Internet browser shootout: Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Opera vs. Safari vs. Vivaldi
- Developer: Apple
- Engine: WebKit
- Desktop platforms: macOS
- Price: Free
Pros: Excellent performance on macOS, thoughtful security features
Cons: Poor customization options, only on macOS
Safari is the default browser for all Mac computers and has been for the past 16 years. There used to be a Windows version but Apple stopped supporting it in 2012.
If the ability to customize the interface is important to you, Safari is not the browser for you. There are precious few customization options in the Preferences menu and there are only a smattering of extensions available on the Safari Extensions Gallery and on the Mac App Store. Fortunately, you have a selection of various ad blockers and some useful extensions like Polyglot for quick translations. Safari is also supported by all major password managers like LastPass and 1Password. But if you don’t want to use third-party password managers, Safari has a built-in password manager that can generate and store passwords for you.
Privacy and security are amongst Safari’s most highest priorities. The built-in password manager aside, it also has Intelligent Tracking Prevention that prevents advertisers from tracking your online behavior, and stops embedded content such as social media like and share buttons from tracking you. Safari also makes it difficult for advertisers to track and identify you by presenting on a simplified system profile when you visit websites. Furthermore, Safari runs websites as separate processes so if a site that you visit is compromised, the code is confined to a single Safari browser tab and doesn’t crash the entire browser or access your system data.
But the biggest reason why any Mac user would use Safari is because they own additional Apple devices. Safari’s tight integration with Apple platforms means bookmarks and even opened tabs are easily synced across your Apple devices. Thanks to a feature called Handoff, you can browse on your desktop and pick up exactly where you left off on your iPhone or iPad when you are ready to leave.
Safari’s close integration with Apple’s other services extends beyond bookmarks and browsing. On websites that support Apple Pay, you can purchase things directly using Touch ID on your Mac notebook, Face ID or Touch ID on your iPhone or iPad, or even by double-clicking on your Apple Watch.
Safari does have some quirks such as its inability to playback videos above 1080p resolution on YouTube. This has to do with Safari’s non-support of VP9, the video codec YouTube uses to encode videos above 1080p. So if YouTube is a big part of your online life, you might want to consider alternatives.
Powered by the WebKit browser engine, Safari is no performance slouch. It racked up one of the highest scores on the intensive JetStream 2 benchmark — matched only by Google Chrome and Vivaldi. Unsurprisingly, CPU utilization and memory usage were amongst the lowest recorded in our tests too. These findings corroborate with my usage experience. Webpages load quickly and the browsing experience was generally responsive even on my not-so-powerful MacBook Air test machine. Safari makes up for what it lacks in customization with blazing performance.
In closing, despite the dearth of customizability, Safari is an easy recommend for Mac users whose priorities are performance, security, and close integration with other Apple devices.