Snow Leopard Review Round-Up

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Awesome, yawn-worthy, or a bit of both? The bottom lines are in... Ed Baig at USA Today:
Snow Leopard isn't a must-have upgrade. There's not much new in the sizzle department. Many feature enrichments are modest, such as the ability to highlight text from a specific column in a PDF. The fine Safari 4 Web browser is also included, but you don't need Snow Leopard to get it. Apple does say the browser is faster and more crash resistant. (My iMac did crash once in my testing.)... Still, Snow Leopard should delight Mac fans...
Brian X. Chen at
This upgrade won't deliver any radical interface changes to blow you away (not that we would want it to), but the $30 price is more than fair for the number of performance improvements Snow Leopard delivers. Stay tuned for's full review of Snow Leopard as we continue to test it over the week.
Jim Dalrymple at CNET:
We think the interface tweaks to Expose, Stacks, the Finder, Mail, and iCal make Snow Leopard more than just a service pack and worthy of the $29 upgrade price... Though the system performs well in everyday use, many of our tests indicate it is slightly slower than the older version of Leopard in more intensive application processes. Still, we highly recommend upgrading for all the new features and Microsoft Exchange support.
Andy Ihnatko at Chicago Sun-Times:
...the price represents perhaps the most emphatic middle finger that Apple's ever extended towards Microsoft's general direction. In the past five years, Microsoft has done far less with Windows than Apple has done with the Mac OS.
Galen Gruman at InfoWorld:
When a new OS upgrade costs $29, you can be forgiven for thinking of it as a service pack... an under-the-hood upgrade whose new capabilities won't be so obvious to users, and thus not worth the usual $129. I agree with that price assessment (if only Microsoft had made the same judgment about Windows 7), but I don't agree that what Snow Leopard offers resides merely under the hood. Instead, it provides many enhancements and some new features that Mac users of all persuasions will really like.
Randall C. Kennedy at PC World:
"Where's the beef?"
Brian Lam at Gizmodo:
Some fanboys will ask, incredulously, "This is a new operating system?!" Those people are missing the point. On deeper inspection, Snow Leopard's inconspicuous aspects--performance squeezed from underused CPU multicores/GPUs and basic UI tweaks--are found to be the kind of refinement generally reserved for virtuosity. These speed optimizations are deep, reminding me of when a master martial artist puts the entirety of his weight behind a strike (while a neophyte would flails his limbs like a henchman in a Bruce Lee movie). The little UI tweaks are no different than when a great sculptor's chisel works to remove everything non-essential during the final steps on a statue.
Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal:
Apple already had the best computer operating system in Leopard, and Snow Leopard makes it a little better. But it isn't a big breakthrough for average users, and, even at $29, it isn't a typical Apple lust-provoking product.
David Pogue at the New York Times:
Incredibly, Snow Leopard is only half the size of its predecessor; following the speedy installation (15 minutes), you wind up with 7 gigabytes more free space on your hard drive. That, ladies and gents, is a first... That Snow Leopard's looks haven't changed at all, in other words, betrays the enormous changes under its pretty skin... 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.
Jason Snell at Macworld:
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.
Peter Svensson at AP:
For most Mac users, Snow Leopard will likely be a no-brainer upgrade, given the low price. But early upgraders often face minor bugs and installation problems, so unless you're dying for one of the new features, waiting a month or so is a safer course... So how does Snow Leopard compare to Windows 7? Snow Leopard's benefits will be most apparent down the road, while Windows 7 promises more of an immediate payoff.
Joshua Topolsky at Engadget:
...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... If you're still on Tiger, well, you'll have to decide whether or not you want to drop $130 on what's essentially a spit-shined Leopard, but if you do decide to spend the cash you'll find that the experience of using a Mac has changed dramatically for the better since you last upgraded.
photo by Tambako
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48 Responses to Snow Leopard Review Round-Up

  1. Chris Borthwick says:

    All you high-hat apple folk boasting ’bout your flash Power PC chips. I’m just going to sit over here in the corner with my Classic.

  2. Earle Martin says:

    I’m nominating Brian Lam for the Order of the Brown Nose.

  3. F_D says:

    As the discussion has been going around our office: “An upgrade only a developer could really and truly love…”

  4. Mark Sigal says:

    My money is on Snow Leopard having some unannounced functionality that is important to the Tablet and/or new ways that Apple will better bridge the distinctions between MacOS and iPhoneOS computing models

    The assumption here is that Apple wants/hopes/needs everyone to upgrade to take advantage of something unannounced, and are pricing the upgrade accordingly.

    Here’s a post on my analysis:

    Analysis: Apple June Quarter Earnings Call

    Check it out if interested.


  5. Tom says:

    Depends how you spin the quotes:

    “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.”

    Wired (not their full review):
    “the $30 price is more than fair for the number of performance improvements Snow Leopard delivers.”

    “I don’t agree that what Snow Leopard offers resides merely under the hood. Instead, it provides many enhancements and some new features that Mac users of all persuasions will really like.”

    PCWorld is Calacanis, Arrington level linkbait

    “With a ton of technological improvements, Snow Leopard is worth the $29 upgrade fee.”

    “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.”

    Mossberg writes so well he doesn’t have a quotable section :)

    This Snow Leopard will get better with time. Gizmodo has it right:
    “OS X Snow Leopard seems to do nothing really new. And yet, it could be their most important OS since 10.0.0.”

    10.6 is as much about what’s to come. 10.6 was built for the next generation of Macs, and be compatible with the current set.

  6. mdh says:

    Mark Sigal @ 11 – My money is on Snow Leopard having some unannounced functionality that is important to the Tablet…


  7. funwithstuff says:

    This isn’t over until John Siracusa has his say.

    (Oh, and Quartz Composer improvements? Yay!)

  8. newbill123 says:

    A 15-20% speed improvement without a hardware upgrade? Adding baseline malware pattern-matching to the existing OS sandboxing feature? A unified direction for future hardware and software development (64bit intel) without abandoning anyone with a (still warranty-eligible) Mac today?

    Sounds quite reasonable for $30. The lack of must have features means I’ll deploy it on my own schedule… But I will deploy it…

  9. sworm says:

    Monolingual gets rid of the ppc stuff, and saves the space for 0$.

    I like that they didn’t add extra glitter.

    It’s like car companies who add chrome and ugly styling to a new model, so that people know they’ve got the new version. Bwek.

    It’s what’s under the hood that matters.

    (car metaphors are probably wasted on bbg readers aren’t they?)

  10. James says:

    My main concern is whether i’ll see an increase or decrease in performance. Will snow leopard benefit older macs? I’m using a 2.4ghz core2duo santa rose model mbp. When I first had this laptop, tiger was already installed and later on down the road I upgraded to leopard. I noticed that things weren’t as snappy as or quick as the previous OS. I’m wondering if snow leopard will be the same. I keep hearing “newer technology”, and “quicker speeds” but I’m assuming that only newer macs will benefit from this?

  11. Kit says:

    Remember, guys, Snow Leopard also can see up to a “theoretical’ 16 terabytes of RAM. Or did we all forget Apple’s odd gloat on their 10.6 page, a few months ago?
    Also, Boot Camp 3.0 – worth it for me, personally. What else? Open CL – Hey, I get 11 more frames per second on my Unibody Macbook, when playing SECOND LIFE.

    But what does Snow Leopard REALLY do for ME? It’s better …WORLDS BETTER… with my Mishkin ram I put in six months ago. Leopard, after a while, started causing my computer to stay in suspend mode forever… Snow Leopard has fixed this issue after a 15 (more like 17) minute upgrade. My battery life is the same as before but, rather strangely, is better when running Windows 7.

    OH YEAH, and OSX 10.6 actually connects to my cell phone via Bluetooth. Leopard couldn’t manage that. As soon as I finished the update, it discovered the phone and I paired it successfully for the first time.

    I get more out of my 4 gigs of ddr3, now. Oh, yeah, and the foot print is smaller. That’s always pro.

    Seriously, guys… anyone bashing 10.6 seriously forgot that they don’t HAVE to upgrade. Apple is NOT phasing it out the way Microsoft is phasing out XP by refusing to make updates for it ever again once W7 hits the stores. SO STOP WHINING! :D

  12. bblack says:

    Wonderful the Right Price means everything…we love this new piece, bring it on…

  13. VR says:

    Technically not even an “update”. The $29 disk will install on a completely blank hard drive, with no other pre-existing OS found.

    Which leads me to believe what others have said – something is coming that will require 10.6.

  14. Alan says:

    I’m getting it, mostly ‘cuz I’m running Tiger and am skipping Leopard all together. Unfortunately, that costs more than $30.

  15. Anon Anonymous says:

    Meh, reviews. I’m going to wait until John Siracusa’s comes out in Ars.

  16. Madmolf says:

    i agree with Benjamin Allison#18 and others :
    64 bit and multi-core implementation are a big step forward. Parallel processing at the OS level is what is giving it a step forward in the way OSs work. Read this explanation from Intel’s chief software evangelist (Giz Explains: Snow Leopard’s Grand Central Dispatch).
    Now how those reviewers got their jobs is lost on me too.

  17. BaS says:

    @ Alan check around on that, (not a mac fan at all, but I like to keep up with new info)glancing over at an article ( while technically not legal (as they state) if you’re running Tiger on an Intel based Mac, you can get the $30 upgrade to work for you (non-Intel based [ppc]and it’s a no-go)

  18. sworm says:

    You know, an OS is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman.

    It’s what you put inside that matters.

  19. I can not wait to install it

  20. Yeah, proper 64 bit and multi-core implementation and a GPU/OpenCL framework are minuscule upgrades.

    How do these reviewers/columnists get jobs?!

  21. Alan says:

    @Bas – I saw that later, but it’s okay. My wife wants the new iLife for projects she works on, plus I have three machines to update. Still a more expensive, but I actually like getting the dvd’s instead of remote updates – I feel like I actually bought something. That’s why I also support my local record shop and buy cd’s instead of using iTunes. Maybe I’m just old…

    @Woid – Amen.

  22. ginshirou says:

    @WEBMONKEES #2: In your case, take solace in the fact that the only real upgrades appear to be processor-use upgrades that you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of, and saving some disk space.

    Congratulations! Apple forced you to save $30, which you can put into a bank account for an mini, which would be arguably more powerful than anything but a quad-core G5.

  23. semiotix says:

    I’d just like to acknowledge the diligence of the BBG editors in finding a picture of a yawning snow leopard to accompany this article.

  24. Adam says:

    If you live in a world with Exchange Server 2007, it’s worth the $29 to be able to not use Entourage or OWA and still have your calendar work.

  25. Jonathan Badger says:

    I can’t believe how little is made of the long due Exchange compatibility. This is *extremely* important. Essentially all corporate e-mail/calendar systems are based on Microsoft Exchange — even even a fair number of academic systems as well. Yeah, you can bitch and complain that they shouldn’t be, but it’s true. Finally, Mac users can access them directly rather than using the crappy Web interface.

  26. gyffes says:

    Monolingual, however, can and will cause problems when updating M$ Office. In fact, it will cause updates to crash.

    Don’t use Office? You’re doubly fortunate. But if you rely on Office, avoid Monolingual.

  27. Mark D says:

    Around here (a 100-odd person office with mostly macs) we are excited about the Exchange integration. No more Entourage. No more Outlook in Parallels…

    That PCWorld article is clueless.

  28. I am really glad that Apple took the incentive to “tone down” their next os. The trend of continually throw on features for each major update is unsustainable and will eventually lead to bloated apps/oses that have a memory footprint to say the least. I really hope that with this new trend of slimming down their products (Windows 7 is a similar story) there will be more of a conscious effort to keep these programs from ballooning out of control.

  29. Mystech says:

    Welcome to the first step in paying for Service Packs. Snow Leopard is little more than “frog in the boiling pot” exercise to acclimate OS X users to paying for incremental updates that should be free, down-loadable parts of the ongoing operating system support obligation by Apple.

    Look, I enjoy a new, updated operating system as much as the next guy and I’m the first to admit that several in the past have really delivered, but I don’t think that was the objective of Snow Leopard from the beginning.

  30. Enochrewt says:

    #14: That car metaphor wouldn’t be wasted on a six-year-old.

    The Exchange support makes me heave a huge sigh of relief, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned away co-workers because they wanted their work email in something beyond a browser window on their personal Macbook.

    I haven’t heard anything about playing nicer with AD and Windows Server 2003, but that’s on my wishlist too. Thankfully the Macs at work aren’t my department, but it seems like hell on wheels to keep them attached to the domain. Or maybe our Mac guy is incompetent (Hmmmm….)

  31. Chris Schmidt says:

    “It’s the radical concept of a software update that’s smaller, faster and better — instead of bigger, slower and more bloated.”

    Ignoring the whole Apple discussion, this is a concept the folks at MS (and most developers) should print out and stick up on the wall.

  32. xsuperstore says:

    install linux, ubuntu, opensuse…. and do the same job.

  33. Ictus75 says:

    I think the most important aspect of Snow Leopard is the full use of the 64-bit architecture and finally utilizing the the CPU’s power. People need to think long term here and look at what 3rd party software companies will be able to offer when they update their programs to take advantage of this. Also, the ability to finally use mega amounts of RAM will blow things open for video/photo and other big RAM users.

    And as mentioned before, what does Apple have up their sleeve for the near future in new/improved products that will take advantage of these and other possibly unknown parts of Snow Leopard?

    As for the few PPC users who are crying foul for being left behind – We all new the day was coming when the PPC platform would be unsupported. I have both PPC & Intel Macs and just realized the future is now, today. My PPC Macs will still work for years to come, but really, why would I want to upgrade them anymore???

  34. thecraftygeek says:

    The PC World comment looks as informed as ever!

    For me the main reasons for upgrading will be the pdf text selection & the ability to re-order mailboxes in mail….really these should have been in the OS a while back, but hey ho.

  35. webmonkees says:

    That 8 Gb of savings comes at the cost of PPC owners sighing and getting ready for the garage sale to scrape together enough for an intel Mac.

    Ah well, just put the last upgrade in, and only 512Mb left to stuff in the old machine.

    So that, as a PPC Mac user, is my review of Snow Leopard:

    “This upgrade is incompatible with this processor.”

    Thanks Apple. Think I’ll go for a hackintosh next round and build it into a G5 tower. Nyah.

  36. Andrew Z says:

    There are a bunch of new Quartz Composer features added, unadvertised by apple and unnoticed by the above reviews (or at least in the excerpts).

  37. Jonathan Roberts says:

    Did anyone else think that David Pogue’s review stood out from the crowd here… as being the only one so full of hyperbole and praise to make it seem, in a not insignificant way, biased?

  38. zikman says:

    ah quit complaining about PPC incompatibility. how long are they supposed to support it anyhow? intel came in around four years ago. four years! that’s like half a century in tech years.
    besides, all the reviews say that the upgrade isn’t absolutely necessary. the improvements will mostly be visible as time goes on. that should give you enough time to start thinking about getting a newer mac.

  39. Anonymous says:

    It’s 64 bit and that has huge implications for the future (like allowing for enormous amounts ram)

  40. woid says:

    [Sworm @33]

    …and Windows is like making love to a woman who looks like Steve Ballmer.

  41. F says:

    Your old PPC Mac is just dreadfully slow compared to a new Mac. If you use your computer on a regular basis and your time is worth more than zero, it is well worth upgrading to a new one.


    Same job? How is that possible with NONE of the applications.

    CS4, Logic, Final Cut… software I use every day with no decent equivalent for Linux, etc.

    If you’re programming open-source software, or only using open-source, Linux is great.

    If you’re doing anything else in a professional capacity and trying to use Linux, you don’t have a prayer.

    Nice try though.

  43. lolmonkees says:

    @webmonkees : Buy a new Mac already you cheap bastard. And if you can’t afford it – get a job! :P

  44. Anonymous says:

    @zikman: Time to explore the free alternatives?

  45. chris says:

    Im going back to Windows

  46. Dave Ross says:


    Your Core2Duo is a 64-bit capable chip, so you’ll see some performance & stability improvements. Your Santa Rosa MBP probably has an Nvidia 8600M GT graphics chip, meaning you’ll be able to take advantage of OpenCL when apps start using it.

  47. WOAH PAY FOR LESS says:

    So if I read all these reviews right:

    You get to pay almost $30 for no other appreciable changes but 7GB free disk, a slight speed slowdown, but the neat ability to select PDF text and reorder mailboxes.

    Whoohooo! That’s got to be worth it!

    Or you could buy a really old disk with 7GB, and run a program that ups your CPU load. Probably cheaper too.

    Apparently a no-brain-hysteria-bug is transmissible through a sip of snow leopard juice.

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