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OS X Mavericks vs OS X Yosemite speed testing: Can upgrading to Yosemite slow down your Mac?

Andrew Harrison | Feb. 24, 2015
Can updating OS X slow down your Mac? We ran detailed speed tests on the same Mac running OS X Mavericks and Yosemite to find out

Updating OS X on your Mac brings new features and interface enhancements, but it may affect the day-to-day performance and speed of your Mac. In this article we compare the performance of the same Mac running Mac OS X Mavericks and Mac OS X Yosemite, to see what effect upgrading is likely to have on your system.

Every major update - and sometimes even minor ones - to something as fundamental as a computer's operating system is likely to affect its performance. In either direction.

And by performance we're talking about the computer's ability to do the job of running applications and keeping your system ticking along, as well as the way it can streamline your navigation and movement from process to process. In fact, there are two main aspects under review here: the optimisation of code that lets applications, graphics and data IO work as fast as required in the background. And the elements of the user interface that either facilitate or hinder you getting on with what you need to do.

Through the 2000s we saw Mac OS X get steadily leaner and faster (and Windows continue its established trend of getting slower and more bloated). Until OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at least, after which more additions in Lion and Mountain Lion were superfluous for many users and could have slowed down Macs on their age limit. The move to a slicker OS X 10.9 Mavericks helped for some, but now we have a whole new decimal update in OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

Yosemite has wrought fundamental changes to the OS subsystem as well as the user interface layer that we see. The divisive new look provides translucency to window frames; a flat, squarer look; and a substitution from Lucinda Grande to a Helvetica font throughout. Some people like the move towards an interface that more closely resembles iOS 7; others are troubled by the cosmetic changes alone which have been describes as a glary whiteness, more garish colours and blurry and hard-to-read typography.

It's not scientific but as a quick straw poll it's interesting to note that a forum thread on MacRumors entitled 'Yosemite is Beautiful' runs to 329 replies. Next to it is the 'Yosemite looks terrible!' thread with 2,662 posts.

Mavericks vs Yosemite speed testing: How we tested

We tested performance of both operating systems using a 13-inch MacBook Pro, running the same raft of benchmark tests on the most up-to-date versions of Mavericks (10.9.5) and Yosemite (10.10.2) using a partitioned flash drive on the same system.

Many of the differences were very small. To ensure we had captured real trends rather than random drifts in individual run output, the tests were run multiple times and a mean average calculated.


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