OS X El Capitan – Review

4 minute read

Let me say this right away, everyone running OS X Yosemite should upgrade to OS X El Capitan. Apple have focused on performance, stability and security enhancements so although there aren’t many new features El Capitan is a brilliant update and I’m going to say it’s nearly on par with OS X Snow Leopard and OS X Mountain Lion, arguably two of Apple’s best OS X updates.

For me, Yosemite wasn’t a great update, users were experiencing frequent crashes, slow performance speeds and various bugs but El Capitan changes that. Obviously Apple hasn’t listed every change but when you use your Mac, you can feel the difference. Using your Mac is fun again. Like iOS 9, OS X El Capitan has Metal built-in which is a low-level framework for graphic-intensive tasks. Metal integration definitely changes the overall speed of the operating system as everything is silky smooth and I’ve experienced no lag or stutter myself.

Once you install El Capitan, the first thing you might notice, like iOS 9, is the new font. It’s called San Francisco and it was the font that was tailor-made for Apple Watch but it seems Apple like it so much they’ve added to iOS and OS X. It might take a day or two before you stop noticing but it’s better in every way than the previous font that was used, Helvetica Neue. Mission Control has undergone a few changes. Windows don’t stack on top of each other anymore and the bar at the top, by default, will only show the name of the app. When you hover over the name, it expands and shows the preview too. Oh, and if you’re having trouble finding your cursor, move your finger frantically over the trackpad and the cursor will enlarge.

Similar to the new multitasking experiences on iPad with iOS 9, El Capitan introduces Split-View which allows you to have two apps open on-screen at the same time. There are two ways to enable Split-View. You can either drag and drop an application over another in Mission Control or you can click and hold the green full-screen icon positioned at the top-left corner of the window. Part of the screen will turn blue and you can then drop windows on the other side of the screen. As you can imagine, Split-View can be very handy. You might be doing a work assignment in Pages but need Safari open for research. You can adjust the windows by clicking on the dividing line and moving it to your liking. One thing you can’t do is drag-and-drop but who knows, that might change next year.

Safari next and there are a couple of changes that will make using Safari even better. Firstly, you can now pin tabs in your tab bar, so that they’re always there, no matter where you are and if you have multiple tabs open and sound starts blasting out of your speakers you can simply hit “Mute Other Tabs” in the address bar at the top and it’ll stop, it’s a very useful feature. Notes has also improved and although it doesn’t compare to Evernote which I consider the best note app available, if you just want to jot something down or save a link from Safari, you can do that. You can now create checklists and add rich-formatting to add a bit of style to your notes. Notes will work with other Apple apps too, you can use the Share Sheet in Safari to add links, videos and photos and they’ll be embedded neatly into the app with a preview attached. Of course, when iCloud is enabled you can save a note on your Mac and it’ll be ready for you on your iPhone. Unlike Notes in iOS 9 however, you don’t have access to the new format tools such as the pencil and the ruler.

Maps has gained the Transit feature and it’s clear this was made for iOS, I mean, who takes their Mac out of their bag in the middle of London trying to find the way around the city? If you do, perhaps use the feature on the iPhone instead now that it’s available. It’s still nice to see Apple adding it to OS X and not leaving it out however. Transit is only available in certain places at the moment but Apple are always adding new places to the list. In Mail you can now swipe left with two fingers to delete an email and swipe right with two fingers to open up the options to mark as read. Mail also supports tabs for drafts while in full-screen mode.

As for performance, El Capitan is quick. According to Apple, apps open 40% faster, switching between apps is twice as fast and PDF rendering times improved by 50%. These things are hard to test but they are definitely faster and you’ll notice the difference. Boot-up times do vary of course as it depends what type of Mac have but my 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina display took around 11 seconds to boot. As we all know, having an SSD makes a massive difference. Yosemite was slightly slower for me, it took nearly 13 seconds so Metal has improved things in this department.

The conclusion then. OS X El Capitan is a fantastic update. You won’t be bombarded with new features but what you will get is stability and greater performance. Every variety of Mac that was compatible with Yosemite is compatible with El Capitan. However, if you do install El Capitan on an older Mac be sure that Metal-integration will be unavailable due to the older GPU. The update is free, go and grab it from the Mac App Store right now, if you don’t, you’re missing out on one of Apple’s greatest updates.