Since most of your working (or even entertainment) time today is spent in your web browser window, it's likely the most important app on your computer. Without a doubt, there are lots of web browsers for Mac, but not all of them were created equal. So you might be wondering what is the best web browser for Mac.
After all, not everyone's needs are the same. You might be striving for speed or safety, or alternative ways of surfing online. And with Microsoft Edge set to appear on Mac shortly, the competition to become the top browser for Mac is getting fierce — but there's no need to try them all.
The browser comparison below will outline all strengths and weaknesses of all the contenders on the market today to reveal the best browser for Mac you need.
What Makes The Best Web Browser
Depending on how exactly you use your Mac browser, you might require different features and specialties. Generally, there are four broad categories that make people sway one way or another.
Familiarity: Use something regularly for a while and you'll develop muscle memory, which makes it extremely hard to switch to anything else. This is the main reason most people keep using the first web browser they've tried. But it’s important to realize that experimenting with alternative browsers is not hard and might present you with much better options in no time.
Speed: Slow speed might quickly kill even the best web browser for Mac. If you think about it, no one has ever asked for their webpage to take more time to load.
Security: A lucky few might have never been the target of a hack or malware with a potential to disrupt or in some cases destroy a computer. But there's no such thing as being too careful. While some browsers are optimized for ease of use, there are safe browsers too that are secure from the ground up.
Bells and whistles: For some, it's the little things that matter most. Looking for Chromecast support? Configurable shortcuts? Extension libraries? All best internet browsers try to differentiate themselves in various ways to tailor to particular audiences.
The top browser for Mac out of the box: Safari
It could be that the best browser for Mac is the one that comes with every Mac already. Apple's proprietary web browser for Mac, Safari, is preinstalled on all Apple devices and is generally a good choice. No shame here for not bothering to explore alternative browsers at all.
Safari is good because Apple doesn't do things by half measures. Benchmarks suggest that when it comes to Safari vs Firefox, Safari loads HTML twice as fast, and four times as fast for Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Makes sense — no one knows Apple hardware better than Apple, so they have all the trump cards for near-perfect speed optimization. Safari might well be the fastest browser for Mac.
In terms of extras, Safari has a decent support for third-party plugins and integrates perfectly with your iOS and watchOS devices.
- Blazing-fast speed
- Already installed on your Mac
Not so great:
- Lacks Chromecast support and some other plugins
The most popular web browser: Chrome
Chrome is by far the top browser for Mac and other operating systems when it comes to popularity — some reports suggest that 70% of people on the web use it. But does that mean it’s the best web browser for Mac?
It could be. First of all, Chrome is generally one of the fastest web browsers. Second, it uses Google's proprietary Sandbox security technology, so you're completely safe running all kinds of websites on it. Third, Chrome's extension library is the largest on the market, allowing you to transform the browser into the tool for all your needs.
Even better, when you sign into your Google account on any Chrome browser anywhere, it'll load your bookmarks and logins right away. So if you're constantly using different computers, Chrome is a great choice (just remember to log out if you're using public ones).
When it comes to Safari vs Chrome, Safari wins as the best browser for Mac, whereas Chrome takes the crown if you find yourself jumping between operating systems.
- Fast and secure
- The best third-party support for browser extensions
- Travels well by signing into Chrome from anywhere
- Fully integrated with Chromecast
Not so great:
- Not as fast as Safari
dogfox web browser: Mozilla Firefox for Mac
Though it's not as commonly used as Safari or Chrome, Firefox is not without its share of devoted fans. It's been a mainstay in the browser wars for many years now and is maybe the most recognized one of the alternative browsers for people who would rather not support megalithic companies like Apple or Google. So do you want to download Firefox for Mac?
Unfortunately, sometimes the underdog is the underdog for a reason. Firefox is quite a bit slower when it comes to loading webpages. And while you can sign into your Firefox account for bookmarks just like in Google Chrome, the fact that it’s not a standard option on most computers in the way Chrome is makes this feature less useful.
Add to that a busy design that looks at odds with macOS, and when it comes to Safari vs Firefox as the best browser for Mac, Safari is the clear winner.
- Open-source development
- Long-established user base
- Firefox account to sync bookmarks across computers
Not so great:
- Slow by modern web standards
- Busy design
The "could be a contender" browser: Opera for Mac
Opera has been around for years, but it's always been the "also-ran" of the alternative browsers. But things could be different now: Opera today comes with a free VPN, ad-block, and built-in messenger client support right out of the box. The free VPN alone makes this browser worth downloading and checking out.
In the backend, Opera usings the same Blink Engine that powers Chrome, so you can be sure of its speed. Add to that integrated phishing and malware lists and you have a fast and secure browser. Some could argue that given recent Opera innovations it might have surpassed Firefox as the third-best web browser. It also might now be the best new browser for Mac, depending on what you’re looking for.
- Free VPN
- Just as fast as Chrome
- Great default ad and malware blocking
Not so great:
- Less third-party support compared to Chrome
- Low adoption
How to change default browser on Mac
So now that you have so many options to try — explore their websites and download the ones that you like. Just remind yourself that you're not yet fully committed to any single one.
But once you decide which one is your favorite, you need to know how to change default browser on Mac:
- Click on the Apple menu ➙ System Preferences
- Navigate to the General tab
- Find a dropdown menu marked "Default web browser" and click on it to choose from the browsers you've installed
Make your browser complete
In the end, it doesn't matter too much which browser is the best — if you like it and feel like it does what you need it to do, then everybody's happy. What matters the most is whether or not you can customize the browser to your needs. These 3 apps do a great job enhancing any of the browsers:
Slidepad is an iPad-style multitasking app that serves as a slide over browser. It doesn’t replace your primary browser, but it gives you a shortcut to the web and the apps you use regularly. With Slidepad, you can stay focused on your work; whenever there’s a need to google something or quickly open an app, hover to the side of your screen and Slidepad pops up.
OpenIn is a superb app for redirecting links to the right browser or app. For instance, if you click on a mailto link, OpenIn will open it in Gmail or other mail app of your choice.
You can also list websites that should always open in a specific browser. This would be a great way to create separate workspaces. Or, set default openers for specific file types. Customize once and save lots of time every day.
ClearVPN will help you with your VPN needs. It’s a secure solution for location switching, unblocking geo-restricted content, etc. And it works with any of your browsers, flawlessly. We love this VPN app for its shortcuts: you can choose to “watch Oscar 2021 movies,” “unlock regional Netflix,” etc.
Best of all, Slidepad, OpenIn, and ClearVPN are all available to try absolutely free for seven days when you sign up for Setapp, a productivity service with Mac and iOS apps for every possible use case. Now that’s a Mac browser transformed!