Should you upgrade to Snow Leopard?

OS X updates always induce a frenzy of early adopters – people just have to have the latest version. But not everyone should upgrade. There are still a few Macs out there that really should go no further than Tiger (10.4). How do you know whether you should upgrade or wait until you get a new Mac?

Now that OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is steaming towards it’s release date, which should be within the next few weeks, let’s take a look at whether it’s an update for you or not.

What Snow Leopard really is:

Snow Leopard is a “refinement” of 10.5 Leopard. What this means is that in lieu of giving you tons of new features (and charging $129), Apple decided that Snow Leopard was going to be a “refinement” of all the annoying things Leopard does or doesn’t do (and charge $29).

Such “Refinements” are:

– A snappier and more responsive Finder.
– Faster icon preview refreshing
– 64 Bit support.
– MS Exchange support.
– Scrollable Stacks.
– An organized grid Exposé view.
– Faster Time Machine backups.
– Faster sleep / wake / shutdown.
– Faster wake when using Screen Locking.
– Faster wireless network joining.
– 45% faster installation.
– Smarter installation – Application checking, power outage recovery.
– 6GB less bloat than 10.5 Leopard.
– A new, better version of Quicktime
– Multitouch Chinese character input.
– Less iChat overhead, lower bandwidth requirements.
– Improved and intelligent Services menu.
– Auto time zone location.
– Auto printer driver update / installation.
– PDF text selection.
– Better disk eject – less errors and annoyances.
– Restoring deleted items to the original location.

Snow Leopard’s Requirements:

– An Intel Mac.
– 1GB RAM.
– 5GB of free Hard Drive space.
– DVD Drive

Additionally the following requirements are necessary for certain features.

– A compatible video card to use Open CL.
– 64 Bit processor for 64 Bit support.
– Multicore processor for Grand Central Dispatch
– Exchange Server 2007 with SP1 Update Rollup 4 for Exchange support.

Should you upgrade to Snow Leopard?

Obviously, those with PowerPC Macs will be unable to upgrade and personally, I feel that anyone with a PPC Mac should stay with Tiger (10.4). But let’s consider the Intel Models. Now, any model released after November 2007 was shipped with Leopard and won’t run anything below 10.5. Since Snow Leopard is a “refinement” of Leopard, by all means upgrade.

The MacBook Pro’s from Summer 2007 and on also will happily run Leopard and should be “refined” with Snow Leopard.

The tricky situation is with the earliest of Intel MacBooks, iMacs, Minis and MacBook Pros. It boils down to this: If you’ve already upgraded to Leopard, meaning Leopard didn’t ship with your Mac, and everything runs smoothly for you then you should consider upgrading to Snow Leopard.

If you’re still on Tiger or have the first generation MacBook/Pro/iMac and are not happy with Leopard’s performance then save yourself the hassle and downgrade to Tiger. Your older Mac is nearing the end of it’s life (4-5 years) – Save the cash for a new model in a year or so. It’ll ship with Snow Leopard and you’ll get a new Mac, not a bad combination..

Also, depending on how much RAM your system has could make a huge difference. The earliest MacBooks came with only 512MB RAM. Leopard will choke with only 512MB and a few apps running. I’d say upgrade the RAM but if your laptop is pushing 4 years with 512MB, just downgrade to Tiger and save for a new one and get more RAM next time. (But don’t buy it through Apple).

So in a nutshell, here’s the recommendation:

If you are running Leopard, and aren’t using a PPC Mac or a 2006 model with 512MB RAM, upgrade to Snow Leopard. It’s basically a huge fix for all of 10.5’s annoyances. Part of me really feels like Snow Leopard is just a “Service Pack 2” for Leopard but it’s worth the upgrade.

That said, don’t get Snow Leopard the day it’s released. Wait a few weeks and see if any issues pop up. If they are major, wait for the 10.6.1 (bug fix) release. As much as Apple wants the launch to go without issues – there always are.

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