Apple OS X 10.7: Lion review

After eight releases, can a new version of OS X still excite?

Image 1 of 4 Apple OS X 10 7 Lion appstore
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Image 4 of 4 Apple OS X 10 7 Lion misscontrol

For

  • Mission Control is excellent
  • Great value for money
  • Easy to install

Against

  • Some teething troubles
  • Questionable design decisions

Apple's OS X 10.7: Lion desktop operating system is packed full of exciting new features, not to mention it's twice as fast as its predecessor, the Snow Leopard. And at just over £20, it's cheap, too!

Apple has finally released its new and highly-anticipated desktop operating system, the OS X Lion. At £20.99, it’s as cheap as chips – Apple products are notoriously expensive – and has a myriad of new and improved features under its belt, as mentioned in T3’s run down of Apple OS X Lion features.

Apple Lion OS X: Updates

Unlike previous releases of Mac OS X, Lion isn’t delivered on a physical disc. Instead, you buy and download it directly from the Mac App Store and, in another surprising twist, you're able to install it on as many Macs as you own - all for a single payment of £20.99. Bargain.

However, you can only upgrade from its immediate predecessor, Snow Leopard. If you’re still running Leopard or earlier, you must first install OS X 10.6 before you can upgrade to OS X 10.7: Lion.

Several key OS X applications have been updated. Firstly, the iCloud for OS X Lion allows you to sync Mail and contacts, as well as to back up important files and documents. Secondly, Apple’s email client Mail boasts a powerful new search facility and threaded messages. Apple's personal calender application iCal and Address Book have undergone less successful overhauls, giving them graphical interfaces that make them look like their pen-and-paper counterparts. In 2011, such real-world metaphors are clumsy and unnecessary.

Apple Lion OS X: Features

The new OS X 10.7: Lion desktop operating system brings around 250 new features. When you shut down your Mac, Lion’s Resume feature means when you log in again it restarts in exactly the same state it was in when you closed down. Compatible apps relaunch, and windows reappear. Your Safari browser even reopens the web pages you were looking at.

Mission Control is an excellent overview of everything that’s running on your Mac, making it really easy to find open windows or to open new virtual desktops to cut down on clutter. Launchpad is an OS X-inspired application launcher that’s easy to use, but lacks configurability. Some apps have a Full Screen mode, a feature that Apple has integrated into Lion and made available for third-party developers.

Apple Lion OS X: Performance

As you’d expect, the new operating system has higher system requirements than its predecessor. While Snow Leopard ran on any Mac with an Intel processor, Lion demands a Core 2 Duo, Core-i series or Xeon; very early Intel Macs with Core Duo chips won’t run it. Lion demands 2GB of RAM instead of Snow Leopard’s 1GB, too.

Lion drops support for Rosetta, Apple’s dynamic translator that allowed applications written for the older PowerPC Mac architecture to run on Intel Macs. This means OS X 10.7 cannot run PowerPC apps; if you’re planning to upgrade to Lion, make sure you update or abandon any such software you currently have on your hard drive.

Apple Lion OS X: Verdict

Apple OS X 10.7: Lion is sleek and fast, and packed with exciting new features. Like most new operating systems, it’s not without its teething troubles. For example, the Full Screen feature only works on one display. If you’ve a second monitor, it can’t be used while you’re using an app in Full Screen on your main display. We hope this behaviour will be made optional with a future update. But as long as you have a Mac capable of running Lion, there’s no reason not to upgrade. New features like Resume, Mission Control and a revamped Mail make it a pleasure to use, and new multitouch gestures could revolutionise the way you interact with your Mac.

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion price: £20.99

Link: Apple