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OS X El Capitan review roundup: a faster, smarter Mac OS

OS X El Capitan public beta

Apple is set to release OS X El Capitan to the world tomorrow, and as is usually the case with its new operating systems, the company has finally given reviewers the greenlight to make their opinions public.

For those wondering whether they should upgrade their Macs tomorrow afternoon, the reviewers generally agree that it’s well worth it, with big speed gains and improvements to usability making it easier than ever to get things done.

Below you’ll find a roundup of reviews for your perusal.


If you own a Mac, you’ll want El Capitan. This update simplifies the Mac experience, improving the tools you already use while promising improved performance to come.


El Capitan doesn’t look any different from the last version; instead, it’s a representation of all the little nips and tucks that Apple engineers wished they’d had time to put into the last version.

Wall Street Journal:

Unlike last year’s OS X Yosemite, the latest version of Apple’s Mac operating system isn’t teeming with new features and a whole new look. Instead, El Capitan refines the things that matter most in a computer: how fast our apps work and how fast we can work with so many of them open.


There was a time, only a few years ago, when OS X updates were fraught with should-I-or-shouldn’t-I peril, along with a real price tag. Those days are long gone. Should you update to El Capitan? Unreservedly yes—I’ve found it to be stable, it’s free, it’ll download and install itself on your Mac with nearly no intervention, and it’ll bring with it improved security, speed, and functionality.

The days of dramatic operating-system updates are over. El Capitan is as solid as the giant granite monolith that towers over Yosemite Valley. Upgrade, and get an improved Mac. It’s really that simple.

Ars Technica:

El Capitan follows in the well-worn footsteps of the Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion releases, which introduced some new features but largely focused on polish rather than pizzazz. That’s a good thing for a platform that’s as mature as OS X has become. iOS 9 is a similar kind of release compared to iOS 7 and iOS 8, and the result is the best x.0 version of iOS we’ve gotten in years. Given the breakneck pace of the yearly release cycles, these quieter years are a good opportunity for Apple (and users) to regroup.


With the possible exception of Split View multitasking, I’d be hard-pressed to choose a standout feature that really defines the OS. So, if you weren’t impressed with Yosemite’s flat design and tight integration with iOS, you won’t find much here to get excited about, especially if you’re considering making the switch from Windows, which has had split-screen multitasking for years now. If you’re a loyal Mac user, though, and appreciated the big-picture changes that came with Yosemite, you’ll likely welcome the various tweaks here too, especially those performance gains. Can’t ever have too much speed.

The Next Web:

El Capitan is the spit-shine Yosemite needed. It’s faster, more powerful and intuitive, and works a lot better with iOS than the Mac ever has.

The Guardian:

The visual and feature changes I found were all improvements, but really the update is all about speed.


There’s a lot to like about El Capitan, not least the price. As a free upgrade it’s a no-brainer, and though there might not be any one headline feature or improvement, it polishes away some of the rawer edges that were left behind in Yosemite. You might not use all of them beyond the honeymoon period post-install, but it could add up to a smoother overall experience if even just a few of the tweaks work their way into your day to day routine.

The Verge:

I said in my preview last June that El Capitan is Apple’s strongest argument yet that you should live inside Apple’s ecosystem of apps and services. After using El Capitan for a few weeks, I still think that’s true. But I’m also not willing to give my whole digital life over. There are still plenty of things that I can do with other services, add-ons, and third party apps that El Capitan can’t. But the gap is shrinking.

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  1. Dustin Moskowitz - 8 years ago

    All sound great, but I’d lose access to great apps like TotalFinder with El Capitan’s “System Integrity Protection” thingy. That alone may make it a dealbreaker for me. I know you can get around it, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the protection?

    • Howie Isaacks - 8 years ago

      Just turn off System Integrity Protection. You don’t have it with Yosemite, so why would you worry about it? Also, why not tell the developer of TotalFinder to update their app?

      • Dustin Moskowitz - 8 years ago

        As I said, I know it can be turned off, TotalFinder’s website even states that this is the only way to keep it running. Shame it has to shut out apps like TF to enable the protection, though I guess I understand the connection.

  2. srgmac - 8 years ago

    What trackpad is he using in the pic to the left on this article? It looks like magic trackpad but the stand is different…

    • Howie Isaacks - 8 years ago

      Those are cables sticking out from the table top.

      • srgmac - 8 years ago

        You’re right! Damn am I going blind?? It still kind of looks like it’s on some kind of stand though, at least to my blind self :(

  3. triankar - 8 years ago

    I’ve been using the beta for a while. No problems here. Much smoother than the upgrade to Yosemite last year. No hiccups even with Java.

    My only minor complaint so far is with Mission Control. I use multiple spaces (3, plus two fullscreen apps) and I’m very used to having the thumbnails of each of them readily available on swipe-up. Now that the previews are gone and we’re left only with the name, it’s one more thing to move the mouse up there just to peek where a window is.

    “Why multiple spaces?”, you may ask. On Linux I was addicted to the focus-follows-mouse behaviour (bring to front on click). The swipe-down quick task switcher works well if you’re only switching between two apps, and the Mission Control is far too slow/cumbersome for my tastes. So, I spread apps across multiple spaces and swipe-left/right to switch between them.

    • srgmac - 8 years ago

      The previews of the spaces are gone now with mission control?? They look like they are still here in this video: — You can see “Desktop” at 0:23 shows all the windows at the top…Are you talking about something else?

    • aaronh - 7 years ago

      You have to move the mouse up to the top bar to expose them. I agree that it’s lame, though.

  4. beyondthetech - 8 years ago

    Will the public release’s build number be the same as the GM Seed?

    • Howie Isaacks - 8 years ago

      In the past, Apple has released more than one GM build, and other times, the final build that was released was different from the GM build. I guess we’ll know tomorrow. I’m running the GM build now, and it’s great. If the final build is different, I can just install it right on top of the GM build.

  5. Gymadre - 8 years ago

    I’m still using Aperture for my photo editing & storage on an external with my old iPhoto libraries. They all work fine in Yosemite, bill they still work with El Capitan?

    • Dustin Moskowitz - 8 years ago

      I sure as heck hope so. I use iPhoto – and occasionally Aperture – and heard the transition to Photos under Yosemite was awful. I’m not going near that app, so I hope iPhoto will continue through El Capitan.

    • PhilBoogie - 8 years ago

      I’m also still using Aperture (which works under 10.11) I am however trying out Photos alongside Aperture, but in a safe way: I’ve duplicated my (managed) Library so am working on a copy, just to be on the safe side.

  6. we can’t at work…they say MS Office apps are broken in El Capitan…

    • prolango - 8 years ago

      Not true. MS Office runs smooth on my El Capitan Beta.

      • Hugo Nuñez - 7 years ago

        I have Office 365 and just upgraded to El Capitan and all office apps work just fine.

  7. Helen Mosbrook - 7 years ago

    Yahoo Messenger will not work with El Capitan. I can still read my email on my iPad, but how can I get it on my desktop?

  8. Dannica Tecson - 7 years ago

    what is happening with my yahoo messenger in here….