uTorrent vs Transmission on Mac OSX Lion

Well, I bought a Mac. Specifically a MacBook Air 11.6″ notebook. It is the best ultralight travel computer I could find.

I had known the MacBook Airs were good little computers for quite some time, but after they did away with the backlit keyboard a while back I scratched them off of my “short list” of top notebook. Well, they re-added the backlit keyboard and they also put in some spicy new CPUs and nice big SSD options. So I did what I never thought I would, I bought a Mac.

After all that, I will get to the point… since I am playing with Mac OSX a bit (before probably switching to Win 7 on bootcamp or VMWare Fusion) I need replacements for some of my “go to” apps.

WANTED – a good Torrent client for Mac

First up, a good Torrent client. The top candidates: uTorrent and Transmission

Initial download size:

1.7mb uTorent

4mb Transmission

Size after installation:

3.5MB uTorrent

8.3MB Transmission

The results

To be updated as I use the apps…

UPDATE: 2011.09.20*

*Note: I returned my MacBook Air so I have not been able to add the screenshots and UI comparisons that I wanted to. However, the next time I am doing development work in my VMWare Mac OSX installation I will try to take screenshots and update the article.


uTorrent: 5/5

Transmission: 4.5/5

Both clients performed admirably in my tests. Neither had any problems solidly downloading a variety of legal torrents. Speeds were comparable, neither provided an extreme DL boost compared to the other. uTorrent gets a small win here since I prefer its speed reporting and graphing capabilities vs. Transmission.

Cross-Platform Compatibility:

uTorrent: 4/5

Transmission: 4.5/5

uTorrent is readily available on Windows and Mac. Transmission open source and is available on Mac, GTK+ and Qt as well as being ported to a variety of platforms.

User Interface

uTorrent 4.25/5

Transmission 4/5

Each client takes a totally different approach to user interface and content presentation. Transmission is very minimalistic and “Mac like” while uTorrent provides you with loads of information.

This really comes down to individual user preference but I generally like more info rather than less so for me uTorrent gets the nod.

The winner is?

Thankfully these are both great torrent apps for use on Mac OSX Lion. If I had to choose one I would choose Transmission. When I use a Mac I try to keep things simple, Transmission is a very simple and streamlined interface that makes downloading torrents easy. The complexity is hidden and with the “keep it simple” mantra I find myself not even digging into the options that I often play with on uTorrent for Windows.

This conclusion (choosing Transmission) really came as a surprise to me. When I use Windows I personally tend do more complex things and at those times I prefer the control/info that uTorrent offers in plain vie. However, especially in older versions, it is not a streamlined simple interface. It is a power user interface IMHO. But on Mac OSX uTorrent just does not fit in, it does not quite belong in Apple-Land. Whereas Transmission fits into the landscape perfectly.

As Keith pointed out in the comments below, Transmission also has a longer history on Mac OSX and they seem to really focus on pushing the limits for the Mac version. Whereas the Mac version of uTorrent may always lag behind the more popular Windows version when it comes to features and development.

In the end – both of their place

In addition to choosing Transmission, I am also leaving uTorrent for Mac installed. Neither takes up significant resources and they both have a place in my torrent toolbox.

I hope this info was helpful to you and I encourage you to share your experiences as well. 🙂


  • Keith

    Definitely Transmission. Has a longer history on OS X and is more mature as a program and “Mac-like”.

    • J.D.

      Howdy Keith,
      Thanks for the comment.

      I just completed my initial testing last night and I tend to agree with you… Transmission is surprisingly good!

      Will be posting some throughput reports and overall pros/cons of each, but as of right now Transmission looks like my new “go to” Mac torrent app. 🙂

  • Have you taken a final decision about it? I’ve been using Transmission for almost 4 years so far, but only because the friend who taught me the Mac world recommended me so. And I haven’t tried anything else because it’s worked fine so far…. until today. It has been behaving very weird today to the point I decided to make a little research for alternatives, finding my way to this post. I’d really like to know your final thoughts after your 3 month of tests.

    Greetings from Chile,

  • J.D.

    Hi Injerto, thank you for your comment!

    I am surprising to hear about your Transmission issues, hopefully they are better now. If not, I can highly recommend uTorrent as a backup torrent client. It may take a little adjustment to get used to the different UI, but it should perform admirably for you.

    Please keep me posted on your experiences!

  • Well, it got fixed at last. I restarted my macbook and restarted Transmission and everything went fine. I personally like it a lot for being small and straight forward; and its web interface, despite that I’ve never actually used it, is a very good idea. I like its UI a lot, which I’ve never have with uTorrrent. I’m happy that it didn’t got screwed forever. 🙂

    • J.D.

      Excellent Injerto! It is surprising just how infrequently MacBook’s require a restart. Glad everything is cleared up now. 🙂

      My sentiments echo yours. Transmission gets the job done very efficiently.

  • Chad

    I don’t know if anyone else has been experiencing this, but transmission has been freezing my system ever since I updated to Lion two months ago. I haven’t tried uTorrent yet, but there are a number of lion users that have been experiencing the same thing with transmission. Basically what happens is transmission suddenly stops all downloading and uploading, there is no longer any internet access from your computer and you can’t save any files. To make matters worse the computer won’t even restart unless you do a hard reset. I would be wary until they fix this bug.

  • stephenrs

    I echo Chad’s experience…since I moved to Lion Transmission has been doing very strange things…like seizing while downloading, and reporting that my “port is closed” when I know my network, NAT, etc is configured properly (I’m an IT guy). Finally, a torrent that had over 2000 seeds and about the same number of peers just wouldn’t download with Transmission, so I decided to give uTorrent a try. With the same torrent, no reboot and no settings changes, uTorrent maxed out my bandwidth (a good thing in this case) in about 5 seconds and the downloaded file is now happily on my hard drive. Simple UI is nice, but a functioning torrent client is better 🙂

    • Hi Stepenrs,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences with Transmission and utorrent on Lion.

      That is a real bummer about Transmission not working well with Lion, but great news that utorrent was working so well!

      Best regards,

  • stephenrs

    Just to followup on my ongoing experience with Transmission/uTorrent…I’ve downloaded 10 torrents so far using uTorrent, and all of them have been much faster than I was used to with Transmission. Also, in the about 2 years that I used Transmission exclusively, even after following several tutorials and making many adjustments to Transmission’s settings over time (and having a fairly solid understanding of the underlying torrent technology at this point), I was never able to get Transmission to play well with my computer and network. After running Transmission for awhile, my internet connection would inevitably become unusable, so I’d have to quit the app. This was particularly of concern for me because I believe in trying to contribute to the swarm by keeping my share ratio high. With transmission, even when frequently left running overnight with plenty of files available for seeding, my share ratio continually went down, and I was never able to get it above about 0.7.

    On the other hand, I’ve been running uTorrent continuously with the settings it came with out of the box, and I don’t even notice that it’s running. I’m seeding all of the torrents I’ve downloaded so far, and my share ratio is currently about 2.5, and climbing…

    Happily uTorrenting from now on…and so is my girlfriend, who said “wow it’s so much faster” after I told her to install it when she was having trouble getting Transmission to get going with a particular torrent…

    Something else folks might want to be aware of…I reported a problem to the Transmission community about 18 months ago and you can see how it went here: https://forum.transmissionbt.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=10378

    • Hi stephenrs,
      Thank you for the additional Transmission vs. uTorrent reliability info!

      It is wonderful when software and network are rock solid together. Conversely, a flaky setup really sucks 🙁 So I’m really glad to hear that uTorrent and your network work so well together!

      Also, thank you for the informative forum link.

      Best regards,

      PS since you seem to also be interested in efficient/low-energy-usage systems, you might like Swarm for Android:
      It is a surprisingly capable and reliable torrent client for Android. 🙂

  • nomad

    Long time Transmission user, tried uTorrent and was quite pleased, very solid and nice interface.

  • predator

    I wonder if there is a possibility to see the overall (not per torrent) share-ratio in uTorrent on Mac?

    • Hi Predator,
      Good question!

      I’m not sure of the answer, but I’ll try to find out! Also, if somebody else reads your question and answers first then that’s cool too 🙂

      Best regards,

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