Apple's happily admitted from day one that Snow Leopard was to be a better Leopard, building on the foundations of Mac OS X 10.5. The thinking was to make things better, faster, easier - an upgrade about refinement rather than revolution.

This approach, coupled with Snow Leopard's rock-bottom £25 price-point, has led many to yell 'service pack', but that's pretty ignorant when you consider what Snow Leopard claims to offer. Sure, there's no Time Machine or Spotlight this time round, but there are still dozens of new features, big and small. More importantly, the OS has had large chunks of its guts ripped out and rewritten, which Apple claims should speed up your Mac and even return hard-disk space to you post-install.

Snow leopard

CHANGES: Many Snow Leopard changes are refinements - but they're good ones

This review aims to cover the most important new features of Snow Leopard and judge their usefulness; it is based on working with the system and dozens of third-party apps since Snow Leopard was officially released.

Before we get started, some clarification is also required about pricing. Upgrading from Leopard entitles you to the £25 Snow Leopard; otherwise, Apple's selling the Mac Box Set for £129, bundling iLife and iWork. Tiger users can avoid this by buying Leopard separately, but the standard Snow Leopard DVD also installs fine over Tiger, although doing so without owning Leopard will probably be a breach of the EULA.