The 2021 MacBook Pro is a monster , with 10 CPU cores and up to 32 GPU cores for never-before-seen 3D graphics performance. Hearing this news, you might think that the new MacBook Pro is approaching the territory of the ” gaming laptops ”. Unfortunately, pure performance isn’t everything.
Apple’s most powerful laptops to date
The MacBook Pro 2021 comes with your choice of systems on a chip M1 Pro and M1 Max . This is the first time Apple has produced a version of the M1 chip that was first seen in 2020 for the ‘professional’ market, with all the growl a data scientist or video editor could ask for.
The high-end variant comes with 10 CPU cores and up to 32 GPU cores and can share a pool of up to 64GB of unified memory . Memory bandwidth can reach 400GB / sec and the solid state drive shipped by Apple uses PCI Express Gen 4 for a maximum throughput of 7.4GB / sec. That’s faster than the PlayStation 5 (5.5GB / sec).
This means that high-end MacBook Pro models can handle data- and graphics-intensive tasks with aplomb, which is great news for professionals who have been hungry for new silicon to speed up their workflows.
Apple even claims that the 32-core GPU variant is on par with NVIDIA’s RTX 3800 Mobile chip in terms of raw performance, although the real-world benchmarks have yet to materialize. The M1 Max may even outperform NVIDIA’s notebook favorite at some tasks, particularly when the software has been optimized to use the API Metal from Apple .
Unified memory is another trick Apple has pulled out of its hat since switching to its own ARM-based architecture in 2020. Simply put, RAM is now part of the system-on-chip that allows both the CPU and GPU to be pulled out of the box. the same set of fast access memory for performance that comes at the cost of upgradeability.
These machines are undoubtedly the best MacBooks ever produced from a raw performance perspective, and that means they are also the best Apple laptops ever produced for gamers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good buy if gaming is a priority for you.
120Hz ProMotion displays deliver tear-free gaming
Another big step forward is the incorporation of Apple’s ProMotion display across the entire 14 “and 16” MacBook Pro range. Where the old MacBook was upgraded to 60Hz, ProMotion displays update twice as often to deliver 120Hz frame rate with adaptive sync.
Adaptive syncing means that displays can adjust the refresh rate so that new frames are only displayed when the GPU is ready to deliver them. This technology is also known as variable refresh rate and is used in the computer and gaming market to eliminate clutter. tear unsightly screen and offer a smoother movement.
We still don’t know exactly how adaptive sync will work on the MacBook Pro, but it will likely work similarly to existing technologies like AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync . Apple also used iPhone 13 Pro technology to save battery life by reducing the refresh rate on the fly.
These displays not only offer refresh rates never before seen on a MacBook, but are also capable of reaching a sustained glow of 1000 nits and a maximum brightness of 1600 nits in HDR content. That means these laptops are brighter than most modern gaming monitors and televisions.
While HDR content like games and movies is more than highlights, maximum brightness is often cited as the most shocking benefit over standard SDR content.
Thus, you will not only be able to use your MacBook Pro in sunlight, but your socks will also be taken off your feet when watching HDR movies and playing HDR games.
The Mac gaming scene is still very limited
So far everything is going well, but the games are much more than raw numbers and theoretical performance. Besides the hardware, you also need the software. And this is where the Mac often fails when it comes to gaming. Mobile gaming aside, Windows remains the gaming platform of choice for non-console gamers, and the MacBook Pro 2021 update alone isn’t going to change that.
Apple’s move from Intel’s 64-bit x86 architecture to its own ARM-based Apple Silicon complicates matters even more. Games that were released for Mac before 2020 may never receive native versions of Apple Silicon , and although Rosetta does a stellar job of bridging the gap between old and new, compatibility issues will mean some games just won’t run.
Since games are a low priority for most Mac users, there is little incentive for developers to update their older games to the new architecture. Apple has made it easy for developers to export universal binaries that support both architectures, but that will only be beneficial for recent versions.
Most big-budget developers have never offered Mac versions of their games. Outside of independent titles and pillars like World of warcraft , Mac has always had trouble getting native games. The nature of Apple’s barely upgradeable hardware and tightly controlled ecosystem doesn’t earn it many marks among the crowd of gamers.
Even if the M1 Pro and M1 Max offer a glimmer of hope in terms of how well could run the games On a modern Mac, how many Mac buyers will go for high-end silicon over MacBook Air or Mac mini with its capacity but comparatively underpowered entry-level chips?
You can always run emulators on your Mac, and the M1 Pro and M1 Max will open many more avenues in this regard. But that’s true for any modern desktop operating system, including Linux.
Your other options are Apple arcade , a decent gaming service that feels like home on an iPhone but not so much on a computer, and Apple Silicon’s ability to run native iPhone and iPad applications directly from the App Store.
Better to spend your money elsewhere
There’s a good chance that if you’re shopping for a Mac, you fully know what you want and what to expect. Apple’s hardware is expensive, but most buyers have come to terms with this drawback. If you’re considering a 2021 MacBook Pro, you probably want a reliable, portable powerhouse for work, school, or other creative endeavors.
A MacBook Pro 2021 14-inch level from entry It starts at $ 1,999, and only that model (!) comes with a 16-core GPU. If you want a 16-inch MacBook Pro , you will need to shell out at least $ 2,499 and if you want the best of the best , you will have to shell out more than $ 3,499.
That’s a lot of money for a machine that probably won’t get native versions of the latest games. Since Apple moved away from Intel’s x86 chips and into Apple Silicon territory, you can’t use Boot Camp on your MacBook either to enjoy native Windows performance.
The Microsoft Xbox series consoles and Sony’s PlayStation 5 they offer the best price-performance ratio for gamers in 2021. For $ 499 you can buy a console that can play in 4K at up to 120Hz, with support for HDR content and the latest games. Microsoft even offers Game pass , an all-you-can-eat subscription service for $ 14.99 per month.
These consoles cost less than a moderately priced graphics card and offer amazing performance, with games like Microsoft Flight Simulator (Xbox) and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (PlayStation) that offer a proper sampling of “next generation” games.
It can be difficult to recommend building a gaming PC at a time when the global shortage of semiconductors It has even inflated the prices of second-hand components, but it will still have more to play with and a better time than it would have on a Mac.
PC gamers have most of the games to choose from, easy upgrade paths, and a great deal of customization in terms of hardware and software.
Streaming services offer some hope
Maybe you don’t take games very seriously and prefer to play occasionally here or there. Apple Silicon’s limited number of native games may not be a big deal for you, but there are other options.
If you have a strong internet connection, cloud gaming is always an option. Microsoft’s Game Pass offering is compelling in this regard, as it offers access to Xbox Cloud Gaming (previously Project xCloud ) where most Game Pass titles can be played through a browser at xbox.com/play .
NVIDIA offers a similar service through GeForce NOW , a service that connects to digital stores like Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG, and Uplay and allows you to play games you already own remotely through a browser.
There is also Google Stadia , which allows you to purchase cloud versions of games or subscribe to the optional Stadia Pro service to access a selection of games through the Chrome browser directly on your Mac.
Sony runs a similar streaming service called PlayStation Now that is not currently supported on the Mac platform, but who knows what will happen in the future.
Cloud gaming is still limited in scope, and how well you play it depends entirely on your internet connection. Game Pass Ultimate it’s probably the easiest starting point in terms of the sheer number of games available, Microsoft’s $ 1 fee for the first month, and the fact that you can always play games natively if you buy an Xbox in the future. .
Conclusion: don’t buy a Mac to play games
The 2021 MacBook Pro might be Apple’s best MacBook Pro upgrade since the 2012 Retina models were introduced, but not for gaming. You can get away with playing some native titles, running some emulators, Apple Arcade titles, or streaming games over the Internet; But it’s better to spend your money elsewhere if gaming is your top priority.
Learn more about your real gaming options on an Apple Silicon Mac .