If you have a Mac computer, you almost certainly access the internet on a regular basis. It’s quick and easy, and all it takes is a connection – and a browser.
But there are several browsers supported by Mac systems. What are they, and which will be the best browser for Mac for your purposes?
Benchmark tests revealed Safari to be one of the fastest in startup and page loading
Difficult to use and low-featured browser product in its infancy to a fully-functional
After Safari, Chrome comes next as the fastest browser for Mac users
Does not integrate directly with the Mac OS, and may consume more battery power
Opera presents itself as the high-performance web browser you’re looking for
Opera currently lacks a reading mode for uncluttered display of website
Vivaldi uses its own unique system of providing tabs within tabs, known as tab stacking
Power consumption is still the biggest drawback for this browser
Firefox users experience pretty much the same presentation layer that they’ve utilized over the years
Firefox tests revealed the lowest performance scores of the browsers
What Exactly Is A Browser?
Your browser is your ticket to the internet. It is essentially a software program that accesses web pages on the world wide web, or internet.
Though browsers are often confused with search engines, they are not the same thing.
While the browser communicates with websites and displays them on your Mac or other devices, a search engine is quite different. Search engines are web sites that store and retrieve information about other websites. One of the most popular search engines is google.com, whereas the browser offered by the same company is Chrome.
With multiple browsers available for Mac users, how do make that decision?
What Browser Features Should You Consider?
Not all browsers are created equal. Your choice of the best browser for Mac will depend on what features are most important to you:
Some browsers seem to be consistently faster than others. If you’re looking for highest performance in software downloads and document uploads, or maximum page loading speeds, you’ll be seeking out the browser that outperforms the others.
Nothing is more frustrating than navigating the internet with a browser that crashes on a frequent basis. There have historically been browsers that indeed generated such frustrations, but you won’t read about those here.
Browsers have the same goal – presenting web pages to you quickly, reliably, and consistently. But above that, they incorporate unique features that you may find suit your web-surfing lifestyle.
Such features as off-line web page viewing and bookmarking sites for future reference are quite different across browsers, or even non-existent in some offerings.
Protection from potentially harmful sites or those that are inappropriate for children are important for computer owners and families. Security integration with your browser also varies widely among browser programs. The program’s approach to tracking your activity with cookies may also be a consideration for many Mac users.
Browsers differ in their integration with the Mac OS. They also present different workloads on the systems, resulting in varying battery life. This could be of high importance to those who use their computers on battery power regularly.
For your personal or business use, the best browser for Mac may be tied to your technical environment. For those closely tied to the Apple hardware and software suites, a browser closely integrated with the OS is a more likely choice vs. third-party offerings.
Browser extensions – also called add-ons – provide additional functions or features to your web browser.
This can be in the way of modifying the presentation of web pages, or interaction with businesses for specific functions such as travel sites or shopping applications. Extensions that you find useful can be very beneficial, but they can also slow down your browser and even your computer.
Safari is Apple’s very own browser product, and is provided with the Mac OS. Not only that, but it is pre-installed on iPads and iPhones and is the default browser on those devices. Combining those devices with Safari users on Mac computers, Safari takes its place as one of the most commonly used browsers, worldwide.
Safari has grown from a difficult to use and low-featured browser product in its infancy to a fully-functional leader among Mac users. But does that make Safari the best browser for Mac users?
Safari has many features and functions of value to users:
- Speed – benchmark tests revealed Safari to be one of the fastest in startup and page loading
- Updates – as the browser is integrated with the OS, patches and updates are frequent, to add features and resolve bugs or security issues.
- Reading List feature allows saving entire web pages for reading/viewing offline at your convenience
- Pinned tabs let you logically save the websites you find useful handily next to the tab listing. This makes it easy to use and quick to reference.
- With Safari’s integration with the OS, it is the only browser with access to Mac’s Keychain. This makes it the only product that can synch and store passwords across all your Apple products. If you’re an iCloud user, Safari also synchs your bookmarks for each device.
- Safari developers have optimized the browser with the OS to reduce power consumption. This is a benefit for laptop users and mobile devices to provide extended use between charges.
- Reader view – you know all the side formatting and ads that show up when you access a web page? Reader view takes all that out of the way, displaying only the basic document information for the web page, for ease of reading without all the distractions. This is selectable by website.
- Easy to install – what could be easier? Safari is already installed with Mac and Apple mobile devices. No downloads or installations are necessary.
There are many web services available that computer users access on a regular basis, but not all are developed – or even tested – with Mac/Safari users in mind. This can mean that you experience sluggish performance when using web apps that have not been tested or written for Safari compatibility.
Safari has a very limited number of extensions available. Perhaps that’s because few are considered to be needed, but it can also imply that developers are not as active in creating extensions for the Safari browser.
Chrome, by Google, is one of the most popular browsers on the market. Some figures estimate that 70% of web users utilize Chrome daily. Chrome gives Google the strategic advantage of marketing a free web browser that will connect users to the company’s online services. PC and Mac users alike have flocked to the browser with its ease of use and support for both platforms.
Users cite many reasons for installing and using Chrome:
Performance – after Safari, Chrome comes next as the fastest browser for Mac users. Although the margin between the two is not significant, when you think of the number of times you start your browser every day. Those seconds can add up. Still, Chrome is a close second behind Safari, and is one of the performance leaders.
Extensions – Chrome developers are constantly coming up with new extensions for special functions and additional web services. On the plus side, that adds functionality and productivity for your web browsing.
The downside is that extensions typically load when you start the browser and often remain active whether or not you’re using those functions. This can eat up memory, consume power, and slow down your computer.
Chrome provides several features that make it stand out from the crowd:
- Automatic translation – no worries about understanding a foreign web page – Chrome can translate that for you.
- Thousands of add-ons and extensions are available for Chrome, providing nearly any feature of function you can think of.
Chrome is slightly slower than Safari, does not integrate directly with the Mac OS, and may consume more battery power.
Less often referred to, but still a true contender for your browsing activity, Opera presents itself as the high-performance web browser you’re looking for – and it’s true. Browsing a few websites will demonstrate how efficient and the browser is – loading pages quickly and scrolling smoothly.
Opera utilizes the same rendering engine as Chrome, making its consumption of your battery power similar to Chrome’s draining characteristics.
Some of the positive attributes of Opera that benefit adopters of the browser:
- Opera utilizes a basic look and feel, which many users will find attractive with its lean appearance.
- Opera includes synching features, and provides familiar tab management functions.
- A compatibility extension is available that makes Chrome extensions usable with Opera, but there are also plenty of native Opera extensions available, including ad-blocking and cookie tracker blocking.
- From the new tab screen, users can select useful functions such as a download manager and news feeds.
- Opera designers have incorporated a Turbo mode that sends any available web pages in compressed format from their own services, reducing your bandwidth demands.
- Looking for extra privacy? Opera offers a free VPN for extra privacy and security when using dubious or unsecure networks. There is no installation or setup to do – it’s already incorporated in the browser, just activate it in settings.
Battery consumption is the primary drawback of Opera, notably for those who rely on battery power on a regular basis, although recent updates have made improvements in battery use.
Opera currently lacks a reading mode for uncluttered display of websites. This is a big issue when you’re browsing many websites.
Social sharing with Opera content is not as simple as other browsers that incorporate “share” buttons that make the process quick and easy.
Relatively new on the scene is Vivaldi, headed by one of the co-founders of Opera. The company’s goal is to provide the best web browsing experience for frequent visitors, not just to casual web surfers. These efforts could contribute to ranking Vivaldi as the best browser for Mac – at least for some users.
Adventurous users will enjoy the many features of this new offering:
- Chrome plug-ins work with Vivaldi, as it too utilizes the same engine as Chrome. Vivaldi uses its own unique system of providing tabs within tabs, known as tab stacking. Hovering your cursor over a tab to reveal thumbnails of content. You can optionally tile the tabs, similar to the Mac and iOS split view.
- You can create notes to accompany websites that you visit, that are visible and editable when you navigate to the sites again.
- An expandable side panel can show downloads and bookmarks that you’ve created. Not only that, but the sidebar can display websites, as well. Keep Twitter or Facebook open on the sidebar, while browsing other websites.
- Vivaldi also appeals to your creative side, allowing customization of themes including foreground, background, and accents. Create your own visual presentations.
Power consumption is still the biggest drawback for this browser. The many features don’t come without putting a draw on your system’s battery life.
Little mention is made to this formerly popular browser. It still enjoys a small niche among diehard fans who consider Firefox the best browser for Mac, taking approximately a 4% share of the market.
- Firefox users experience pretty much the same presentation layer that they’ve utilized over the years, with both URL and search fields being displayed, where one would suffice.
- Icons are presented for such functions as creating and viewing bookmarks, viewing download progress, saving the current page to read later, and getting to the home menu.
- A menu icon takes you to the settings menu for configuring and using Firefox features, simplifying access to those functions.
- Firefox still retains features that let you synch passwords, bookmarks, and other information to all your devices.
- A large variety of extensions and add-ons for Firefox have always been available for Firefox, and that remains an attraction to users.
Firefox tests revealed the lowest performance scores of the browsers discussed in the list, though battery consumption was not as poor as some others.
What’s New Or Coming?
With Apple’s new version of the Mac OS, they have announced new features of their Safari browser, including:
Ability to turn off autoplay for selected websites. No more would you be subjected to automatic audio playing the instant you browse to a website when you’ve selected that option. That alone removes an irritation you’ve probably encountered with many sites.
Safari will also improve in performance and power use efficiency. Additional control will be available for Safari users, such as controlling zoom factors, view format, and content blockers. Intelligent Tracking Prevention will give you better control of how websites track your activities
Google continuously updates the Chrome browser for all platforms, including Mac. Like Safari, one of the recent updates addressed the autoplay prevention for websites that blast visitors with unwanted audio. Chrome also added rejection of certain certificates issued by Symantec, labeling them as potentially insecure or dangerous.
Opera has been updated with additional power-saving functionality, along with new theme options, website sound muting, search pop-up features, and enhanced bookmark and tab management.
Vivaldi is under continuous development and enhancement, with a particular focus on performance and features for Mac power users.
Firefox Quantum is making strides to upgrade its presentation and performance, yet underneath the upgrade it appears to be the same Firefox that has been around for years.
How Mac Browsers Stack Up
To determine the best browser for Mac that meets your needs, why not try them all? Downloads are free, and installation is relatively simple – with the possible exception of Vivaldi, which anticipates that you will want to customize your preferences and appearance.
Safari and Chrome currently take the lead in Mac browser preference, with Opera taking its place as a close third.
Vivaldi has a way to go in gaining acceptance and popularity, but it’s a product worth watching. Firefox likely remains a distant forth in your consideration for a daily-use Mac browser.
What it comes down to – your Mac browser is largely a matter of personal preference, along with consideration for the devices you anticipate using with the product.