Sensei review: Gorgeous Mac performance utility hamstrung by Thunderbolt

Prior to the arrival of Mac OS X in 2001, software for keeping tabs on CPU usage, managing extensions, or even doubling available virtual RAM allowed power users to monitor or tweak system performance. While such hacks are largely unnecessary on modern Macs, a few apps still carry a torch for this bygone era.

Mac optimization utility Sensei is the latest, probing deeper than the already comprehensive real-time data of competitor iStat Menus, while also supplying a generous toolbox of disk cleaning skills. The result is an app that manages to pack a ton of information into a gorgeous, well-organized user interface.

sensei dashboard macbook pro Cindori AB

Sensei is a feast for the visual senses, packing a ton of hardware data inside an attractive, well-organized user interface.

The main window provides an overview of your Mac hardware, with model-specific details including serial number, manufacture date, and identifier across the top. Underneath, sections are grouped by RAM, processor, graphics, and storage; MacBooks also display battery gauge, health, and time remaining. A left-hand sidebar provides one-click access to four built-in Utilities (Optimize, Uninstaller, Clean, Trim), along with shortcuts to display more detailed Hardware particulars (Storage, Graphics, Battery, Cooling).

Although the Dashboard view is a sight for sore eyes, Thunderbolt-attached Drobo and RAID storage devices made Sensei behave schizophrenically. On the iMac and MacBook Air used for testing, the app rarely displayed every local volume, and even when it did, capacity gauges were empty across the board. This bug extends to the Storage module under Sensei’s Hardware sidebar, where the Benchmark tool bizarrely prompted us to manually select a writeable volume—despite already having permission—then erratically displayed real-time read/write results.

sensei dashboard missing gauges IDG

Thunderbolt storage devices cause Sensei to behave erratically, displaying disk capacity gauges for all connected volumes.

Clean and optimize

Running Sensei with Thunderbolt drives connected also kicked the fans into high gear. If the extra system noise wasn’t confirmation enough, a quick peek at the app’s Cooling module provided detailed analysis as onboard thermal sensors ramped up. On the plus side, Sensei includes Trim Enabler, previously sold as a $15 standalone utility. This optional feature optimizes and maintains internal SSD performance: turn it on, restart, and the Apple-certified driver takes care of the rest.

Also included is a comprehensive, three-pronged assault for dealing with accumulated disk clutter. The Optimize utility makes short work of login items and launch agents, while the Uninstaller utility purges installed apps in tandem with their related system files. The Clean utility frees space consumed by larger files and old system cruft. While it’s a shame there are no scheduling options, the available disk cleaning tools are otherwise on par with the popular CleanMyMac X.

sensei uninstaller module IDG

Uninstalling old or incompatible apps is a snap and Sensei removes support, preference, and other related files at the same time.

Although free to download, Sensei requires a one-time purchase of $59 or annual subscription ($29 per year) to use beyond a 14-day trial period. The price is quite reasonable, especially since the license covers up to three computers, but the app only runs on macOS Catalina 10.15 or higher—an unfortunate limitation for households with older hardware.

Bottom line

Sensei provides one of the most eye-pleasing ways to view nearly all the hardware activity taking place inside your Mac along with the tools to keep your system drive clean, but an unfortunate incompatibility with Thunderbolt-connected storage devices make it less useful than it should be.