In a familiar way, Arc Browser for Mac is a new take on traditional web browsing. We’ve been able to gain early access to the browser in order to provide our readers with an exclusive rundown of what to look forward to when joining the waitlist. With a fairly satirical outlook on the web, the Browser Company of New York is happy to proclaim
“Arc is your space to breathe on the internet.”
But is it all it’s cracked up to be? In this review, we’re taking a deep dive into the new kid on the block – Arc Browser.
Even though the browser has been slowly letting new users in on the download for the browser, there is a suspenseful atmosphere when accessing the homepage as the website is playful and very well designed. However there’s a problem – a TypeForm link blocking your access to try out this new solution by asking you to join a waitlist. Luckily for students, the invite can be sent almost instantly (but up to 24 hrs) when you join using your institution’s email. Over 400 different schools, universities and institutions are on the list, so you should be able to sign up fairly quickly.
However, if you’re in the “regulars” queue, hope is not lost! Arc is having hundreds of new users added to the beta each day, so it shouldn’t be too much of a burden to be patient for a few days or maybe a week in order to break free from your old browser. You can also gift access by using a referral link but this also requires someone to have access prior to your request.
As stated on the development page of the Browser Company of New York, the Arc browser is a culmination of effort from talented workers from major tech brands. Top minds from Snap, Google, Pinterest, Slack and even Tesla have all contributed to the action building a new web experience.
When downloading the application on Mac, it’s a moderately large 302MB .DMG file – however this is justified as it’s built from scratch, meaning that the file size will likely reduce as the team make things more efficient. The opening melodic score is definitely futuristic and fitting to the rest of the Arc branding with a charming slogan “Meet the internet again.” across the screen. It comes across as a very Apple-like experience with many fine-tuned UI elements and a crisp design. For what this browsers lacks compared to others, it’s made up for in top design quality and consistency.
The sidebar feel to Arc is a little strange to get used to, as conventional browsers are horizontally laid out, rather than stacked. Even for new users, the learning curve is relatively flat – following a trial and error method of opening each menu to see what it does is actually encouraged so you can learn more about how to make the Arc Browser for Mac work for you and your workflow.
Overall the design is very minimalist and definitely in line with Apple’s current design language. There’s a little more playful attention to detail in Arc but this fits perfectly within the user experience. It can be conformed to any type of macOS system and any monitor you may use externally, everything is equal and proportionate.
After our review of Vivaldi Browser for Mac, you might think that customization is unmatched, however Arc is customizable and extendable, with support for any of Chromium’s extensions. Customization in this context is in a different form, where the layouts and colors of the browser can be altered, but not on the micro level of Vivaldi. However, this in no way stops Arc from being unique! Arc offers an even better version of developer tools that are referred to as “Boosts”.
In the setup of the application, users can also customize the look of the application with macOS’s Light, Dark & Dynamic color schemes as well as being able to import past settings, keys, passwords and even credit card information from other browsers. A key question the user is prompted with is “Should we block ads?” (ads support websites like this one!) but at least a choice is given, rather than forcing a user into a decision.
|Import to Arc:||Chrome||Firefox||Safari|
|Passwords||Yes||(Auto complete only )||Yes|
In a rather cute way, the browser has touching elements that make it seem very personal, such as greeting you by name and also giving you a “Membership Card” when joining Arc. The little touches of personality give the browser a personified atmosphere and almost feels as if a user is building a rapport with the software they are using.
By having this personal connection to the browser, you feel more of an obligation to use it as it’s not just a browser you’ve installed on your computer – it’s YOUR browser.
Adblock is standard with Arc and is able to take full advantage of managing how websites track you. It’s easy to see how Arc browser segments data and keeps things clean using different profiles for more control over your data, cookies, logins and browsing. In the example they give on their feature list, there’s a profile for work and another for personal – giving the user ultimate control over their data for each type of browsing. Arguably, this could be similar to Chrome’s profile feature but that is more for using Google services, rather than data control.
Arc is the break your Mac has been begging you for. The performance profile is so minimal, it’s likely you’ll forget it’s even running! With a specific version being designed for Mac specifically, there is a lot of thought that has gone into resource management that’s allowed the application to push the boundaries of software but not your resources.
Google Chrome uses an average ~2GB of my 32GB RAM – compared to Arc using only ~180MB. This fluctuated slightly when bearing more tabs but is able to handle it all and keep a steady pace! Chrome will freeze and memory hog more than any other application running (usually), making Arc the favorite for this experiment.
To put it bluntly; the best is yet to come. As Arc is a really new development, there’s so much potential the browser holds but right now it’s a baby that needs to mature. Appleosophy’s team loves using the browser on Mac and we think that it has the possibility to shake up the industry as the friendly, modern browser as conveyed from the branding. We’ll be keeping tabs on the development and do another review when available to the public.
Arc Browser for MacArc Browser for Mac
- Customization4/5 GoodWhilst having a great way to customize the different layout of tabs and overall browsing environment, it was harder to edit other aspects of the browser beyond color, choice of font or Space theme. It was easy to create tab Spaces and also customize split screen windows with a draggable width control (which would be great for mobile testing). You can also unconventionally customize any website you want with the "Boosts" feature, native to Arc.
- Privacy3/5 NeutralPrivacy is managed by having Adblock bundled with the browser and the option to create different spaces for different browsing sessions. There is no function for a built-in VPN but you can use this in conjunction to any external VPN you may have.
- Device Compatibility2/5 BadFor now the Arc browser is only available on macOS and actively has a Windows version in development, but plans for Linux and mobile ports of the browser are much further in the pipeline. It would be great to eventually see this browser accessible on most systems but it's just a waiting game for now. Arc still works great for both Intel and M1, M1 Ultra & M1 Max chips with nothing noticeable to note about the different systems.
- Functionality5/5 AmazingThe speed of the browser is one of the main selling points for Arc. It uses far less system resources compared to most browsers and has a complex method of ensuring no tab is using too much memory. It has great load balancing with different spaces and groups that allow for the system to manage effectively, but also allows the user to group based on topics, interests or browsing sessions. It has a range of productivity features such as note taking, whiteboard, boosting and screenshotting and recording but a lot of these features are still being developed and made better with each update.
- Students get early access
- Privacy is a main focus of the application
- Windows & Linux versions are in the works
- Unique "Boosts" functionality to edit websites
- Fits with Apple's design language very well
- Waitlist to use the browser (unless Student)
- Not cross platform (yet)
- No mobile options (yet)
- Still uses Chromium as a baseplate