Venerable technology website Ars Technica has published an in-depth comparative review of Apple's new Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger'.

The review even considers the way Apple has refined the packaging since the first iteration of the product, which ships on a DVD-ROM only.

"For customers without DVD-capable optical drives, Apple offers a $9.95 "Media Exchange Program."", Ars Technica explains.

Under this scheme Mac users running machines without a DVD player can get the OS on CDs - though the procedure is tedious: "To take advantage of the program, customers must purchase Tiger, fill out a form, then mail it back to Apple along with their original Tiger DVD and a $9.95 payment."

Mail gets a beating

The report examines graphical changes in the OS, castigating Mail for having been "beaten with the ugly stick" in Tiger. "What's with the sudden attack of pale blues and grays?" the reviewer complains.

Despite the initial aesthetic focus, the review explains the history of Mac OS X's kernel in great depth, touching on certain inconsistencies in terms of the APIs available to developers in the past.

"With Tiger, Apple is finally ready to put some kernel interface stakes in the ground. For the first time, there are stable, officially supported kernel programming interfaces," he explains.

Spotlight praised

The review offers some criticism of Apple's Spotlight feature, but admits: "Spotlight is an excellent implementation of a simple, effective design for a system-wide file system search. It's very fast, very capable, and always as up-to-date as is technically possible."

The review promises more an interesting future: "I'm absolutely sure that many of the applications I use every day will soon integrate Spotlight in much more interesting and useful ways."

Apple's revised Core Image processes win praise, "Core Image seems to do the same thing Photoshop does with its filters, only Core Image does it in real time."

Has QuickTime Pro pestering had its day?

QuickTime 7 gets praise, though Apple's decision to charge an additional $30 for QuickTime Pro does not. He calls this "criminally stupid".

Mac OS X ships with extensive development tools, a Web browser, Mail, address book, iChat, iLife and much more.

"Please, Apple, give up on the QuickTime Pro thing. It's always been annoying, but when viewed alongside today's suite of bundled Apple software, it's downright ridiculous."

The extensive 20-page review also looks at: Core Video, Core Image, Quartz, Metadata, Dashboard, The Finder and a host of other topics.