One of the most reported new "features" of this OS is VASTLY improved performance. Wow, we haven't heard THAT one before, have we?
Yet when I fired Panther up for the first time, and every beta thereafter, there did seem to be a subjective feel of better responsiveness and faster overall speed. Out comes x-bench to see if there was any way to back things up with real data.
First, the baseline: Using 10.2.6 on my venerable 500Mhz Pismo portable, the overall score was 33.72. My first attempt at using Panther was build 7B21, one of the earliest public releases, and the Xbench scores were impressive: 44.25, or basically a solid 25% increase. My first impression of that was to nod and think "But this is still early... if they have to fix anything performance could still take a hit." Also, a lot of the performance increase can be attributed to the new support for Quartz Extreme on the Pismo, where a lot of the GUI based processing is offloaded onto the video card.
7B53 is a lot later in the development cycle, and it shows. Stability is impressive, and compatibility with existing apps is, so far, equally so. In fact, this is the first build I've been able to run continuously as a working system. In fact, I'm running it now as I post this.
What was startling was the xbench score: 46.39. It's actually gotten a bit FASTER on top of these improvements.
There are a few cosmetic bugs left, notably in iChat, but thus far nothing easily reproducible or excessively aggravating. More important, perhaps due to the aforementioned lighter load on the CPU is the pismo is running cooler than it was under Jaguar. One of the dirty little secrets about OS X is that the GUI is so processor intensive that it's a bit too easy to over heat the CPU to the point that the system can spontaneously restart without any warning. Usually applications die before it gets that hot, but if you're running a PhotoShop batch the CPU temperatures can climb all the way to the 180's within seconds. General usage the temps hovered around 114.
I still have to punish the processor with some PhotoShop evil, but my average temps are already FAR lower than they were... between 89 and 96 degrees. One thing I have done is run a particular chunk of MPEG movie that chokes a bit under Jaguar, namely the opening sequence of "Matrix Reloaded" where the now infamous green codes scatter to form the gears inside a time clock in a security station. That much scattered information is hard on compression (the only thing harder? Snow. As in Static), and the gears stall at least three times under the older OS. Under 10.3 beta... smooth playback, using VLC for Mac OS X.
7B59 is already out, and there will probably be at least half a dozen seeds before this goes golden. I'm still being a bit tentative with this release, though I'm getting a lot more confident