Apple's OS X Mountain Lion is out, and it's 20 bucks. That's cheap enough that the price alone probably isn't a barrier to upgrade—it's more about your individual needs. Here's a quick guide to see, at a glance, if you should go with Mountain Lion, or maybe sit this one out.
An Average Lion User
Yes. Absolutely. Yes. Yes yes yes. Mountain Lion improves most of the things that you would want improved in Lion; it's faster, smoother, and more convenient. Unlike going from Snow Leopard to Lion, there are no tectonic shifts in philosophy, and no previous features are broken in the service of new ones. There is almost zero downside in upgrading from Lion to Mountain Lion.
A Snow Leopard Holdout
Honestly, probably not. For anyone who thought Lion was too big a shift away from their beloved Snow Leopard—which still runs smoothly enough to not demand an upgrade—there probably isn't enough here to change your mind. Spaces are still neutered by Mission Control, as is Exposé. Careful when you update apps though; more and more are losing Snow Leopard compatibility in favor of Mountain Lion.
Someone Who Can't Afford Any Screw Ups
No. Not yet, anyway. Mountain Lion is solid—much mores than Lion when it launched—but there are still concerns about the GM popping up on message boards, and jumping in Day 1 is nuts if you can't afford to deal with any bugs that might pop up. Right now, the ones that are floating around the most are diminished battery life and a problem connecting to certain types of Wi-Fi networks. But in general, it's almost always better to wait until after the first couple of patches have come through to make your transition as bug-free as possible.
You've Got an Older Mac, But Love These New Features
Well... check the requirements first. For example, AirPlay Mirroring to an AppleTV requires Quick Sync-capable processors. That means Sandy Bridge or newer. Power Nap, which is MIA as of now but will arrive eventually, requires a Mac with an Apple-installed SSD.
That doesn't mean that you shouldn't upgrade. Just be aware that being able to install Mountain Lion doesn't mean you're able to make use of all of its features. There are specific hardware requirements beyond the minimums.
You've Only Got 4GB of RAM, And Lion Is Sluggish
Yes! Absolutely. Mountain Lion actually seems to be a bit less memory intensive than Lion. Whether that's by design, or just a function of the general disarray Lion was in for its launch, you shouldn't worry about RAM issues.
A Chat Log Junkie
This probably doesn't apply to most sane people, but if you are obsessed with keeping your chat logs coordinated, you might want to give Mountain Lion a pass. Maybe you need all of your chat logs in one place for work. Maybe you need them to stalk all of your conversations with the pretty girl from homeroom (don't do that). Whatever your logs for, OS X doesn't let you sync all of them seamlessly across two or more computers using services like Dropbox or Skydrive anymore, even though it still uses the same file type as it did in Lion for its logs. Weird.
Earlier versions of Messages in the Developer Previews of Mountain Lion did have this option, so it seems like a conscious decision on Apple's part to disable it. Too bad.
A Windows Lover Who Hates Windows 8
Mountain Lion's worth a look if you're Metro-averse. And I know, I know. Screw Macs and Apple's overpriced, underspeced hipster crap, right? Well, fine. But Apple does have one thing going for it over Microsoft in your heart right now: A demonstrated commitment to PARC. While Microsoft is determined to make Metro the next paradigm in graphical user interfaces, Apple is comfortable with the desktop interface. And to a lot of us, that's worth something.
Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News
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