There’s almost too much to unpack from the update but I wanted to touch on a couple things that I’ve had a chance to take a first-hand look at so far. Specifically, the updates to Safari, the addition of Control Panel, and the new system sounds and icons.

Safari

I love the new homepage, it’s filled with a handful of useful information, such as how many pages have tracked your location and new items I’ve added to my Reading List. Being able to set a wallpaper for Safari is a nice touch and the browser feels faster than ever.

Safari is one of the apps that I think benefited the most from the UI refresh in Big Sur. It looks fresh, modern, and feels like a new browser.

Control Center

Having it on the Mac is something that I heard many people ask for but personally never felt like I needed. Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine the OS without it. It’s a simple way to keep track of many important aspects of the machine without doing away with the menu bar.

I think Control Center is one place that benefits the most and shows off the UI refresh with the new buttons, rounded corners, it looks great on the Mac and offers a ton of quick functionality.

UI refresh

Minor graphical issues aside, I like the refreshed look of Big Sur. The icons look great, I love the highlight of colour (which you can define in general settings), and all the elements of windows and modals have more room between one another and feel more comfortable visually. It aligns with the work Apple’s done in recent years on iOS and I can’t wait to see the fit and finish work they do in future beta updates.

The updated sounds are subtle, but appreciated. The original OS X sounds are iconic but are starting to show their age. My favourite is the new sound for emptying the trash or the one that you hear when clicking on a disabled window. It’s all softer and less jarring than the originals.

After coming oh-so-close to matching the icons on iOS, the new macOS versions shake things up and, in my opinion, not for the better. The Mail icon is now an envelope (like iOS) but there’s a new heavy shadow effect in it. Messages is a green chat bubble (though shouldn’t it be blue?), like on the iPhone, but features a heavy shadow that iOS doesn’t have. Is it so much to ask that they match?

We’ve seen Apple update icons in version of the iOS beta leading up to the launch around September. Will we see that happen here? Hopefully.

Final thoughts

Since upgrading my Mac mini, I’ve had a renewed love for the Mac and Big Sur doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great improvement on Catalina and I can’t wait to dig in further in future betas.