Home Tech MacOS Catalina vs Big Sur: What’s the Difference and Is It Worth the Upgrade?

MacOS Catalina vs Big Sur: What’s the Difference and Is It Worth the Upgrade?

by Eric
MacOS Catalina vs Big Sur

Keeping your computer’s operating system up to date is crucial to how it functions these days. When you let your updates lapse, whether you’re on Windows or Mac, you expose your computer to countless security and virus risks. With that thought in mind, you might be wondering if it’s time to move your Mac from Catalina to Big Sur or not.

Here’s what you need to know to determine who comes out on top in the battle of Catalina vs Big Sur for your computer.

Compatibility: Catalina vs Big Sur

Your biggest consideration in the battle of Catalina vs Big Sur should be compatibility. After all, all the excellent features in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t run the operating system. So, what computers are capable of running macOS Big Sur? According to Apple’s official list, they are:

  • MacBook Pro models from late 2013 on, including M1 models
  • MacBook Air models from mid-2013 on, including M1 models
  • MacBook Models from early 2015 on
  • iMac Pro 2017
  • iMacs from mid-2014 on
  • Mac Minis from 2014 on
  • Mac Pros from 2013 on

If your computer is newer than mid-2012 but older than the above date ranges, it should run macOS Catalina. However, it will not be capable of running macOS Big Sur. And, if your computer is an M1 model, it will only be compatible with Big Sur, not Catalina.

macos vs big sur

Design: Catalina vs Big Sur

One of the biggest changes between macOS Catalina and macOS Big Sur is a massive overhaul in the system’s design. Big Sur represents what some have called the “iPad-ification” of macOS. Icons in the Dock will now maintain a consistent, rounded-square shape in Big Sur. This is consistent with recent adjustments made in iOS to simplify the look and feel of app icons. In Catalina, the Dock icons will retain their original shapes, which can make them look mismatched. The Mail, Messages, and Pages icons have all changed to better reflect their iOS counterparts.

Overall, Big Sur’s design reflects simplified icons and controls, increasing the ease of navigation for users. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can always check out how to return to Catalina on a supported machine here: https://setapp.com/how-to/downgrade-from-big-sur-to-catalina

Big Sur’s App Updates

Big Sur’s also made some major changes to the apps people use most often. Here’s what you need to know about each:

New Features in Messages

One of Big Sur’s best app updates is bringing the features we’ve all come to love on our iPhones and iPads to Messages on Mac. You’ll finally be able to use Memoji, find GIFs, and attach animations to your messages. In addition, you’ll also be able to pin conversations, reply to a single party in a group message, get notifications only when mentioned in group chats, and send inline replies to a specific message in the chat.

New Features in Safari

Safari’s changes are unique in that they aren’t exclusive to Big Sur. These adjustments will also get applied to Catalina users! One of the nicer cosmetic changes is the updated Start Page, which can now be customized to have one of your own photos as a background. While this might not serve any useful purpose, it’s a nice touch. Especially if you like seeing cute pictures of your puppy when you open the browser.

Another anti-frustration feature implemented in the latest iteration of Safari is the ability to mouse over a tab and see a preview of the page contained within it. This is a godsend for those who pin a lot of regularly used tabs. The use and compatibility of extensions and a new translation feature have been expanded as well.

Above all else, Safari’s Big Sur version has updated privacy and security features by default. It will give you a Privacy Report that will help you keep track of which websites are trying to track you. Safari will now also notify you if any of your passwords have been involved in recent breaches.

New Features in the App Store

The greatest change in Big Sur’s App Store over Catalina’s is the addition of two new shelves for Safari Extensions and Widgets. This makes it easier than ever to customize your experience on your Mac. You’ll also be able to see more about how specific app developers handle your data. This increased transparency will help you choose your apps with greater care.

Pros and Cons of macOS Catalina

So, what are the pros and cons of macOS Catalina? On the plus side, you’ll be able to work with older computer models. The design won’t be as simplified as Big Sur’s, and you’ll still benefit from the updates to Safari. However, on the negative side, you won’t be able to use M1 computers with this OS, nor will you be able to continue using the same apps for long. (Most developers want to upgrade to the newest OS as soon as possible, leaving older versions in the dust.)

Pros and Cons of macOS Big Sur

As for the pros and cons of Big Sur, the biggest pro we can mention is that you’ll be using the latest version of the operating system. However, if you use an older computer, you won’t be able to benefit from its adjustments. Also, if you’re not a fan of simplified design, you won’t enjoy many of the design changes made on this latest version.

Catalina vs Big Sur: Which One’s Best for You?

So, in the battle of Catalina vs Big Sur, which operating system is best for your computer? Well, if you have a computer compatible with Big Sur, the benefits of upgrading far outweigh the downsides. However, as mentioned above, if you don’t want your Mac to feel like an iPhone or iPad, you might not like the changes Big Sur brings to the table. Ultimately, it’s down to what’s supported on your machine and what you prefer.

If you found this article about the two latest macOS versions helpful and would like to read more content like it, check out our blog today for more tech content like this!

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