In this article:
- Macs have some of the most cutting-edge tech in the market inside them, so they should be able to run games a lot better than they do.
- Despite seamless functionality and tons of powerful, fully optimized apps and software, games just never run quite as well on any Mac.
- Part of the problem is that game developers don’t usually bother making a Mac port of their games.
- Fortunately, there are a few tricks you can try to boost your Mac’s gaming performance. It still won’t compare to a PC, though.
While not all devices are built to run big, graphically demanding video games, most will have at least some ability to run simple, lighter games. Even old Nokias have games.
What about Macs? Apple’s expensive computers that basically revolutionized personal computing were initially celebrated for being affordable and fun. But now, they are the opposite: expensive and boring.
Why Is Gaming So Bad on Mac?
Lack of Customization Options
One of the main reasons why gaming is poor on Macs is because they lack customization options. While Windows PCs offer a lot of different settings and customization options that let you change how your computer runs.
You can overclock CPUs, GPUs, and even RAM to make things run faster and smoother. If you did that on a Mac, you might void your expensive Mac’s warranty.
While they have some cutting-edge tech inside them, most of it is usually underclocked or toned down. Why? There might be a handful of reasons but I think it all comes down to performance stability and component longevity.
Overclocking components like the CPU, RAM, and GPU will increase their speed but it also exposes them to potential damage much sooner as performing at that higher level makes them prone to overheating.
Macs Prioritize Productivity and Ease of Use
While Macs are terrible for gaming (and anything fun in general), they are beasts of a machine when it comes to productivity. It runs word apps, spreadsheet apps, and presentation apps using Apple’s free apps and it does so without any hiccups even if you load complicated spreadsheet files. It can even run Microsoft Office apps.
But those are relatively light apps that any laptop — PC or Mac — could run. What about video editing in Macs? Well, it’s wonderful. It might even be better than Windows in some cases, especially with Apple’s exclusive video editing app, Final Cut Pro.
It’s not just about what Macs can and can’t run. Once you get used to a Mac, everything on it just feels so easy and comfortable. Macs have that “it just works” feeling to them.
Windows PCs, on the other hand, feel like you always need to tinker with something or download some new app from the Microsoft Store (or even from some sketchy website) to make it work properly. In most cases, it’s a pain and it will hurt your productivity.
Some Macs Don’t Have Dedicated GPUs
GPUs are bulky, require a lot of power, and produce a lot of heat. While Apple will still include them in its desktop computers, like the iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro computers, those don’t have to save space on chips and fans to get a thinner body design.
The MacBooks, on the other hand, ditch the GPU to keep the design thin, fan-less, and power-efficient.
Many Games Aren’t Available for Mac
Let’s say you maxed out the options on your MacBook or iMac or even a Mac Pro. You’ve got the most powerful CPU and GPU available, the largest amount of RAM possible, and a spacious SSD to top it off.
But when you start looking for games to play, you’ll find out some of your favorites might not even be on Mac. Some of the biggest AAA titles like GTA V, Skyrim, and The Witcher III.
You can get around this by running Windows on your Mac either through Bootcamp or a Virtual Machine software like Parallels, but the experience will probably be crappy. In some cases, the performance while running Windows on Mac is worse than just running macOS.
At that point, you might as well have just gotten a PC. Even if you want to play indie or undemanding games on your computer: Don’t get a Mac.
Macs Focus on Software Optimization
The reason why Macs can perform well even on a very underpowered chipset is because of their software optimization, not because of their computing power.
If you use a Windows PC even with the latest and greatest GPUs, CPUs, and RAM, there will still be hiccups. And that’s just it: Even though Mac’s software and OS are well optimized, the games that will run on it usually aren’t.
Since Macs have a smaller market share than Windows PCs, most game developers don’t have much incentive to pour a ton of time and resources into making a Mac port of their game. And when they do, it’s usually buggy.
How to Improve Gaming on a Mac
Alright, let’s say you’re stubborn or you’re stuck with a Mac for a couple of years and you just want to play games. These tricks won’t completely solve the problems discussed above, but they can help a bit.
Run Windows on Mac
First, you can try running Windows on your Mac. This is the easiest and most common solution for gamers on a Mac and there are two ways of doing this: through Bootcamp or by using virtual machine software like Parallels. I’ve tried both and in my opinion, Bootcamp is the way to go as it’s more stable and you’ll get better performance.
The only downside to Bootcamp is that you need to restart your computer every time you want to play a game or use Windows which can be a pain if you’re used to using a Mac which needs little to no troubleshooting. But that’s a small price to pay for a smidge of improvement in gaming performance.
What’s not a small price to pay is the hardware you might need. To run Bootcamp, you either have to make a Windows Partition on your existing hard drive or get an external HDD or SSD. Most Macs, especially the newer ones, don’t have a lot of storage space and Apple doesn’t make it easy to swap drives.
Upgrade Everything You Can
This tip won’t apply to everyone, and it certainly won’t apply to most of the newer Macs since those things have either proprietary or soldered components. But if you’re using a Unibody MacBook Pro (2008-2012), Retina MacBook Pro (2012-2015), MacBook Air (2008-2017), iMac (except for the latest iMac), and Mac Pros, then you can still upgrade a thing or two.
To improve gaming performance, upgrade your HDD to a faster SSD and upgrade your RAM for ones that are either faster or higher capacity. That’s pretty much all you can do to most MacBooks.
As for iMacs and Mac Pros, you can do all the things I just said, but you might also have the option to swap the CPU and GPU for more powerful ones. And hopefully, you can make a setup that’s great for gaming.
Update to the Latest OS
I’m sure that there are a handful of people who don’t like updating their Mac’s OS, and for good reason. Apple has released iOS updates before that intentionally slowed down iPhones. Though the company has so far only admitted to doing it to iPhones, some suspect it does the same for Macs.
Even without the risk of intentional slowdowns, updating any device has the potential to make it slower since older hardware might just not be able to deal with newer features.
But if you want to get a better gaming experience, I recommend updating to the latest OS all the time. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but if you don’t update, the day might come that your OS is too outdated to run a game. Besides, some MacOS updates will make even older model Macs a bit quicker now and then.
Try Remote or Cloud Gaming
If all is lost, but you have a fast and high-bandwidth internet connection, then why not try remote or cloud gaming? To start, you should know the difference between the two.
Remote gaming is just you taking advantage of another PC you have, perhaps a better-specced Windows PC. It’s like mirroring/controlling your computer from another computer. But since this method will require having a more powerful PC to connect to remotely, why not just play on that, right?
It does come in handy in certain situations, though, like when you’re not at home and the only thing you have is your MacBook. You can then tap into the PC you have at home to play your favorite games from wherever you are.
Say you don’t have another PC, though. That’s where cloud gaming comes in. Cloud gaming is basically like Netflix or YouTube but for games. The best thing about it? You don’t need a powerful device to run the app. You just need a good internet connection. It’ll run on iPhones, Androids, iPads, Windows, and Macs. It can even run on a smart fridge:
There are several cloud services like Xbox Cloud and Stadia. There are also cloud services like NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, Shadow, and Vortex that will allow you to take advantage of your existing PC game libraries since you are essentially paying these services to have the games processed on a computer somewhere near you.
If you want the best gaming performance possible on your Mac, cloud gaming might be the best thing for you.
Don’t Expect Miracles, Though
Despite these tips, gaming on a Mac will never be as good as gaming on a PC. If you’re serious about gaming, you should consider investing in a Windows computer instead (take it from me, a Mac user). With that said, if you’re determined to game on your Mac, following these tips should help a little, especially the cloud gaming bit.
Did you find this blog post helpful? Do you have some ideas on how to improve gaming on Macs? Let us know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!
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