Snow Leopard: 1st impressions

by postbreak

SnowLeopardSo it’s been about 24 hours since I installed Snow Leopard and I thought I would share my thoughts. Luckily I made a Time Machine backup before I tried installing since my drive got completely formatted due to a third party hard drive utility I won’t name. The installation took about 18 minutes since I first imaged the DVD to one of my external hard drives like I did with Leopard. Now lets dive into the nitty gritty.

My initial complaints with Snow Leopard are quite trivial. The intro movie goes unchanged from Leopard, and the only notion that you are actually installing the latest and greatest is a wallpaper change on the installer. The box art contains a snow leopard right out of a clip art bank which is kind of embarrassing from a Mac users point of view. The Windows fanboys are going to have a field day. Luckily this is where most of my complaints end.

QuickTimeX

QuicktimeX

QuickTimeX

QuickTimeX seems to be a great improvement from a visual perspective. This is one of those application updates that really trims the fat, which is both good and bad in my mind. First the UI changes are much welcomed. You can now watch your videos without any distraction from a box surrounding the video or useless UI. The control bar comes up in an instant when you need it, and then disappears just as fast. Opening QuickTimeX is very fast even on my three year old MacBook so chances are it’s faster on your Mac.

There are some downfalls to this new release. Editing video with QuickTimeX is now mostly absent besides simple trimming. Gone are the days when you can go in and copy an audio track from something, and paste it into a video to mux it together. Oddly enough this appears to be one of those iMovie updates since you can still install the older QuickTime build for these missing features.

Expose

Expose

Expose

Expose has been updated with some nice features this time around. You can now access specific applications in Expose instead of simply all of your open windows. You can hide a specific application’s windows inside its Dock icon and then access those windows from Expose. This all sounds somewhat confusing but once you start to figure these little tricks out you start to use them more and more.

Sadly with these new whiz-bang features Expose slowed down on my Mac. What used to be snappy movements have turned into slideshows. I have no one to blame considering my video card is a GMA950. If I had discrete video card instead of this abomination, and Expose was still slow, I might start whining.

Finder

Play media in the thumbnail

Play media in the thumbnail

A nice new feature is the ability to play certain media files right within the thumbnail. So far I have been able to play movies, music, and even PowerPoint slides right from inside the icon. On Leopard loading these thumbnails seem to take ages and forget about scrolling when you have the icon setting checked. Now you can scroll vast amounts of icons with virtually no lag. I’m able to scroll from top to bottom of my Applications folder in icon view with seemingly no lag. Quicklook also seems much faster. Gone are the days when you have to wait for Quicklook to generate the preview for your media (except for High Definition video which is moot). I’ll buy that for a dollar.

Power

ActivityMonitor

A better heart rate

One of the most boasted features of Snow Leopard is the performance increase. I can attest that under the hood the OS feels much faster. When my MacBook awakes from sleep the wireless connection is restored within a second or two, something that seems insignificant yet is a nice touch. Preview opens documents faster, Ram usage is lower, Snow Leopard has a smaller hard drive footprint, I could go on. Shutting down my Mac, even with iTunes open, takes 4 seconds flat. Unfortunately I don’t see any boot up improvement.

GUI

So the Snow Leopard has some much improved GUI enhancements. The Dock is starting to embrace a HUD style contextual menu of sorts, unfortunately Finder has yet to get this gloss. The AirPort icon on the menubar now displays the network strength level. There are many changes that seem undocumented such as complete UI overhauls such as the Firewall Preference Pane, Audio MIDI Setup, and Finder’s Contextual Menus. Below you can see a few screenshots containing some of the new changes. Also the screenshot utility has a pleasant change, it now adds the date to the screenshot instead of “Picture X”.

Airport Menu

Airport Menu

Firewall

Firewall

Conclusion

So is Snow Leopard worth the money? Since it has been confirmed that the $30 upgrade disc works on any Intel Mac regardless of what’s running on it, then yes. If you purchased Leopard the $30 to get this performance boost is a steal. This build is what Leopard should have been in the first place, but we all know that would have been an unrealistic goal. As someone with a Core Duo Mac it’s nice to see that I too am seeing performance improvements. I’m sure there are features I didn’t touch on but I wanted to mention the ones that I liked the most.

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