macOS Monterey vs. Big Sur

If you’ve heard all about the new version of macOS, Monterey, you might be wondering how it compares with its predecessor, macOS Big Sur. In this article, we’ll look at the two operating systems and give you the lowdown on how they compare.

Monterey vs. Big Sur: Compatibility

Inevitably, there have been changes to the list of Macs that are compatible with the newest version of the operating system, as there are with every release. In the table below, you can see the Macs compatible with each of Monterey and Big Sur.

Big Sur

Monterey

Any Mac Pro or iMac Pro

MacBook 2016 or later

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air 2013 and later

MacBook Air 2015 or later

iMac and Mac mini 2014 and later

MacBook Pro 2015 or later

MacBook 2015 and later

Mac mini 2014 or later

iMac late 2015 or later

iMac Pro

Mac Pro 2013 or later



As you can see, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs from 2013 have dropped off the list of supported Macs for Monterey, as has the 2014 iMac and the 2015 MacBook.

If you’re concerned about how well Monterey will run on your Mac, you should do some maintenance and optimize its performance before installing the new OS. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds! There is a really easy way to do both, using CleanMyMac X’s Optimization and Maintenance modules. The Optimization module performs tasks like quitting applications that have hung or are using lots of resources and allows you to easily remove launch agents that might be slowing down your Mac. Maintenance makes it easy to run maintenance scripts, reindex Spotlight, and free up RAM. You can download it for free here.

Maintenance Scripts in CleanMyMac X

User interface

The Finder and Dock, as well as the user interface, got significant overhauls in Big Sur. So it’s no surprise that the changes in Monterey are much more modest. Control Center now shows you when your microphone is in use and which apps have access to it. And a new Focus mode acts in a similar way to Do Not Disturb, allowing you to turn off some notifications to concentrate on work.

FaceTime

In Big Sur, Messages got a big upgrade with lots of new features. This time, it’s FaceTime’s turn with new features to make group calls more fun. Instead of competing with Zoom and Teams by adding features for business, however, these new additions are all about social fun. You can now hold watch and listening parties, invite friends who don’t have an Apple device, and use gallery and portrait modes to see more people on screen or blur your background.

Quick Notes

Quick notes screenshot

Notes was another app that has been upgraded significantly recently, but it gets another big new feature in Monterey. Quick Notes allow you to add notes to the Notes app from lots of different applications. For example, you can create a Quick Note from a website in Safari. The note will display a thumbnail of the web page and be stored in a special Quick Notes section in the Notes app. You can also ‘mention’ people in apps and add tags to notes in the Notes app.

Universal Control

In Big Sur, you can ‘handoff’ apps between Mac and iOS devices, and you can use your iPhone or iPad camera to add images or scan documents directly to Mac apps. You can also use your iPad as a second display or graphics tablet on your Mac. In Monterey, you can go one step further with Universal Control. This new feature allows you to use the same keyboard and mouse with your iPad as you do with your Mac and switch seamlessly between the two when they are sitting next to each other, just by moving the mouse pointer sideways, so it moves off the Mac screen onto the iPad screen. You can also drag and drop files between Mac and iPad.

Big Sur Continuity features

Monterey Continuity features

Handoff

Handoff

Continuity Camera

Continuity Camera

Continuity Sketch

Continuity Sketch

Continuity Markup

Continuity Markup

Universal Clipboard

Universal Clipboard

Auto unlock and approve with Apple Watch

Auto unlock and approve with Apple Watch

AirDrop

AirDrop

Instant Hotspot

Instant Hotspot

Sidecar

Sidecar

AirPlay from Mac, iPhone, or iPad to Apple TV

AirPlay from Mac, iPhone, or iPad to Apple TV

Universal Control

AirPlay from iPhone or iPad to Mac



Safari

Safari screenshot

While most of the user interface in Monterey looks the way it did in Big Sur, Safari is the exception. The new tab bar is the same color as the page you’re visiting and seems to merge into the page. Tabs now appear to the right of the Smart Search bar instead of below it. And the Share, New tab, and Tab overview buttons now only display when you click the More button. You can now group tabs in Safari in the same way that you can in Chrome. And groups can be named and edited.

The sidebar in Safari has also been re-designed. As well as showing your Reading list and Favourites, it also now displays tab groups. One really cool feature is that if you drag a tab group onto an email message in Mail, it will display the URLs of each tab in the email.

Monterey vs. Big Sur: Performance

There isn’t a huge difference between the performance of Big Sur and Monterey. Those performance gains made are likely to be most noticeable on M1 Macs, as this is where Apple’s developers are now focused.

These are the main differences between Monterey and Big Sur. There are lots of smaller changes, like the introduction of iCloud+ and security features like hiding your IP address in Mail messages. And there’s a Live Text feature that lets you copy text from your photos and interact with it. If you have a Mac that’s compatible, it’s well worth upgrading.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
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