everyday use. There are multiple models that use different 3rd-generation Intel processors, varying from the lowest-end Core i3 to the highest-end Core i7. Overall, it's a very diverse selection; no matter what you're looking for, the ProBook 4540s line will probably have the right laptop for you. A few models include discrete graphics cards, but you won't be able to use them-- Mac OS X only works with the integrated graphics on most laptops. The battery life for the 4540s on Mac OS X is about 3-4 hours, which isn't great, but it's not a dealbreaker, either.

Hackintosh Ability: As usual, the HP Probook takes the gold medal for Hackintosh compatibility. The amount of development that has gone into making Mac OS X work on this laptop is unprecedented-- virtually every single feature of this laptop works in Mac OS X, including sound, graphics, power management, sleep mode, the HDMI port, HDMI audio, the battery meter, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, ethernet, and multi-touch gestures on the trackpad. If you're looking to set up your first-ever Hackintosh, and you really want it to be a laptop for some reason, then choose the 4540s.

That being said, not everything is perfect with the 4540s. A few features still don't work in OS X Mavericks, including WiFi (unlike in previous generations, you'll have to replace the WiFi card in your ProBook) and Bluetooth (since Bluetooth depends on the WiFi card). The external microphone doesn't work either, but that's a relatively minor issue. As in previous generations, the VGA port, camera, and brightness levels on the ProBook are also still "finicky"-- your mileage may vary.

Beyond its basic compatibility with Mac OS X, the main benefit of buying a ProBook 4540s is the sheer ease of setup. When you install Mac OS X on a 4540s, you're walking on well-trodden ground. The installation process itself is a breeze, compared to other laptops: simply install OS X Mavericks normally with Unibeast, and then run the ProBook Installer (a specialized app for ProBooks that will install all of the necessary kexts and make any necessary DSDT edits to your laptop automatically). Virtually every possible issue in the installation process has been noted and documented in the HP ProBook forum on tonymacx86. Need help? The tonymacx86 forums are there for you.

Resources: Guide to Installing Mavericks on HP Probook | HP ProBook - Mavericks (Forum)

HP ProBook 6470b ($700) or HP ProBook 6570b ($800)
What You Get: The HP ProBook 6470b and 6570b are essentially the exact same laptops as the ProBook 4540s, except their screens are more pixel-dense, and therefore arguably better (or at least more expensive). The 6570b has a 15.6-inch screen at 1600x900 resolution, compared to the 1366x768 resolution of the 4540s. Meanwhile, the smaller-sized 6470b has a 14-inch screen at 1366x768 resolution. Otherwise, the hardware between all of these models is pretty much identical.

NOTE: In terms of business-level laptops, the HP EliteBook 8470p and 8570b are virtually identical to the consumer-level 6470b and 6570b, respectively. As a result, the EliteBooks should work equally well in Mac OS X.

Hackintosh Ability: As previously mentioned, the 6470b and 6570b are essentially just beefed-up copies of the 4540s, except with bigger screens. Therefore, it's little surprise that both of these models are just as compatible with Mac OS X. Like the 4540s, virtually every feature of the laptops works in Mac OS X: sound, graphics, power management, sleep mode, the HDMI port, HDMI audio, the battery meter, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, ethernet, multi-touch gestures on the trackpad, etc. Other working features include the Displayport and the card reader (as long as you disable Firewire in the BIOS of the laptop)-- the 4540s doesn't include either of these features.

Fortunately, the installation process for the 6470b and 6570b is just as easy as it is for the 4540s: install Mac OS X with Unibeast, and then run the ProBook Installer. The installation process isn't exactly as well documented as it is for the 4540s, but the ProBook Installer makes it easy enough overall. The same caveats for the 4540s also apply for these laptops: for WiFi (and Bluetooth) to work properly, the WiFi card needs to be replaced. It's also unclear how well the external microphone, camera, VGA port, and brightness levels actually work.

Resources: Guide to Installing Mavericks on HP Probook | HP ProBook - Mavericks (Forum)

Lenovo Ideapad U310 ($600) or Lenovo U410 ($700)
What You Get: The Lenovo U310 and U410 give you the same specifications as most mid-end laptops, except in a thinner and lighter package. With 13.3-inch and 14-inch screens, respectively, both of these "ultrabooks" are essentially designed as lower-cost alternatives to Apple's own high-end 13-inchers. While neither the U310 nor U410 is quite as tiny as a standard 13-inch Macbook Air, both are relatively compact in their own right, especially compared to their lumbering counterparts from the HP ProBook line. Both the U310 and U410 use 3rd-generation Intel processors and integrated Intel HD graphics-- while the U410 includes a discrete NVIDIA graphics card inside, Mac OS X won't be able to use it. The battery life is 4-5 hours in Mac OS X, which is relatively standard (and slightly better than what you get from most HP ProBooks).

Hackintosh Ability: In terms of Mac OS X compatibility, the Lenovo U310 and U410 work just as well as the very best of the HP ProBooks. Nearly every part is compatible: sound, graphics, power management, sleep mode, the HDMI port, HDMI audio, the battery meter, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, ethernet, multi-touch gestures on the trackpad, brightness controls, and the camera. The only feature that's particularly finicky is the SD card reader, which doesn't work after the laptop wakes from sleep mode. As usual, however, you'll have to replace the WiFi card to have proper WiFi (and Bluetooth).

Unlike the HP ProBooks, however, the installation guide for the U310 and U410 is rather complicated-- while it's very detailed, it's also extremely difficult to read unless you have prior experience with Hackintoshes. Therefore, the U310 and U410 are definitely not ideal choices for your "first Hackintosh". You can use Unibeast to install OS X Mavericks, but the process is quirky-- for instance, you will have to format your hard drive from the command line because Disk Utility doesn't work on this laptop. The post-installation is noticeably more difficult, as well. If you own a ProBook, you can simply run ProBook Installer and call it a day. In comparison, if you own a U310 or U410, you will have to patch your DSDT manually with MaciASL. You'll also have to generate your own SSDTs (read the installation guide for more details). While none of this is really difficult, it's certainly inconvenient.

The most inconvenient part of all is probably replacing the WiFi card: unlike the HP Probook, both the U310 and U410 include a hardware "whitelist" in their BIOS, meaning the laptop won't be able to recognize replacement WiFi cards by default. To remove the whitelist, you will have to install a patched BIOS on your laptop. Every individual laptop requires its own specially patched BIOS, so to do this, you will personally have to extract your own laptop's BIOS and submit it to specialists online for patching (again, read the guide for more details).

Resources: Combined U310/U410 Mavericks Thread

Lenovo G580 ($500)
What You Get: The Lenovo G580 is an average 15.6-inch laptop with a great keyboard. The specifications of the G580 are comparable to most of the laptops in the HP ProBook line: it's 3rd-generation Intel, and relatively heavy. Like the Lenovo U310 and U410, which are its Ultrabook counterparts, the Lenovo G580 gets about 4-5 hours of battery life in Mac OS X.

Hackintosh Ability: Like other Lenovo laptops featured on previous iterations of this list, the Lenovo G580 offers a reasonably good, if not perfect, alternative to the laptops of the HP ProBook line. Almost all of the laptop's major features work in Mac OS X, including sound, graphics, power management, sleep mode, the battery meter, USB 2.0, ethernet, multi-touch gestures on the trackpad, the camera, and brightness controls. The sound only works with the VoodooHDA kext, which is generally considered an inferior solution to the more standard AppleHDA kext-- however, it's still workable. In addition, sleep mode is a bit finicky, but also workable. You'll also have to replace the WiFi card to have proper WiFi (and Bluetooth). The only features that don't work at all are the card reader, USB 3.0, and HDMI audio, none of which are necessarily make-or-break features.

Compared to the Lenovo U310 and U410, the Mac OS X installation guide for the Lenovo G580 is probably less complicated. However, it's definitely still not as smooth as you might like-- you'll probably need prior experience to get this laptop fully up and running in Mac OS X. After installing OS X Mavericks with Unibeast, you'll have to install some basic kexts with Multibeast, manually install a few more extra kexts, set a couple of boot options, manually patch your DSDT with MaciASL, and generate your own SSDTs-- it's inconvenient, but then again, none of these steps are particularly difficult for experienced users.  Fortunately, the G580 doesn't have a BIOS whitelist, meaning that you can replace your WiFi card with pretty much anything you want (as long as it works in Mac OS X).

Resources: [Guide] Mavericks Lenovo G580

Acer Aspire S3-391 ($1000)
What You Get: The Acer S3-391 is probably the most compact laptop on this list. If you're looking for a Hackintosh ultrabook that's truly portable, you'll probably want to go with this. At just 1.4 kilograms and 1.8 centimeters in thickness, the 13.3-inch S3-391 is essentially a clone of the 13-inch Macbook Air. The battery life for this laptop is around 5 hours in Windows (and probably the same in Mac OS X), which isn't great compared to the 10+ hour battery life on the newest Macbook Airs-- nevertheless, it's workable. Unsurprisingly, the S3-391 is also the most expensive laptop on this list.

NOTE: There are multiple versions of the S3-391 available spanning over multiple generations of the Intel processors, but for the purposes of this list, we're only referring to the models that use 3rd-generation Intel processors.

Hackintosh Ability: Although it may be less well-known than other laptops on this list, the Acer S3-391 is pleasantly compatible with Mac OS X. Almost all of the laptop's major features work correctly in OS X, including sound, graphics, power management, sleep mode, the battery meter, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, ethernet, multi-touch gestures on the trackpad, the camera, and brightness controls. As usual, you'll also have to replace the WiFi card to have proper WiFi (and Bluetooth). The only feature that doesn't work at all is the SD card reader, which is no big loss.

The Mac OS X installation process for the S3-391 is pleasantly well-documented. Certain parts of the process are rather complicated, but overall, the guide isn't particularly difficult to follow if you have some previous Hackintoshing experience. After installing OS X Mavericks with Unibeast and installing a few basic kexts with Multibeast, you'll have to perform some DSDT patching with MaciASL, generate your own SSDTs, patch your audio kexts manually, and install a variety of extra kexts. Most of these steps are more or less straightforward, although most of them aren't exactly easy to do. Meanwhile, replacing the WiFi card should also be reasonably straightforward, since Acer never includes BIOS whitelists in their laptops.

Resources: [Guide] Acer S3-391 Ivy Bridge

Dell Latitude E6230 ($900) or E6330 ($700) or E6430 ($700)
What You Get: Dell's Latitude business laptops are more or less the same every year: middle-of-the-road in terms of hardware, unobtrusive in terms of design, and always reasonable in terms of price. There are no surprises here-- all three of these laptops in the "E6x30" series have the same 3rd-generation Intel processors and integrated graphics as each other (and the rest of this list, for that matter). The main difference between the laptops of the E6x30 series is screen size. The E6230 has a 12.5-inch screen, the E6330 has a 13.3-inch screen, and the E6430 has a 14-inch screen. All three screens have the same 1366x768 resolution.

In terms of size, Latitude laptops tend to lie in a gray zone between ultrabooks and standard consumer laptops. They're slightly lighter and thinner than most standard laptops (all 3 of these Latitude laptops are around 2 kilograms in weight and 2 centimeters in thickness), but they're still definitely bulkier than their ultra-light ultrabook brethren. The Windows battery life of these laptops is a decent 6 hours-- there's no word whether this is any different in Mac OS X.

Hackintosh Ability: The Latitude series of laptops has historically been very well-supported by the Hackintosh community thanks to the efforts of OSXLatitude, a Hackintosh forum that was once dedicated solely to installing Mac OS X on Dell Latitude laptops (although the website has recently branched out to other laptop brands as well). The E6x30 series is no exception to this precedent; essentially every feature of these three laptops works in Mac OS X, including graphics, audio, HDMI audio, HDMI output, sleep mode, ethernet, USB 3.0, the webcam, CPU power management, and multitouch (for which you'll have to install an extra experimental driver). As usual, the WiFi card needs to be replaced; this also means that the Bluetooth probably won't work. Finally, the battery meter may not work in OS X Mavericks, although that remains unclear.

The actual Mac OS X installation process for the E6230 is pleasantly straightforward. The main complication is that you'll have to follow different installation procedures depending on what processor your E6x30 laptop uses.

Unlike most other installation methods that we've detailed on this list, all of the installation methods for the E6x30 series involve using a pre-edited DSDT rather than editing your own DSDT file. Unfortunately, this means that only the specific models of the E6x30 series listed above are guaranteed to be compatible with Mac OS X.

Resources: Guide #1 | Guide #2 | Guide #3

Conclusion
There are a lot more compatible laptops in the Hackintoshing world, but most of them use outdated hardware, or don't have a coherent installation method for OS X Mavericks. This list is constantly expanding, as I find more laptops that fulfill these requirements. For now, keep your eyes peeled on tonymacx86's laptop forum, as well as InsanelyMac's own notebook forum and tutorials section.