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Can you game on a Macbook Pro?

The latest generation of MacBook Pro, which is equipped with M1 Pro and M1 Max, can be used for occasional gaming, but they are in no way a full-fledged gaming machine like others. 

Apple MacBooks and gaming are always considered to be the two opposite poles in the past decade. But right now, we are seeing a drastic change as Apple released the new MacBook Pro line-up, which includes MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 and MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021. The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors present inside these two machines, respectively, mark an astonishing gaming performance jump from its predecessor, the M1 chip, but is it worth it? Well, that’s another question that we have to find the answer to. 

With these two MacBook Pro, Apple has finally given long-time enthusiasts the machine they deserve. But having raw performance is one thing, and running games on smooth 60 frames per second is another. So today, we are going to answer the question: is the new generation of MacBook Pro able to satisfy the game in you, or is it still more or less a productivity machine for professional work? Let’s find out, shall we?

For a long time, Apple used to have third-party graphics processors in their MacBook Pro and even in their desktops. We have seen Nvidia graphics and AMD Radeon chips as well in the last iteration of 27-inch iMac systems. In contrast to these systems, Apple has rooted its custom-designed SoCs M1 Pro and M1 Max, which are also known as Apple Silicon, and comes with a combination of CPUs and GPUs. 

These SoCs are blazingly fast when it comes to professional work of editing a video in 4k, running AI data sets, and compiling a massive amount of code.

With its 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, and 16-core neural engine, Apple makes it quite clear that its flagship MacBook Pro is built for heavy-duty content creation. On the other hand, most game developers have overlooked MacOS as a serious gaming platform over the years. Thus, they are more inclined toward optimizing their games for consoles and Windows operating systems. 

As a result, we have a chicken-and-egg situation here. This means that the GPU portion of the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are capable of gaming in theory and even better than the previous third-party GPUs, which were present in earlier generation MacBooks.

MacOS gaming is still limited

Gamers are looking for more than just raw and theoretical performance. In addition to having great hardware, which these machines have, a game needs to have properly optimized software too. And this is where MacOS falters. The immense power which Apple has bought in its new lineup of MacBook Pro isn’t going to change the harsh reality of MacOS being not so friendly for game developers. Things became more complicated when Apple moved from x86 architecture to its own ARM-based silicon. 

Games that were released for Mac before 2020 will never see a native Apple silicon version. To keep those games still running on new machines, Rosetta does a fantastic job of bridging the gap. Still, there are tons of issues which means some games can never run on Mac OS no matter how hard you try to run them. 

Different Methods to play games on MacBook Pro

Even with the best hardware in your new MacBook Pro, it becomes hard to play games. But don’t worry, we have got you covered. There are three different ways by which you can play games on MacBook Pro and have fun with your friends online.

Wine

Wine is an open-source program that is used to run Windows applications in macOS. In most cases, it is used for running Windows software in Linux, and Wine can even run Windows applications directly on Mac platforms. In addition to this, you won’t need any Windows license or even Windows running via side loading. There are several ways to install Wine on Mac. Go to the official website WineHQ to get the official builds for Mac OS X. keep in mind even though Wine binaries make a Windows application run on Mac OS. Still, there is no graphical tool that can be used to install and set up the applications. As a result, we recommend using Wine only for advanced users. 

Once you download the software, open the download DMG file and drag both the Wine and WineBottler to your Applications folder to install it. The same way you do with other Mac applications. After that, once you open it, you will find different applications of Windows such as Internet Explorer, Steam, Google Chrome, and more. Choose any of these options and WineBottler will automatically download, install and configure the application so it can run on Mac OS. Now, you can find the installed applications on the folder called “On My Mac,” which is located in the WineBottler window. With this, you can play games like Dota and Warcraft on your MacBook Pro, running on M1 chips. 

Bootcamp

Apple allows users to install Windows on their Mac computers manually. In addition to this, Boot camp also offers the Mac owners the opportunity to boot into the Windows operating system directly. This way, whenever you turn on the laptop, you can either boot into the Windows operating system or use Mac OS depending on your need. 

On the other hand, it makes it possible for MacBook Pro users to play games developed for the Windows environment. With the use of Bootcamp, you don’t have to fiddle with the settings, and you can have Windows like any other laptop and convert your MacBook Pro into a Gaming Macbook in no time. 

Streaming from other Devices 

The only problem you might have to face when using Bootcamp is that Mac’s hardware is not getting picked up by Windows. This problem is bound to happen in MacBook Pros which use M1 processors. On the other hand, if you have a small hard drive, then sideloading Windows should not be your first choice. So, in that case, if you already have a Windows gaming PC in your home, you can ideally game on it and stream it on MacBook Pro via Steam’s in-home streaming feature. 

For this, you need to be on the same local network when both the machines are connected to it. The heavy-lifting of providing hardware to play AAA games can be done on your PC, and your MacBook can be used for streaming it to you. This way, your MacBook will remain cool, and its battery will not have speedy draining. 

Virtualization 

Apart from sideloading Windows using Bootcamp, you can run Windows desktop applications on your MacBook Pro using virtual machine software. Even though virtual machines will still cause overhead, it is considered a viable option in many cases. Games that are not demanding and don’t need 3D acceleration can provide an amazing gaming experience in virtualization. Also, it should be noted that installing the latest AAA titles isn’t worth all your time in virtual machines because they won’t run. 

M1 vs. M1 Pro vs. M1 Max

For decades Apple has been using third-party graphics to provide graphical horsepower to their MacBooks and even to their desktop lineup. The latest 27-inch iMac can come with the AMD Radeon 5700 XT, but only in the Intel models. The newest generation MacBook Pros, however, have custom-designed SoCs which combine both the CPU and GPU duties with a shared pool of memory.

How do the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros perform?

The result that we had were promising; we played more than 25 games and ran them natively, using parallels, CorssOver21, and Rosetta 2 as well. Most of the games when played with 1080p settings pushed displayed frame rates from 40 – 60 fps for M1 Pro. For M1 Max, the frame rate for similar games was between 60 – 100 fps. We tested out the games such as Metro Exodus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Witcher 3, Minecraft, and other popular titles. We saw the optimized games for Apple Silicon provided the same performance across both the M1 Pro and M1 Pro Max.

M1 Pro and M1 Max need Optimized Games

The real test of M1 Pro and M1 Max will be whether developers are willing to go the extra mile to make their games optimized. So games can take full advantage of the performance of these two Apple Soc chips. It is true you can find native games which support Mac OS. Still, most fan-favorite games will have to find their ideal solutions to be played on the MacBook. Even after all the trouble, we still see Mac gamers getting excited about the future.  

Is Macbook Pro M1 good for gaming?

The M1 version of both MacBook Pro and MacBook Air uses a chip that is based on ARM architecture. This is the same architecture that powers the iPhone and iPad. Some of the games which didn’t run well on the previous generation MacBook Pro are now running well. The Shadow of The Tomb Raider’s inbuilt benchmarking tool had an average of 30-fps at its full resolution. If you go a bit lower in resolution and steady it to 1920×1200, the frame rate is almost doubled with an average of 60. 

We also tested out Total War: Three kingdoms, the game did run, but it had so many graphics-related issues that it became unplayable. The benchmark tool of the game came out with 23 FPS. Then came Fortnite, and we actually enjoyed playing it on MacBook Pro with high settings and 1920×1200 resolution. With these settings hitting the 60 fps mark wasn’t a tough job to succeed. After this, we tried running some more games but failed in our attempt to run other games. As a result, we concluded that MacBook Pro equipped with M1 Apple silicon is still not considered a viable gaming option for your needs. 

Testing different games

Given below, we have provided our results of testing different AAA gaming titles on the latest-gen MacBook Pro that came with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips inside. 

Can you play Fortnite on a MacBook Pro?

Yes, you can run Fortnite on Macbook Pro. The minimum specs to play Fortnite are given below; if you have an old MacBook Pro, then it would be best to check these requirements and see if you can run it. 

  • Intel Iris Pro 5200 graphics
  • Core i3-3225 3.3 GHz processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • macOS Mojave 10.14.6 or newer
  • A Mac compatible with Apple’s Metal API

When you start the game, it will automatically detect your hardware and will dish out some of the settings. For some, it might work just fine, but we recommend tweaking it to your own needs. After that, you are good to go. Yes, there is nothing special you need to do in order to Fortnite on your Apple silicon MacBook Pro. The frames you will get vary depending on your graphical settings. But with medium to high settings, you can hit the 60 fps mark with ease. So yes, you can play Fortnite on the latest generation MacBook Pro without using any external GPU or Egpu. 

 

Machine  Graphic Settings  Resolution  FPS
M1 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), 32 GB Epic 3456X2234p 120
M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), 16 GB High 1920X1200p 90+
M1 MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020), 8 GB Medium-High 2560X1600 80+

Note:- From August 2020 onwards, Epic games are not updating Fortnite on Apple devices, including Mac OS. There is ongoing litigation between Epic games and Apple. You can still download Fortnite on Apple products, but you are not going to be playing any latest season and cross-platform play. Thus, you are only going to play with other players having Apple devices.

Can you play Minecraft on a Macbook Pro?

Yes, you can play Minecraft on a Macbook pro. Minecraft’s blocky graphics make it possible for you to build anything which you can imagine. It doesn’t need a high-performing GPU to push out those high frame rates. It’s a simple game but has tons of fun. It is more like a building with legos but on a computer. In today’s world, Minecraft has successfully established itself as the most popular adventure game which was ever released on Mac. The requirements for running Minecraft smoothly on MacBook Pro are written down below:

  • OS: 10.9 Mavericks
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Video Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000 or higher
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Hard Drive: 1 GB of Hard Drive space

We ran the benchmarks on various different MacBook Pro models that use Apple silicon, even those which have been released a long time ago. Our experiment showed us how to graphically power the new M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max chips when running Microsoft’s Minecraft. There is one thing to be noted down here, and that is we can only play the Java version of Minecraft on Mac OS. 

 

Machine  Graphic Settings  Resolution  FPS
M1 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), 32 GB Fancy  2560X1440p 120
M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), 16 GB Max 1920X1200p 65
M1 MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020), 8 GB Max 1920X1080p 100+

Can you play Call of Duty on a Macbook Pro?

Yes, you can play Call of Duty on Macbook Pro M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Pro Max. Call of duty games have always attracted millions of fans, but for a long time, Apple users couldn’t play them. Now things have changed with the new MacBook Pro M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max. In this test, we are playing Call of Duty Black Ops 3. Even though it is not the latest and the greatest Call of Duty out there, it still gets the job done by providing the adrenaline rush of face-paced shooting. Given below are the minimum hardware requirements to play this game. 

  • OS: 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • CPU: 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Disk Space: 150 GB
  • Video Card: 2GB ATI M290X or better

 

Machine  Graphic Settings  Resolution  FPS
M1 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), 32 GB High 1728X1117p 120
M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), 16 GB High 1920X1200p 80+
M1 MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020), 8 GB Max 1920X1080p 60+

Can you play GTA 5 on a Macbook Pro?

There is no Mac OS compatible version for GTA 5 available right now. As a result, you have to rely on a 3D crossover layer or with the Bootcamp. The minimum requirement to run GTA 5 on any system is given below. These specs are easily beaten by the latest gen MacBook Pro, so theoretically, playing GTA 5 isn’t hard for these laptops. But compatibility is the issue, and with a crossover layer, you are going to lose some performance. 

  • OS: 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 at 2.40GHz, 4 CPUs
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Disk Space: 65 GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA 9800 GT 1GB or better

We have tested out GTA 5 On three different configured MacBook Pro to show how the game performs on various hardware provided by Apple. Below are the results of our test, and this makes it clear that you can play GTA 5 on the new M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max-equipped MacBook Pro. 

 

Machine  Graphic Settings  Resolution  FPS
M1 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), 32 GB Medium 1920X1080p 120+
M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), 16 GB Medium  1920X1080p 85+
M1 MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020), 8 GB Medium 1920X1080p 45+

Frequently asked questions 

Can gaming damage my MacBook Pro?

This is a complete hoax, no laptop can ever get damaged from playing games. Even if you have a low spec MacBook Air, still if you have Fortnite sessions on it all day it won’t cause any issue to your internals. Thermals might go up but that doesn’t mean your MacBook will be damaged in any way possible. 

Should you buy a Macbook Pro for gaming?

No, the answer is simply no, MacBook Pro is made for productivity purposes only, even though your hardware has all the horsepower to run games, still, the software isn’t optimized to handle games on high FPS. As a result, gaming on MacBook Pro even with the top of the line specs is still going to be a daunting task. 

Final Thoughts 

So yes, you can play games on a MacBook Pro in one way or the other, and no, gaming will not damage the MacBook pro but should you be buying such an expensive MacBook Pro laptop just to play games? Well, the answer is absolutely not. MacBooks are designed to be productive laptops. That’s why you will find it virtually in every creator’s backpack.

But when it comes to being a good gaming laptop, MacBook Pro still has a long way to go. These beasts are seldom optimized for games. Lastly, the game creators have very little motivation to create an optimized version just for the  MacOS as it has a very little population of gamers as compared to the gamers playing on PC.

If you are tired from your work and want to relax a little, the MacBook Pro can be used for playing games. On the other hand, for hardcore gaming, it is better to buy a dedicated gaming laptop or desktop such as Alienware or Razer Blade.

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