Ars Technica reviews macOS 11.0 Big Sur: Apple makes a statement

The reviews for macOS Big Sur — the latest version of the world’s most advanced desktop operating system, that’s now available to Mac users as a free software update — have begun with the usual extremely comprehensive Ars Technica review – a great place to start if you have an hour or so! Big Sur introduces a beautiful redesign and is packed with new enhancements for key apps including Safari, Messages, and Maps, as well as new privacy features.

macOS Big Sur delivers a spacious new design that makes navigation easier, while putting more controls at users’ fingertips.
macOS Big Sur delivers a spacious new design that makes navigation easier, while putting more controls at users’ fingertips.

Big Sur has been engineered, down to its core, to take full advantage of all the power of the M1 chip to make the macOS experience even better for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. The combination of Big Sur and M1 truly takes the Mac to a whole new level with incredible capabilities, efficiency, and more apps than ever before, while maintaining everything users love about macOS.

Andrew Cunningham for Ars Technica:

If Apple’s changing the version number from 10 to 11 this year, then what happens next year? Will we be talking about macOS 11.1 in the summer of 2021, or will Apple begin bumping the major version every year as it does with iOS?

We don’t know this for sure, but we do know that the release version of Big Sur is actually macOS 11.0.1. That number format could just be for software compatibility reasons like the ones we just talked about, but that Apple has labeled Big Sur’s first major bugfix update “11.0.1” and not “11.1” (as is the style for iOS) at least suggests that macOS will stay on version 11 for some time to come…

Big Sur makes the Mac look and sound a lot different than it did before! But it’s still close enough to what you’re used to that you’ll use it for a few weeks or months and then it will just be what macOS looks like…

When you pair it with Apple’s first processor architecture transition in 15 years, it becomes easier to see Big Sur as a statement about where the Mac is headed (the long-awaited bump to version 11.0 drives this home, too, of course). A Big Sur Mac, especially one running on Apple Silicon, is another hop closer to being an iPad, both visually and functionally. Apple Silicon Macs will literally run unaltered iPad apps. I don’t think those will replace native Mac apps that already exist any time soon, but it’s easy to see how things could go that way.

But like I’ve been saying for a while now, it does seem like Apple is going farther out of its way than is strictly necessary to make sure that the Mac is still the Mac. That includes making sure that long-deprecated APIs like OpenGL and OpenCL continue to function on Apple Silicon Macs and making specific changes to the iOS bootloader to make sure that people can still boot and manage a bunch of different macOS versions on their system. The default security settings are a bit tighter than before, especially for the sealed system volume, but tinkerers still have the latitude to execute pretty much any code they want on their Macs. It feels like sort of a cop-out to end another review with “the Mac is still its own distinct thing within Apple’s product lineup,” but every time they move it closer to the iPad, it feels like it’s worth restating.

MacDailyNews Take: There’s tons more, as usual, in Ars Technica’s full macOS 11.0 Big Sur review. It might take you awhile, but it’s well worth the read!

We’re loving the latest versions of World’s Most Advanced Operating System! How’s it working for you?


  1. So far, got to say, it’s pretty neat! I like the look and feel. Everything is really responsive. Opened up all of my usual stuff for home and it’s all running like a champ. The handful of software updates to match the new look are impressive. I’m happy 🙂

  2. Very impressed. Snappy and graphically exciting-clean-hiearchical. What most impresses me is how apps now work much like on iOS. I have to say that Apple’s confidence is not misguided.

    1. “how apps now work much like on iOS”. That’s not a selling point for me, but the Mac apps that I mostly use are far too complex for a touch interface to be effective. Just as long as they don’t push the touch interface foo far into Mac. I would need a 4×8 foot screen for touch to work. But then I don’t use my iPad often enough to remember where it is right now, and my iPhones are mostly phones, why try to make a computer out of one. The right tool for the right job.

    1. The Australian government (my government) requires ALL ISPs to keep a copy of all traffic from everyone who uses their services. Much obliged for the link and information.

      I was going to update to Big Sur and bypass Catalina. I think now I’ll do the reverse and I’ll be sticking with my Intel Mac (which I recently upgraded to a OWC 4TB Mercury Extreme Pro SSD).

      I’ve got two versions of Mac OSs running via partitions; High Sierra and Mojave. Mojave will be updated to Catalina and that’s it. No more upgrades unless I feel comfortable with Big Sur and and this stage I don’t. This is creepy stuff.

      As a result of the article I’ve now turned off all reporting to Apple via Little Snitch.

      In Australia we have a Minister for Homeland Security is an ex-Queensland cop (and they are they are the worst) who has been cracking down on journalists and the media. As for whistleblowers they fine or jail them.

      There is very limited protection for free speech, whistleblowers and the media and now this from Apple. Whoa! And we don’t have a bill of rights and under our current government there has been an erosion of our limited rights. The proposed federal Crime and Integrity Commission will have NO public hearings against politicians and complaints can only be lodged by politicians against politicians.

      For example, Our Prime Minister was sacked by Tourism Australia before he entered parliament. Why? Well there is no protection for whistleblowers so we don’t know. Although there have been rumours. Australia is part of the Five Eyes security network and our government is way creepy. And now this from Apple. Our government has been hassling Apple for access to their information. It is for all these reasons that I run Little Snitch and a VPN.

      Much obliged Rory!

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