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What are the "pros and cons" of upgrading to Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion"? Is it worth it? What are the best reasons to upgrade? Are there reasons not to upgrade?
When Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" was introduced, the operating system improved performance and saved storage space compared to the operating system it replaced and introduced a handful of new features as well.
Although Snow Leopard abandoned those using PowerPC-based Macs -- some of which had been sold just three years earlier, and that is considerably sooner than Apple historically abandoned older hardware -- it continued to support Mac OS X software written for the PowerPC processor via the "Rosetta" framework, and there was little reason for the majority of Intel-based Mac users to not spend the US$29 for the upgrade.
For OS X Lion, which also costs just US$29 to download via the Mac App Store (or US$69 on a USB stick), the decision is more difficult. OS X Lion is more-or-less the same speed as Snow Leopard and abandons early Intel Macs, but it abandons Mac OS X applications written for the PowerPC processor as well. It introduces 250 new features, however.
250 New Features
Mostly, one will have to decide whether or not it one or more of the 250 features are "worth it" when compared to the loss of older hardware and software compatibility. Making this decision depends on both the value of money to a particular person and whether or not software or hardware upgrades are necessary.
A quick trip to Apple's official features promo for OS X Lion enumerates the 250 additions. Of the major promoted features, Resume, Auto Save, and Versions likely are to be the most valuable.
Resume makes it possible to "restart your Mac and return to what you were doing -- with all your apps in the places where you left them" -- a helpful time saver. Auto Save and Versions -- which unfortunately require new versions of software to be useful -- automatically save work and allow you to browse a "timeline" of changes made to documents (including side-by-side comparison of two versions), respectively. Even those who have modest incomes are likely to find US$29 worthwhile to recover hours of work that would have been lost had it not been saved manually or easily go back to an earlier draft after feedback from a boss or professor.
Other more minor features may be valuable to some and less valuable to others. Just about everyone should find "FileVault 2" which provides full disk encryption valuable and many will find "AirDrop" to wirelessly send files to nearby Macs valuable. Individual features like a high-resolution cursor at larger sizes for those who have difficulty seeing or improved Simplified Chinese recognition may be quite valuable to some and not needed by others.
Still other features, like a "leather" new look for iCal and a "full-screen Photo Booth" that "makes you feel as if you're in an actual photo booth" only are valuable to the most vapid.
Basically, the "pros" are potentially valuable features and the largest "cons" are the loss of backwards compatibility and cost of replacing older software, if possible. Any individual may have different pros and cons, but an attempt at what are likely to be the most common follows:
It's Your Decision
Essentially, Intel-based Mac users will fall into one of three categories.
For those with compatible Macs and compatible software, odds are good that a feature or features will be worth at least US$29, and as a result, OS X Lion is a compelling upgrade. Those with "mission critical" Macs still would be wise to wait for a couple of additional bug fixes.
For those with incompatible hardware, but compatible software (or at least largely compatible software), OS X Lion isn't likely to be a reason to immediately buy a new or newer Mac, but is likely to be a welcomed upgrade in the future.
Unfortunately, for those with incompatible software -- particularly software that is expensive to upgrade or doesn't have a convenient replacement -- OS X Lion is unlikely to merit an upgrade in the short-term and even may become a reason to abandon the Mac in the long-term.
Ultimately, only you can determine if you are a member of the upgrade now, upgrade later, or upgrade never groups, but by evaluating objective pros and cons of OS X Lion, it is hoped that you can make a solid decision.
Site sponsor Operator Headgap Systems specializes in heavily upgraded Macs capable of running older versions of Mac OS X (and even Mac OS 9). PowerMax sells brand new Macs with the latest and greatest OS X Lion pre-installed and also sells a variety of used systems capable of running older versions of the operating system.