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Running Leopard on a Mac that barely qualifies: I¿m impressed

One month ago I wrote a post speculating on whether installing Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on an older Power PC-based Mac – particularly one on the edge of the minimum system requirements – would result in a less responsive machine compared to that same Mac running its predecessors.

A few days ago I installed Leopard on my 2001 G4 Quicksilver tower with an 867 MHz Power PC processor – the oldest Mac model that Leopard officially supports.

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And it rocks.

My previous concerns were based on a report that Apple had raised the minimum requirements just a few weeks before Leopard's release. AppleInsider said Apple engineers had determined Leopard ran too slowly on Macs with less than an 867 MHz processor.

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Based on my experience so far, I'd say those engineers – if in fact that actually happened (AppleInsider is a rumor site, after all, though a very good one) -- were overcautious.

Subjectively speaking, I think Leopard is slightly more responsive on my Quicksilver than Mac Os X 10.4 Tiger was. The fancy new eye candy such as QuickLook Cover Flow in the Finder work fairly smoothly. Not quite as well as they do on my 2006 MacBook, but certainly well enough.

Now I do need to point out that I did a fresh install of Leopard on a secondary internal hard drive rather than upgrade over my existing system. So it could be the new snappiness is attributable to a clean system that lacks the hundreds of legacy font files and oddball system hacks gumming up my Tiger volume.

Nevertheless, I'm keeping Tiger as my primary OS X version on the Quicksilver for three reasons: 1) Leopard consumes several gigabytes more space than Tiger, and I can't spare the room on the hard drive; 2) I need to run Classic mode because my daughter still plays a lot of old Mac OS 9 games; and 3) I'm planning to replace the Quicksilver as my primary Mac with a Mac Pro the day the new models are announced, which could be as soon as next week (let me dream, OK?)

Aside from the loss of Classic mode and the unpredictable glitches one might encounter as an early adopter, performance-wise Leopard should purr on any Mac that meets the minimum requirements.

Vista, eat your heart out.

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