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 Dr. Mac: OS X Panther Review

 
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  12-26-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

 

As the year of the Panther comes to its end…

 


By Bob LeVitus

If you haven’t upgraded to Panther yet, I think it’s time… Assuming your Mac is capable of running Panther—which is to say it’s a Power Mac G3, G4 or G5, iMac, eMac, PowerBook G3 or G4, or iBook, with at least 128 MB of physical RAM and built-in USB—I think Panther’s worth every penny.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention (as I’ve mentioned here before), that, “Apple has identified an issue with external FireWire hard drives using the Oxford 922 bridge chip-set with firmware version 1.02 that can result in the loss of data stored on the disk drive. Even with the improvements available in this update, Apple recommends you update the firmware on your FireWire drive. Please contact your drive manufacturer for more information.”

That said, if your Mac is capable of running it, and your external FireWire drive’s firmware has been updated if necessary, Panther totally rocks.

And I’m not the only one that thinks so. Check out the January issue of MacAddict magazine, which offers a feature story, written by the incomparable Deborah Shadovitz, which comes to the same conclusion. The story is entitled: “Panther: Worth Every Penny.”

Now while I can only offer my opinion that Panther is worth every penny, MacAddict was much more scientific about it, taking the whole price/value thing to a new level. They evaluated ten Panther timesaving features and estimated how much time each one would save you over the course of a year.

I’m not sure I agree with their math. For example, Panther’s Mail application is indeed much improved over the Jaguar version, but I’m not convinced those improvements add up to a “yearly savings of 121 hours and 30 minutes.” And while I love the heck out of Exposé, the Panther feature that magically reorganizes windows on your screen so you can find anything quickly and easily, I’m not sure it will save you 41 hours a year (measured as 20 seconds per use, and 20 uses per day).

It’s an interesting article and well worth reading if you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not to upgrade to Panther. Panther may not save you 256 hours a year (or $7,680 at $30/hour; $2,560 at $10/hour; or $256 at $1/hour), as the MacAddict article concludes, but it will almost certainly speed your workflow to some extent, and most likely lower your blood pressure and bring a big smile to your face.

Now, here’s something to think about… Panther lists for $129 and while you can sometimes find it for $119 online, there are no real deals. So consider this: New Macs have Panther pre-installed. So, for a little more money you can not only have Panther, but you can also have that new Mac you’ve been drooling over.

Check it out: The new eMac 1GHz G4s with combo drive costs less than $800 at MacConnection (www.macconnection.com) or MacWarehouse (www.macwarehouse.com). And both vendors currently include a free Epson Stylus C84 printer. Add a DVD-burning SuperDrive to it, and it still comes in at less than $1,100.

Or visit the Apple online Store (www.apple.com) and click the Special Deals link, where you’ll find new, previous generation iBook G3s starting at $799; refurbished Power Mac G4s and G5s starting at $1,399; refurbished iBooks starting at $679; and refurbished PowerBooks starting at $1,199.

Finally, if you purchased a new Mac on or after October 8, 2003, and Panther wasn’t pre-installed, you are entitled to a copy for $19.95; you’ll find details at http://www.apple.com/macosx/uptodate/.

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. S.R.P. $129
Apple Computer, Inc. Cupertino, Calif
www.apple.com


Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to doctormac@boblevitus.com.

Copyright © 2003 Bob LeVitus

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