A hands-on look at iStat Menus 3

During the summer of 2008, I was using my MacBook Air outside on a very hot (102°F in the shade) day when I noticed that the laptop seemed to have slowed down to the point that it was almost unusable. Fortunately, I had installed iSlayer's iStat, and I was able to tell at a glance that one of the cores of the Core 2 Duo processor had shut down.

Sure enough, a quick look around the Web pointed out that other MacBook Air owners were running into similar problems in "warm" conditions. Cooling off the MBA resolved the issue (and made me a lot cooler, too!), and I've never had the problem since. That one occurrence taught me the value of a tool like iStat, so the application has been on my Macs ever since.

Now comes iStat Menus 3, the latest version of the venerable Mac monitoring application. The company name has changed -- it's now Bjango -- but the product still remains a useful tool for those of us who like to keep an eye on the internal workings of our Macs. I recently bought iStat Menus 3 to install on a new i7 iMac, so here are some of my first impressions of the app.

iStat has always let you monitor information about your Mac from the menu bar, so checking on CPU and memory usage, temperatures and fan speeds, and a host of other items are still in the app. iStat Menus 3 fixed some issues with earlier versions, added many enhancements, and is now easier to install and use.

There's a new battery extra that lets you configure low battery warnings and provides custom information for plugged-in or battery power states. For those of us with Bluetooth keyboards and mice, iStat now monitors those devices as well. I have an APC Uninterruptible Power Supply for my main desktop computer, and the battery extra even monitors the charging status of it.

Have you ever wanted to control the fan speed on your Intel-based Mac? The Sensors extra now includes a control to do just that. While I'm not sure I'll use that feature that much because of the fan noise, it was fun to pump up the fan speed and watch the temperature of the CPU drop over 20°F.

I've always preferred the Date & Time extra in iStats over the general display that is available on the Mac. You can now include moon phase information as well as sun/moon rise and set times for your current city and over 20,000 other locations. There's also a fuzzy clock feature ("about twenty after 12") that is new. I tried it, I discarded it. Your mileage may vary.

If you have one of the newer Mac models, support for those has been added to the Network extra. I personally thought that the addition of the public IP address to the drop-down menu was a great idea, since it's something that I frequently need to look up and can now do with a single click.

All of the menu items are controlled from a preferences panel, and that has been upgraded considerably as well. The folks at Bjango are geniuses at UI design, and this version continues the tradition.

You can download iStat Menus 3 for a 14-day full trial, or purchase the app online for just US$10 at the current sale price. Anyone who likes to control and monitor their Mac should get iStat Menus 3 as quickly as possible. Check out the gallery below for some screen shots of the application in action.