Apple Mac fans, rejoice! Tomorrow’s Mac OS X upgrade, aka ‘Snow Leopard’ at only $29, is Apple’s lowest priced upgrade ever. Us faithful deserve it, don’t you think?

Despite the discount price, there is plenty of new goodies, glossiness and features to get excited about. With all the improvements, low price and ease of installation, it’s easy to recommend.

Snow Leopard contains re-worked plumbing and behind the scenes changes that will enable it to support the next generation of technology including 64-bit multicore processors. It ultimately will mean speed and power for end users.

Future proofing is yet another bonus, thanks to Apple’s continuous emphasis on innovation.

New desktop pictures and screen savers
New desktop pictures and screen savers

Unlike Microsoft, Apple relies on the honor system for licensing. Thankfully, you don’t need to key in serial numbers—nirvana for folks who like to re-install the OS, or experiment with different configurations. Apple charges $29 for a single license, and $49 for a family pack which allows you to install Snow Leopard on up to five computers in one household.

On the enterprise side, the biggest new feature is support for Exchange server (Microsoft’s system for email, calendaring and contacts). This could be a huge step forward to helping IT departments at large companies integrate environments where PCs and Macs most co-exist.

What others are saying

4.5 out of 5. 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.

Washington Post
Snow Leopard, Apple’s lowest-priced OS update in eight years, is a great value, and the biggest no-brainer of an upgrade since Mac OS X 10.1.

“Apple will now get nearly two months to market their offering, which is in market, against Windows 7, which is not in market,” Rob Enderle Computerworld

The best 5 features: 1. ActiveSync and Exchange 2007 support, 2. Exposé integration in the Dock, 3. Automatic location detection, 4. The new Preview is more like Adobe Reader, 5. Movie and screencast recording, 6. Systemwide automatic text replacement, 7. No more gesture segregation

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).

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

4 out of 5.
Intel Mac users will like Snow Leopard’s smartly designed interface enhancements, and its Exchange support is a must-have (especially with Outlook for Mac on the way). With a ton of technological improvements, Snow Leopard is worth the $29 upgrade fee.


Excerpt from a comprehensive report from Gizmodo demonstrates a significant performance with most tasks (although, oddly, not with third party applications, which I don’t understand):

Apple's results show significant improvement
Apple’s results show significant improvement

After some benching on a first-generation MacBook Air, an older MacBook Pro 15 and a pair of current-gen 13-inch MacBook Pros, it’s clear that Snow Leopard is faster—sometimes drastically—but almost never in third-party applications. Some people like charts. If you feel like skipping them, here’s a summary:

• In preview, where opening six 35MB 20,000-pixel-wide images of Tokyo’s cityscape each took half the time in Snow.
• Safari’s javascript processing, using Snow’s specific tech, is about 40% faster—useful for all those Ajax-heavy websites we all use now.
• Time Machine backed up a 1GB dataset nearly 40% faster than on Leopard.
• There was no discernible improvement in non-optimized 32-bit programs: Photoshop testing and Handbrake DVD ripping times were identical. High-def playback on QuickTime 7 (not the new QuickTime 10 version) was identical in CPU usage, too.
• Synthetic benchmark results were interesting: The aging Xbench app, which tests everything from graphics to disks to memory, took a slight performance dip, implying older software may, too. Geekbench, a multicore optimized, newer benchmark available in both 32- and 64-bit saw a lift on Snow. But the test is only focused on theoretical CPU and memory performance, which may not translate into every day use

TUAWGetting ready to upgrade

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) has an article that can help you prep for the big day tomorrow, including how to backup your files, and what to buy in advance. If you’re waiting, might be a good idea to do as much research as possible to keep everything running smoothly:

“My preferred process is a bit more hands-on: first I shut down my iMac (after putting the new DVD in!) and disconnect everything from it except the keyboard and mouse. I call this “minimizing the variables.” Then I reboot and hold down the alt/option key and choose the installation DVD (you probably don’t have to hold down the alt/option key but it shouldn’t hurt anything). Then I go through the options very carefully. When I am installing a totally new version of the OS, I do an Erase and Install. Would Archive and Install work? Almost certainly, but I take it as a good time to do some “spring cleaning.” Then I sit back and wait.”

Read the entire article at TUAW: Getting Ready for Snow Leopard: Installation Options, Backups, and What To Buy

Mac OS X Snow Leopard vs. Microsoft Windows 7

The early word on Windows 7 (and there has been plenty with the extended beta) is overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it’s difficult to find anything negative about the new release. How many times have you been able to say that about a major Microsoft software release (Vista…).

Many will argue that Microsoft is lifting features (especially the look & feel) from Apple’s famously easy-to-use OS. But, on the other hand, you could also say that Apple is returning the favor by implementing enterprise class features such as Exchange support. Is OS X becoming more business, and Windows 7 more fun?

One thing is certain: Apple fans love OS X, and Microsoft fans love Windows 7 (so far). It’s doubtful either will make a switch based on performance or sex appeal, as both choices are terrific. There was a time when Apple users had to sacrifice application choice, watching their PC friends install all kinds of fun stuff that they could not. Those days are history. Especially with the cloud and Web 2.0 applications, it’s increasingly less important what OS you’re running.

Here are some the best comparisons we could find:

Snow Leopard Versus Windows 7
Neither Windows 7 or Snow Leopard try to reinvent the wheel, but both pack notable new features, large and small.

Snow Leopard versus Windows 7
Both Windows 7 and Snow Leopard are solid updates to the respective operating systems, but I can’t say either one by itself will make someone want to jump ship and cross to the other side. If you’re perfectly happy with Windows, Snow Leopard probably won’t make you lust for a Mac. Likewise, if you’re a Mac user and weren’t considering switching to Windows before, Windows 7 isn’t likely to change your mind.
Microsoft Windows 7 vs Apple Snow Leopard
Both Apple and Microsoft are launching new operating systems this autumn. We take a look at some of the key features of Windows 7 and Snow Leopard.

Snow Leopard Early Release Puts Pressure on Windows 7
Bajarin predicts that, despite Apple buying itself some time, Windows 7 will still be successful, mostly because of the percieved failure of Vista and desire among Windows users for something better. “Apple can try to use this transition time to get Windows users to switch, but Microsoft’s domination in the PC market will continue to be strong with Windows 7,” he says.