Leopard could slow reflexes of older, less-capable Macs

APPLE A DAY

October 11, 2007|By DAVID ZEILER

When Apple releases Leopard this month (we hope), owners of older PowerPC-based Macs will have a tougher-than-usual decision to make.

Unlike new versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which invariably require much more robust hardware to run acceptably than the previous version, every successive version of Mac OS X has actually run faster on existing hardware.

Because of this, I have always advised Mac users to run the latest supported version of OS X on their Mac. But Leopard promises to be a cat of a different stripe. In addition to dropping support for certain older Macs, this operating system upgrade might not offer much of a performance improvement for PowerPC-based Macs. In fact, it's likely such Macs will suffer a performance hit.

Apple has yet to announce Leopard's system requirements, but the word at AppleInsider is that Macs with CPUs slower than an 867 MHz G4 will not make the cut. That includes not only every G3-based system, but also quite a few G4-based systems. My own 867 MHz 2001 Quicksilver Mac just barely qualifies.

According to AppleInsider, Apple engineers determined that Macs beneath the 867 MHz threshold ran "too slow" with Leopard. Red flag!

I strongly suspect Leopard will run more slowly than Tiger on all PowerPC systems, even supported ones. I say this because common sense dictates that Apple has spent the past two years concentrating on the optimization of OS X for Intel-based systems, since that's the present and future of the Mac platform.

That's good news for my Intel-based MacBook, which definitely will be getting the Leopard treatment. But I'm hesitant to put Leopard on the Quicksilver if it's going to degrade performance in any way and eat up more space on its already overstuffed hard drive. That leaves the dilemma of passing up Apple's latest and greatest to ensure a Mac that's running at peak efficiency. Ugh.

PowerPC Mac owners certainly can keep using Tiger or Panther until they're ready to upgrade to an Intel Mac. But even if your Mac runs much better under Tiger, it will be awfully tough to avoid those feelings of Leopard envy.

Do you plan to upgrade a G4 Mac that meets Leopard's requirements? Or will you stick with Tiger until you replace that Mac with an Intel-based machine?

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