First Look: Mac OS X Leopard

by Tanner Godarzi Oct 29, 2007

Leopard has pounced onto Macs everywhere, bringing forth a new set of features and many under the hood improvements. Cupertino’s new OS is more subtle than previous upgrades, relying more on appealing to developers and satisfying users with a visually appealing interface.

Upgrading & Installing Leopard

If you have not yet upgraded to Leopard or have setup your backup solution, please reference my Apple Matters’ Leopard Pre-Upgrade Guide Upgrading to Leopard is a simple process, although it is time consuming. Instead of performing an Archive and Install or even just a simple upgrade, I decided to erase everything and start from scratch.

Leopard’s Installer is identical to every previous incarnation, besides the new theme being reflected once you start upgrading. An hour later, Leopard was installed with everything besides additional fonts and languages, a whole 9 GBs. It isn’t too bad considering Tiger took the same amount of time on the same machine for me.

Is Your Mac the Hunter or the Hunted?

It’s been widely echoed that Leopard would be evolutionary and not revolutionary, which is evident once you upgrade your Mac. But there are still many changes; not all will be noted, but only the most important, the kind that would affect your buying decision of Leopard.

You may have read other reviews of Leopard which cite that it may be better to invest $129 dollars into a new Mac than upgrade your older computer. I am happy to report that Leopard runs flawlessly on my Mac Mini G4. Yes, a 2-year-old computer is more than capable of running Leopard, but there is no doubt it’d be much faster on an Intel Mac, specifically one with a 64 bit processor.

My test machine is a Mac Mini 1.25 GHz G4 stocked with only 512 MBs of RAM, but its graphics card is the Achilles’ heel. The included and devoid of any upgrades ATi Radeon 9200 with only 32 MBs of VRAM does not really hinder performance, but you’ll have to go without some minor visuals. Upon opening Time Machine you received a (Flickr Link) static image of glowing stars and galaxies sans the rear glowing vortex.

It seems Leopard has a built in mechanism that scales down graphics to accomodate slower graphics cards and may offload some of that to the CPU. When under very heavy strain, I found closing windows, launching Time Machine and Front Row, or even resizing the Dock, was somewhat laggy but not enough to bring everything to a standstill.

While you may enjoy the newly overhauled interface, Leopard doesn’t sport many new features that will shock you, not in the way Spotlight did when Tiger launched. But you’ll appreciate Leopard’s swiftness; it’s very fast, faster than Tiger on my Mac Mini.

In addition, Safari 3 is blazing and very stable. I’m a frequent user of and dread visiting any story with hundreds of comments in fear of my browser being brought down to its knees for an extended period of time. All that is gone, no lag or hiccups whatsoever.

A Lot of Under the Hood Improvements

In the scheme of things, Leopard is a very pretty upgrade, bringing some useful yet minimal features, but a lot of the major changes have been under the hood improvements. These generally range from making the Operating System faster, even on older Macs, to making developers ecstatic.

Leopard now fully supports 64 Bit processing, which only means good news for Mac users everywhere wanting to upgrade to the new OS. While I can’t say for sure how fast Leopard runs on a Core 2 Duo Mac, it’s still plenty fast on a 32 bit Mac.

Wrap Up

While that wraps up my first look at Leopard and early impressions, my full review will be up Friday and will delve deep into what the new OS means for developers and home users, plus go over many of the major and minor changes.


  • Apparently,Apple Leopard doesn’t include a spell-checker

    wyspa had this to say on Oct 29, 2007 Posts: 9
  • I can’t upgrade my iMac yet because of After Effects, but I might give Leopard a shot on my Mac mini just to check it out.  Good to hear that it won’t slow things down.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 29, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • The stance these major companies are taking on Software not working is just ridiculous. You’d think Adobe or any big Software manufacturer would use Apple’s Betas wisely to get a general idea of what to expect. Besides, Adobe can only delay the usage of Carbon for so long.

    Also just to note, I noticed in Safari 3, the very text box I am typing in right now is resizable.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Oct 29, 2007 Posts: 70
  • Tanner, a few questions about Time Machine:

    1) How much disk space does it require?

    2) Can you back up *from* any drive or only your system disk?

    3) Can you restore a TM backup to a different computer or drive? (For instance, when you get a new Mac and want to restore your data and applications to it)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 29, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Ahoy Chris!

    1) This is dependent of what you actually want to back up. Time Machine allows you to select what is not backed up but by default everything is backed up besides the backup drive itself. Time Machine will notify you of when you’re running low of space and Disk Utility’s non destructive partition resizing helps as well. For the initial backup Time Machine will backup your entire drive so in a sense it is mirrored. Subsequent backups on add what’s changed every hour.

    2) I honestly do not know the answer to this question as my Mac Mini only has one Internal and one external drive ready. I am assuming Time Machine will auto select all other drives not to backup and select only the system disk. Unselecting those other drives should force Time Machine to back them up but I cannot give you a definite answer. My test PowerMac should’ve been here but sadly it is not, I would’ve been able to tell you for sure.

    3) Yes you can. Via

    “To make setting up a new Mac even simpler, Time Machine shares its data with other Mac utilities. Use Migration Assistant to copy portions of any Time Machine backup to a new Mac, or select “Restore System from Time Machine” in the Leopard DVD Utilities menu. Choose any date recorded in Time Machine to set up your new Mac exactly as your previous Mac was on that date.”

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Oct 29, 2007 Posts: 70
  • Cool, thanks Tanner.

    (I’ve finally ordered mine. I think the dust has settled plus I will first install it on a free partition so I can retain my Tiger install until I’m happy.)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 30, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • You’d think Adobe or any big Software manufacturer would use Apple’s Betas wisely to get a general idea of what to expect. Besides, Adobe can only delay the usage of Carbon for so long.

    The problem with Adobe is nothing so superficial as not using the ADC distros wisely. Adobe has really serious cross-platform strategy issues and an absolutely enormous codebase.

    Benji had this to say on Oct 30, 2007 Posts: 927
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