OS X El Capitan has been released today, and so far the critics really seem to like it. I can't blame them a bit, I've been running the beta versions for quite a while and I think it's the best Mac operating system Apple has ever released. It's been running great on all of my iMacs and my Macbook Pro.
In this roundup, I'll give you a smattering of commentary about OS X El Capitan from leading reviewers so you can get a feel for what it has to offer. For many more details, you can also check out Apple's OS X El Capitan page. And for in-depth guides on how to use it, see Amazon's selection of OS X El Capitan books. You can also check out our slideshow that contains 8 tips and tricks for OS X El Capitan.
iMore review of OS X El Capitan
Rene Ritchie comes through again with a very detailed review of OS X El Capitan. He notes that this release fine-tunes OS X and lays the groundwork for future improvements:
Just as the granite monolith is part of the national park yet every bit a landmark in its own right, so is Apple's latest operating system for the Mac. It has the same general design and architecture as what came before, but brings an entirely new level of intelligence, convenience, and polish.
That includes an improved Mission Control and new Split View; a smarter Spotlight and improved apps like Notes, Safari, Mail, Maps, and Photos; enhanced security and performance, including bringing the Metal graphics framework to the Mac; and new system fonts like San Francisco for alphabetic languages and Ping Fang for Chinese. There's also content blocking extensions, audio unit extensions, and much more going on under the hood as well.
I've been running it since the first beta on my MacBook Pro and with the gold master, I put it on my iMac as well. It's been working great on both and, given the improvements to security alone; it would be in everyone's best interests to upgrade as quickly as possible.
Based on both popular sentiment and the narrative from the last year, it's clear that following a series of redesigns and re-architectures, everyone needed a moment to settle and breathe again. A "Snow Leopard moment". El Cap gives us that, but like Snow Leopard it also gives us much more.
Ars Technica review of OS X El Capitan
Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica notes that many of the improvements in OS X El Capitan will appeal to power users:
Almost all of El Capitan's updates are aimed at detail-oriented power users who are intimately familiar with the platform and its apps. I'm sure that not all OS X users even make use of the window management features present in Yosemite, so they're not really in a position to appreciate the improvements in El Capitan. You'd miss pretty much all of Mail's improvements if you don't use trackpad gestures or Full Screen mode. The additions to Safari, Notes, and Maps are all nice but low-key, and things like Metal and System Integrity Protection are, by design, features that don't draw much attention to themselves.
El Capitan follows in the well-worn footsteps of the Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion releases, which introduced some new features but largely focused on polish rather than pizzazz. That’s a good thing for a platform that’s as mature as OS X has become. iOS 9 is a similar kind of release compared to iOS 7 and iOS 8, and the result is the best x.0 version of iOS we’ve gotten in years. Given the breakneck pace of the yearly release cycles, these quieter years are a good opportunity for Apple (and users) to regroup.
So, exciting? No, not really, not unless you're a window management enthusiast who is excited to dance on Helvetica Neue's grave. But it's a free update. It has its occasional bugs and quirks (trying to enable Safari’s new status bar was enough to crash it a few times), but Apple is already working on the initial 10.11.1 bugfix release that will begin anew the process of smoothing out the problems that come with any new OS. Like El Capitan at large, that seems just fine to us.
Macworld review of OS X El Capitan
Jason Snell at Macworld notes that OS X El Capitan is a very solid upgrade for Mac users:
It’s not the most exciting word, but I keep coming back to routine as a way of describing the upgrade to El Capitan. These days, OS X updates are free, are compatible with pretty much every Mac that could run the previous version, bring with them all the most important security and stability fixes, and on top of all that, there are a bunch of new features and updates to apps that you use every day.
There was a time, only a few years ago, when OS X updates were fraught with should-I-or-shouldn’t-I peril, along with a real price tag. Those days are long gone. Should you update to El Capitan? Unreservedly yes—I’ve found it to be stable, it’s free, it’ll download and install itself on your Mac with nearly no intervention, and it’ll bring with it improved security, speed, and functionality.
The days of dramatic operating-system updates are over. El Capitan is as solid as the giant granite monolith that towers over Yosemite Valley. Upgrade, and get an improved Mac. It’s really that simple.
Wall Street Journal review of OS X El Capitan
Joanna Stern at the Wall Street Journal considers upgrading to OS X El Capitan to be a no-brainer:
...the latest version of Apple’s Mac operating system isn’t teeming with new features and a whole new look. Instead, El Capitan refines the things that matter most in a computer: how fast our apps work and how fast we can work with so many of them open. Even the name symbolizes the fine-tuning: El Capitan is but a peak within Yosemite National Park.
After upgrading, Apple’s Photos launched twice as fast (3 seconds vs. 7 seconds). Granted, that app was really slow before, but now even Word and Safari launch half a second faster. Most impressive: Opening 20 photos in Preview took just 5.5 seconds, instead of 8 seconds.
The new Spotlight lets you search the Web and your Mac with natural language. For instance, typing “weather for tomorrow” shows me right inside the Spotlight window that it’ll be cloudy with a high of 80. “Pizza Rat” brings up a link to the viral Web video and “Messages from Geoff from last week” returns seven days of emails (though only if you use Apple’s Mail app) and iMessages from my colleague.
The improved performance and productivity of El Capitan pave the trail for a future operating system that even those of us with dust bunnies in our USB ports might embrace.
Digital Trends review of OS X El Capitan
Matt Smith at Digital Trends notes that even older Macs benefit from OS X El Capitan:
Apple’s last two updates to OS X, Mavericks and Yosemite, deserved praise. Both added significant features and modernized the aging interface while unifying portions of OS X with iOS in a way no other company can mimic. The fact that both updates were free was icing on the fat, delicious cake.
El Capitan is a snack by comparison. Its additions are appreciated but minor, and some features (like Split View) aren’t as useful as they seem at first glance. The apparent performance and stability of the operating system on the aging MacBook Air I used for this review is appreciated, but then again, Yosemite wasn’t exceptionally slow or unstable — for me, at least.
And 10.11 does feel as snappy as promised. My review was completed on a 2012 MacBook Air with a Core i5 processor and four gigabytes of RAM — far from cutting edge hardware.
The Next Web review of OS X El Capitan
Nate Swanner at The Next Web notes that OS X El Capitan is the perfect follow-up to OS X Yosemite:
...you should seek El Capitan out rather than let Yosemite update sometime in the future. It’s that good. El Capitan is as exciting as any iOS update — and that may be because it’s so much like iOS.
Performance improvements like Metal have helped El Cap feel demonstratively quick. There are other tweaks under the hood, and it all combines to bring a responsive operating system to Mac.
There’s subtlety abound in El Cap, but each change serves OS X well. Perhaps more to the point, El Capitan compliments iOS beautifully. Services like Photos, Notes, Mail and Maps are (mostly) the same app across iOS and OS X, now.
El Capitan is the spit-shine Yosemite needed. It’s faster, more powerful and intuitive, and works a lot better with iOS than the Mac ever has.
So there you have it, OS X El Capitan has gotten mostly praise from reviewers. I know that it has certainly worked great for me during the beta releases, so using the final release will be like the cherry on top of a sweet cupcake.
OS X El Capitan is a free upgrade that you can get today from the Mac app store.
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