Hello Kitty–A Snow Leopard Review Roundup
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, the latest iteration of Apple’s operating system, arrived at market today–about a month earlier than originally anticipated. And while it doesn’t really deliver the GUI enhancements we’ve come to expect from Apple (AAPL) and some incompatibilities are riling people up, Snow Leopard’s under-the-hood improvements and price point appear to have struck a chord with critics. Below, a selection of early reviews:
Overall, I believe Snow Leopard will help keep the Mac an appealing choice for computer buyers, and I can recommend it to existing Mac owners seeking more speed and disk space, or wanting to more easily use Exchange. But I don’t consider Snow Leopard a must-have upgrade for average consumers. It’s more of a nice-to-have upgrade. If you’re happy with Leopard, there’s no reason to rush out and get Snow Leopard.
The changes here are modest, and the performance gains look promising but beyond the built in apps, just a promise. If you’re looking for more bells and whistles, you can hold off on this upgrade for at least awhile. But my thought is that Snow Leopard’s biggest feature is that it doesn’t have any new features, but that what is already there has been refined, one step closer to perfection. They just better roll out some new features next time, because the invisible refinement upgrade only works once every few decades.
Here’s the thing about Snow Leopard, the single inescapable fact that hung over our heads as we ran our tests and took our screenshots and made our graphs: it’s $30. $30! If you’re a Leopard user you have virtually no reason to skip over 10.6, unless you’ve somehow built a mission-critical production workflow around an InputManager hack (in which case, well, have fun with 10.5 for the rest of your life). Sure, maybe wait a few weeks for things like Growl and MenuMeters to be updated, and if your livelihood depends on QuickTime you might want to hold off, but for everyone else the sheer amount of little tweaks and added functionality in 10.6 more than justifies skipping that last round of drinks at the bar–hell, we’re guessing Exchange support alone has made the sale for a lot of people.
Snow Leopard is Apple’s lowest-priced OS update in eight years. Granted, it’s a collection of feature tweaks and upgrades, as well as under-the-hood modifications that might not pay off for users immediately. But the price of upgrading is so low that I’ve really got to recommend it for all but the most casual, low-impact Mac users. If you’ve got a 32-bit Intel Mac (that is, one powered by a Core Solo or Core Duo processor), the benefit of this upgrade will be a little less. But for most Mac users, especially the kind of person who reads a Web site devoted to the subject, the assorted benefits of Snow Leopard outweigh the price tag. I’d pay $30 just for the improved volume ejection, the ability to create services with Automator, and the improvements to the Dock and Exposé–though I admit I’d pay slightly more to not have the misguided QuickTime Player X as a part of the package. If you’re a user who connects to an Exchange server every day, upgrading to Snow Leopard really is a no-brainer. For everyone else, maybe it’s not quite a no-brainer-but it’s awfully close. Snow Leopard is a great value, and any serious Mac user should upgrade now.
Impressive and important, it’s an update that will revitalize your existing Mac even though you’ll be stumped for a quick five-minute demo that convinces the people around you that much of anything has changed at all.
In my experience, Mac OS X was already a superior operating system to Windows. With Exchange and other technologies, Snow Leopard adds bite, especially for business. But as upgrades go, this one is relatively tame.
If you’re already running Leopard, paying the $30 for Snow Leopard is a no-brainer. You’ll feel the leap forward in speed polish, and you’ll keep experiencing those ‘oh, that’s nice’ moments for weeks to come. If you’re running something earlier, the decision isn’t as clear cut; you’ll have to pay $170 and get Snow Leopard with Apple’s creative-software suites–whether you want them or not. Either way, the big story here isn’t really Snow Leopard. It’s the radical concept of a software update that’s smaller, faster and better–instead of bigger, slower and more bloated. May the rest of the industry take the hint.