Sneaking in a few days before its promised September release, the tune-up for Mac OS X Leopard costs $29 for current Leopard users, and packs just enough punch
Even if you're not a current Leopard user, the $169 package that includes Snow Leopard, iLife, and iWork is a steal for the system upgrade and two of Apple's major software suites, not to mention the long-pined-after inclusion of Microsoft Exchange compatibility. Finally you will be able to connect with Exchange Servers (without using Microsoft's Entourage), but only if your company is using Microsoft Exchange 2007; many still aren't. Snow Leopard is offered on a single install disk--there are no separate, tiered pricing structures to worry about--and you're getting every feature and technical enhancement available in a single install. Unfortunately, for those on PowerPC systems, Snow Leopard only works with Intel Macs.
Installation Installation of Snow Leopard is dead simple and (according to Apple) up to 45 percent faster than Leopard using a newly designed installer that asks only one question during the process. On our test machine, the process took about an hour, including two automatic restarts. The default setting installs Snow Leopard without tampering with any of your saved files, music, photos, or documents. Mostly we had no problems, but on one test machine we needed to reinstall the OS when it had trouble rebooting. Fortunately the new installer is designed for safely reinstalling the OS in the event you encounter any hiccups during your initial installation. On our second try, the OS installed perfectly on our test machine and no files were harmed. PowerPC Macs are no longer supported with Snow Leopard, however; you will need an Intel-based Mac to install the latest Mac OS.
Those who want to do a "Clean Install" (starting fresh by deleting everything for minimal conflicts) still can, but unlike installations in previous versions of previous Mac OS X that offered the clean install as a primary option, you'll need to use Disk Utility to first erase the volume, then run the install. Apple explained to us that not everyone knows what a clean install is and often chose it, not knowing that they would lose their files. We're happy with that answer, as long as people still get the option in some form.
Apple also claims that Snow Leopard uses 7GB less space than Leopard because of better file compression paired with selective driver inclusion. According to Apple, Snow Leopard will locate any missing drivers on the Web for you. We had no need of any special drivers during our tests.
New technologies Apple says a few new technologies in Snow Leopard make it worthy of the upgrade alone, with several features that Apple says will boost performance. Because all new Macs come with 64-bit multicore processors, multiple GBs of RAM, and high-powered graphics processing units, all the major applications in Snow Leopard--including the Finder--have been rewritten in 64-bit to take full advantage of the hardware. (The 64-bit technology allows application developers to allocate more memory to complete tasks so that the software runs faster and more smoothly.)
Apple has also added what it calls the Grand Central Dispatch that manages data sent to multicore processors in an effort to maximize performance; Apple says the GCD will speed up any application task, from processing images in Photoshop to playing your favorite games. The addition of the GCD also takes away the need for software developers to spend as much time managing multicore processors.
Another new technology in Snow Leopard is OpenCL, which allows software developers to tap into the power of any onboard video cards (or GPUs, for graphics processing units) for general-purpose computing without the addition of enormous amounts of code. Like the GCD, these are improvements that will mainly affect software developers. But hopefully it will mean more and better-performing software for users in the future.
To put some of these claims to the test, we decided to pit Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard against Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to see how these new technologies affected overall performance.
In our anecdotal tests of performance within the Snow Leopard user interface (UI), the operating system seems faster and more responsive than with Leopard. Finder, Stacks, Expose, launching apps, and other everyday processes feel snappy. We didn't, however, notice any improvement in application performance.
Overall, we saw only a 2.5 percent slowdown in application performance from Leopard to Snow Leopard on our more processor-intensive performance tests, including our multimedia multitasking test, in which we measure the time for QuickTime to finish converting a short movie while iTunes is performing its own conversion of MP3 into AAC format in the background simultaneously. As this falls within our typical margin of error (5 percent), we saw no significant difference with application performance when moving from Leopard to Snow Leopard. (See the bottom of this review for performance charts.)
Expose Snow Leopard includes a number of user UI improvements intended to make working with Mac OS X easier and more efficient. Expose, Apple's system for visually finding the window you want on a cluttered desktop, used to be relegated to the Function keys on your keyboard. Snow Leopard now makes Expose accessible from the Dock; just click and hold on a Dock icon to see thumbnails of all the open windows in that application. Hitting the Tab key lets you cycle through the preview thumbnails of each open application. Using Expose in the Dock is very natural and elegant, making us wonder why this wasn't already a feature in Leopard.
Click and hold on an application icon in the Dock to bring up full thumbnails of open windows in an application. From Apple: Snow Leopard builds on a decade of OS X innovation and success with hundreds of refinements, new core technologies and out of the box support for Microsoft Exchange. To create Snow Leopard, Apple engineers refined 90 percent of the more than 1,000 projects that make up Mac OS X. Users will notice refinements including a more responsive Finder; Mail that loads messages up to twice as fast;* Time Machine with an up to 80 percent faster initial backup;* a Dock with Expos integration; QuickTime X with a redesigned player that allows users to easily view, record, trim and share video; and a 64-bit version of Safari 4 that is up to 50 percent** faster and resistant to crashes caused by plug-ins. Snow Leopard is half the size of the previous version and frees up to 7GB of drive space once installed. What's new in this version:
Enhance the Mac App Store to get your Mac ready to upgrade to Mac OS X Lion Resolve an issue that may cause Preview to unexpectedly quit Improve support for IPv6 Improve VPN reliability Identify and remove known variants of Mac Defender
Date Added:Jun. 23, 2011
Price:Free; $29.00 to buy
Downloads Last Week:573
|Publisher web site||http://www.apple.com/|
|Release Date||June 23, 2011|
|Date Added||June 23, 2011|
|Category||Utilities & Operating Systems|
|Subcategory||Operating Systems & Updates|
|Operating Systems||Mac/OS X 10.6 Intel|
|Downloads Last Week||573|