Apple’s introduction of macOS Sierra caught the attention of many Mac users, but the keynote at WWDC mostly covered certain prominent features. AnandTech has a great overview of everything that’s in macOS Sierra including some "under the hood" features.
Ryan Smith reports for AnandTech:
On the API side of matters, Apple’s Metal graphics API is receiving a major update with Sierra. A new GPU family is being introduced (OSX_GPUFamily1_v2), which enables a bunch of new features on the latest macOS. Of particular interest here is geometry tessellation, which has been present in all Macs since 2012, but has not been exposed in Metal until now. Notably, Apple calls Metal’s tessellation feature a “flexible compute-based approach” which is a bit confusing since it can be construed multiple ways.
Apple is also expanding macOS’s wide color gamut support. The company already ships a Mac with a DCI-P3 display, the 2015 5K iMac, so it’s not immediately clear what these changes fully entail. But overall Apple says they’re bringing substantially improved wide gamut support to Metal, Core Image, Core Graphics, and other frameworks. This includes a number of new features in multiple APIs, including color conversion functions and new FP16 pixel formats for Metal.
Finally, while it’s still a work in progress, Apple has announced that they are developing a new file system that will be making at least a preview appearance in macOS Sierra. Dubbed the Apple File System (APFS), the new file system is a replacement for the long in the tooth HFS+, which in turn can be traced back to HFS, which was first introduced in 1985. Apple has extended HFS+ over the years, adding functionality such as Filevault and Time Machine on top of it, but HFS+ is definitely showing its age and is due for a wholesale replacement.
APFS in turn sees Apple implement a far more modern storage system. In terms of design it seems to take a page from other modern file systems such as ReFS and ZFS, implementing copy-on-write functionality, paired with other features such as native snapshots, native sparse files, and native encryption (the latter of these having to be built on top of HFS+). Comparatively speaking, both ZFS and ReFS are storage-focused file systems – used for storing data as opposed to operating systems – so it’s interesting that Apple is intending to use it across all of their devices. Though this may have something to do with the fact that they’re engineering APFS to be optimized for flash-backed storage first and foremost.
There’s far more at the AnandTech site so be sure to click through and read through the article from the beginning. What I’ve included here is just a bit of the “under the hood” features that didn’t get much mention at WWDC.
macOS Sierra runs great on my 5K iMac
I’ve been running the developer preview of macOS Sierra on my 5K iMac and I’m quite pleased with it already. For such an early release it has proven to be quite solid, I haven’t seen any crashes or other overt problems while running it.
I’ve already fallen in love with the new version of Messages in macOS Sierra. It’s nice to be able to finally see rich media previews in URLs, videos, tweets, etc. in Messages. And I also love the larger emoji, they are so much easier to see than the tiny ones in previous versions of macOS.
I’ve also enjoyed having my Desktop and Documents folders synched via iCloud. I can now easily access their contents via the iCloud Drive app on my iPhone or iPad. Of course this comes at a price as it used up about 30GB more of my iCloud storage space, but it has been well worth it so far.
Siri is also in macOS Sierra and it’s quite fun to have access to it on my Mac instead of just on my iOS devices. It’s taking me a little while to get used to using it since my habits and workflow on the Mac have never incorporated it before.
macOS Sierra is off to a great start
So far I’m quite pleased with macOS Sierra, Apple has done a very good job adding value in this release. It’s still early, however, and I expect it to get even better in future betas and, of course, in the final release.
As always, I recommend that you avoid installing a developer preview or beta on a Mac that you rely on for work or other important uses. It’s best to hold off on a final release for those computers.
If you haven't already, be sure to check out Apple's official macOS Sierra preview page, and you may also want to browse the macOS Sierra section of the MacRumors forum for some interesting discussions.
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