OS X.6 Upgrade (Snow Leopard)

Normally I’m not an early adopter, but I just couldn’t resist the proposed speed enhancements of Apple’s new baby.  So just to see if it is worth the $29, I went ahead handed over the cash, loaded 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and recorded some [very unofficial] tests.


Overall, the conversion was an exercise in simplicity.  Lots of published articles exist on how it works and how to upgrade so all can do is confirm – it really is that easy.  Pop in the DVD, answer a few questions, come back after watching your favorite 1980’s era sitcom.  I have a mid 2008 MacBook Pro, 2.4 with the 8600M GT graphics card (256mb).  Total conversion time lasted just under 36 minutes.

When I was finished I went ahead and ran the daily, weekly, and monthly clean-up tasks to get any last minute clean-up out of the way then on to some benchmarking.

HDD Space

The first thing I was interested in was how much space could I reclaim.  The available disk space was reported as a whopping 12GB gain!  Gina Trapini reported today it might just be an ‘accounting change’, and I have to agree.  My ‘used’ disk space increased from 91.37GB to 93.54GB and yet I have have 11.55GB more space?!  A closer look reveals the capacity of the HDD is now being reported as 199.71GB instead of the 185.99GB reported before.  This is sad to me, as I thought the OS was actually 7GB smaller?

Reported HDD Capacity


Boot Time and General ‘Snappiness’

After I finished and OS X was back up and running, I recorded a few times of the software I most frequently use and timed the startup and shutdown of the machine.  Generally, the numbers reported the same; Boot Time was the same at 42.7 seconds, time to start Safari and to access my Gmail with all of the lab plug-ins was the same 5.3 seconds, it was actually quite a bit quicker to start a new Word 2008 document (14.6 versus 19.3 seconds) and, strangely, slightly slower with a fresh Excel 2008 spreadsheet (7.2 versus 7.0 seconds).  Also, I forgot to record times with my Adobe CS3 products, but they seem to load quite a bit slower on start-up.

I have the 8600M GT GeForce graphics processor, which is compatible with OpenCL.  Since the new Quicktime X is supposed to use these new technologies, I thought I would render a short video with iMovie ’09 using Quicktime and see what the results were.  The two-minute video I chose did render 12% faster with a time of 4:38 versus 5:16 using Quicktime Pro in 10.5.

Time To Render 2 Min Video in iMovie 09


Shutdown time increased by almost 40%.  Before I could move my hand off the keyboard the notebook was quiet and ready to travel.

Time To Shutdown


Final Thoughts

Overall, I believe most OS X users will be disappointed parting with their $29.  Why?  Because Apple users are accustomed to being blown-away by visual innovation every time Apple introduces something new.  No matter how many times Apple reminds us, this really is a refinement of the underpinnings.  I left the upgrade with a feeling of “okay…that’s it?”

If you use a lot of OS X features, you will notice a few subtle refinements that boost the overall polish of the operating system.  For example, if you use spaces, the movement from one workspace to the next now seems more fitting and smoother.  Stacks look and operate cleaner.  Four-finger track-pad gestures ROCK!  As a whole, the entire Mac experience also seems snappier.

Understanding that Snow Leopard paves the way for more architectural underpinnings (OpenCL, Grand Central Dispatch) that will make computers faster in the future, makes the $29 a little bit easier to cough up.  You’ve gotta start change somewhere, right?

One final thought: I noticed a comment on a public blog yesterday from a Windows sour-graper complaining about how Microsoft would have introducted this as a service pack and it would have been free.  Since when was the last time Microsoft rewrote the core underpinning of the entire OS and gave it away as a service pack?  Oh wait, they did that in 2007 when they gave away Vista for $319.  At least the ‘upgrade’ to the Windows 7 service pack will only be $219.


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