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Review roundup: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

updated 03:45 pm EDT, Wed July 25, 2012

We gauge the tech-world's reaction to the new OS X

The new version of Apple's OS X, Mountain Lion, went live today. Users with $20 and 4.05GB of space can head to the Mac App Store to pick up the new OS, which brings greater integration with iOS, a new security system, and more than 200 other new features. The tech sphere is brimming with Mountain Lion reviews, and Electronista is taking a look at general impressions on the software.

Over at Engadget, Brian Heater praises the ease of the upgrade process, finding that it took just over half an hour to install on a late-2010 MacBook Air. The new Notification Center gets a look, as well, and the blog has little too positive or negative to say about it. Summing up, Engadget says that it's about time for Apple to make a bold statement in the desktop OS sector, and that Mountain Lion is well worth its price, even though many of its features feel like hand-me-downs from iOS.

ABC News has also taken a look at 10.8, and off the bat they've named it an "incremental" upgrade to the previous version. Safari is listed as a big improvement over its prior iteration, apparently feeling faster than Google's Chrome browser and with a wealth of new and compelling features. The sharing feature built into Apple's browser cuts much of the hassle out of social sharing, and the new interface elements receive positive marks. The dictation function also received positive marks, though it isn't yet totally ubiquitous. Ultimately, the "incremental" upgrade is said to be worth the price and effort, though the effort is said to be minimal.

In an exhaustive 24-page review, Ars Technica examines everything from the interface to iCloud to the Chess app in the new OS. The last of those has apparently gained support for Apple's online Game Center service, but gets no further comment. Game Center itself gets knocked for Apple's insistence on skeuomorphic design elements, which results in an "off-putting and vaguely insulting" parlor game-themed felt and wood interface. Ars sees the new Gatekeeper security system -- which is configurable but by default only allows for the installation of Mac App Store apps -- as a solid compromise that "leaves the door wide open to nearly all developers, while still providing expert users" with the option to install apps as they please. In a conclusion alluding to Christianity's Holy Trinity, Ars says that Mountain Lion more clearly shows the way forward for the Mac OS X platform, though iOS is apparently still at the center of Apple's attention.

In the Time review, 10.6 is deemed largely a completion of what started with Lion, "bringing a common set of features and apps to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad," all united through iCloud. Mountain Lion, according to Time, makes Apple's insistence on seamless hardware and software integration seem "fresh" all over again.

CNet praises the integration capabilities made possible by iCloud, as well as the sharing features and new capabilities added to core apps. Meanwhile, Game Center loses a few points for still having only basic features. Gatekeeper is deemed "mostly unnecessary," though it does keep users from downloading unsafe programs. Launchpad is said to be "gimmicky," though an understandable effort at carrying over the design aesthetic of iOS. Compared to Windows 8's new Metro UI, CNet finds Mountain Lion less compelling in visual terms. In all, though, the upgrade is said to be worth its price, and the new features earn the new OS a four star rating out of five.

TechCrunch's look at Mountain Lion begins by pointing out that it's not all that different from Lion. They find that the update does appear to bring much faster startup times, and that app compatibility is "surprisingly good," with no major problems stemming from the upgrade. Overall, Mountain Lion is said to be "the most natural step forward" in iOS-OS X convergence. Apple's approach to integration is deemed "much more refined" than Microsoft's Windows 8 gamble, and the upgrade on the whole is said to be "an absolute no-brainer" if one's machine is capable of running it.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog also sees Mountain Lion as a no-brainer, though users are cautioned against an immediate update. Better, TUAW contends, to wait until any potential bugs are identified and resolved, as Apple's updates occasionally contain nasty problems that slip past quality testers. The OS' Messages app is deemed "noble" but ultimately somewhat of a letdown due to some predictable failings in implementation. The AirPlay streaming feature is said to be easy to set up and to work fairly well. Overall, the new OS is said to not amount to anything "life-changing," but it is still worth the price.

Finally, longtime Mac stalwart John Gruber at Daring Fireball contends that Mountain Lion is best understood as "a step in a series of releases" instead of on its own. From Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion, Apple has been gradually introducing features aimed at tying its now-successful traditional computing line more tightly to its much more successful mobile computing line. Throughout it, Gruber says, Apple has retained a certain distinctness between the two offerings: "one for trucks, one for cars." In all, Gruber deems Mountain Lion a "nicer, more polished version of Lion."

The reviews are in, and seems that Apple's incremental approach to upgrading and converging its separate operating systems has resulted yet again in a broadly positive reception. The company may still be able to iron out a few wrinkles here and there, but -- according to the critics -- what they've released so far is well worth the the price asked and increases the utility of not only the Mac, but Apple's iDevice line as well. With the company soon to face increased competition from Microsoft and Google in the coming months, it's unknowable whether Mountain Lion will prove enough for Apple to continue its recent winning streak, but the new OS looks to be a solid, measured step in the right direction.

by MacNN Staff





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