Mac OS X Lion – Review and comments, part 1

Mac OS X Lion review

It’s quite some time now since I upgraded all my Macs to Lion

. So, I think it’s appropriate to give some thoughts about it. First of all, I won’t go for an in-depth review, since this has been done extensively already by many websites and magazines out there. Instead, I’ll focus on the most important changes only. And I’ll break this in several parts to avoid a gigantic post that no one will read or go comatose while doing it.

First of all, system requirements. Although they haven’t changed much since Snow Leopard (in theory, any 64-bit Intel-based Mac can run it), I noticed that people with little RAM will struggle. Using it in a MacBook Pro 2GB installed isn’t a very pleasant experience – it’s very sluggish. With 4GB installed, the experience is good and will be sufficient for most people (it’s the setup I have in both of my notebooks, a 13” Pro and an 11” Air). If you are a power user, however, 8GB will be the new minimum for a smooth experience. In my 16GB iMac, it rarely uses disk swap. So, in short:

  • 2GB: not good
  • 4GB: okay for the majority of users
  • 8GB: okay for power users
  • 8GB+: the thing will fly 🙂

Next, installation. It’s distributed only via the App Store now, so you’ll have to have Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 installed. Apple will sell it in flash drives later in the year, but most people will either get it from the App Store or on a new Mac. Installation is very easy: download it from the App Store, then go to Applications and launch the installer. Wait about an hour and it’s done. Just in case, I recommend a Time Machine backup before installing. I haven’t had problems in any installations so far, but it never hurts to be on the safe side.

A tip: if you have multiple Macs, you don’t need to re-download it. After you purchase and download it, open the package (right click, ‘Show package contents’) and navigate to Contents/SharedSupport. You can use that InstallESD.dmg to create a bootable flash drive in Disk Utility and install it on your other Macs.

If you ever need to restore your system, don’t worry. The installer will create a new disk partition containing the system called Recovery HD that you can access through the bootloader later (by holding the option key during boot).

After the first boot, you’ll notice the system is very sluggish. That’s because Spotlight has to re-index your disk, and depending on the size of your HDD, it may take a few hours.

While using the computer, you’ll notice most of the changes are interface-wise. The most noticeable (and annoying) of them is the inverted scroll. It’s configurable, so if you don’t like it, you may turn it off in System Preferences. I decided to get used to it and spent a whole day at work complaining, but now it’s fine.

Speaking of scrolling, you’ll also notice that there are gestures to do a lot of tasks now, so if you don’t have a multitouch touchpad, you’re in trouble. I can’t see myself using this thing with a mouse.

Gestures will also give you access to Mission Control, which is the “Expose 2.0”, and also to the Launchpad, the new app launcher copied from iOS. I kinda like both, but I feel that some features are missing from Mission Control, like the ability of renaming desktops, which would help me in my multi-monitor setup with several virtual desktops.

Other interface changes include full-screen apps (useful for small laptops, like the 11” Air), no more scroll bars (because they don’t make sense with scroll gestures) and some cute but bizarre look to iCal and Contacts. One note: full-screen has to be supported by the app, so for now, few apps have support to it.

Continues on the next post…