For what seems like forever (or at least since April 29th, 2005), the crew at iSlayer have leveraged their obsession with system performance and statistics and provided us with arguably the best darn donationware iStat widgets on the block. For a little while now, they've been teasing their fellow stat enthusiasts with screenshots on the iSlayer blog of their latest creation, iStat menus, which is currently in a private beta. As you might guess, iStat menus is an app (installed and managed as a System Preferences pane) that will display your vital system stats in the menubar, complete with a thoroughly customizable set of options for displaying just the information you want to know.
Thankfully, the iSlayer folks were kind enough to give me a copy of the beta, along with permission to post thoughts and a screenshot gallery for your perusal. While I've been trying iStat menus out, I've also been asking the crew a few questions surrounding how it stacks up against iStat pro and nano, especially in terms of performance. One catch with the way iStat menus runs is that it doesn't create its own separate process that can be monitored in Activity Monitor (or, I assume by relation, the Terminal). Instead, each menu item monitor you activate runs as a Menu Extra which lumps itself into the SystemUIServer thread, so the only way Marc Edwards at iSlayer recommended I could compare iStat menu's performance against my long-time favorite iStat pro is simply to watch that thread before and after enabling iStat menu's items.
After some testing, I'm happy to report that iStat menu's performance is definitely better than its widget counterparts. Before switching on each of iStat menu's monitors (at their default settings, mind you), my SystemUIServer process was running at around 16.5 MB of Real Memory, and 243.5 MB of Virtual Memory. After flipping all those switches, my SystemUIServer process only rose to 19 MB and 247 MB, respectively; that's a mere increase of 2.5 MB and 4 MB. Compared to iStat pro's 10.2 MB / 231 MB resource usage just on its own, I think it's safe to say that iStat menu offers a significant boost in performance and drop in resource consumption whilst monitoring those very aspects of your Mac. It's a win-win in my book.
But what is iStat menus capable of monitoring, you ask? It's capable of almost everything the iStat widgets are, though it looks like one or two options - such as a battery monitor - have been left out, possibly because iSlayer didn't have any functionality to add to a menubar battery monitor above and beyond Apple's (though I would personally love the option of a couple more power profiles to work with). Here's a quick list of iStat menu's modules, though you can also see these in our screenshot gallery: CPU, Memory, Drives, Network, Temps, Fans, Bluetooth (a bonus here: battery monitors for your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse), Date & Time and - deservingly - a Donate panel.
Beyond that, check out our screenshot gallery for a rundown on all the finer details and features of iStat menus, and stay tuned for a public release. iSlayer assured me they're very close, as they've held an extended beta testing period to ensure a nice, smooth ride once this goes live.