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Is MacBook Good for Gaming? A MacBook Gaming Guide

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Last updated: September 14, 2023

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MacBooks are not typically considered the best option for gaming. They are designed for productivity and general use rather than gaming specifically.

While you can play some games on a MacBook, like Minecraft, if you are looking for a device specifically for gaming, it may be best to consider a PC or gaming laptop.

So, is MacBook good for gaming or not? Let’s explore this in detail below.

Is MacBook Good for Gaming?

is macbook good for gaming

While MacBooks have many strengths, they are not typically recommended for hardcore gaming. Apple’s MacBook series, in general, is not specifically designed with gaming in mind.

While they offer high performance in many areas, MacBooks don’t typically prioritize the features most important for a smooth and high-quality gaming experience, such as powerful graphics capabilities.

The 2022 model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro includes the M2 chip – the latest and greatest from Apple. Even though the M2 chip provides enhanced graphical performance, it still isn’t the best for gaming due to the continued limitations in gaming capability in comparison to other laptops specifically built for gaming.

Why Macs Are Not a Gamer’s First Choice?

There are multiple reasons for MacBook not being the first choice of hardcore gamers. Below, I’ve shared the most common reasons why gamers don’t prefer Mac for their gaming needs.

1. macOS: Locked Down and Limited Upgradability

limited upgradability and restricted macos

macOS is very locked down, and the upgradability of Macs is limited. This is a significant factor as to why Macs have not been a preferred choice for gamers. The locked-down nature of macOS and limited upgradability restrict the ability to customize the system to enhance gaming performance.

This limited flexibility stands in stark contrast to platforms like Windows, which are generally more open to customization and hardware upgrades, essential factors for gaming enthusiasts. While you can upgrade the RAM of some Mac models, it’s relatively complicated (or nearly impossible) to upgrade other components, especially in the newer models.

2. Reluctance Among Game Developers

Reluctance Among Game Developers

Many game developers have been reluctant to develop games for the Mac platform due to several reasons.

First, Macs have a smaller market share in comparison to Windows PCs, making it less profitable for game developers. Second, the complexities and costs associated with developing and optimizing games for the Mac operating system are higher.

Most developers have traditionally been skeptical about Mac gaming and game development, although some developers like CCP Games have shown more receptivity. The platform’s high regulation also adds to the reluctance of developers, thus reducing the number of games available for Mac users.

3. Absence of a Discrete Graphics Card

Absence of a Discrete Graphics Card

While the M1 chip has made significant strides in performance, including in gaming, the lack of a discrete graphics card in Macs could be a limiting factor.

Despite the M1 chip performing well in gaming even without a discrete graphics card, the absence of such a card can limit the performance potential for more graphically demanding games.

Furthermore, for the ultimate gaming experience, especially when playing the latest AAA titles, more powerful graphics cards and processors are required, often not found in Mac computers.

Analyzing MacBook Performance for Gaming

Analyzing MacBook Performance for Gaming

To better understand how MacBooks perform when it comes to gaming, I performed tests on various popular games. I designed these tests to evaluate the performance across several popular games and compared the results against other gaming-specific laptops within the same price range.

This comparison provides a more balanced perspective on how MacBooks perform in gaming scenarios.

Evaluating Popular Games on MacBooks

First, I tested Fortnite, a popular battle royale game known for its vibrant visuals and intense gameplay. On a MacBook Pro, which boasts more robust processing and graphics capabilities, Fortnite showed decent performance when the game settings were adjusted to medium.

While the game was playable and the frame rates were largely stable, I had to disable more advanced visual effects or reduce them in quality to ensure smooth gameplay.

Next, I examined the performance of Minecraft, a game that is less demanding in terms of graphical power but requires efficient processing for a smooth experience.

Interestingly, Minecraft performed well even on a MacBook Air, which is not traditionally viewed as a gaming laptop. This can be attributed to the game’s less intensive graphics and Apple’s optimization of the M1 chip.

High-end Gaming Performance

High end Gaming Performance

For a more rigorous test, I also tried running Cyberpunk 2077, a high-end game known for its advanced graphics and intense processing requirements. The game struggled to perform optimally despite using a MacBook Pro, which is superior in the MacBook lineup for gaming.

Frame rates dropped significantly, and there were noticeable delays, indicating that even the most advanced MacBook Pro may not be sufficient to handle the most demanding games currently on the market.

These tests reveal that while MacBooks can handle certain games at moderate settings, they struggle with high-end, graphically intense games. This is partly due to their hardware limitations, particularly the lack of a discrete graphics card and the focus of macOS on functionality and optimization over gaming performance.

Pros and Cons of Gaming on a MacBook

Pros and Cons of Gaming on a MacBook

Despite MacBooks not being traditionally favored by gamers, they do have certain attributes that lend themselves well to the gaming experience. Conversely, there are also significant drawbacks that need to be considered.

Pros of Gaming on a MacBook

Here are the benefits of gaming on a MacBook:

1. Stunning Display

Stunning Display for gaming

One of the standout features of MacBooks is their high-resolution Retina display. This technology allows for a much denser pixel count compared to standard displays, which in turn makes for sharper and more detailed images.

As a result, games played on a MacBook can look vibrant, vivid, and exceptionally sharp, providing a visually captivating gaming experience.

2. High-Quality Sound

High Quality Sound for gaming

Another major plus point is the sound quality on MacBooks. The speakers on these devices offer a depth and clarity of sound that surpass many of their laptop counterparts. This high-quality sound can provide an immersive gaming experience, making you feel more involved and connected to the game environment.

3. Integration with Apple Ecosystem

Integration with Apple Ecosystem

For users who own other Apple devices, MacBooks offer seamless integration within this ecosystem. This can be advantageous for games that support cross-device play or when you want to continue a game on a different device.

The synergy between Apple devices can elevate your gaming experience, providing a level of fluidity and convenience other ecosystems may struggle to match.

Cons of Gaming on a MacBook

Despite the benefits mentioned above, there are significant limitations to gaming on a MacBook.

1. Limited Game Library

Limited Game Library

One of the biggest drawbacks is the limited game library. Many game developers prioritize Windows due to its larger market share and more open platform, resulting in a significant number of games not being available on macOS.

This limitation can be a deal-breaker for gamers who want to play the latest titles or a wide variety of games.

2. Hardware Limitations

Hardware Limitations

MacBook’s design philosophy reflects in its hardware configurations. While the M1 chip in newer MacBooks has shown promising performance, the lack of a dedicated graphics card is a nuisance.

Also, the fact that high-end MacBooks are not optimized for gaming can limit their capability to run graphically intense, high-end games. These hardware limitations can affect game performance, leading to sub-optimal frame rates and lag in more demanding games.

How to Optimize Your MacBook for Gaming

While MacBooks may not be the best devices for gaming out of the box, a few optimizations and enhancements can help you get a decent gaming experience out of them.

There are several ways to optimize your MacBook for a better gaming experience. I have shared some tips to optimize your Mac for gaming below.

1. Close Unnecessary Applications

Running too many applications simultaneously can exhaust your MacBook’s resources, slowing down your game’s performance. So, before starting your gaming session, make sure to close all unnecessary applications. This frees up system resources such as CPU and RAM, which can then be fully utilized by your game.

Here’s how to close unnecessary apps on Mac using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper. 
  2. Launch MacKeeper and click Memory Cleaner
select memory cleaner under performance
  1. Click Open in the memory cleaner.
click open in the memory cleaner 1
  1. Tap Clean Memory.
click clean memory
  1. This will perform a memory cleanup and free up occupied memory.
memory cleaned after a cycle 1
  1. Alternatively, you can click the cross next to an app consuming excessive system resources to close it.
click the cross next to each app
  1. Confirm by clicking Quit in the prompt window.
click quit to end the app

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Apart from freeing up RAM on your Mac, MacKeeper can scan also delete junk files, remove duplicates, and scan your Mac for malware to enhance its overall performance. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its features.

2. Use an eGPU

While the integrated graphics in MacBooks can handle moderate gaming, they might struggle with graphically intensive games. An external Graphics Processing Unit (eGPU) can significantly enhance performance for such games.

An eGPU is essentially a standalone box that houses a powerful graphics card. You can connect this box to your MacBook using a Thunderbolt port. This allows your MacBook to harness the graphical power of the eGPU, improving the performance of graphics-heavy games.

While eGPUs can be quite an investment, they could be a viable option if you’re serious about gaming on your MacBook.

3. Adjust In-Game Settings

Most games come with customizable graphics settings. These include settings for resolution, texture quality, shadow quality, anti-aliasing, and more.

By lowering these settings, you can make the game less demanding on your MacBook’s hardware, which can result in smoother gameplay.

Start by reducing settings one by one and observe how each change affects your game’s performance. This way, you can find a balance between graphical quality and performance that works best for your specific MacBook model and the games you’re playing.

4. Keep Your MacBook Cool

Gaming can make your MacBook produce more heat, which can, in turn, throttle its performance. Using a laptop cooling pad can prevent your MacBook from overheating and keep its temperature down, ensuring its performance remains consistent during your gaming sessions.

Gaming on a Mac Is Possible But Not Ideal

While MacBooks are not designed specifically for gaming, they can handle many popular games quite well. You can improve your gaming experience by optimizing your Mac further with these tips:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can you upgrade a MacBook’s hardware to improve gaming performance?

    No, you cannot upgrade a MacBook’s hardware to improve gaming performance. MacBooks are not easily upgradable because most of their components are soldered. However, you can use an eGPU to improve graphics performance to some extent.

  2. What specific MacBook models are best for gaming?

    The MacBook Pro models are best for gaming, especially the ones with the M1 or M2 chips. The higher-end configurations of MacBook Pro, particularly those with dedicated graphics cards (such as the AMD Radeon Pro GPUs), tend to provide better gaming capabilities.

  3. What kind of games can I play on a MacBook?

    You can play many popular games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Civilization VI on a MacBook. While games like Minecraft run pretty smoothly, high-end games like Cyberpunk 2077 may not provide the best gaming experience on MacBook.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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