There have always been a number of decent Bittorrent clients for OS X, however it’s only the last year or two that we’re finally seeing some competition in this area. For the purposes of this shootout I’ve decided to focus only on the clients that are updated semi-regularly. For that reason I haven’t reviewed clients such as BitRocket and Xtorrent, that haven’t been updated since the beginning of 2008.
Based on the criteria outlined above, I’ve selected four popular clients that are under active development to compare. All of these clients are free and Leopard compatible.
Transmission is a cross-platform client with a clean and simple interface that also boasts a small memory footprint. But underneath the relatively simple UI, there are a range of advanced features for power users as well, including an iPhone optimized web interface that allows you to monitor and manage your torrent downloads remotely.
uTorrent has been one of the most popular clients for Windows, largely due to its small memory footprint. So when the team announced a Mac version last year, it generated a lot of interest. uTorrent now belongs to BitTorrent Inc. and the Official Client is apparently at least partially based on uTorrent code.
uTorrent for Mac is currently still in beta, but it already supports most of the features that Transmission offers. The UI is sleek and performance is pretty good as well.
As mentioned above, the Official Client is based on uTorrent code, so performance should be comparable. However: the UI of the official client is currently still Java based, and its feature-set is quite different as well.
Vuze easily has the most configuration options of all the clients featured in this roundup, boasting a Firefox-like plugin architecture and media transcoding for popular devices. But all those features do come at a price. The java-based interface stands out like a sore thumb on OS X and even when idle RAM consumption weighs in at a hefty 110MB.
The clients were compared by their memory footprint, (as far as can be ascertained by a user), feature-set and performance while downloading. The most important criteria – download speed – is also the most difficult to measure as factors such as number of seeders, network congestion etc. all play a role. So for purposes of this review, I downloaded the heavily-seeded Ubuntu 9.0.4 .iso torrent with each client to get an estimate if any app stood out. However the results are only a general indication of performance and shouldn’t be seen as absolute numbers.
As you can see, the speed results are close, so I’d call that a draw. Transmission and uTorrent are quite close when it comes to memory consumption. A lot of other features are quite comparable, so it mostly comes down to memory consumption and how picky you are about your user interfaces.
For me personally, Transmission is the ideal balance between feature-richness and performance. Despite it’s cross-platform roots, it’s lightweight and fast, much like uTorrent, but has one or two features that the latter doesn’t. Vuze is great if you’re looking for a feature-packed client, but in my opinion it’s a bit too cluttered and tries to do too much. Both Vuze and the Official Client also a bit slow for my liking, but you might want to check out Vuze for some of it’s more advanced features such as automatic transcoding of video content.
Bonus tip: Be sure to check out Gizmodo’s article on how to improve your download speeds, – it makes a difference!