Round table review: OS X Mavericks
The editors and writers of iMore and Mobile Nations share their views on Apple's latest desktop and laptop operating system, OS X Mavericks
Last Tuesday Apple released OS X 10.9 Mavericks, the tenth generation of their modern desktop operating system. We've already published Peter Cohen's extensive OS X Mavericks review, but many of us have been using it for awhile now as well, some since the beta went live following WWDC 2013 in June. So, to bring you as many opinions as possible, we've put together a good, old-fashioned, Mobile Nations round table. Here's what all of us think of Mavericks!
Phil Nickinson, Android Central
I'm an update junkie. Can't help myself. And updating to Mavericks was surprisingly smooth. Proper dual monitor support and the battery life improvements (on the already excellent 2013 MacBook Air — thanks, Haswell!) are the big-ticket items for me. Notifications suck less. Finder tabs are nice to have, but (and I won't be the only one to mention this) they're pretty hidden. But maybe best of all — nothing broke.
As for the update cost, you can always go cheaper. It's tough to raise the price later on down the road, though. But for some reason I could see Apple releasing a major update next year, or the year after, and charging for it again. Apple can get away with it, right or wrong. This wasn't a small update, and I'd have had no problem giving up the usual $20 or so. That said, it's worth mentioning that the recent Windows 8.1 was a free update. Arguably it fixed more than it innovated, but whatever. It was free. Know what else is free? Linux updates. And Chrome OS updates. So maybe let's not break our arms patting Apple on the back just yet.
Chris Parsons, CrackBerry
I’ve been running Mavericks on my early 2013 Retina MacBook Pro since the developer previews were released and I’m pretty pleased with the final build. One of the biggest additions for me is the proper monitor support as I am always running dual monitors when I’m home. Finder tabs is also something that I’ll use a lot. Previously that was only available through third-party apps but having it built-in is great. iCloud keychain is interesting as well but I’ll need to explore it some more. Right now, I use 1Password and that works well for me. Finally, I can say I’m pleased with notifications on OS X. As cliche as it always sounds, how they work on Mavericks is how they should have worked all along.
Overall, Mavericks is nice though there’s still some quirks in it that I hope get fixed in later builds.
Jerry Hildenbrand, Android Central
Hallelujah. Tabs in my Finder.
The install went OK, but I could have lived without Maps and iBooks on my computer. They were easy enough to remove. I really would have liked a more modular and delta-style approach, similar to the way popular Linux distributions are done. That tends to make for less down time and is easier for the end-user. The good news is nothing I use regularly seems to have broken, which is always a risk when you update any OS.
I don't begrudge anyone making money from software development, but OS X updates should have always been free. You can't use it without a substantial purchase of Apple hardware, which carries high margins in the profit department. You're paying for the software development and more when you buy the hardware. I guess what I'm saying is that the software isn't a stand-alone product — it's more like a required accessory. Try buying a MacBook with no operating system on it and see if I'm right. I'm glad to see Apple come to their senses, and stop charging even a token fee for a software update.
Ally Kazmucha, iMore
The thing I have always loved about OS X updates is that they are incremental. It’s never too much at once. I pretty much installed Mavericks and kept working just as I was 30 minutes earlier. I remember being a Windows user and the shock you’d get when half your peripherals or drivers broke when you updated to a new version. Not to mention it almost always entailed learning a brand new interface. It was an all day fiasco and I don’t miss that one bit.
So far I’m happy with Mavericks. Tying social into OS X more and bringing more of the conveniences of iOS to my Mac make me feel like my workflow is more complete than it was a week ago. I love the Maps app and the ability to ping myself directions. iBooks is nice but not something I will really use other than storing PDFs.
I only have two general annoyances with Mavericks so far. Number one was the Mail app, which in all fairness is Gmails crap IMAP implementation. That was quickly solved by using Airmail instead. My biggest one is how it handles RAW image files. I take a ton of photos for iMore and previewing .NEF files has been painful and takes a long time to generate previews in Finder’s list view. I hope this is something Apple fixes quickly. Something was broke in this transition and it’s kind of a big deal.
Other than that, I’m plugging away just as I was in Mountain Lion and all its predecessors. Sometimes too much change at once is overwhelming and when it comes to my workflow, I prefer incremental updates I can grow with. Mavericks lives up to those standards so I’m happy with it.
Peter Cohen, iMore
Mavericks isn’t as flashy as iOS 7 - Apple didn’t rework the interface like they did with their mobile OS. As a result, I’ve read more than one review that calls Mavericks boring and disappointing. Of course, I think that’s superficial nonsense. Mavericks doesn’t need a major UI rework to be useful and good. The changes to Mavericks are largely incremental. They make sense and they add some utility and efficiency to the overall experience that should be welcome to Mac users.
Tabbed Finder windows make it much easier to move files than before, and tagging is a great tool to keep track of files that are important to you without having to build an intricate hierarchy of folders to keep them. Maps and iBooks are welcome additions that put the Mac on a level playing field with iOS devices to help get you to where you need to go and entertain you in your downtime. And Calendar has been reworked to be more like its iOS 7 cousin - a flat, minimal interface. That’s not to say that skeuomorphism has been flushed from Mavericks all together, though - Game Center still uses a felt table, for example.
Plus Mavericks makes some profound "under the hood" changes - improvements to efficiency and battery life that make Mavericks a better environment for users of Mac laptops. And Apple’s decision to make it free makes it a game changer. We’ve already seen evidence that the uptake of Mavericks has been much faster than Mountain Lion was. Why? People love free stuff.
Ultimately, when you buy an Apple product, you’re not just buying a computer, a phone, a tablet, or whatever - you’re buying into an entire ecosystem. That’s more obvious now in Mavericks than ever, because Apple’s sought to erase the lines between the Mac and iOS wherever it makes sense. Apple’s showing us that they finally understand cloud services in a way we haven’t seen before - iCloud is the glue that holds the different devices you’re using together. To that end, Mavericks' tighter integration of iCloud helps reassure us that Apple sees the Mac as important and vital a part of the ecosystem as ever, and lays the path for the future.
In what should be a huge surprise to absolutely no one, I haven't upgraded to Mavericks. I'm still running Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro (which I only use for podcasts now), and Lion on my MacBook Air (which I use for everything). That's right, the same operating systems that shipped on my hardware when I first bought it is the same operating systems I still use today. And you know what, they work for me!
Eventually I'll find the time and interest to update, maybe to Mavericks, maybe to a future version of OS X. Right now, I don't feel compelled to. That might sound unusual for someone otherwise into tech, but I'm sure I'm also not the only one.
Now excuse me while I duck and cover from your wrath!
Joe Keller, iMore
I love using OS X, and I'm always happy to install a new major release, and Mavericks was no exception. I use Safari as my primary browser, so the changes and improvements that have been made to Safari in Mavericks are very welcome, including the new Top Sites section, which is much easier to use, and the improved sidebar.
Apart from Safari, the quick-reply for notifications has been my most-used feature. It's really convenient, and I hope that it makes its way to iOS soon. The addition of a Messages button in Notification Center to quickly compose and send new messages is also a nice touch. After notifications, it's tagging. I may have gone a bit tag-crazy after Mavericks finished installing. Anything that makes moving files around easier gets a thumbs-up from me, so Finder Tabs is a nice addition as well.
Given that I buy most of my books from Amazon, I don't see myself using iBooks that much, though it's nice to have for the occasional iBookstore purchase. I'm enjoying having Maps on my Mac. I've never had major issues with Apple's mapping service, even back when it first launched, so it's addition to OS X is welcome, especially the ability to send directions to my phone.
I'm really happy with Mavericks so far. It's a solid update, and I encourage anyone who's thinking about getting it to go ahead and do so.
Richard Devine, iMore
I've been running Mavericks since the very first developer builds, and I've overall been nothing but impressed with it ever since. An iterative release perhaps, but that's a good thing to me, because Apple didn't change too much at once. I need my Mac for working, I need to be productive, so I welcome the familiarity.
I like the addition of Maps to the desktop, and it's actually drawing me into using Maps on my iPhone as well. I often do Map searches at the computer as it is, and having something there in my dock that will integrate with my phone is more useful to me than I initially thought it might be. The improvements to Finder are also a personal favorite, and I'm so happy I don't need to have multiple windows open now.
Perhaps the most exciting thing is the multiple monitor support. I haven't really put it to full use yet, but I have a 23-inch monitor on my desk that is crying out to be used in this way, but it's been plugged in to another computer recently. I briefly tried it during the dev builds and it impressed me, so I'm looking forward to deploying this in my daily workflow.
One thing that is bugging me is WiFi. Since updating my 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina to Mavericks, it has immense trouble staying connected to my home WiFi network. Perhaps just a bug, but one that wasn't present in Mountain Lion, so I'm hoping for a fix soon. All-in-all, it's a worthwhile upgrade, and since it's free, it really is a no-brainer.
Derek Kessler, Mobile Nations
So I installed Mavericks on my MacBook Pro within the first three hours of availability. Unsurprisingly the process was smooth (I was lucky and got a good download stream and didn’t have to wait too long). Because I have just the one primary computer I tend not to dabble in beta software for primary tasks, especially the operating system, so this was my first real in-use exposure to Mavericks. What’s the first thing I noticed? That reflections in the dock are more blurred than before.
Since I don’t (yet) have a multi-screen set-up running, most of the changes for me have been relatively minor. Notifications are more useful, and Notification Center itself is now less buggy to the point that I don’t feel a pang of regret if I accidentally trigger it (before doing so would seize up the Dock process and I could only switch windows by clicking on them with the mouse until Notification Center realized what was going on ten minutes later). I like the newer, flatter Calendar app but am less enamored with Memos.
The story of Mavericks is one of improvements. It’s not an overhaul of OS X (which I expect to come in the next or next next version with more iOS 7-like styling, as Calendar has demonstrated), but an improvement in ways that make things just easier and better. I haven’t had any “How did I live without this?” moments yet with Mavericks, but at the same time I’m pleased to now have it working for me. Things are better, and that’s good enough for me.
Rene Ritchie, iMore
The era of big cats is over. OS X 10.9 isn't Saber Tooth, it's Mavericks. Named after a famous California beach, it's meant to exemplify Apple's new, more home-centric signature. It's also meant to showcase the results of their yearly, iOS-style update cycle. Doing less more often isn't a bad idea on the surface. It means smaller updates, but it means we get them more often. (Apple's OS X team, however, gets much less down time between updates...) And that's exactly what Mavericks is, a timely update rather than a big one.
There's some Back-to-the-Mac going on with Mavericks, not surprisingly. iBooks is here, and about bloody time. It works well and just like you'd expect. Maps is here too, and it... works just like you'd expect. Apple still needs thousands of feet on the ground to fix Maps, but the integration with iOS is great, and makes me really want an Apple Maps for iCloud product to complete the cycle.
Safari in Mavericks is solid. I've always used Safari for my non-Google services (those get safely locked to Chrome), and i still prefer its interface and rendering engine over any other. Again, integration with iOS is top notch, and new features like Shared Links - all your Twitter friends' URLs all in one place - are great. iCloud Keychain is interesting but unless and until it implements a master password feature like 1Password, it's not useful to me. I need to be able to hand someone a device and not worry I'm handing them my logins and credit cards.
Multiple displays is sublime. I have a 27-inch Thunderbolt Display at my standing desk and previously plugging into it meant plugging out of full-screen apps, because linen. No longer! Everything works together well now, even if Dock jumping has become a bit like whack-a-mole. Actionable notifications are likewise bliss. The ability to respond to a message in the notification is something I want in iOS immediately if not sooner.
Finder Tabs and Tags are... things I do not use. I'm glad they're there, but I'm a simple dude and I haven't found a need for them yet. The under-the-hood changes, though, the App Nap and the Timer Coalescing, the Power Saver and the Compressed Memory - more of that, yes please. My 2012 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has gained an additional 2 hours of battery life, and my 2013 13-inch MacBook Air can go all night. Or day. Amazing. (The best part is the hall-of-shame drop down that highlights apps that are poor battery citizens.)
Mavericks has some bugs and some odd behaviors, like every new version of every new version. Quick View, for example, routinely beach balls for a second before opening, and Final Cut Pro X seems to be at odds with App Nap. Those will get fixed - they better get fixed! - but overall, I'm really happy with Mavericks. It's similar enough not to interfere with my workflow, and with new stuff enough to improve it.
You've heard from all of us, now we want to hear from you! If you're using OS X Mavericks, give us your review!