macOS Big Sur is the biggest update to the Mac operating system in years and we’ve been using it for a while now. In this review, you can read whether you like all innovations.
macOS Big Sur review
The new macOS Big Sur was already announced in June, but we ended up waiting quite a long time for the update. The upgrade has been available since this month and if you have already installed it on your own Mac (Book), you have probably already started using the new features. We did that too, and in this macOS Big Sur review, you can read our findings.
The new design is very beautiful
Unlike previous macOS versions, Big Sur is mainly characterized by its design. The design of the operating system has been overhauled and looks fresh and modern. The appearance of Big Sur is now more in line with that of iOS and iPadOS and you can actually see that immediately and everywhere.
For example, the Dock, where all the icons of your applications are, is a bit lighter and the edges are more rounded. The app icons are also more square than before and the icons of Apple apps have also been taken care of. That looks good, although some icons have not improved immediately. For example, the images from QuickTime and FaceTime are a bit ugly.
The menu bar at the top is – just like the Dock – more transparent and colors with the background you have set, and windows also look different. The new design works out well and gives your Mac (Book) a whole new look, which is great.
Control panel is handy
Also new in macOS Big Sur is the control panel, a feature we already know from the iPhone and iPad. If you tap the button (with the two sliders) in the menu bar, you will get an overview with all kinds of useful options.
Think of the WiFi network you are connected to and the option to quickly enable or disable Bluetooth and AirDrop. You can also activate Do Not Disturb mode, for example. Because these options were previously all shown separately in the menu bar and can now be found in the Control Panel, your menu bar looks more tidy. Nice is that you can still drag settings from the panel to the menu bar if you prefer.
The Control Panel is handy, but it takes some getting used to that all options are now under one button in the menu bar. The panel is therefore mainly there to make the whole more clear, but you do not necessarily reach the options faster. In addition, you cannot adjust much to the panel, which is different with iOS, for example.
Message center and widgets
The Notification Center has also been overhauled and appears as soon as you tap the clock. You will see new widgets here, but it is especially useful that notifications from your Mac apps are now ‘stacked’, instead of all being arranged in chronological order. That regularly saves you some searching.
Safari just got better
Big Sur also plays an important role for Safari. Apple’s browser has improved considerably and the improvements focus mainly on privacy, personalization and performance. You can now adjust the look of Safari by, for example, setting a background, although it takes a while to find where this option can be found. At your homepage, however, you only have to click on the button at the bottom right and then you can choose or add an image.
Fortunately, the new privacy report option, which provides an overview of the trackers that your favorite websites use, is a lot easier to find. It is located to the left of the address bar. If you click on this, you will see per website which trackers Safari has stopped following you. This smart function works fully automatically and if you do not want to view the report for every website, you will get an overview on your home page.
An improvement that you will probably notice more in practice is that Safari has become faster and more energy efficient. Although this is difficult to test, websites do load very quickly and the battery dies less quickly. This also applies to Google Chrome: this browser has recently received a Big Sur update, making the app faster and more energy-efficient.
Maps and Messages app
Other Apple apps are also seen in Big Sur of a major update, but they are less visible because you do not use as often as Safari. For example, the Maps app has received a new coat of paint and Guides, but perhaps even more important is that the Messages app has been significantly improved.
The app is now just as good and comprehensive as the Messages app on the iPhone, and about time. For example, you can get started with Memoji, all kinds of effects for your messages and (group) conversations ‘pin’ in the app, so that they remain at the top and you do not have to search through your list of chats.
Especially useful is that you get a notification when someone mentions you in a conversation, and you can also reply to specific messages. This creates a kind of ‘threads’ and as a result group conversations remain clear and information can be found more quickly later.
Ready for Apple Silicon
Also very important is that macOS Big Sur review is fully optimized for the new Macs with an M1 chip. As a result, apps on these computers start up faster and you can perform heavier tasks more easily. It is then even possible to run iPad and iOS apps. In our review of the MacBook Air with M1 chip, which we’ll be publishing soon, we’ll take a closer look at the improvements Big Sur has to offer for the new devices.
Big Sur, therefore, runs best on the latest Macs, but the update also runs well on less recent Apple computers. We tested Big Sur on a 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2017 and the new macOS ran smoothly and without problems. If you have a slightly older Mac, you can also update without any problems. For users of MacBook Pros from 2013 and 2014, it is probably smarter to wait a little longer because an installation bug can cause serious problems.
These Macs support Big Sur
Most devices running macOS Catalina are supported by Big Sur. It concerns the following devices:
- 12-inch MacBook (2015 and newer)
- MacBook Air (2013 and newer)
- MacBook Pro (2013 and newer)
- Mac mini (2014 and newer)
- iMac (2014 and newer)
- iMac Pro
- Mac Pro (2013 and newer)
Conclusion macOS Big Sur review
In contrast to its predecessor, macOS Big Sur does introduce major innovations, which also work out well. The new design may be somewhat iOS-like, but it looks very sleek and, above all, tidy. This makes macOS ready for the future and that is also due to the other smart adjustments that make macOS better. All in all, Big Sur is definitely worth it and in our opinion an update that you should install immediately.