To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £21
inc VAT

Not every new feature will please everyone, but Lion’s most contentious iOS touches can at least be turned off and it's a good value upgrade


With a new version of Mac OS X comes a new version of Apple’s bundled applications, and Mail sees the biggest overhaul. Apple Mail 5 is now a spitting image of the iPad version, which might delight iPad users who dislike learning curves, but the simplified vertical two-pane layout will drive anyone who uses email more seriously to despair. Fortunately, you can revert Mail to its classic look, complete with full lists of mailboxes and inbox folders, without disabling its other new features – some of which are genuinely useful. Drag a mailbox or inbox folder to the new Favorites bar and it can be opened with one click, which is useful for getting at a deeply nested subfolder, for example. The live search that displays results as the search term is typed is handy too, as is the new conversation view that displays all messages in a thread without having to expand it first.

Lion Mail

Unfortunately, the makeovers applied to two other key Mac OS X applications in Lion are much less successful. The clean, straightforward designs of both iCal and Address Book have been ditched in favour of iPad-like applications that pointlessly resemble their real-world paper counterparts and just look silly and out of place in Mac OS.

Although any new major operating system update is bound to upset the apple cart for some existing users, the bag of improvements gets more mixed the more you dig into Lion. The availability of more logical file and folder groupings in Finder is a welcome addition, but the iOS-style pop-up text autocorrect is a visual distraction and somewhat redundant with a full-size QWERTY keyboard — expect to appear any day now. A more useful steal from iOS is the ability to press and hold a letter key to see a pop-up list of accented alternatives, but the trade-off is that now the only way to type “oooooooooo” is to press the O key 10 times in rapid succession.

Lion keyboard

Apple’s removal of Front Row will irk anyone who uses a Mac Mini with an HDTV, or an iMac for work and pleasure, so you’ll have to get hold of an Apple TV for that. Rosetta, which provided support for Mac OS X PowerPC applications, has gone too, but it’s perhaps unrealistic to expect Apple to continue support for software designed to run on hardware it last made five years ago. More painful are the changes made to the SMB and AFP network protocols that cause problems for certain shared network resources, particularly NAS devices used for Time Machine backups. If you’re heavily reliant on such features, it’s best to check with the appropriate manufacturer about Lion support before upgrading.

You won’t have to worry about performance with the upgrade – when run on a brand-new 2.5GHz Core i5 iMac running Snow Leopard and then Lion, our benchmarks showed a small improvement in video encoding and multitasking, leading to slightly better overall performance – see the table below for the full comparison.

Lion benchmarks

So, on the whole, Lion is a success. The leaner, cleaner look is lovely and almost all the new features make using a Mac an even more pleasurable experience. The iOS influence does misfire in certain areas, but it’s entirely possible that everyone will simply adapt to them and then wonder what all the fuss was about in a few months’ time. In fact it will take at least a few months before the full Lion experience can be fully realised, since third-party developers must update their applications if they’re to exploit the new operating system features – Autosave in particular. Even now, though, Lion is a steal at £21 and certainly worth the upgrade.

Pages: 1 2 3


Price £21
Rating ****

Read more