I've been collecting atlases for over 30 years, including three different editions of this one. I still have the 8th edition, and now I've lived with the 10 edition for a couple months and am ready to state my opinion, and compare it to previous editions.
First, I'd like to make a general observation about these Times Atlases. They have all carried about 20% of their maps in a vertical orientation. This is all right in atlases that are of a more manageable size, but for a book that weighs 11 pounds, it is burdensome to be flipping it around every few pages. I just had to get that out of the way, because it has always bothered me.
The strength of the Times Atlas of the World has always been the details and accuracy of its physical maps, showing the topographic layout of the land. The colors chosen to do so were more garish in previous editions than in this 10th, and on a first impression, the maps in the 10th edition look strikingly more beautiful. They are works of art. However, I am not convinced that the new colors are more useful. As was pointed out in a review below, what is missing is the sharp contrast from one elevation interval to the next, so it is actually more difficult to figure out the details of the typography, without using a magnifying glass. I think utility was sacrificed to sheer beauty in this case. But let there be no misunderstanding. These maps are probably the most beautiful physical representations of the land that have ever been published at this scale, and due to the digital database upon which the printing was based, without doubt, the most accurate.
Continuing with the theme of this book's utility, I find that I can't see the forest for the trees with this edition. For example, I found it much easier to trace out the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the old editions, with their use of more contrasting colors. There is almost too much detail at all scales to figure out what's actually going on with the layout of the land. Even plate 37, which is a 1:15,000,000 map of north Asia, there is an almost bewildering amount of data shown in the European regions of this map. Only in the Siberian wastelands can you see what's really going on, and who cares about that except the intrepid geographer (that's me, actually)? I suspect that what is going on here is that the computers that generated these maps have been allowed to run amuck, without enough editorial control and selection over the results.
Since 90% of this atlas consists of physical maps of stunning detail and beauty, I would think that this atlas would appeal most strongly to individuals who were interested in the physical features of the surface of our planet. Yet, what do we get in the opening 60 pages of thematics? Well, it starts out with 14 pages of satellite maps covering the whole Earth. That would seem like a fine start, except very little commentary is provided interpreting what we're looking at. These are beautiful plates, but I don't see that they're very useful. Then we have several obligatory pages showing the Earth's place in the universe, which to my mind is just fluff in an atlas (admittedly, most atlases waste space doing this). Of the remaining 34 thematic pages, less than half are devoted to describing physical features of the world. The rest are more concerned with political and economic issues. There isn't even a map showing world precipitation (which was presented in Plate 2 of the 8th edition), only a tiny map showing the CHANGES in precipitation we might expect by the year 2050, which is highly speculative! I shouldn't be too critical here, because thematic maps have never been the strong suit of the Times Atlas of the World, and were even more impoverished in the 8th edition. But I do wish there were more, of the same caliber as the main body of the work.
On the whole, the selection of the maps is good, although the selection seems to be politically, rather than physically, based. So there are some favorites of mine missing. The 8th edition had superb, separate maps of Alaska and the Canadian Northwest Territories at 1:5,000,000 that are missing in this edition. Also missing are superb 1:500,000 maps of Switzerland and Israel that appeared in the 8th edition. On the other hand, there are great, two page spreads of Poland and Turkey that didn't appear in previous editions.
In spite of my criticisms, I wouldn't be caught dead without this latest, gorgeous 10th edition of the Times Atlas of the World. But I am a map fanatic, and I'll buy maps just because of their aesthetic appeal. This 10th edition has beauty like no other atlas that I have ever seen before. But I do think that, when it comes to usefulness, this atlas is a specialty item, especially at its price. If you're looking for some obscure place, the 220,000 entries in its index will probably let you find it. But unless you do this for a living, there are probably better options out there, unless you just love maps for the sake of maps, like me. Heck, in spite of everything I've said in this review, I have to give it five stars, because there's simply nothing else comparable, for what it is.