While it might sound odd to discuss the best among web browsers for any platform — after all, all they exist for is to browse the web — you might be surprised how hefty a debate it is among users of various platforms and different browsers. These days, no matter what platform you’re on; from desktop to mobile phones to tablets, there is a variety of browser choices available to pick from. And almost all of them come with their own strengths and weaknesses that make them either coveted or hated (looking at you, O’ Internet Explorer — may you rest in peace!).
Windows and Macs differ here significantly, thanks to the default browser they come with (discounting Windows 10 and its Edge browser, of course). With OS X, you get a very, very capable browser out of the box, the mighty Safari, and for most users, that will be all they will ever need. This is in stark contrast to Windows’ Internet Explorer, which is basically fired up just to download an alternate browser and be done with it forever. However, even on a Mac, there are a number of other browser choices available that you can employ should you wish for a different experience, or have a need that is not catered to by Safari (more on that later). So, here are our picks for the best browsers for Mac OS X, with the best at number and the rest following suit.
Before we get to the actual list, a small disclaimer: you will find a lot of common names in this list, which might even prompt you to ponder why. The reality is, it’s hard to name the best Mac OS X browsers without these big names, but since they all have their merits and demerits, we will discuss them all one by one.
This one would hardly come as a surprise, but beyond doubt, the native Safari is the overall best browser for OS X. Over the years, Apple has heavily optimized its browser to work best within its own ecosystem, and while it’s hard to recommend Safari as the top choice for Windows, there is nothing better for Macs. If you’re using a Macbook, Safari truly shines, since this is the only browser that you can freely use without making a significant dent to your battery life. Safari’s page rendering is blazing fast, stability is matchless on OS X and the existing feature set is expandable courtesy of a decent extensions gallery. It also comes with decent bookmark management, and the Reading List allows you to save web pages for offline viewing. Akin to its mobile counterpart, Safari for OS X also comes with a Reader view that removed clutter from web pages and keeps only relevant content for easy reading. Safari’s password management is also stellar, and better than any other browser’s native offering.
The extensions gallery is also the area where Safari falls a little short, seeing as how the number of available extensions doesn’t come close to Chrome’s extensions of Firefox’s add-ons. Extensions aren’t very easy to browse either, with Chrome doing a much better job in this area. Oh, and Safari also doesn’t support Flash, so if you frequent web pages that require the outdated medium, look elsewhere.
Engine: Apple’s proprietary WebKit
Download link: Included in OS X
It was a really close call between Firefox and Google Chrome for the second spot on our list, with Firefox barely topping Chrome in only battery-friendliness. Personally, I feel that’s a major deciding factor, seeing how one of the biggest strengths of OS X is the large battery timing that it offers. Firefox otherwise offers a really robust feature set with one of the best tab managements available on any browser. Page rendering is fast and the add-on gallery is nothing short of impressive. Firefox also shines in download management, where its native download manager eliminates the need for any third party solutions that you will yourself scampering for in both Safari and Chrome.
The browser also supports all the regular features like bookmark management, private browsing, web-form management, a capable editing console, spell checking and site-based security configurations, to name a few. Since it’s available for a number of platforms, you can also take benefit of creating a Mozilla account and using that across all your devices for a smooth browsing experience.
License: MPL 2.0
Download link: Firefox
3. Google Chrome
For me, Google Chrome is a bittersweet experience on OS X. Before I praise Chrome for anything, allow me to clarify that it really kills your battery on a Macbook, and that’s one of its biggest pitfalls. To put things in perspective, an hour-long Google Hangout in Safari with video drains approximately 20% of your battery while keeping the core temperature pretty stable. Same in Chrome will drain almost 60% of your battery with temperatures approaching 80°C, causing the Macbook’s fan to go berserk. In the long run, that might seriously damage your hardware, so be warned.
This use scenario, however, doesn’t mean that Chrome is all bad news on OS X. If you’re really invested in Google Apps (like I am), you will never find a smoother experience on any other web browser. Chrome has one of the most robust extensions gallery that can considerably enhance and improve the usefulness of your web browser. Top it off with the plethora of Chrome apps available, and you have a pretty solid deal at your hands. Also, if you’re a web developer, Chrome’s inspection console and developer tools offer the most detailed page analysis of all browsers that I tried. The additional ability to sign into Chrome with your one Google account across various platforms makes using Chrome a breeze. Then there’s pinned tabs as well; something I sorely miss in Safari despite favoring that on the whole.
The bottom line for Chrome is, use it. Give it a try and make a decision yourself. Just don’t do too much media consumption on this browser, or you’ll kill your battery faster than you can say battery itself.
License: BSD (Chromium executable)
Download link: Google Chrome
Maxthon is all about cloud browsing. Confused? This cross-platform browser and service basically allows for a smooth browsing experience across all your devices, be it Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows PC or Mac/Linux etc. You can sign up for a Maxthon account and take all your browsing with you, from open tabs to bookmarks and passwords. The thing that truly sets Maxthon apart is its cloud service, which allows you to push text, images, URLs and tabs from one device to the other with ease. Likewise, the cloud sharing makes it possible to share all of this with friends as well. Another stellar feature of Maxthon is unique drag & drop and gesture support, whereby, for instance, you can select a word or phrase and drag it to the URL bar to initiate a quick search in your default search engine. Gestures allow you to quickly perform actions like refresh, previous tab, next tab etc, using mouse or trackpad.
Alongside a good amount of extensions available (though nothing comparable with Chrome), you also get built-in Flash support, which makes it a viable choice particularly for OS X where the native Safari simply abandons the protocol. Top that all off with the neat interface of Maxthon, and you have a good competitor that doesn’t kill your battery as much as Chrome does.
Maxthon for OS X is available on the Mac App Store, and is the only browser on our list that can be obtained this way. A classic version is available via the official website as well, should App Store not work for you for some reason.
Engine: Blink, Trident
Opera made a name for itself back in the day owing to blazing fast browsing experience and quick tabs, but that became a thing of history since other browsers caught up fairly well. Today, Opera doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it does the job and does it well. Pages load fast, the interface is minimalist, it has extension support (albeit the number of extensions is fairly limited), and the browser itself is secure. If you use Opera on your cell phone or tablet as well, you would favor this on your Mac as it offers syncing everything from tabs to bookmarks and passwords. The regular tally is all there as well: search bar, download management, spell checking, private browsing, per-site configurations and all.
One standout feature for Opera is a built-in RSS reader of sorts, which allows you to keep abreast with latest happenings in topics of your interest. The quick access area at the top right corner of your screen (right next to the URL bar) is also fairly rich, and allows you put in whatever you deem most important for your work (or leisure, we’re not judging).
Download link: Opera Official
If you liked the look and feel of Microsoft’s Edge browser that comes bundled with Windows 10, that’s because it’s worth liking. The transparency really adds a neat touch to your whole browsing experience, offering clutter-free display across the web. Well, Yandex delivers that on steroids for OS X. If look and feel is your first priority, there’s hardly any other browser that will hold a candle to Yandex. With its sleek looks and extremely minimalist URL bar at the bottom of the page (yes, it’s unconventional, but really cool), you get to see only the website and nothing more, providing the most uncluttered browsing experience.
However, that doesn’t mean that Yandex is lacking in features. The best part about this browser is that the controls and other items appear only when they’re needed, so if you were to take your mouse cursor to the top of the page, for instance, you will see all the usual toolbars and menus fade in. New tabs get laid out neatly at the bottom of the page. In fact, browsing with Yandex generally gives the impression of using and interacting with an app rather than a website, and that makes sense, seeing how Yandex exists in all its glory for major mobile platforms as well.
I highly recommend that you give Yandex a try. If pure browsing is what you’re after, there’s simply no competition.
Download link: Yandex Browser
OmniWeb is hard to recommend for anyone unless you’re using OS X Mountain Lion or older, where it actually works well. The browser carries the reliable name of the Omni Group behind it, but the project was discontinued and hence, will not work well with Mavericks or El Capitan. However, if you’re rocking an older Mac that finds it hard to handle the recent browsers that we’ve discussed above (and quite frankly, Safari used to be a pain in those versions), you can definitely take OmniWeb out for a spin. The biggest thing with OmniWeb that you’ll notice on first launch is the outdated interface, but that’s to be expected seeing as how it’s not for the modern operating systems in the first place. The browser itself works fine, but you’ll feel the outdated-ness almost everywhere. The regular feature tally is complete here as well, with the only thing that’s missing is a private browsing mode.
Simply put, if you are rocking OS X 10.9 Mavericks or above on your Mac, look at others in our list (despite OmniWeb officially supporting new versions). If you’re running an older Mac with Mountain Lion or below, OmniWeb is a good choice.
License: Proprietary, LGPL
Download link: OmniWeb Official
SEE ALSO: 11 Tips and Apps to Keep Your Mac Clean
Think you have a recommendation that we should have included here? Drop us a comment below.