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Will OS X 10.6.5 narrow gaming performance gap?

15 October 2010 10,525 views No Comment

When Apple announces new Macs and demos what everyone expects will be OS X 10.7 “Lion” next Wednesday, the Cupertino, California-based company will likely release a fairly significant Snow Leopard maintenance update with important iOS 4.2 dependencies. As we consider today’s latest OS X 10.6.5 developer seed, we should look ahead at what to expect in this release overall.

MacRumors reports that Apple has seeded OS X 10.6.5 [10H555] to developers. As was the case with the previous dev release two weeks ago, this one arrives with no known issues and Apple’s asked coders to focus on the same areas — 3D graphics, printing, QuickTime, Time Machine and USB devices.

Although nothing’s certain until it’s actually released, refreshed Macs and operating system updates often ship on or about the same day. This relative concurrence points to next Wednesday’s “Back to the Mac” Apple media event, where the company is expected to release updated Mac hardware, as well as preview Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion.”

What’s inside?

When Apple releases iOS 4.2 in November, which brings multitasking to the iPad and AirPrint mobile printing to the idevice line, it carries a dependence on OS X 10.6.5. Yes, there will be limited idevice printing capabilities without it, limited to only HP’s latest top-shelf all-in-one printers, but compatibility with legacy printers requires this Snow Leopard update.

What else is new in OS X 10.6.5? According to AppleInsider, the mothership and its merry band of coders have baked the following into this release:

Shop for Gaming Accessories at Logitech• Improved reliability with Microsoft Exchange servers
• Resolved a delay between print jobs
• Addressed a printing issue for some HP printers connected to an Airport Extreme
• Resolved an issue when dragging contacts from Address Book to iCal
• Addressed an issue where dragging an item from a stack causes the Dock to not automatically hide
• Added SSL support for uploading files to iDisk
• Resolved an issue with Wikipedia information not displaying correctly in Dictionary
• Improved performance of MainStage on certain Mac systems
• Resolved spacing issues with OpenType fonts
• Improved reliability with some Bluetooth braille displays
• Resolved a VoiceOver issue when browsing some web sites with Safari 5
• Addressed stability and performance of graphics applications and games

Regarding the last point, back in late August after the release of Snow Leopard Graphics Update, the software simians at Valve praised the patch for markedly improving gaming performance. However, they also made a rather pointed remark on how Apple could further improve Snow Leopard.

“Lastly, and this is the bit that pleases me most, Valve pointedly mentions that Apple could further boost performance by optimizing floating point validation, overcoming a significant CPU bottleneck.”

Thereupon, the Mac versions of Valve/Steam games are much more stable and offer 80 to 90 percent of the performance of their PC equivalents. If Apple can palpably narrow the frame rate gap with OS X 10.6.5 — right before the Christmas holiday — a lot of people will take notice, especially if the company delivers the update on freshly tweaked (i.e. faster) Macs…

What’s your take?

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