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Should You Upgrade Your MacBook Pro?

macOS

Apple has released the fourth major update to the sixteenth version of MacOS. Released in late March, MacOS Catalina 10.15.4 includes Screen Time Communication Limits, which allows parents to restrict the contacts that a child can call through FaceTime, Phone, Messages, and iCloud Contacts; Head Pointer Accessibility which allows the cursor to be controlled by head movements track by the webcam; iCloud folder sharing in Finder; and real time lyrics in Apple Music.

You also have the usual raft of big fixes and improvements, with a number of them highlighted in the change log.

With Apple’s WWDC 2020 just around the corner (even if it a virtual event) the expectation is that the beta builds of MacOS 10.16 will be released. That means this could be the final release of MacOS 10.15. Given the number of changes and tweaks to apps, there’s a certain sense of finality here.

As such this is probably a recommended release especially if you have skipped other updates., although those who are using business-critical machines might want to wait a few weeks just to be sure nothing disastrous has sneaked in.

Compatibility

macos-catalina

MacOS Catalina 10.15 supports all machines that would run Mojave (MacOS 10.14) with the exception of those that required a GPU upgrade. Therefore Catalina is compatible with the following machines:

  • Mac Pro: Late 2013 models and onwards.
  • iMac Pro: All models.
  • iMac: Late 2012 models and onwards.
  • Mac Mini: Late 2012 models and onwards.
  • MacBook Pro: Mid 2012 models and onwards.
  • MacBook Air: Mid 2012 models and onwards.
  • MacBook: Early 2015 models and onwards.

You should be prompted to upgrade your computer to Catalina, but if you are looking to start the install, you can go to the Apple Menu > Software Update. More details can be found at Apple’s support page.

Issues

MacOS Catalina 10.15.4 is a substantive release – especially when you compare it to the threadbare 10.15.3 release in late January. You have a number of new features in key apps, although there is nothing earth-shattering here that makes this a must-have release.

10.15.3 felt like a maintenance releases. 10.15.4 offers more than that, adding in a bit of polish to some popular apps. But with MacOS 10.16 on the horizon, this could be the last stop on the line before we get an ‘all change’ from our Cupertino conductor.

Benefits

The key features, according to Apple’s release notes, are:

macOS Catalina 10.15.4 introduces iCloud Drive folder sharing, Screen Time communications limits, Apple Music time-synced lyrics view, and more. The update also improves the stability, reliability, and security of your Mac.
Finder
iCloud Drive folder sharing from Finder.
Controls to limit access only to people you explicitly invite or grant access to anyone with the folder link.
Permissions to choose who can make changes and upload files and who can only view and download files
Screen Time
Communication limits for controlling who your children can communicate with and be contacted by throughout the day and during downtime
Playback control of music videos for your children
Music
Time-synced lyrics view for Apple Music, including the ability to jump to your favorite part of a song by clicking a line in lyrics view

The Verdict

If you are currently running MacOS Catlina – either through upgrading an existing Mac or on a recently purchased Mac machine – then you should upgrade. Although nothing major is fixed, the small details, especially the security additions, are going to be welcome.

Those on the older versions of MacOS (Mojave and High Sierra) get to make the final call of moving to Catalina or waiting for the next named release. While the security benefits are welcome, Apple has been rolling out updates to older versions of MacOS so you should watch for those. Think of it as Apple’s way of acknowledging that many users will be remaining on these older platforms, no doubt for 32-bit application support. 

With issues remaining in MacOS and in third-party applications on the platform, the later makes it easier to recommend staying on an older version of the OS, especially if it is still working and can be regarded as a ‘business critical’ machine.

Coming Up…

There are currently no public developer builds for MacOS Catalina 10.15.5 in Apple’s public beta system, and the next release is likely be a beta o 10.16 at WWDC 2020 in June.

If you’ve not made the jump to Catalina, there’s nothing significant in here that I think will tempt you. Otherwise consider this a recommended release for existing users.

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