Caveats Update, 08-15-11:Apple, as expected, updated their Mac Mini with the second generation (aka: "Sandy Bridge") Intel Itanium i3, i5, and i7 processors, along with either integrated (Intel's HD 3000) or discrete (nVidia) graphics, and removing the built-in optical drive. Prices range from US$599 to US$999, depending on model. Compared to my MicroMini, even the least-expensive Mini scores about 5% higher in performance, meaning my MicroMini still remains competitive in terms of performance and expandability.
Regarding the Hackintosh community, my fear of their impending death was premature: Those amazingly smart people at tonymacx86 have already released a process for installing Apple's OS 10.7 "Lion" on PC hardware, and even provide some Lion compatible hardware configurations. Congratulations on a fantastic job by everyone in the community, and keep up the great work!
Son of MicroMini?
Always a dreamer, and never quite satisfied, I'm wondering if the
MicroMini experiment could be repeated with newer hardware running a
Sandy Bridge processor: Would it still result in a Hackintosh with
better performance at half the price of a genuine Apple?
Based on tonymacx86's recommended Sandy Bridge builds and Microcenter's website, here's a possible hardware configuration for a "Sandy Bridge hackintosh", which I've named a "MicroSandy":
NOTE: I don't know if this hardware would create a workable hackintosh, or how functional any resulting hackintosh would be: It's up to you if you want to try this configuration (but, if you are successful, let me know!).
As with the MicroMini, if everything was purchased at my local Microcenter, the total cost of this "MicroSandy" as of August 6, 2011 would be about US$485, not including tax or available rebates. Of course, those of you familiar with MicroCenter know they're always running sales and specials, so prices and availability can change quickly.
This US$485 "MicroSandy" would probably be slightly faster than the entry-level mid-2011 Mac Mini ($599, 2-core i5-2415M @ 2.3 GHz), but slower than the 2011 entry-level 21.5" iMac ($1199, 4-core Intel Core i5-2400 @ 3.1 GHz). And, it would be 20% and 59% less expensive, respectively.
From a hardware standpoint, compared to the entry-level mid-2011 Mac Mini the MicroSandy would have more memory (2 vs 4 GB), a faster hard drive (7200 vs. 5400 RPM), a CD/DVD optical drive (Mini has none), a better video card (Radeon HD 6670 vs Intel HD 3000), and more expansion slots, but would lack the Thunderbolt port, integrated camera, and Apple's excellent industrial design & build quality. Adding 2GB memory, a 7200 RPM hard drive, and an external CD/DVD drive to the baseline Mac Mini would add US$329 for a total price of US$928, with no video upgrade available. Upgrading the video to a Radeon HD 6630M 256MB card requires purchasing the mid-level Mac Mini (US$799) and then spending an additional US$229 to add a 7200 RPM hard drive and an external CD/DVD drive, for a total of US$1098. So, on a similar hardware basis, the MicroSandy would be 47% and 55% less expensive, respectively, for presumed comparable if not slightly better performance.
Compared to the entry-level mid-2011 iMac (US$1199) the MicroSandy has a slower processor (Intel Core i3-2100 vs. Intel Core i5-2400), lacks a 21.5 inch display, the Thunderbolt port, integrated camera, and Apple's excellent industrial design & build quality, and may have a slightly slower video card (Radeon HD 6670 vs. Radeon HD 6750M). However, upgrading the MicroSandy to the iMac's Intel Core i5-2400 CPU adds only US$50 to it's total cost, increasing it to US$535 and leaving you with US$664 to spend on a separate display, keyboard, mouse and webcam.
Bottom line? Based on this very quick, back-of-the-napkin exercise, building a Sandy Bridge hackintosh that has slightly (?) better performance than a similarly-configured Apple Mini and is over 50% less expensive seems very possible. Right now I'm not interested in building this "MicroSandy": I'm already very satisfied with my MicroMini hackintosh, and have no need for another computer (although, one of my relatives or friends might...). So, if you want to try this configuration and succeed in making a hackintosh, let me know!
Thanks for reading!