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With new Kaby Lake Macs out now, and Metal 2 com­ing to macOS later this year, Bri­anna wu con­sid­ers gam­ing op­tions

Mac|Life - - START -

This is a good time to be a Mac gamer. With High Sierra around the cor­ner, Ap­ple is mak­ing huge bets on graph­ics for its flag­ship op­er­at­ing sys­tem. No mat­ter your Mac, old or new, High Sierra will see huge graph­i­cal gains with Metal 2.

The good news doesn’t stop with soft­ware - this year’s en­tire lineup of MacBooks was up­graded with In­tel’s Kaby Lake pro­ces­sors. Faster pro­ces­sors are rou­tine, but the star­tling num­bers on Kaby Lake speak for them­selves. If you’re a gamer buy­ing a por­ta­ble Mac, make sure you get one of the new­est mod­els with Kaby Lake.

Some gamers play ca­sual ti­tles like Be­jew­eled 3, while others love im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences like XCOM 2. Here I’ll talk you through my opin­ions of Ap­ple’s cur­rent lineup of Macs, and the gam­ing pros and cons of each.

Macbook This spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to the MacBook Air was in­tro­duced in 2015, and the third time is the charm. This year’s model boasts a bet­ter key­board, more mem­ory, and solid speed gains from Kaby Lake. But while it’s an amaz­ing work ma­chine, this MacBook still strug­gles with any­thing be­yond the most ba­sic 2D games. Civ­i­liza­tion isn’t graph­i­cally in­tense, but it’s still un­playable on the MacBook. The good news is there are plenty of amaz­ing 2D games on macOS, one of my fa­vorites be­ing Peg­gle Nights.

iMac The iMac is Ap­ple’s best­selling ma­chine for cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als, and that power makes it a solid game ma­chine as well. But while it’s a good choice, there’s a lot to give gamers pause in the cur­rent iMac.

Ap­ple has switched from Nvidia to AMD for the graph­ics pro­ces­sor. AMD isn’t a bad choice, but the pro­ces­sor used is not a top-ofthe-line one. Still, you should ex­pect to play al­most any Mac game from Steam on an iMac.

Ap­ple’s Fu­sion Drive tech­nol­ogy is fan­tas­tic for avoid­ing Ap­ple’s pricey SSD up­grades. Th­ese drives mix the high ca­pac­ity of con­ven­tional hard disks with a small SSD cache for sys­tem files. If you play games in macOS, a Fu­sion Drive will al­low for a large Steam li­brary, though you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need one: bear in mind

If you’re a gamer buy­ing a por­ta­ble Mac, get one of the new Kaby Lake mod­els

that you can tell Steam to in­stall games to an ex­ter­nal drive by set­ting up a li­brary folder there. Valve’s of­fi­cial guide to this, at

bit.ly/steam­lib, is based on the Win­dows ver­sion, but the steps are es­sen­tially the same on the Mac.

Be­ware: if you play games in Win­dows us­ing Boot Camp, avoid in­stalling them to a Fu­sion Drive. The SSD part of the drive won’t work in Boot Camp, slow­ing Win­dows to the speed of a con­ven­tional hard disk.

Also worth adding: though cur­rently only pos­si­ble us­ing a kit for devel­op­ers, an HTC Vive paired with Ap­ple’s Ex­ter­nal Graph­ics Devel­op­ment Kit may even­tu­ally en­able you to play VR games – but note that the kit is un­sup­ported in Boot Camp. (I find the Vive more com­fort­able and tracks much more pre­cisely than the Ocu­lus Rift.)

MacBook Pro For most gamers, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is your best op­tion. Al­though a 13-inch model is more por­ta­ble, it only has a dual-core pro­ces­sor. In the 15-inch ver­sions, the quad-core Kaby Lake pro­ces­sors are more than able to run most pop­u­lar macOS games, in­clud­ing de­mand­ing ti­tles such as HIT­MAN.

While the iMac is a bet­ter over­all gam­ing ma­chine, the porta­bil­ity of a 15-inch MacBook Pro more than makes up for it. In my experience, I play Mac games on a couch, not at a desk. Be­ing able to play Dota 2 while bing­ing Net­flix is worth the slight trade­off in graph­i­cal power. Like the iMac, it works with Ap­ple’s eGPU de­vel­oper kit, so there’s potential for VR when the sit­u­a­tion for con­sumer-fo­cused eGPU sup­port be­comes clearer.

No mat­ter which MacBook Pro you get, you’ll re­ceive Ap­ple’s blis­ter­ingly fast new gen­er­a­tion of SSD stor­age. This will make your MacBook Pro dou­ble well as a Win­dows ma­chine, where Steam has a deeper li­brary. Be care­ful: Win­dows games do tend to run bet­ter - but they drain the bat­tery be­cause the soft­ware isn’t as tightly op­ti­mized for the hard­ware as macOS is. For in­tense games, only ex­pect to get an hour or two of bat­tery life.

iMac Pro Ap­ple’s Space Gray beast doesn’t go on sale un­til De­cem­ber, and we won’t know its full ca­pa­bil­i­ties un­til then. But, for a gamer look­ing for best-of-thebest per­for­mance on macOS, the iMac Pro will un­doubt­edly be the most pow­er­ful mod­ern com­puter Ap­ple sells. While it will still have AMD graph­ics, the real story here is the min­i­mum of eight CPU cores. As­sum­ing your game is writ­ten to take ad­van­tage of that, the iMac Pro will dev­as­tate it.

Truth be told, the iMac Pro is made less for gamers and more for game devel­op­ers - but it will un­doubt­edly play games well. If drop­ping more than $5,000 on a gam­ing Mac doesn’t phase you, this is the one to get.

Gamers have been ne­glected for a long time by Ap­ple. But now, ev­ery Mac in the new lineup is a pow­er­house for games - ex­clud­ing the 12-inch MacBook. The ad­di­tion of ex­ter­nal GPUs may al­low Macs to experience VR in the fu­ture. If you’ve been wait­ing tor the right time to in­vest in a new Mac, that wait is over.

The iMac Pro is re­ally in­tended for game devel­op­ers.

A strong GPU helps with games like XCOM 2.

Many en­ter­tain­ing 2D games, such as Shovel Knight, run well even on low-end Macs.

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