Yesterday Apple unleashed the latest incarnation of OS X into the Mac ecosystem. Called OS X Mavericks, the new operating system brings with it a plethora of new features, from memory compression to an integrated maps app, all for the unbeatable price of $0.
Here at the PC Doc HQ there are a number of Macs who busily spend their days pulling their weight and earning their keep. They range from the diminutive Mac mini to the high end MacBook Pro. These aren't test systems or devices that we use occasionally, but work systems, with a broad assortment of attached hardware and installed software. But despite the fact that these are working systems, I decided to pull the trigger on downloading and installing the OS X new update.
Why not live a little?
However, since discretion is the better part of valor, I made sure that my system backups were in order. Since I keep both local backups made using Time Machine and several different types of off-site backup, I knew that all my settings and data would be backed up, but it still doesn't harm to check before starting the install process.
I needn't have worried, as the install was simplicity itself. I clicked on a button to download the 5.27 gigabytes that made up the Mavericks update, and then waited for that to come in. Once that was in, it was a matter of a couple of clicks to get the install process rolling, after which it was hands-off for about 25 minutes while the installer did its thing. Then came a reboot, and then after setting up the new iCloud keychain feature and binding they system to the relevant iCloud account, the install process was over.
I'd show you the steps involved but there really isn't anything to show. It's the quickest, smoothest, most hassle-free installation of a desktop system that I have ever carried out on a working machine. When the Macs booted back up, apart from two new icons in the Dock – Maps and iBooks – the systems looked just like they did before I carried out the install.
This is a good thing.
I appreciated not having to spend time relearning the basics because things had been arbitrarily moved, and I wasn't left scratching my head wondering where something that I previously relied on had gone. And there was no hair-tearing over drivers, or fooling around with settings.
It. Just. Worked.
Even all the apps I had running before starting the update were reopened, including a document I had in Word and all the tabs I had loaded in the browser.
This is exactly how upgrading a modern operating system should feel like. It gets done with the minimal of fuss and fanfare, and then the operating system steps aside and lets the user get back to work.
This is not to say that OS X Mavericks is just a rebadged version of OS X Mountain Lion. It isn't. The operating system feels faster and more fluid than previous incarnations of OS X. My tricked-out late-2012 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro feels significantly faster than it did the day I took it out of the box, and that's with a whole bunch of applications such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud installed on it. Heavy applications such as Adobe Photoshop CC or After Effects CC feel lighter, and switching between then is strikingly quicker and much smoother.
Not only that but after installing OS X Mavericks I have more free disk space, more free RAM, and an immediate and marked improvement on battery life.
I've carried out hundreds, perhaps thousands of operating system installations, and I don't expect much in the way of a performance bump. This is different. There's a familiarity to the system, so I know it's my machine, but the speed difference is substantial. Rather than an operating system upgrade, it feels like I've taken my Time Machine backup and loaded it onto a new MacBook Pro.
All this for $0.
I would have happily paid $29 for this. Or even $59. In fact, I've spent far more than that on operating system upgrades – specifically, Microsoft operating system upgrades – over the years and got far less in return.
This is exactly how upgrading a modern operating system should feel like.