Interested is buying a non-Apple Mac? If so then Psystar might have the machine for you.
Note: At around the time to writing this piece the Psystar website went down.
For $399 you can pick up the "OpenMac" which Psystar claims is a Leopard-compatible system built from standard PC parts.
- 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
- 2GB of DDR2 667 memory
- Integrated Intel GMA 950 Graphics
- 20x DVD+/-R Drive
- 4 USB Ports
- 250GB 7200RPM Drive
That's a heck of a system spec compared to the Mac mini which sells for $599.
Mac OS X compatibility is achieved using an EFI emulator.
With the EFI V8 emulator it is possible to install Leopard's kernel straight from the DVD that you purchased at the Apple store barring the addition of a few drivers to ensure that everything boots and runs smoothly.
Now if Psystar continue to offer to install Leopard on these systems, I expect Apple's lawyers to come down hard on the company. Sure, violating the EULA isn't the same as the action being illegal, but that doesn't stop big corporations throwing their weight around. However, if this system is merely offered as being "Leopard compatible" I'm not sure how Apple might proceed. Drawing too much attention to clones not only offers them free publicity but could also start a wider debate about the price of Apple systems. There's certainly a demand for cheap Macs, but I don't see Apple making them available any time soon.
This comes across to me as an interesting project, but little more. The main worry I'd have is how future-proof this system is given that it has to run the EFI emulator. Updates will most likely trash the system. That makes the system a science experiment. Also, there's no guarantee that Apple doesn't somehow try to block the EFI emulator.
I guess if an update trashes the OS you could always install Windows on it ;-)