Apple OS X 10.7 Lion review

Price when reviewed

Little treats

Some of Lion’s features are ones we’ve been hankering for. The new Mission Control view acts as a sophisticated successor to Exposé, showing a clean, single-screen view of the dashboard, all your Spaces and a clustered view of open windows and applications. You can add and delete Spaces from here, too – a thoughtful touch.

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion

Elsewhere, AirDrop introduces an effortless way to transfer data between Lion-equipped Macs using an automatic ad-hoc wireless connection. It’s the sort of simple yet brilliant idea for which Apple is feted, and one we hope Windows will emulate.

Time Machine can at last write backups to local storage. Finder and application windows can now be resized from any edge, not only from the bottom-right corner. And it’s finally possible to create a recovery partition for emergency OS reinstallation – just as well, since Lion is only available as a digital download from the Mac App Store.

Not every change is a success. System-wide spellchecking ought to be a boon, but Apple has chosen to implement it by replicating the simplistic (and much-ridiculed) Auto Correct feature from the iPhone and iPad. If you use a scrollwheel mouse you’ll also find the default scroll direction has been reversed – an ergonomic disaster. We turned off both features right away.

Overall, though, Lion’s new features are overwhelmingly positive – and include many additional refinements to the Finder and bundled applications. Mail, for example, gets a new widescreen-friendly layout, while Safari gains a download manager and improved stability thanks to Chrome-style process separation. File Vault can now encrypt entire disks, including external volumes. And the Migration Assistant can at last help you copy your personal files across from a Windows PC.

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion

Split personality

With Lion, Apple clearly aims to bring the OS X experience closer to iOS. Presumably the idea is to make the platform more alluring to iPhone and iPad users, and vice versa. But the iPad-type features feel uncomfortable and bolted on. They might make sense on a future MacBook with a touchscreen and a low-power processor, but on current hardware they merely muddy the OS X interface and contribute little to usability.

Yet Lion is far from a failure. It feels every bit as snappy as Snow Leopard and, with the benefit of hundreds of small enhancements, it feels more flexible and mature than its predecessor. The Auto Save feature alone is worth the pocket-money upgrade price. And when you consider one purchase entitles you to install it on all of your authorised Macs, Lion is clearly a no-brainer for anyone running Snow Leopard (a prerequisite for upgrading).

Indeed, since Lion resolves several major gripes that have traditionally put off Windows users – including any-edge window resizing and full-screen applications – we suggest anyone curious about switching should take a look too. Lion makes the transition to the Mac platform smoother and more tempting than ever.


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