Apple OS X 10.9 Mavericks review
The latest version of OS X is the first to be named after a place – a surfing location in California – rather than a big cat. It’s also the first to be offered as a free upgrade.
Read our review of Apple’s MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display
That’s a change that benefits almost every Mac user, as support for Mavericks stretches back to mid-2007 hardware, and installing it’s as easy as clicking a button in the Mac App Store. The only catch is that you need at least 2GB of RAM and must be running Snow Leopard or later; if you’re running an older version of OS X, that upgrade will cost you £14.
You might worry that installing a new OS on ageing hardware will cause things to slow to a halt. In fact, OS X has remained impressively nimble since Snow Leopard, and Mavericks should be faster still, thanks to a new memory compression technique that reduces the system’s reliance on virtual memory. Apple claims this delivers a 40% improvement in responsiveness compared to Mountain Lion on a MacBook Air; on our early-2008 iMac, Mavericks certainly felt no less smooth than the Leopard OS it originally shipped with.
Mavericks also brings improved power-management features, including one – with the rather twee name App Nap – that automatically throttles CPU usage for background applications. According to Apple’s figures, this can reduce CPU power usage by up to 23%, promising improved battery life for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro users.
Mavericks comes with a few new apps that strengthen the relationship between the desktop and iOS devices. The first is a desktop version of iBooks, which makes a lot of sense for students in particular. Texts on your iPad or iPhone automatically sync to the desktop, complete with highlights and notes, so you can easily refer to them while revising or writing, and citations are generated automatically. Even for casual reading, it’s worth having: if your iPad battery is getting low, you can switch to your laptop and pick up where you left off.
There’s a desktop version of Maps, too; this doesn’t offer much benefit over existing web-based services, but it provides consistency with the mobile experience. A handy “Send to” feature lets you beam routes and landmarks to your iPhone or iPad, so you can refer to them on the go.
One more enhancement that’s worth mentioning is iCloud Keychain – an identity manager that stores your usernames, passwords and credit card details and synchronises them across your authorised OS X and iOS devices.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in third-party browsers, nor in most third-party iOS apps, as support must be specifically plumbed into the code.
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Operating system support
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