Snow Leopard evaluate

Snow Leopard review

Snow Leopard. Even the identify appears to underpromise — it is the primary “huge cat” OS X codename to reference the earlier model of the OS, and the listing of massive-ticket new options is seemingly fairly brief for a model-quantity leap. Perhaps that is why Apple’s priced the ten.6 improve disc at simply $29 — appearances and expectations matter, and there is merely not sufficient glitz on this kitty to warrant the standard $129.

However beneath the customary OS X match and end there’s a number of new plumbing at work right here. The whole OS is now sixty four-bit, which means apps can tackle large quantities of RAM and different duties go a lot quicker. The Finder has been completely re-written in Cocoa, which Mac followers have been clamoring for since There is a new model of QuickTime, which impacts media playback on virtually each degree of the system. And on prime of all that, there’s now Change help in Mail, iCal, and Tackle Guide, making OS X lastly play good with company networks out of the field.

So you will not discover a lot new if you first restart into 10.6 — aside from some minor visible tweaks right here and there there’s simply not that a lot that stands out. However in a means meaning the strain’s on much more: Apple took the weird and considerably daring step of slowing function creep in a serious OS to concentrate on velocity, reliability, and stability, and if Snow Leopard does not ship on these fronts, it isn’t value $30… it isn’t value something. So did Apple pull it off? Learn on to seek out out!


Snow Leopard


  • Huge efficiency enhancements
  • Ahead considering change to sixty four-bit
  • Painless set up


  • Incompatibility with purposes and plugins
  • QuickTime modifications not all constructive
  • No improve path for legacy customers


Set up

Snow Leopard review

Apparently sufficient, set up is likely one of the few elements of Snow Leopard that is dramatically totally different than earlier variations of OS X. In contrast to Microsoft’s delicate nudges in the direction of clear reinstallation of Home windows 7, Apple’s fairly pleased with the brand new 10.6 installer, which upgrades in place, quarantines incompatible apps and plugins in an “Incompatible Software program” folder, and boots you proper again up with little to no consumer effort. Significantly, you simply stick within the disc, open the installer, enter your password and go — that is it. You do not even should reboot off the DVD. In fact, that made us slightly uneasy, since we have all the time chosen Archive and Install to get a recent OS, however you’ll be able to’t have chilly ft right here — that choice’s been eliminated. We have been informed it is now the default motion behind the scenes, however the backside line is that you need to belief the installer greater than ever earlier than — and whereas we did not have any main issues, it might be good if we might drive a brand new set up of the OS with out having to wipe a disk.

Set up itself took about forty five minutes on a lot of the machines we tried, though we did run into some snags as soon as issues have been full. We did not have any issues with the extra pristine MacBook Execs in our fleet, however considered one of our manufacturing machines is a cranky older iMac that is been in fixed use for over two years with no system rebuild, and when it restarted the desktop footage have been all set to the defaults, the System Preferences app would not launch from the Apple Menu, our MobileMe sync states have been somewhat confused and Highlight started reindexing all of the exterior drives. Fixing these issues did not take a lot, but when your machine is already appearing up do not anticipate every thing to go completely.

Different set up notes: We have been promised 6GB of storage financial savings with 10.6, and Apple greater than delivered — we obtained anyplace from 10GB to a whopping 20GB again after set up. Rosetta is not put in by default, so in the event you’re nonetheless rocking some legacy non-Common apps you will need to ensure and set up it. Printer driver set up is far smarter, putting in drivers just for these printers you’ve got used prior to now and printers that seem in your native community. We do not know why Apple continues to insist on putting in language translations by default, however they are much smaller now at 250MB.

General, putting in Snow Leopard is rather like putting in another main OS replace: it really works nice, besides when it does not. The method itself is ok (in reality, Apple has even inbuilt some safeguards to allow you to decide up an set up in case your pc dies or is shut off half approach via), however it’s the little kinks you must work out afterwards that may be tough. If you have not loaded up your system with hacks and tweaks likelihood is you will be high-quality — and when you’re dwelling on the sting, properly, you are in all probability used to performing some additional work round improve time.

UI enhancements

Dock Expose

Snow Leopard review

Earlier OS X releases have introduced main UI options like Expose and Dashboard with them, however there’s nothing that main in Snow Leopard, though the varied tweaks to the system are definitely appreciated. The most important new function is Dock Expose, which, as you’d anticipate, merely hyperlinks Expose to the Dock. Holding down on an app’s icon triggers Expose for that software’s home windows, and when you drag a file onto an app, you’ll be able to then choose which window you need to drop it into. It is undoubtedly good, however it’s not earth-shattering. This is a bit of video of it in motion:


Snow Leopard review

We have by no means been big customers of the Stacks function, however it’s been tweaked and is far more usable in 10.6 — so long as you are utilizing grid view, which is now scrollable and provides the power to drill down into folders identical to a Finder window. All the opposite views are primarily the identical — and for no matter cause, dragging a file onto a stack icon does not open the stack, however as an alternative opens a Finder window. Whereas we’re with reference to folders within the dock, clarify this nonsensical operation to us: command-clicking a stack icon does not open the folder (as you may anticipate), however as an alternative pops open the enclosing folder. This counter-intuitive (and admittedly irritating) glitch has been round since Tiger — and we do not know why. This is some video:

Finder file previews

We’ll get to the large Finder modifications shortly — the Cocoa rewrite undoubtedly improved issues — however the huge UI tweak right here is reside file previews. Meaning you’ll be able to watch a video, flip via a doc, and usually peek at issues with out having to open an app and even hit the area bar for Fast Look. It is fairly useful — however once more, not earth-shattering.

And… that is actually it, so far as UI modifications go. There’s another minor stuff, like higher PDF textual content choice in Preview, new glass-look menus for the Dock, and alphabetical / per-app window group decisions in common Expose once you press command-1 or command-2, however general it is all extraordinarily iterative and incremental — welcome, to make certain, however not main. The brand new Finder, then again, is each main and greater than welcome.

Notable app modifications


Snow Leopard review

It is arduous to elucidate how dramatically improved the Finder is now, as a result of there’s nothing externally totally different past these file previews and an icon-measurement slider in icon view. Suffice to say that the Cocoa rewrite has merely made issues higher: opening folders with hundreds of things is instantaneous and scrolling is simply as quick; community connections are snappier; and the whole lot hums about with primarily zero lag. Positive, all of the previous Finder quibbles like inconsistent home windows states and people damned .DS_Store information are nonetheless there, however belief us — velocity cures all ills. No less than till we dump one other couple thousand information into the system and sluggish issues down once more. QuickTime X

Snow Leopard review

Just like the Finder — and, actually, all issues with Snow Leopard — QuickTime X is a set of main modifications wrapped in seemingly-minor interface tweaks. Though the large change for customers is the “darkish” interface with a title bar and controller strip that disappear throughout playback, beneath QuickTime has been completely rewritten with hooks into trendy OS X elements like Core Video, Core Animation, and Core Audio. That does not imply a lot when you’re simply enjoying again an MP3 or a single video, however keep in mind that QuickTime is greater than an app — it is all the media layer for OS X, so the Snow Leopard rebuild could have huge penalties down the road.

That stated, there are some notable modifications with QuickTime Participant: there is a new display recording software (we made all of the movies on this publish with it), you possibly can report proper off your constructed-in iSight, and there is a new iPhone 3GS-like “Trim” device to chop your movies quick.

That shiny title may come at a steep worth for a few of us — at the least at first look. QuickTime Participant X has definitely added some welcome new choices for many, however for QuickTime 7 Professional customers, issues get slightly complicated. Should you’ve already received Professional in your system and do a straight set up, you will find yourself with the usual new QuickTime — which suggests plenty of what you are used to shall be lacking. Hell, there is not even a preferences dialog — so say goodbye to presenting films on a unique monitor, or selecting a default full display setting. The modifications additionally means you can’t do fast’n’soiled edits by copy-and-pasting anymore (a favourite of Engadget editors), and export choices have been lowered to presets for iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, MobileMe, and YouTube.

On prime of that, some QuickTime-dependent apps look like they want a rewrite to work appropriately — we could not get our Turbo.264 HD keep on with perform, and different QuickTime packages we tried appeared equally harassed. Oh, and people display recordings? They’re encoded with some mixture of H.264 and AAC audio that did not play good with Viddler out of the field — and YouTube’s uploader refused to load beneath Snow Leopard (we had quite a lot of server errors), so we ended up importing all these screencasts from a Home windows machine. That will not be the case for all, however it was for us.

This would possibly not be an excessive amount of of a problem for customers who’re sticking with the essential QuickTime performance, however for these of us who’ve turn into accustomed to Professional, it might be a bit of shock. Apparently, Apple tell us that you would be able to truly re-set up QuickTime 7 Professional from the Snow Leopard disc (and out of your Utilities folder, oddly), however should you hop proper into an ordinary improve, it is amazingly straightforward to overlook (we did on a number of techniques).

Safari four

In case you’re considering of upgrading to Snow Leopard on day one, likelihood is you are already operating Safari four, since it has been out there since June. The large modifications in 10.6 are (clearly) sixty four-bit help, which right here interprets into a lot quicker Javascript efficiency, and a brand new browser plugin structure that runs particular person plugins as separate situations. Meaning if a plugin like Flash crashes it will not take the entire app down with it, however sadly, we weren’t capable of check it — for perhaps the primary time ever, we could not crash a browser. Hopefully our good luck rubs off on you. Change

Snow Leopard review

By any measure, an important new networking function of Snow Leopard is constructed-in help for Microsoft Change in Mail, Tackle Guide, and iCal. Since we’re not heavy Trade customers, we cannot go in-depth right here — our man Michael Gartenberg has acquired you coated there — however in our fast exams we discovered setup to be easy and the mixing to be flawless. It is onerous not to take a look at how properly Snow Leopard integrates with Change and see precisely why Microsoft determined to kill Entourage and convey a correct model of Outlook to the Mac, however that is not occurring for an extended whereas — till then, we expect OS X customers who want Trade might be fairly completely satisfied.


This is the place it will get a bit of tough. Though Snow Leopard is ostensibly only a polish and restore job on Leopard, there’ve been sufficient modifications underneath the hood in order that loads of issues are more likely to break — or a minimum of not play good. As with the set up, for those who’re operating a inventory or shut-to-inventory system, you in all probability will not run into any issues, however should you’ve acquired a setup as tweaked as most of these within the Engadget labs, you are going to run into some points.

Snow Leopard review

The most important compatibility-breaker is the demise of InputManager plugins in sixty four-bit apps, which suggests issues like Unsanity’s Software Enhancer framework and Safari plugins like 1Password and Glims at the moment are damaged (or no less than not likely enjoying good). InputManager plugins have had an extended and sordid historical past, with many claiming that they are unstable hacks constructed on what’s primarily a safety gap, however now that they are gone the one factor to fret about is the best way to exchange all of the utilities and purposes that depend upon them — 1Password’s builders are already beta-testing a ten.6-suitable replace, however we do not know how one thing like Chax will soldier on. In the event you’ve received a essential workflow that depends upon an InputManager plugin — and though that is all the time been a nasty concept, we’re positive a few of you do — then we might advise holding off on the ten.6 improve till you’re employed one thing out, since we noticed some random freak-outs (just like the one pictured) once we pressured Safari into 32-bit mode to run 1Password.

We additionally observed issues with previous standbys like Growl, GrabUp and Skitch — actually clutch go-to purposes that appeared to buckle underneath the sixty four-bit noise. Though we might begin them in 32-bit mode, nothing appeared to work precisely proper, and we’re fairly positive we noticed Growl making off with a ton of free reminiscence once we weren’t wanting. We additionally had hassle getting our Dash Novatel U727 3G stick working, though our Verizon card was nice. Once more, we’re positive all of that is going to be up to date, however in case you’re like us, the bugginess will show maddening at occasions — sufficient to make us contemplate ready out the improve on a few of our different machines.

There have been another head scratchers we noticed on numerous methods, too. On a 17-inch unibody we have been placing by way of the paces, the WiFi inexplicably has gone out and we now have but to get it working once more. On a 15-inch, older era MacBook Professional (three,1), Concentration is going to solely fetch search leads to the dropdown — leads to a Finder window come up empty. Extra annoyingly, on two different, newer fashions we have been testing with, Safari crashes out when booting into 32-bit mode — which means even Apple’s workaround does not appear to… er, work.

That is the dangerous information, although. The excellent news is that the majority of our common, non-plugin, non-third-celebration-framework, non-hack apps labored simply positive. Workplace, Photoshop CS3 and CS4, Tweetie, Firefox three.5, Ableton, Fluid — you identify it, it ran and not using a drawback. Like we stated, for those who’re operating issues near inventory you are going to be high quality, however we are likely to package out our rigs with a ton of little hacks to actually velocity up our workflow, and that is the stuff that is damaged in Snow Leopard. It is as much as you to determine the place on that line you fall earlier than you decide to the improve.

General velocity and stability

Compatibility with our numerous hackeriffic plugins apart, we discovered Snow Leopard to be simply as secure and free from main grasp-ups as Leopard. That cranky iMac we put in it on appeared to perk up a bit, and whereas we do not assume something will ever make Firefox really feel completely secure, we definitely did not expertise as many beachballs or different hangups whereas operating 10.6. So sure, subjectively issues appear quick and dependable, and the brand new Finder makes day-to-day utilization appear positively zippy — and the target benchmarks are likely to again that up.

Snow Leopard review

As measured by XBench, Snow Leopard impacts each Mac a bit in another way, however the primary consequence is identical: uncooked CPU efficiency goes up barely, whereas the graphics numbers go down — OpenGl efficiency particularly takes an enormous hit. We’re unsure if this is because of our model of XBench not enjoying properly with Snow Leopard or one thing else solely, however we did not discover any slowdowns whereas we truly labored — or performed slightly informal CoD4. We’re not deep into the benchmark scene, so we might anticipate some hardcore marks to hit earlier than you race into fanboy battle with these numbers — for now, simply know that Snow Leopard definitely “feels” a bit of snappier than Leopard.


Snow Leopard review

This is the factor about Snow Leopard, the only inescapable incontrovertible fact that hung over our heads as we ran our exams and took our screenshots and made our graphs: it is $30. $30! In case you’re a Leopard consumer you might have nearly no purpose to skip over 10.6, until you’ve got one way or the other constructed a mission-crucial manufacturing workflow round an InputManager hack (by which case, properly, have enjoyable with 10.5 for the remainder of your life). Positive, perhaps wait a couple of weeks for issues like Growl and MenuMeters to be up to date, and in case your livelihood will depend on QuickTime you may need to maintain off, however for everybody else the sheer quantity of little tweaks and added performance in 10.6 greater than justifies skipping that final spherical of drinks on the bar — hell, we’re guessing Change help alone has made the sale for lots of people. For those who’re nonetheless on Tiger, nicely, you will need to determine whether or not or not you need to drop $one hundred thirty on what’s primarily a spit-shined Leopard, however in the event you do determine to spend the money you will discover that the expertise of utilizing a Mac has modified dramatically for the higher because you final upgraded.

Replace: Within the unique model of the evaluate we famous that QuickTime 7 Professional wasn’t out there for Snow Leopard. In truth, the software program is out there as a separate set up on the disc itself and by way of the QuickTime 7 app within the Utilities folder.

 Feedback Disabled

Featured Tales
Examine Your Devices

Snow Leopard review

Immediately examine merchandise aspect by aspect and see which one is greatest for you!

Attempt it now →