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Apple OS X 10.7 Lion review

Julian Prokaza
26 Jul 2011
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

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OS X 10.7 Lion is the latest major update to the Mac operating system Apple first released in 2001. It brings a number of significant new features for users of its desktop and laptop computers, but may new aspects will be familiar to iPhone and iPad users, since they draw heavily on those already available in iOS.

The first major change is the distribution mechanism. You won’t find Lion in the shops. Instead, it can only be purchased online through the Mac App Store as a 3.7GB download. Unlike with Windows' multiple versions, there’s just one version and one price for Lion, and your £21 lets you install it on as many personal Macs as you like. The only catch is that Lion can only be installed on Core 2 Duo (or later) Macs that are already running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, so anyone who’s been putting off operating system upgrades for a year or two will also need a £26 copy of last year’s update before they begin.

The Snow Leopard requirement arises because the Mac App store won’t work with any earlier version of Mac OS X, plus a working Mac is required to download and install the Mac OS X Lion application. This does pose a problem for anyone wanting a clean install of Lion, but as long as you can download the installer you can extract its constituent disk image and use it to create a DVD or USB flash drive that can be installed on any Lion-compatible Mac with any operating system, in any state. Once Lion is installed, it creates its own bootable recovery partition containing a handful of system tools for diagnostics and recovery, removing the need for a physical copy of the OS installer. That said, reinstalling Lion with the recovery partition means downloading it all over again (the recovery partition environment has network access and will run Safari), so creating your own boot disk for safe keeping isn’t a bad idea.

Lion install

Installation takes around half an hour. The first sign of the iPhone and iPad iOS influence is apparent when you open a Finder window — there are no scroll bars. Or rather, there are, but just as on the iPhone and iPad, they appear only when something is being scrolled. This gives a few extra pixels of space for windows, but it sets an odd precedent for a desktop OS. In addition to showing that there’s more in a window than meets the eye, scroll bars also show how long a document is and your current position in it. Remove them and there’s no visual clue that a Finder window contains more files, for example, which is something that can easily fox a new Mac user. Microsoft Windows users will also be bemused to discover that Lion windows can now be resized by dragging any edge — it’s been the bottom-right corner only since every previous version of Mac OS since 1984.

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