Review: macOS Sonoma Public Beta: Should I update?

Review: macOS Sonoma Public Beta: Should I update?

Aug 28, 2023·

7 min read

macOS 14, known as macOS Sonoma, has been around for a while. Personally, I upgraded to developer beta straight away after WWDC 2023.

💡
macOS Sonoma Stable Version is released, I recommend you to upgrade to the latest version.

After using it for some time, through developer and public beta, here are my impressions of the new macOS Sonoma.

Testing environment

Macbook Pro 14" 2021

  • CPU & GPU: Apple Silicon M1 Pro

  • RAM: 16GB

  • Storage: 512GB

Overview

In general, macOS Sonoma is not a very big update. Despite some minor features, you cannot tell the difference between macOS Sonoma and the previous version, macOS Ventura.

Should you update to public beta right now? Probably not. The performance is a big issue. Many applications might become incompatible and have bugs in the new public beta version.

I recommend you wait for the official release of macOS Sonoma Beta. Also if your Mac is a bit old, e.g. Intel i3 or before 2018, I don't recommend you update it, as the new system requires more resources and the fancy features are unnecessary.

Main Features

Here are the main features macOS Sonoma brings:

  • Desktop Widgets

  • Dynamic Screensaver & Wallpaper

  • Improvements in video conferencing

  • Improvements in Safari Browser

  • Shared passwords and passkeys

  • Saying "Siri" instead of "Hey, Siri"

  • Game mode on Apple Silicon Macs

Desktop Widgets

Widgets on desktop

With this update, Apple brings interactive widgets to the desktop, moving them out of the Today view and making them more prominent and useful. Widgets can be found in the widget gallery, and placed in the convenient locations you like on your desktop.

These widgets are interactive, which means that for example, you can check off a to-do list from the Notes app.

Dynamic Screensaver & Wallpaper

macOS Sonoma includes a range of new video screensavers, similar to the Apple TV, that slow down and seamlessly become a still image on your desktop wallpaper when you log in.

macOS Sonoma Public Beta Review: Should I update?

Video screensavers

Video conferencing Improvements

Several improvements have been made to give you a better experience when you do online meetings.

Center Stage

I think this is the most helpful feature added to macOS Sonoma. Using a Studio Display or an iPhone camera, you can adjust your video's composition using zoom and pan controls. You can also re-center to place yourself back in the center of the frame automatically, with the help of Center Stage.

Presenter Overlays

The new Presenter Overlay feature lets you stay visible while sharing your screen. You can choose from two sizes of overlays: large and small. The large overlay puts you in the spotlight with your screen next to you, allowing you to move and talk in front of your shared content. Conversely, the small overlay places you in a movable bubble over your shared screen, so you can move around and point out important details. This is similar to a presentation with a screen showing your slideshow behind you.

macOS Sonoma Public Beta Review: Should I update?

Reactions

You can also use hand gestures to add fun 3D effects to your video calls, like fireworks, hearts, confetti, and more. e.g. lifting a thumb to show a thumbs-up reaction.

Screen Sharing

A new Screen Sharing picker allows you to share the view of a window during a video call. The Screen Sharing app also includes a new high-performance mode to improve responsiveness, reduce latency, increase frame rate, support up to two virtual displays, and even reference color.

Safari Browsing Improvements

THIS PART WILL NOT BE VERY IN-DEPTH because I mainly use the Arc browser. By the way, I strongly recommend trying the Arc browser as many of the new Safari features came after Arc.

Arc browser

What i use

Profiles

In Safari, you can create profiles to separate topics like Work and Personal, allowing them to separate their browser history, extensions, Tab Groups, cookies, and favorites. This is the same as Arc browser's "Spaces", however, it is not as convenient as Arc.

Private Browsing

Private Browsing now locks private browsing windows when not in use, completely blocks known trackers from loading on pages, and removes tracking added to URLs. So others cannot see what you were watching.

Password and passkey Improvements

In iCloud Keychain, you can create a group and choose a set of accounts to share.

Passwords stay up to date for everyone in the group, and you can remove someone at any time. On Apple's sites, like iCloud.com and the Apple ID site, you can now use a passkey to sign in instead of a password. Passkeys are authenticated with Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode.

PDFs and Notes

PDFs Autofill

With Enhanced Autofill, macOS Sonoma uses machine learning to identify fields in a PDF when opened with Preview or scanned documents so that you can quickly add details, such as names, addresses, and emails directly from contact cards.

Linking Notes inside notes

You can add a Link to a note inside another note.

Siri

Now, you can use a single 'Siri' to activate Siri instead of saying "Hey, Siri." This is much easier and less embarrassing when activating Siri in public.

Game Improvements

Apple finally focused on gaming on macs. It's a good start.

Game mode

A new Game mode automatically gives games top priority on your Mac's CPU and GPU, lowering usage for background tasks. It also reduces latency and improves responsiveness with wireless accessories like AirPods and external controllers by doubling the Bluetooth sampling rate. Game Mode delivers a smoother, more consistent frame rate and works with any game that supports macOS.

Porting Toolkit

This toolkit is very powerful as it can make it easier to port games from other platforms such as Windows to macOS. It lets developers see how well their existing game could run on Macs in a few days. It also simplifies converting the game's shaders and graphics code to take advantage of Apple silicon, significantly reducing the development time required to bring a game from another platform to macOS.

However, it is for developers when you try to use it to run a Windows game yourself on macOS, good luck with that. As one of my friends tried to run GTA V on macOS using the porting toolkit, it was a disaster.

Compatibility

Want to check if your Mac supports macOS Sonoma? macOS Sonoma is compatible with Macs from 2018 or later in most cases. Here is the detailed list:

  • iMac - 2019 and later

  • iMac Pro - 2017 and later

  • Mac mini - 2018 and later

  • MacBook Air - 2018 and later

  • MacBook Pro - 2018 and later

  • Mac Pro - 2019 and later

  • Mac Studio - 2022 and later

Bugs

As for me using macOS Sonoma public beta, the bugs gradually get fixed throughout the development.

However, you need to be aware that there is a bit of a performance issue which will sometimes cause the CPU to get 100% load and slow down your computer.

If your Mac is a little outdated, I do not recommend updating to macOS Sonoma as it will make it more laggy. For those who want to try out new features and don't mind the performance, feel free to update because the system usually works nicely.

Conclusion

macOS Sonoma offers a range of new features, including desktop widgets, dynamic screensavers, and improvements in video conferencing and Safari browsing. However, it may not be the best choice for older Macs due to performance issues. The Game mode and other gaming improvements are welcome for game enthusiasts, but I doubt that you actually want to game on Mac. While the macOS Sonoma has its share of bugs, these are being addressed progressively. Therefore, macOS Sonoma could be a worthwhile update if you want to experience the new features and don't mind occasional performance issues. However, for those with older Macs or who prioritize performance, it might be best to hold off until the official release or stick with macOS Ventura.

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Evan Luo by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!