Hands-On Review: Mac OS X 10.7.4 Lion

by Bill Fox, MacsOnly.com May 14, 2012

Apple released the latest update, Mac OS 10.7.4, to Lion last week. I downloaded and installed it on my various Macs and those of my family members and several friends. All installed without a hitch. No significant bugs have shown up since so I am writing this brief review, including testing whether or not the new graphics drivers package, v7.18.18, had any effect on graphics performance.

Status of Issues

When I originally reviewed Lion, Mac OS 10.7, in August of 2011, I noted several issues where I thought improvement was needed. They are:

Colored Finder icons--Not Fixed: It is a lot easier for me to find quickly which folder I want if the icons are in color and I like the color look better. The hack provided by OSX Daily still works in 10.7.4 but it's a pain, although a small one, to have to re-launch the Finder after startup or a restart the regain the color. I have been hoping Apple would enable this simple feature natively in the Finder's preferences but no joy through 10.7.4.

Time of Day in email older than the current day in Mail--Not Fixed. Unfortunately, the time of day still only shows up in the attributes for the current date email lists in mailboxes. All "Yesterday" or previously dated email listed in a mailbox simply have the date, i.e. no time of day shown. Of course, the time of day can be seen if one opens an email but this is not helpful when one gets literally hundreds of emails a day across several accounts. It looks like the loss of the time of day attribute is now a feature.

Inconsistency in applying rules in Mail--Fixed. I have a number of rules that color the background of emails differently for different people and organizations. In 10.7, this worked sometimes and sometimes it didn't. In 10.7.3 and so far in 10.7.4, automatically correctly applying those rules to incoming emails seems to work every time. The same is true for the little icons that appear to the left of the email listing to show that one has forwarded the email or replied.

Inconsistency in Mail preferences--Not Fixed. "Display unread messages with bold font." Still does nothing different when check or unchecked. Apple might as well delete the preference if it does nothing.

Disappearing Mail attachments and email body content--Fixed. This has not happened in 10.7.3 or so far in 10.7.4.

"Save as Draft"Button--Not Fixed. I have had one disaster relying on Lion's automatic save feature. I spent over an hour preparing an expense report with attached receipts when Mail just happened to crash, one of the few times this has ever happened but the worst time for lost work. The email was treated as sent by Lion Mail but it never was and it was not saved in the Drafts mailbox either. Apple, please bring back the "Save as Draft" button!

System Preferences/Lion Resume conflict--Not Fixed. I've long set several applications, mostly menu items, to automatically open on login and then to hide their window. These are set in the Login Items tab of the Users and Groups (formerly Accounts) panel of System Preferences. On login in Lion, however, I noticed that those application windows do not hide automatically, forcing me to manually close them. For a while I thought this was a bug but it's really a hierarchy conflict with the new Lion feature called "Resume" that when starting up, re-starting or logging in re-opens applications and windows that were previously open. The new Lion feature takes precedence over the older Login Items preference settings. So if I quit the applications before logging out, re-starting or shutting down, the Login Items hide as they are supposed to when logging in. From my perspective, the hierarchy conflict needs to be resolved by reversing it, i.e. whatever is set in System Preferences takes precedence over Lion's new feature because as it is now I either have to manually hide each window or manually shut down each application--a pain. If the hierarchy were reversed, I'd get the automatic behavior I want.

Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is just around the corner and I hope some of these issues will be fixed.

How fast is it?

The graphics drivers in Lion, 10.7, tested slightly faster on my Mac Pro than the last version of Snow Leopard, 10.6.8, but some activities like startup, shut down and disk activity were slower. When I tested 10.7.1, I got a surprisingly low score for User Interface graphics in the test Xbench 1.3.

I ran several of my usual speed tests on Mac OS X 10.7.3 and 10.7.4, having skipped 10.7.2 several months ago. I used my 2008 Mac Pro that has dual quad 2.8 GHz CPU, 10GB RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 5870 after-market graphics card. 10.7.3 and 10.7.4 were virtually identical so the results for only 10.7.4 are shown below:

Mac Pro Speed Tests of Mac OS X 10.7.4 vs 10.7.1 vs 10.7
Test Mac OS X
10.7.4 10.7.1 10.7
Cinebench 11.5
-- CPU Rendering (8x)
6.6 6.6
-- OpenGL Hardware Lighting
30.6 29.8
Xbench 1.3
-- Quartz Graphics
264 259
-- OpenGL Graphics
283 289
-- User Interface Graphics
339 147
OpenGL Viewer 4.0.5
-- 2.1 Cube
1253 1254
Start Up (sec)
52 30 30
Shut Down (sec)
41 26
Dup. 500 MB Folder (sec)
-- 26
Quake III Arena Hi (frames/sec)
997 997
Halo 2.0.4 Hi (frames/sec)
153 154
Red is faster by 10% or more. Blue is slower by 10% or more.

The results for most of the graphics tests are virtually identical across 10.7 to 10.7.4. The lone exception is that the very low Xbench User Interface Graphics score for 10.7.1 that increased to about the same level as 10.7 in 10.7.4 (and 10.7.3). The Finder tests in 10.7.4 are even slower, much slower, than the slow values obtained for 10.7 and 10.7.1.

The slower times for 10.7.4 may also reflect some deterioration in the performance of my hard drive. For every day use, I have replaced it as my working boot drive with a 240GB Solid State Drive. The SSD is much faster at startup (and application launches), taking only 19 seconds or some 36% of the time that the hard drive takes. But the SSD still takes 24 seconds to shut down, much faster than the hard drive under 10.7.4 and nearly the same as the hard drive under 10.7.1 and 10.7. This leads me to believe that shutting down under 10.7.4 is slower than previous versions of Lion and very much slower than Snow Leopard 10.6 at about 7 seconds for the hard drive. I expect that Lion is taking longer in order to write the computer's and applications' status for the Resume feature of Lion. [Bill Fox]

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Copyright © 1995-2012 by Bill Fox
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