- Editor's Rating
- It's free to upgrade from Snow Leopard or later
- Improves on weaknesses in Mountain Lion
- Full Screen capabilities on multiple displays
- Some aesthetic updates seem arbitrary
- Underwhelming design
Quick TakeYou can't go wrong downloading OS X Mavericks on your Mac. It will speed things up, address some Mountain Lion issues, and best of all, it's free.
OS X Mavericks is the latest operating system from Apple and, while it isn’t as drastic of an upgrade as iOS 7 was for mobile users, it brings some notable new features and upgrades to Macs.
The official list of new features in OS X Mavericks tops 200, but TechnolgyGuide has outlined the top features you should know about.
When first firing up OS X Mavericks, one might think the update didn’t install. But that’s just because aesthetically, the OS remains more or less the same as Mountain Lion. However, one may notice speed improvements with start up, applications, and web browsing. That’s because Apple introduced a new compressed memory feature built into Mavericks that uses RAM more efficiently.
When a Mac’s memory starts to get bogged down, the Compressed Memory feature will evaluate running applications that haven’t been used in a while. It then compresses the memory until the user needs it again later. Apps that aren’t in use go into “nap” mode, so when unused apps are running, they won’t slow down the system or drain battery life.
TechnologyGuide tested Mavericks on a late 2010 15-inch Macbook Pro with 8GB of memory and 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor to see if this helps older hardware, which might need a little boost. There was a noticeable difference in load times with Safari browsers and when waking the notebook from sleep. With Mountain Lion, if the notebook had gone into hibernation, it took a while for programs to start responding when the lid was reopened. Testers found that with Mavericks, even on the older machine, there was about 40% less lag time before the notebook woke up.
Keeping in line with Apple’s attempts to boost performance, Mavericks lets users quickly see which running apps are affecting battery life. By clicking the battery icon in the menu bar, users will see apps listed in descending order of biggest battery hogs. From here, you can also close out apps you know you won’t need, to help keep your Mac running longer before its time to find an outlet.
TG found the battery charge held longer than it did with Mountain Lion, and those with a newer machine will probably see an even bigger improvement. It is hard to tell if the battery life was better because of Mavericks, or because it was easy for testers to quickly see what apps could be closed to save battery, but either way, it’s a significant and useful improvement.
One of the most welcomed features in OS X Mavericks is the improved multiple display experience. Mountain Lion introduced the new full-screen mode, which let users click on the arrows on the upper right hand corner to send an app or window into full screen. However, this hindered the user experience with dual screens, since sending anything into full-screen suddenly sent every display into full-screen mode.
Mavericks fixes this, so that only the display running the active application is sent into full-screen mode. TG was pleased to see this issue addressed, but it is still frustrating that users had to go so long before they could accomplish something so simple.
Even better, in Mavericks, each display also features an independent dock and menu bar that will not affect other displays. Instead of just an extension of the main display on the MBP, each external display becomes a functioning desktop. This makes it easy to stream a show on Netflix on one display, in full-screen, while working away on another display. And when viewing each desktop in Mission Control, you can now drag and drop the icons of running apps from one display onto another display so it will automatically open on the respective screen.
Mavericks supports multiple displays over Airplay with Apple TV, so any HDTV can become another monitor. Users need at least a mid-2011 iMac, mid-2011 Mac mini, mid-2011 Macbook Air, early-2011 MacBook Pro, or late-2013 Mac Pro for AirPlay compatibility with Mavericks.
Previously, Keychain was something unique to Mac desktops, but Apple introduced Keychain to the cloud with Mavericks. Now users can approve devices to automatically store passwords and login credentials, so that logging into websites only takes the click of a button with OS X and iOS.
Safari can also generate passwords that are difficult to hack, which usually means they are also hard to remember. With Keychain, users won’t have to worry about committing strong passwords to memory, adding an extra level of security to their online accounts. It may not be an exciting feature, but it works, and it’s a good way to avoid having to type in passwords on iOS devices for frequently visited sites.
The native Apple web browser has received some underwhelming visual updates in Mavericks. The top sites, history, bookmarks, and reading list have received a makeover with a grey and white design resembling iOS 7. The bookmarks and history are a bit easier to navigate than in the past, and the expandable lists of history, sorted by date, look very similar to Firefox. Safari 7 also has a new feature also seen in iOS 7 called Shared Links, which lets users share links to Twitter and LinkedIn. TG felt that Safari appeared to be more or less the same as previous versions, save for the differences in bookmarks, history, and top sites. The biggest difference was with performance and speed, as Safari loaded pages faster than in Mountain Lion.
A new Safari feature called Power Saver suspends plug-in ads located in the margins of websites, so they won’t automatically play. When a user hovers over the stationary video, an option pops up that will let the user play the advertisement if they wish. TG found this feature to be small but useful, since those pesky ads that play automatically on websites were suspended. No more hunting through windows and tabs to find where that one obnoxious ad is located.
Finder received some updates, including tabs, the ability to merge windows, drag to create new windows, custom view tabs, and tags. With tabs, users can now have more than one Finder window in a tab format, similar to a web browser. Users can also drag tabs out so that they become a new window or users can opt to merge all open windows together. Tags allow for better file organization, and users can set categories with specific names and colors. This makes it easier to keep documents, photos, music, and other files easy to find.
There is now a desktop app for Apple Maps, so users can search for directions on their desktop, and then send them via email, iMessage, or directly to an iOS device. It also syncs with the calendar, verifying address saved to events and calculating travel time into the user’s schedule. TG found this useful, but only if you use Apple Maps; Google Maps fans will still have to go to the browser and send directions that way. But for anyone that doesn’t mind using Apple Maps, it’s nice to have a dedicated app.
Notes, Contacts, Calendar, iMessage & Reminders
The Notes, Contacts, and Calendar apps have all received cosmetic makeovers that are reminiscent of iOS 7. Apple has also improved compatibility with contacts synced from Google, so that any edits made to contacts will update on both Mac and Gmail across devices.
Visually, the Reminders and iMessage are the same as they were in Mountain Lion, with the iOS 6 design.
TG found the lack of aesthetic updates to these apps strange, considering the other apps mentioned all received cosmetic updates in line with iOS 7. iMessage is the same, except now you can add an Emojii keyboard, like on iOS. Updates to the Reminders app include more sorting options that can be pushed through iCloud, a list of reminders scheduled for today, and reusable reminders and lists for users that regularly enter the same information into the app. These apps did not receive anything too exciting outside of a little more continuity with iOS (except for design).
iBooks and Newsstand
Mavericks brings iBooks and Newsstand to the desktop, allowing users to read and manage their digital books as well as newspaper and magazine subscriptions. iBooks works similar to the Kindle desktop app, and it lets users see all their downloaded books and sync notes, highlights, furthest read page, and more across all iOS devices. It also includes features such as Study Cards and automatic citations, which are useful features for students.
iBooks is a great feature for students that want to download the digital versions of their text books. It lets you highlight, take notes, create flash cards, and more all from the desktop application. TG didn’t find much use for it outside of academics, but it will definitely help out those looking to ditch heavy text books.
Hey, It’s Free
At first glance, Mavericks seems underwhelming at best, especially considering the most exciting feature might be that they fixed the issue with full screen mode on multiple displays. But that is because most of the important updates are under the hood, with noticeable improvements in speed and better streamlining with iOS. With that being said, TG finds it odd that only some apps received updates similar to iOS 7, yet the Reminders app still features the black and white design of iOS 6.
Undoubtedly, TG found that the best part of Mavericks is the fact that it’s free, even if you haven’t updated since Snow Leopard. You can skip past the last two OS X versions and go straight to Mavericks without updating a thing. Overall, Mavericks fixes a lot of the frustrations users saw with Mountain Lion, without adding any new annoyances to the list. It won’t revolutionize your Mac, but it will help it run faster, stay more organized, and take away any headaches with multiple monitors.