Mac OS X 10.6 Brings Serious Performance Gains
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 28 August 2009. Page 13 of 13. 148 Comments

We are not Mac junkies at Phoronix. Ummm, hell, we are just performance-enthused Linux fanatics with a love for benchmarking. However, the fact of the matter is, if you are a Mac OS X user and are at all concerned about the performance of your system -- whether that means being a benchmarking junkie like us or just looking to squeeze the most potential out of your system whether it be for audio encoding, ray-tracing, image editing, or other computational tasks -- Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" is a must buy.

Unless you are currently afflicted with a compatibility problem with a needed application not running under Mac OS X 10.6, are a dedicated gamer (the OpenGL regressions right now hurt), would rather wait until the next point release or two when the few regressions get tidied up, we see no reason why not to upgrade Mac OS X 10.6. The cost to upgrade to Snow Leopard is effectively $30 USD for an individual installation or $50 for a family pack. Solely because of the vast performance improvements, the price is worth it in our minds. Beyond that, there are the desktop enhancements that we just touched on at the start of this article when it comes to QuickTime X, Safari and Finder running faster, minor tweaks to the menus, and other subtle improvements that improve the Mac OS X experience.

The performance improvements we encountered in Mac OS X 10.6 through our benchmarks we were quite astonishing. Thanks to the introduction of the Grand Central Dispatch, 64-bit migration, OpenCL support (to largely benefit future applications), and other refinements made "under the hood" of Snow Leopard, this is one hell of a fast operating system. We were quite amazed with multiple tests exhibiting nearly 50% performance boosts over Mac OS X 10.5.8. While that was an extreme improvement, many other tests ran 10~16% faster. In a few tests, the performance was the same or the delta was statistically insignificant, but in a couple tests, there were regressions. In particular, what hurts on Snow Leopard is the graphics performance, but again that should be fixed quite soon. It is surprising that Apple engineers let these OpenGL regressions slip into the GM spin, but that is just what happened. Outside of the graphics shortcomings, Mac OS X 10.6 had regressed when it came to the Stream memory performance and Sudokut. There were also a few test profiles where the tested program was not compatible with Snow Leopard.

Snow Leopard presents Mac OS X users with incredible performance improvements that leave us quite in fact amazed. Mac OS X 10.6.0 was also 100% stable throughout our testing besides what we have mentioned and yes, it is breathtaking to say the least. If you are interested in purchasing Mac OS X 10.6, it is available through for just $25 USD.

We will have more benchmarks of Mac OS X 10.6.0 shortly as we begin comparing it to a few Linux distributions and other operating systems, but if you appreciated this testing and would like for such articles to continue, we kindly ask you consider subscribing to Phoronix Premium, making a donation, or simply refrain from using AdBlock. You can also run your own performance comparisons under Mac OS X using the Phoronix Test Suite. Lastly, you can follow us on Twitter, RSS, Facebook, or

About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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