macOS Big Sur review: you don’t see the biggest innovation

macOS Big Sur a giant leap for Apple with four most visible changes making it suitable for Intel Macs and ARM-based Macs.

macOS 11 Big Sur is coming and that means a lot of innovations are on the way. How do we like the new design, what do we think of the new functions? You can read it in our macOS Big Sur review!

macOS Big Sur review

macOS Big Sur is such a major update that Apple has chosen to introduce a new version number. After about twenty years of OS X and macOS 10, it is time for macOS 11. Is that right? In this review, we share our experiences with Big Sur ‘s Release Candidate , which is expected to be identical to the official update. We have tested several Big Sur betas for this and have seen the software improve somewhat along the way.

macOS Big Sur is very stable

As indicated above, we tested Big Sur during daily use and we liked it very much. We didn’t run into any problems on the two MacBooks we used. Of course there were some glitches at times, such as a mouse that sometimes lost connection – but that can also happen in Catalina. We haven’t heard any major bugs from other users either.

Also positive is that almost all common apps are compatible with Big Sur . If you use generic apps such as Photoshop, Slack, Twitter and Sketch you don’t have to worry about running into problems. It also worked well with the more special apps such as Forecast, Front and ImageOptim. But this is of course very personal. If you depend on special software, we recommend that you check carefully in advance whether it still works. For example, in the beta period we tried to activate a Kobo e-reader from a family member, but that was an unusual activity that we had not previously foreseen.

The fact that everything worked so smoothly is actually remarkable when you consider how many changes have been made to the underlying architecture. A crash? Not experienced. Well ran Safari twice onto a beach.

Don’t worry about Windows either: on Intel Macs you can just keep using Windows with a virtual machine. If you switch to Macs with an M1 chip, you will have a problem, because Apple does not offer a solution for that. However, we ‘just’ tested on an Intel Mac, namely a 13-inch MacBook Air from 2020.

MacOS Big Sur design

We have already written quite a bit of text about the design of macOS Big Sur . We are very pleased with the new look with clearer menu bars and toolbars. It looks tidy and it looks a bit nicer. Michael Flarup speaks of ‘The Comeback of Fun in Visual Design’. He’s even talking about a philosophical tipping point in visual design. It has been worked towards it for years and Apple is now showing how it should be done. “It’s just the beginning, but I think we are at the beginning of a new era.” That sounds promising. And all because of a few other icons and toolbars?

There is, of course, more to it. The user experience has been completely overhauled and is much more refined. Everything has become more unified and it fits better with Apple’s mobile operating systems iOS and iPadOS.

Alan Dye, successor to Jony Ive, told the WWDC 2020 keynote that depth, shadows and transparency have been used to create more hierarchy in Big Sur, making it easier to understand. “These new materials are rich and they are vibrant,” said Dye. There are several similarities with iOS and iPadOS . For example, if you look at the dock, you immediately see where the inspiration comes from, if only because the icons are the same squares with rounded corners nowadays.

The icons are also the messiest of all. They are not very consistent yet, and we hoped Apple would change this a bit during the beta journey. But that did not happen. Some icons have too much shading like FaceTime and Messages, others look a bit bizarre like QuickTime’s.

To test whether the new design of macOS Big Sur really stands out, we installed the update with Catalina’s desktop background . And what turned out? Nobody in our area noticed. There was actually one moment when the new design fell through and that was when logging in. From now on you enter your password in an elongated box with rounded corners.

While the icons still evoke some discussion, this does not apply to the design of the apps, the toolbars, the consistent choice of icons and the transparent bars. It all looks attractive and it works fine. We don’t mind that it all looks a bit more like iOS .

What bothered us was the sometimes unusual choice of accent color. If that’s blue, green, or purple we’re fine with it, but the red accent color in the Music app gives the impression that you’re looking at error messages. In our opinion, Apple would have preferred a somewhat safer color palette for this.

Control panel and widgets in macOS Big Sur

New to macOS Big Sur is the Control Center, which basically works the same way as iOS and iPadOS . You can easily switch on your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, adjust the brightness and more. There is some overlap with the menu bar, which also has icons for sound, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. You can adjust this if necessary.

Also very useful is that you can drag items from the Control Panel to the menu bar. You can also click on the items to see more options, for example for dark mode, Night Shift and display preferences. This means you don’t have to go to > System Preferences as often .

Another welcome addition is the widgets. They’ve actually made a comeback since Apple dropped Dashboard Widgets in Catalina . In Big Sur you will find the widgets at the bottom of the renewed Notification Center. Nowadays, there are few widgets to be found, but that will change when third-party apps start adding them. Managing and customizing the widgets is very easy. There were still some mistakes. For example, Amsterdam was shown in the weather widget as ‘Placeholder’.

The notifications are now more interactive and show more useful options for taking actions. If you receive multiple notifications, they will be stacked from now on. That took some getting used to, but takes up less space. All in all, not a big, but a welcome improvement.

Safari: a fresh look, yet familiar

As in every major macOS update, Safari gets some new features. Of course they have all been given a Big Sur jacket and that is not wrong. Just like on iOS and iPadOS, you now see a transparent menu bar with more depth in the context. Where you mainly see a new look is on the Start page. Here you can now set a default background, but a self-made photo is also one of your options. The background on the Safari Home page can be matched with your wallpaper and clearly gives a personal touch to the browser.

Here’s how to set a wallpaper for Safari in macOS Big Sur

Learn how to set a wallpaper for the Safari Home page on Mac. You can also read how to remove it when you have had enough. It works from macOS Big Sur.

Safari is fast: even 50% faster than Chrome, according to Apple. In any case, it is a lot less hungry. Apple has again made all kinds of optimizations for Big Sur, including to improve the battery life of MacBooks. The most prominent new feature is the Privacy Report. This is a new window that even has a button in your menu bar. Click on it and you will see which trackers the current page is trying to use. For more information and a complete overview of trackers, click on the i-symbol after which all websites are listed by name.

Another improvement has to do with extensions. In that regard, Safari isn’t exactly the king of browsers, but that’s about to change. With a new development tool, Apple makes it easy for developers to convert their Google Chrome extension to Safari . Apple is also tackling distribution by introducing a new section in the App Store . Here you as a user will find the most popular extensions and you can be sure that it is trusted.

Safari will work with web extensions from other browsers

In macOS Big Sur, Safari will be able to use many more web extensions. Apple is going to open up the browser to extensions of other browsers. In addition, it becomes easier to transfer existing extensions from Chrome, Firefox and Edge.

Apple wouldn’t be Apple if it didn’t include some extra features for securing your online accounts. That’s why Safari will notify you from macOS Big Sur if your password is involved in a known data breach. This way you know immediately whether you need to take action. Read more new features for Safari in macOS Big Sur in our round-up. We are in any case happy with the improvements for Safari . It may not be all immediately useful, but one day we may benefit from its features – in addition to just getting more beautiful. Apple has managed to keep Safari a familiar looking browser

For example, Safari in iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur makes browsing easier and safer

Safari gets a number of improvements in iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur that improve your privacy and there are new functions that are useful to everyone. These are all the improvements from Safari 14 in macOS Big Sur, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14.

Messages: Finally, all iOS functions on the Mac

For years, the iPhone has been far ahead of certain functions in the Messages app, especially iMessage . In macOS Big Sur, Apple makes short work of the shortcomings on the Mac . You can now finally use all iOS features of Messages on the Mac too. You can send full-screen effects, Memoji Stickers, GIFs and more. Also, sharing your profile picture and screen name is now also possible from your Mac.

In addition, the Mac also gets all 2020 functions for iMessage . These include enhanced group conversations, pinned iMessage conversations, instant replies, and mentions. Why it took so long for Apple to align the iPhone and Mac is a mystery, but we’re glad it finally happened. It actually made no sense to see ‘sent with confetti’ on the Mac, while that message would explode with joy on the iPhone. These changes show yet again what Apple plans in the future where the Mac and iPad are closer together.

These 5 macOS Big Sur features are taken from iOS

There is not only a new design in macOS Big Sur , but also all kinds of functions that have long existed on iOS. They come in handy on the Mac too! In this article, we’ll discuss these features.


  • New design that works more logically
  • Big Sur was very stable with us
  • iMessage is finally catching up
  • Takes little time to get used to, everything is in the same place
  • Battery optimization and clearer battery information
  • Better privacy, including in Safari
  • Control panel makes options faster to access


  • Not all icons are successful
  • Little choice of widgets
  • Clicking away notifications sometimes feels a bit more cumbersome

Conclusion macOS Big Sur

Upgrading from macOS Catalina to macOS Big Sur will get you a new design, Control Panel, and improvements to Notification Center and Messages app. These are also the four most visible changes. However, the actual innovations are not visible at first glance: the fact that this is the first macOS version that makes the switch to Apple Silicon possible. It’s great that Apple has been able to implement so many innovations in Big Sur while making it suitable for Intel Macs and ARM-based Macs.

macOS 11 is a giant leap for Apple, but for a layman only the new design stands out. Only in a while will you start to take advantage of it when you start using your first Apple Silicon- powered Mac and we can, for example, run iPhone apps natively on the Mac.

For an operating system with so many drastic changes, we notice how stable macOS Big Sur actually is. We actually did not encounter any problems when testing two MacBooks during daily use.