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Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion review

Verdict

OS X evolves into an online social hub that blends the desktop and mobile experience – and it works surprisingly well

Review Date: 25 Jul 2012

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: £12 (£14 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
6 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Mountain Lion – or OS X 10.8, to give it its more prosaic designation – is the latest big cat to stalk onto the Mac. It will run on most Macs released since 2008, so long as they have at least 2GB of RAM and are currently running Snow Leopard or Lion, and the cost remains very low: a single £14 purchase from the Mac App Store allows you to upgrade all your authorised Macs (which in practice means up to five machines).

Yet although the price suggests Mountain Lion is a minor upgrade, it represents a significant shift in focus for OS X. Or, rather, it brings to fruition a shift that began last year, when Lion started importing iOS features such as full-screen applications, multitouch gestures and the Launchpad view to the desktop. Mountain Lion builds on this, tying the Mac in more closely to online content and services – and to iOS devices.

New online features

The most visible new feature is the iOS-style Notification Center. Calendar appointments, emails and software updates are heralded by tasteful notification balloons at the top right of the screen, which optionally either fade out or remain until snoozed or dismissed.

As in Lion, you can sign in to various external email services, including Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft Exchange – and you can now also connect directly with Twitter, Vimeo and Flickr. Facebook integration is promised for this autumn. If you miss a notification, simply swipe to the left or click the new icon at the far right of the menu bar to see your notification history (pictured above).

A wider range of online services than before is supported, though Facebook isn't yet ready.

More subtle is the appearance of discreet Share buttons dotted around the various applications. In Safari, you can now share URLs and send images to email, Twitter or the Messages application directly from the toolbar. In iPhoto, Photo Booth and Preview you can click to post an image directly to Flickr – or set it as your avatar on online services. Even the Finder now sports a share button to send a file to a friend.

The Messages application now supports iMessages, so you can chat seamlessly with people using both OS X and iOS clients. More excitingly, there’s also now a Mac version of the iOS Game Center for playing games directly against mobile users – we couldn’t try this as it wasn’t yet live.

Living in the cloud

Mountain Lion isn’t only about socialising. iCloud integration has been beefed up to help you manage multiple devices. In Lion, this service synchronised mail, calendars and some types of document between your Mac and mobile devices: now it can also synchronise Safari web tabs – so you can put down an iPad and continue on the Mac – and share photo streams with other iCloud users.

You can share memos created in the new cloud-aware Notes application too: update a document and it will sync across your Mac, iPhone and iPad. The Reminders application works similarly, but lets you attach a date and time to an alert, which will then pop up on all of your Apple devices. Reminders can be assigned to locations too, popping up when you arrive at a particular place.

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User comments

Will MS regret Windows 8?

I'm sure all those stars in the review will generate the usual tedious pro and ani-Apple debate. However as Apple consolidate their keyboard computer OS I wonder if Windows 8 may push more users the way of Apple as its new interface seems to be less intuitive for keyboard/mouse use?

By AdamD6 on 25 Jul 2012

Fast obsolescence!

It won't run on anything over 4 years old? Seriously? Wow.

By Grunthos on 25 Jul 2012

Yay

"Windows 8 may push more users the way of Apple as its new interface seems to be less intuitive for keyboard/mouse use?"

The moment I pressed WinKey+I everything suddenly became a whole lot easier with Windows 8. I just hope that people will take the 0.3 seconds to learn something new (As they do when they buy a new phone, toaster, dvd player, chocolate bar or lipstick)

By rhythm on 25 Jul 2012

Lots of connectivity but no actually achieving anything

All the focus nowadays seems to be on interacting, with little actually being produced. Services rather than creation. For those people who actually build things with their PCs all these changes are pretty trivial. Not a fault of Apple, Microsoft seems to be off down the same route.

By DJ2003 on 25 Jul 2012

I'm at a tipping point

Good point Adam6. I'm due to replace my Thinkpad next year and am humming and hawing about switching to a Mac. Having tried the Windows 8 beta I'm definitely not going with that so it's either a new Thinkpad with Windows 7 or a MacBook.

If I can work out how to migrate some of my Windows apps I'd say Mac is currently my favoured option.

By SparkyHD on 25 Jul 2012

Tempting...but...

I'm seriously looking at a Mac now as a new work device as Windows 8 doesn't suit the way I work.

However I don't think it's an Apple OS I want. I just want anything other than Windows 8.

By metalmonkey on 25 Jul 2012

Nice screenshots........

interesting feature coming up in issue 216 !

By DeanC on 25 Jul 2012

@metalmonkey

Windows 7? It even has some features that Windows 8 doesn't have, like a start-menu.

Or if you want something to tinker with, maybe a Linux distro would suit you?

By pbryanw on 26 Jul 2012

compatibility

No mention of driver problems...
I'm wondering if my printer will work on 10.8, having waited almost a year to get a driver that works on 10.7.
Will apps like Carbon Copy Cloner, Virtualbox (and guests), Kindle for Mac work on 10.8?
Cheap price, but maybe some pain to get minimal benefits.

By pictonic on 26 Jul 2012

3 finger tap...

but still lagging behind Microsoft Windows, where is the 3 finger salute? :-D

By big_D on 26 Jul 2012

compatibility 2

The only requirement listed on the app store is "OSX 10.6.8 or later". Following the tips here I checked deeper: the technical specs list "MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)". Now my second hand MacBook Pro from Cashconverters (£300, an absolute bargain!) must be about that age. But how the **** are you supposed to check? "About this Mac", "More Info" has lots of technical information, but makes no mention of the date of manufacture.

Is this an example of Apple's "fanatical attention to detail"?

By JohnAHind on 26 Jul 2012

Huh?

"as Windows 8 doesn't suit the way I work."

?? I can work EXACTLY the same on Windows 8 as I do with Windows 7. Statements like this makes me think that people simply aren't 'getting it'. The start menu has vanished and that's about it. We have a fancy new front end and that's about it. The desktop is still there and so is, pretty much, Windows 7.

Change to a Mac... do it, then realise that you're going to face a bigger challenge than changing to Windows 8 from 7.

By rhythm on 26 Jul 2012

Yes, but where's the beef?

Very good iterative upgrade to the old stager.
We of the long tooth remember OSX's distant antecedent NeXTSTEP a genuinely bold leading-edge effort.

As someone who is both poor and stingy Apple's glittering toys hold no allure. OSX (which I use regularly) has no USP for me.

Unlike many I have few problems with Windows 8. The concerted campaign of villification from some parts of the IT press is largely sensationalist nonsense; or an indicator of massive intellectual inflexibility. You choose.
Stodgy old Microsoft has substantially moved things on, starting with WP7, culminating in Windows8\RT and the stunning 'Surface' Tablets.
Apple's incremental approach, however is looking a bit tired. Backfilling iOS 'features' into OSX may appeal to conservatives who fear the new, but its not really a strategy for the future. Indeed iOS itself is looking increasingly tired and cliched. Apple needs to put as much effort into innovation as it does litigation or its first to market advantage in mobile gadgets will dissipate as surely as its lead in GUIs did all those years ago.

Apple can easily remain a highly profitable premium niche supplier in mobile gadgets as it is in Laptops, but on this showing its current World Domination may be starting to fade.....

By wittgenfrog on 26 Jul 2012

Just read a comment:

"I use Windows 8 every single day for work and home use. 4-monitor setup at work and 2-monitor setup at home. No issues at all. I don't see Metro unless I want to. Learn to use it."

By rhythm on 26 Jul 2012

@JohnAHind

Look at again at the About this Mac further Information. In light grey letters underneath where it states the model name.

Mine says:
iMac
24-inch, Early 2008
Processor 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory 4 GB 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS 512 MB
Serial Number xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Software Mac OS X Lion 10.7.4 (11E53)

Hopefully this Mac is compatible with Mountain Lion.

I'll find out at the weekend when I try to install it.

By fundraised on 26 Jul 2012

Lotus Organiser

One thing I really don't like about OS X Lion and Lion cub, sorry Mountain Lion, is the way they have gone back to the early 90s disaster design era and they stole the design for Calendar etc. from Lotus' Organiser.

It gives me such a retro computing feeling, every time I start them up.

I think the retro skeumorphic design of OS X Lion really lets the side down.

OS X and iOS are feeling old, whereas the "boring", fuddy duddy Microsoft has taken a bold step to move their OS forward.

I think, at least in the phone and tablet arena it is ahead of iOS in design terms.

I still don't see the point of Metro apps on a dual screen desktop set-up, the reason I have a dual screen setup is so that I can have half a dozen or so windows visible at the same time. Metro makes sense on a small, cramped screen, it doesn't make sense on a large desktop display or several.

By big_D on 26 Jul 2012

@rythm

Exactly. I like Windows 8 and the start screen is fine and all my current apps work fine on the desktop, without any real change.

I think Microsoft has done Windows 8 a disservice by concentrating on explaining why it is great on tablets and touch enabled laptops, whilst ignoring the majority of its existing userbase.

By big_D on 26 Jul 2012

@rhythm 2

... didn't quite finish that thought.

I mean that they have concentrated on the explanations of why it is great on a tablet, but they have kept pretty quiet about explaining why desktop and laptop users would want to upgrade.

Windows 8 does bring some nice touches for the desktop, but the concentration on Metro makes a lot of people miss the point of Windows 8 on a desktop.

By big_D on 26 Jul 2012

@fundraised

Hm - mine just says:
"MacBook Pro"
"17-inch Core 2 Duo"
Processor: 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: ATI Radeon X1600 256MB
Serial Number: XXXXXX
Software: Mac OS X Lion 10.7.4 (11E43)

I recall reading somewhere that the very early Core 2 Duo processors are not compatible, but I cannot find this again.

By JohnAHind on 26 Jul 2012

I have a late 2006 MacBook. It is too old for Mountain Lion and IMO too old for Lion. I'm sure for Lion they listed which model ID's were compatible.
Here is a big list for reference: http://www.everymac.com/systems/by_capability/mac-
specs-by-machine-model-machine-id.html

By james016 on 26 Jul 2012

Over the hill

I own an Apple Mac Pro and a Mac Book pro both 6 years old and cant upgrade to Mountain Lion as they dont meet requirements. I have an old Acer laptop that was running Windows xp. For fun I downloaded and loaded Win8 to it and it works. So Apple what's your excuse. Acer 12 years old running new op system Apple 6 years old no chance. Sort it and quick.

By johnboy412 on 26 Jul 2012

@james016

Thanks - that revealed my model was made between October 2006 and June 2007, so I'm guessing "Mid to late 2007" puts it just the wrong side of the line.
Not exactly clear-cut though!

By JohnAHind on 26 Jul 2012

Is this a review or an Apple press statement

Once again PC Pro have been totally blinded by Apple. This isn't a critical and incisive review, it's a smouldering kiss-Apple's-bottom love letter. Why keep the name PC Pro, why not change it to Mac Pro and be more honest with the readers?
Apple make some great software and hardware, but uncrtitical reviews and blind Fanboy-like adoration are not the way to go. The mag's suffered from We Hate Micrososft And Windows And Apple Is 100% Perfect for a year or two now, and this is just the latest evidence.

By JohnMalcolm1961 on 26 Jul 2012

@johnboy412

Apple is primarily a hardware company. Microsoft is primarily a software company.

One makes profit from selling new hardware so makes software cheap. The other makes profit from selling new software so makes hardware cheap.

BTW if you want to know if your hardware will support Mountain Lion type into a command prompt

ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi

If it does it will say
"firmware-abi" =

If it doesn't it will say
"firmware-abi" =

(info from Ars Technica)

By CSprout on 26 Jul 2012

@JohnMalcolm1961

I know you're just trolling, but did you notice who wrote this review? Yes, the same person who is fairly scathing of Apple when needed, especially the iPhone which I believe he dumped at the first opportunity for an Android device. Get a grip, son.

By The_Scrote on 27 Jul 2012

@The_Scrote

The voice of reason.

How anyone could possibly think the staff writers of PC Pro (very much Windows centric magazine) could ever be accused of blindly favouring Apple products, is right at the front of the queue as far as conspiracy theories go.

Like the Scrote said, GET A GRIP!

By fundraised on 27 Jul 2012

The info CSprout didn't add...

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/07/confirmed-mou
ntain-lion-sends-some-64-bit-macs-gently-into-that
-good-night

Quote Andrew Cunningham | Associate writer:
"On those older Mac Pros that shipped with unsupported graphics cards, Apple hasn't deigned to update their firmware to support 64-bit EFI. You can run this command in Terminal to see whether you have a 32-bit or 64-bit EFI:

ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi

All of the Macs dropped by Mountain Lion are going to return "EFI32"
- if you can hack around that in addition to upgrading your graphics card, you may indeed be able to get Mountain Lion running on an older Mac, but it's a bit of a long shot."

By greemble on 27 Jul 2012

@greemble

For some reason the forum removed the end of the lines.

My post didn't show up on my computer initially and I didn't want to post a dupe.

By CSprout on 27 Jul 2012

Disappointed in early obselence.

Very annoyed with Apple. I bought an Apple TV a couple of months ago to use with my iDevices in anticipation of using on my Macbook Pro 13 inch.

After installing Mountain Lion, I found out that Airplay Mirroring only works on a 2011 or new MacBook Pro. Mine is 2009 one with an nVidia 256MB dedicated graphics card. If I had known that my Mac was too old, I wouldn't have bought an Apple TV.

I can't believe that an iPhone 4 has more graphics and processing grunt than a 2009 Macbook Pro (2.53GHz Core Duo, 8GB of RAM). They are trying to force me to buy a new Mac.

I have decided that my next tablet will be a Microsoft Windows Pro device sometime next year. I will not buy any new Apple products but instead use the ones I own until Apple make them unusable like they did with iOS 5 on the iPhone 3GS.

By ronwatson71 on 30 Jul 2012

AirPlay undersell

It does more than just display media, OSX has been able to do that for ages. It allows you to mirror your Mac screen to your big tv, great for web browsing and general entertainment as well as day to day tasks, email etc.

To ronwatson71, have a look at a prog called AirParrot, $10 and it'll let you do exactly what you're after - I think it may have even more functionality than AirDisplay.

By daveandrews1 on 31 Jul 2012

Get Stardock Start8

I apologise for talking about Windows in a Mac OS review. Just responding to those before me ... Windows 8 is hardly different to use than Windows 7.

If the missing start button and menu really worry you then download the latest version of Stardock Start8 (free download). It has brought back the original start button and start menu functionality. It even makes your computer default to the Windows desktop by default. You have to press the start button and then choose the metro screen from the top of the start menu!

I always loved the apps on my iPhone/iPod Touch/Android phone & tablet and wondered why these type of apps didn't exist on PCs. Now I get a fast PROPER computer OS with tablet style apps! It's just Windows 7 with apps and extra features.

By cooloox on 6 Sep 2012

Get Stardock Start8

I apologise for talking about Windows in a Mac OS review. Just responding to those before me ... Windows 8 is hardly different to use than Windows 7.

If the missing start button and menu really worry you then download the latest version of Stardock Start8 (free download). It has brought back the original start button and start menu functionality. It even makes your computer default to the Windows desktop by default. You have to press the start button and then choose the metro screen from the top of the start menu!

I always loved the apps on my iPhone/iPod Touch/Android phone & tablet and wondered why these type of apps didn't exist on PCs. Now I get a fast PROPER computer OS with tablet style apps! It's just Windows 7 with apps and extra features.

By cooloox on 6 Sep 2012

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