Review of Snow Leopard Upgrade

A little over 1 hour after starting the upgrade of my MacBook Pro to Snow Leopard, the upgrade is done, system is back up and at work, and after an initial inspection…everything seems the same as before.  Since my MacBook Pro is my uber production system–it is typically at work over 12 hours a day for both my day job and my digital dark room–I’m always hesitant to upgrade.  But there was enough small improvements in Snow Leopard and one major improvement (OpenCL…aka GPU offloading) that it became a no brainer $30 upgrade.  It’s just that you sorta want to see something new right away when the computer reboots after the upgraded.

Since Snow Leopard is supposed to get rid of bloat in the OS, the last thing I did before upgrading was to record the amount of spaced used on my hard drive.  So the first thin I did after the upgrade was to check the hard drive again.  Ahh…found the change!

Leopard (10.5) Snow Leopard (10.6) % Change
Hard Drive Free Space 9.11 GB 31.83 GB +250%
Applications Folder Size 4.86 GB 8.52 GB +75%
Applications Folder Items 82,556 5,697 -93%
Library Folder Size 10.91 GB 7.44 -32%
Library Folder Items 74,666 76,271 +2%
Application Folder Size 8.64 GB 4.48 GB -48%
Application Folder Items 5,704 96,176 +1586%

So, just by upgrading the OS, I tripled the amount of free space on my hard drive!  Lucky me, my hard drive was the next upgrade I was planning on doing.  Of course, since I do have a background with computers, the technophile in me wanted more details.  That’s why I recorded the size of a few of the key folders where I expected to see most of the OS changes occur.  As you can see by the chart above, I was a bit surprised by the results.

However, I was so rushed this morning that I forgot to check the Unix side of the house.  There are a number of folders on the Mac that are hidden and only visible when you drop down to a Unix command prompt.  I’m assuming that is where most of the hard drive space came from.  Regardless, I’m just shocked and happy to have an OS upgrade that actually gave me back space on my computer’s hard drive.

With regards to the other major improvement that is of interest to photographers, I haven’t been able to statistically test the GPU offload capabilities yet. Since I didn’t benchmarks any of my photo or video editing software tasks before the upgrade all I will have here is the observation that “it’s faster”. For more specific, see the Snow Leopard Benchmarks that Gizmodo did to show the performance boosts.

Aside: The GPU offload is achieved through OpenCL.  Essentially, OpenCL allows applications to use certain GPUs as another CPU to do work (see the OpenCL brief PDF for the gory details, if you’re into that sort of thing).  So, applications that don’t need use the GPU because they are not doing graphics, can now tap into that reservoir of power to increase their speed.  It’s like suddenly having a dual core Mac turn into a triple or quad core mac.

To be able to take advantage of OpenCL, applications do need to be re-written to truely maximize their performance and you must have one of the following graphic processors in your Mac:

    • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce 8600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130, GeForce GTX 285, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GS, Quadro FX 4800, Quadro FX5600
    • ATI Radeon 4850, Radeon 4870

    You can find out which graphic processor you have in your Mac by going under the Apple menu, choosing “About This Mac”, clicking the “More Info…” button, and then selecting the “Hardware > Graphics/Displays” option from the content pane of the window that opens up.

    The good news is that Adobe had stated that CS4 was Compatible with Snow Leopard with no signification issues.  And I have found that LightRoom also shows no significant issues (unfortunately, I couldn’t find a similar statement from Adobe prior to my decision to upgrade).

    If you’re a photographer and working on an Apple computer, I highly suggest you upgrade to Snow Leopard as soon as possible.

    One Reply to “Review of Snow Leopard Upgrade”

    1. Those are some impressive numbers on drive space Greg. I haven’t upgraded yet. Just haven’t had the time to research what programs/devices might give me problems. I have a couple of jobs I need to get out before perhaps crippling my printing workflow. But all in all – looks very worthwhile.


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