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Old Nov 3, 2012, 08:57 PM   #1
TheInteractive
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Skyrim 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro benchmarks (Boot Camp)

Hey folks,

So I waffled on buying a Retina MacBook Pro for a few months, but lurking on these forums was very helpful in helping me decide. I'm a creative professional who needs a portable, professional looking laptop but I love gaming in my spare time. However, one thing that was lacking, I felt, were totally comprehensive gaming benchmarks.

I just got my laptop this weekend, and I'm doing benchmarks at various settings in a scientific manner (playing through the same sequence the same way each time) so other folks considering buying can have the resource I couldn't find. I'm starting with Skyrim, and the results are below for anyone to whom they'd be useful.

I have a number of other games (listed at the bottom) so if anyone would like to request the new game for me to hit, let me know and I'll try to oblige. I plan to get to most of them eventually.

UPDATE: Battlefield 3, Diablo 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution, and Guild Wars 2 tests further down in the thread!

System specs
2012 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display
2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
16 GB of RAM
512 MB on-board solid state storage
NVIDIA GeForce 650M 1 GB
2880 x 1800-pixel display
NVIDIA driver version 306.97
Windows 8 via Boot Camp

Methodology

I used the Fraps benchmark tool to repeat an identical test at all settings.

Except in the case of the no-AA 2880 tests and the Console Quality test, I used stock settings provided by the developers. In an unusual choice, the developers tied the AA setting to the overall detail setting: no AA for Low, 4x FSAA for Medium, and 8x FSAA for High and Ultra.

On Ultra, I performed additional tests with no AA because at the laptop's native resolution of 2880 x 1800, anti-aliasing is barely noticeable and in most cases if you're trying to play at the native resolution, disabling it is your best bet for making a game playable with minimal impact to visual fidelity.

I chose to test at four resolutions:

- 2880 x 1800 because it is the display's native resolution
- 1920 x 1200 because it is the native resolution of most external gaming displays and the standard resolution for modern PC games
- 1440 x 900 because it is the default native resolution of the standard/old MacBook Pro, the most common resolution for 15-inch displays, and exactly half the native resolution of this machine's display
- 1280 x 800 because it is the closest native aspect ratio equivalent to the 1280 x 720 resolution used by consoles. I tested this one in only one test -- one meant to approximate the graphics and resolution settings of the console version of the game.

The test performed was a 60-second walking speed stroll down the main road of Riverwood from one gate to the other with clear skies at 9 AM while all the NPCs are out in the streets walking to work. Stop halfway to look up at river and mountains. Executed the same way each time.

I chose Riverwood because it is one of the more GPU-taxing areas in the game.

Other notes

For some unknown reason the current NVIDIA drivers do not support 1440 x 900 resolution by default on the retina MacBook Pro in Windows 8, even though it is exactly half the native resolution and a very common one at that. To test at this resolution, I added it as a custom resolution in the NVIDIA control panel. It's easy to do, and it makes the resolution appear as an option in all Windows applications.

Additionally, Skyrim has V-Sync enabled by default with no way to turn it off. You can, however, force it to disable in the NVIDIA control panel. However, I chose to leave it on in all tests, which is why all the reported framerates are capped at 63fps. I'm sure turning it off would net 2-4 additional frames per second in many circumstances, and would allow lower settings to significantly exceed reporting 60fps, however my attitude is that V-Sync is non-negotiable in a first-person action game like Skyrim, so I decided there was no point in testing without. If you want a specific test sans V-Sync, let me know.

In the results below, results colored red consistently dip below 30fps and are therefore judged unplayable. Results in green are consistently above 30fps and are therefore judged playable. Results in black are usually at or above 30 fps, but dip severely enough on occasion to not merit a green rating -- in other words, folks who aren't sticklers will be fine this way (these are comparable to console version performance, actually) but hardcore PC gamers accustomed to desktop-level performance would consider black rating results unplayable.

2880 x 1800 Ultra (8X AA)
Min FPS: 0
Max: 23
Avg: 16.6

2880 x 1800 Ultra (No AA)
Min FPS: 18
Max: 28
Avg: 22

2880 x 1800 High (8X AA)
Min FPS: 17
Max: 27
Avg: 20.1

2880 x 1800 High (No AA)
Min FPS: 21
Max: 36
Avg: 27.9

2880 x 1800 Medium (4X AA)
Min FPS: 14
Max: 31
Avg: 23.1

2880 x 1800 Medium (No AA)
Min FPS: 15
Max: 38
Avg: 26.1


2880 x 1800 Low (No AA)
Min FPS: 23
Max: 47
Avg: 34.6

1920 x 1200 Ultra (8x AA)
Min FPS: 23
Max: 42
Avg: 31

1920 x 1200 High (8x AA)
Min FPS: 32
Max: 51
Avg: 39.6


1920 x 1200 Medium (4x AA)
Min FPS: 25
Max: 61
Avg: 44.8

1920 x 1200 Low (No AA)
Min FPS: 44
Max: 63
Avg: 59.503


1440 x 900 Ultra (8x AA)
Min FPS: 28
Max: 49
Avg: 36.3

1440 x 900 High (8x AA)
Min FPS: 41
Max: 63
Avg: 50.6

1440 x 900 Medium (4x AA)
Min FPS: 36
Max: 63
Avg: 59.4

1440 x 900 Low (No AA)
Min FPS: 43
Max: 62
Avg: 59.8

Console Quality: 1280 x 800 High/Medium mix (4x AA)
Min FPS: 57
Max: 63
Avg: 60


Conclusion/Verdict

Recommended for 30-40fps: 1920 x 1200 on High with 4X AA
Recommended for 50-60fps: 1680 x 1050 on High with FXAA
Minimum playable setting at native resolution: Low with no AA, if that

Skyrim is a great game for benchmarking machines because it represents about the average demand on modern video cards. Some games (Battlefield 3, XCOM Enemy Unknown, and DayZ for example) are much more demanding and others (Portal 2, World of Warcraft, Minecraft) are far less, but Skyrim based on my early tests lands right in the middle, so it's a good indicator of the machine's gaming capabilities.

The verdict for Skyrim seems similar to what I'm getting with less thorough tests on dozens of other current games: It won't run at an acceptable framerate the native resolution, but that's okay because it runs just fine on High (not Ultra) settings at 1920 x 1200.

That means you can easily play games on an external 23-inch display or on an HDTV. However, I'd advise against running it on Medium at any resolution: The way medium handles streaming of new characters and objects entering the scene actually results in frequent stutters, which explains the low minimum FPS results at that setting at all resolutions despite the expected averages.

And most notably, I think this is critical to mention: The scaling to non-native resolutions, even in Windows, is phenomenal on this machine. It was the biggest issue holding me back from purchasing it: I was afraid there would be terrible artifacting, horrible fuzz, and loss of contrast, color balance, etc. when scaling to sub-native resolutions.

This is a serious issue with my 2011 iMac and the 2009 MacBook Pro this laptop replaced: Playing at non-native resolutions introduces serious flaws in visual fidelity far beyond the raw mathematical loss of pixels.

I think the most pleasing thing about the retina MacBook Pro as a gaming machine is that as far down as 1680 x 1050 or maybe 1440 x 900 (and certainly 1920 x 1200) the non-native resolutions are almost indistinguishable from the native one beyond the simple reduction in pixel count. Almost no fuzzing, no artifacts, no color imbalance. If you're looking for it very, very hard, you'll see it, but it's maybe 5-10% as bad as it was on previous Mac displays.

That means that you can play games at 1920 x 1200 breezily and happily. I'm very impressed.

Additional games available for testing

World of Warcraft
Diablo 3
StarCraft 2
Civilization V
Battlefield 3
BioShock
Borderlands 2
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Portal 2
Team Fortress 2
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Far Cry 2
Guild Wars 2
Just Cause 2
Torchlight 2
Unreal Tournament 3
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Deus Ex Human Revolution
Tropico 4
Minecraft
League of Legends
DayZ
Grand Theft Auto 4
Crysis 2
Dragon Age Origins
Mass Effect 1 or 2
Orcs Must Die 2
Fallout 3
Fallout New Vegas
Half-Life 2
Dead Island
Dead Space 2
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Tribes Ascend
Assassin's Creed 1, 2, or Brotherhood

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Last edited by TheInteractive; Nov 12, 2012 at 11:01 PM. Reason: Added sig, added details about medium results, corrected typo in framerates
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Old Nov 3, 2012, 09:30 PM   #2
Baytriple
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I would be interested in Battlefield 3. Can't get enough of that game.
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Old Nov 3, 2012, 09:45 PM   #3
TheInteractive
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Battlefield 3

Sure, Battlefield 3 is another favorite of mine. I will do that one next (was thinking about it anyway) and should have it up by tomorrow at the latest.

I can tell you anecdotally based on an hour or so of play yesterday that it is the only game that forced me to turn down the resolution to the degree that I think it does look a bit fuzzy.

Before the more scientific numbers are crunched, I can say that it is not playable at any settings at the native resolution, but playable around 30fps at Medium at 1920x1200 and close to 60fps on High at 1280x800. I settled on a combination of Medium and High at 1440x900 for around 45fps, personally.

More detailed analysis coming soon!
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Old Nov 4, 2012, 03:20 AM   #4
TheInteractive
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Battlefield 3 benchmarks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baytriple View Post
I would be interested in Battlefield 3. Can't get enough of that game.

Here are the Battlefield 3 results. This one was more difficult to test because there's a big gap in performance between multiplayer and single-player, so I had to test it with multiplayer, and in multiplayer obviously there are a lot of unpredictable variables so it's hard to keep the run the same time for each test.

In this case, I played Caspian Border and tried to run the same path from the RU home base spawn point with light action, emptying my clip at the same spot each time. In some there were other things going on nearby and in others there weren't, so it's not as scientific as the Skyrim one, but it gives you an idea.

Unlike Skyrim, since this one defaults to V-Sync off, I left it off for the tests, which among other things shows a greater range of performance at lower settings.

Same color coding as in the Skyrim test: green for playable, red for unplayable, black for borderline. Hope this helps!


2880 x 1800

Ultra
Min FPS: 2
Max: 10
Avg: 5.8

High
Min FPS: 10
Max: 16
Avg: 12.8

Medium
Min FPS: 12
Max: 22
Avg: 17.2

Low
Min FPS: 16
Max: 31
Avg: 22.8


1920 x 1200

Ultra
Min FPS: 14
Max: 23
Avg: 18

High
Min FPS: 21
Max: 30
Avg: 25.2


Medium
Min FPS: 28
Max: 49
Avg: 37.7

Low
Min FPS: 34
Max: 49
Avg: 38.6


1680 x 1050

Ultra
Min FPS: 16
Max: 31
Avg: 22


High
Min FPS: 27
Max: 35
Avg: 30.6

Medium
Min FPS: 34
Max: 56
Avg: 41.2

Low
Min FPS: 43
Max: 80
Avg: 50.7


1440 x 900

Ultra
Min FPS: 23
Max: 38
Avg: 27.8


High
Min FPS: 32
Max: 46
Avg: 36.7

Medium
Min FPS: 42
Max: 80
Avg: 50.7

Low
Min FPS: 34
Max: 49
Avg: 38.6


1280 x 800

Ultra
Min FPS: 28
Max: 44
Avg: 32.6

High
Min FPS: 36
Max: 49
Avg: 42

Medium (Console Quality)
Min FPS: 46
Max: 86
Avg: 60

Low
Min FPS: 62
Max: 98
Avg: 72


Verdict/Conclusions

Battlefield 3 is the only game I've tested so far that demands big sacrifices to run even at 1920 x 1200, and the native resolution is not just unplayable, it's laughably unplayable.

However, running around medium settings at middle resolutions like 1440 x 900 or 1680 x 1050 is the sweet spot here. If you play with the settings, you can absolutely find an appealing middle ground that's pretty while also a good, solid FPS-worthy 40+fps most of the time. And Battlefield 3 looks better on Medium than most games do on Ultra.

About as good as you can expect for Battlefield 3 from a laptop. Play at 1440x900 and you'll be happy. As I said, the scaling to non-native resolutions on this display is much better than I've ever seen before. Getting down to 1280 x 800 starts to look pretty bad, but 1680 x 1050 looks great and 1440 x 900 looks fine.

And if you're okay playing on the low end of Medium, you can still get away with 1920 x 1200.

Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other requests.

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Last edited by TheInteractive; Nov 4, 2012 at 03:30 AM.
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Old Nov 4, 2012, 05:16 AM   #5
Baytriple
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Thanks very much for spending the time to reply to my request.

I can run Bf3 on high 1920 x 1200 in a 2007 Mac Pro 3ghz AMD 5870 card, windows 7 + SSD. Works great but my 2010 2.6 17 + SSD laptop does struggle to the point of very low frame rate even on low settings.

I am not sure if need the portability and price outlay for a new laptop just yet but it's really great to see how the game works on your system. This would be the setup I would choose if I were to upgrade.

Last edited by Baytriple; Nov 4, 2012 at 05:22 AM.
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Old Nov 4, 2012, 06:59 AM   #6
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excellent thread. be interested in what you post for the other games, maybe diablo III next ?
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Old Nov 4, 2012, 08:25 PM   #7
TheInteractive
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Diablo 3

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baytriple View Post
Thanks very much for spending the time to reply to my request.
Oh, no problem. I was planning to do all of these at some point so the order doesn't matter to me, and I find doing gaming benchmarks to be rather zen for some reason. They make for good me time while my girlfriend is out of town this weekend. Also, I really, really wanted to find these numbers when I was considering buying the laptop myself. $2500-$3500 is a lot of money to spend without knowing all the details about what you're buying. So I hope this helps others like me who care about this stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by madeirabhoy View Post
excellent thread. be interested in what you post for the other games, maybe diablo III next ?
Sure! Here are the results.

Methodology and notes

Like Battlefield 3, this one was hard to test consistently because it has a random element. Loading in at the same point each time may have given me the same stretch of terrain, but the encounters were different.

Regardless, I tried to keep it the same by playing through the same stretch of river-adjacent road in the Fields of Misery as a level 34 Demon Hunter on Hell mode. The area tested is not the most taxing, but I didn't have a character/save handy to play one of the heavy duty chapters. In the harsher later periods of the game, you can expect to get about 5fps less in some of the bigger battles.

I tested with V-Sync off. There are no default settings categories in Diablo 3 so here are the ones I devised that are referenced in the test below:

High: Everything turned all the way up with AA enabled
Medium: High Textures, Low Shadows (Smooth), High Physics, Medium Clutter, AA disabled
Low: Everything turned all the way down and Low FX checked and AA disabled

Diablo 3 did not obey NVIDIA's drivers and make my custom resolution of 1440 x 900 available so I was not able to test that resolution.

Color coding is the same as in previous tests. Red is unplayable, black is borderline, green is playable.

2880 x 1800

High
Min FPS: 22
Max: 33
Avg: 25.7

High, AA disabled
Min FPS: 24
Max: 34
Avg: 28.9


Medium
Min FPS: 26
Max: 44
Avg: 34.3

Low
Min FPS: 30
Max: 51
Avg: 38.1

1920 x 1200

High
Min FPS: 36
Max: 56
Avg: 45.5

Medium
Min FPS: 60
Max: 83
Avg: 69.8

Low
Min FPS: 62
Max: 104
Avg: 80.3


1680 x 1050

High
Min FPS: 45
Max: 65
Avg: 56.7

Medium
Min FPS: 68
Max: 106
Avg: 84.6

Low
Min FPS: 79
Max: 130
Avg: 102


1280 x 1800

High
Min FPS: 69
Max: 89
Avg: 79.3

Medium
Min FPS: 115
Max: 171
Avg: 138.5

Low
Min FPS: 131
Max: 214
Avg: 175.2


Conclusion/Verdict

The 15-inch retina MacBook Pro wipes the floor with Diablo 3 on every setting at 1920 x 1200 or lower, and is playable at least in the early stages of the game on Medium or Low settings at the native resolution of 2880 x 1800. Unfortunately, it just barely doesn't make the cut on High settings at native. Next year's 15-inch retina MacBook Pro refresh will almost definitely rise just above that threshold.

The Low and Medium settings for 2880 are playable, but I have a feeling that in huge boss battles towards the end of the game you'd want just a few more frames than that would be able to offer during the game's most hectic moments.

So my verdict is that most people will want to play at 1920x1200 on High. Hardcore Diablophiles playing bosses at the extreme difficulty levels will probably drop it down to Medium settings to keep a smooth 60fps.

Whatever your preference, this machine is totally capable of doing Diablo 3 justice -- at least in Windows. Note that in Mac OS framerates will be about 20% lower thanks to less gaming-focused video drivers.

Hope that helps!

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Last edited by TheInteractive; Nov 4, 2012 at 08:57 PM.
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Old Nov 5, 2012, 09:33 PM   #8
glyph42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheInteractive View Post
Also, I really, really wanted to find these numbers when I was considering buying the laptop myself. $2500-$3500 is a lot of money to spend without knowing all the details about what you're buying. So I hope this helps others like me who care about this stuff.
I'm in that situation right now and I'm finding your post to be very helpful. Thanks for taking the time & effort to post your results! I would be interested in seeing your analysis of Guild Wars 2 & Deus Ex performance, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this thread no matter what game you decide to post next. I'd also be interested in your thoughts on heat & fan noise while gaming. Thanks again!
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 08:04 PM   #9
TheInteractive
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glyph42 View Post
I'm in that situation right now and I'm finding your post to be very helpful. Thanks for taking the time & effort to post your results! I would be interested in seeing your analysis of Guild Wars 2 & Deus Ex performance, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this thread no matter what game you decide to post next. I'd also be interested in your thoughts on heat & fan noise while gaming. Thanks again!
Sure, I can do at least one of those soon. With the election and all I'm a bit busy now but I'll get at least one of those done in the next day or so and post it here.
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Old Nov 8, 2012, 08:51 PM   #10
TheInteractive
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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Quote:
Originally Posted by glyph42 View Post
I'm in that situation right now and I'm finding your post to be very helpful. Thanks for taking the time & effort to post your results! I would be interested in seeing your analysis of Guild Wars 2 & Deus Ex performance, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this thread no matter what game you decide to post next. I'd also be interested in your thoughts on heat & fan noise while gaming. Thanks again!
Here are some Deus Ex Human Revolution results, as requested.

Notes and methodology
This one was very straightforward to test. Walked down a crowded street in Detroit during the uprising when there is fire, etc. in the streets for maximum graphical impact.

Here are the settings used. DirectX 11 was enabled and V-Sync/Triple Buffering was disabled in all tests.

High: Everything maxed, FXAA High

Medium: FXAA Low, Shadows Normal (non-Soft), Depth of Field Normal, SSAO Normal, Post-Processing On, 8x Anisotropic texture filtering, Tesselation On

Low: Everything as low as it will go/off if possible, no AA

As with previous tests, unplayable settings are shaded red, borderline settings are black, and easily playable settings are green.

2880 x 1800

High
Min FPS: 12
Max: 16
Avg: 14

Medium
Min FPS: 20
Max: 26
Avg: 22.7


Low
Min FPS: 33
Max: 47
Avg: 40


1920 x 1200

High
Min FPS: 26
Max: 31
Avg: 28.7


Medium
Min FPS: 37
Max: 50
Avg: 43.1

Low
Min FPS: 62
Max: 88
Avg: 73.3


1680 x 1050

High
Min FPS: 32
Max: 39
Avg: 35

Medium:
Min FPS: 43
Max: 61
Avg: 51

Low
Min FPS: 66
Max: 97
Avg: 84


1440 x 900

High
Min FPS: 39
Max: 49
Avg: 43.8

Medium
Min FPS: 51
Max: 77
Avg: 61.3

Low
Min FPS: 78
Max: 97
Avg: 88.9


1280 x 800

High
Min FPS: 44
Max: 58
Avg: 51.7

Medium (Console Quality)
Min FPS: 56
Max: 85
Avg: 68.7

Low
Min FPS: 43
Max: 102
Avg: 85.6


My chosen ideal settings

I chose the following settings for my own play. Your mileage may vary.

1680 x 1050, FXAA Medium, Shadows Normal, Depth of Field Normal, SSAO High, Post-Processing On, 8x Anisotropic Texture Filtering, V-Sync On, Triple Buffering Off, Tesselation On

Min FPS: 33
Max: 42
Avg: 37.4


You can swap High SSAO out for 1920x1200 resolution for similar performance.

Verdict

Anything below native is playable and even native is playable at lower settings. That said, totally maxed at 1920x1200 is a little slower than I think most would want a first-person shooter to be. Turn down just one or two minor settings and you're gold, though. I was tempted to shade that one green even though the test average was below 30fps just because you literally just have to go to normal SSAO and it pops well above playable at very little cost to visual fidelity.

The biggest impact on performance besides resolution is without a doubt SSAO. The difference between SSAO High and SSAO Normal is 10+ frames per second at any resolution.

Play at a resolution below 2880 x 1800 and use normal SSAO instead of High and you're gold. Looks great.

Hope this helps! Will try to get to Guild Wars 2 as soon as I can!

Last edited by TheInteractive; Nov 8, 2012 at 09:00 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old Nov 8, 2012, 09:35 PM   #11
Zackmd1
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Great job on the benchmarks! I'm looking into buying the retina macbook pro however I'm really into the crysis series and crysis 3 is coming in February. Could you possibly do a crysis 2 benchmark? It would be nice to know where the retina pro stands on crysis 2 to get a general idea on possible crysis 3 performance.
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Old Nov 8, 2012, 09:37 PM   #12
thegreatdivorce
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Just wanted to say thanks for doing these. Much appreciated!

I'd be curious what sort of framerate you get in Skyrim at 1080P, Ultra and/or High, with no AA (or SMAA, if you've installed any ENB's, etc.)
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Old Nov 8, 2012, 10:00 PM   #13
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Thanks for the info!
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Old Nov 8, 2012, 11:01 PM   #14
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very in depth report. thanks
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Old Nov 10, 2012, 04:39 AM   #15
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I would love to see how brotherhood performs since I plan on buying assassins creed 3 on steam.
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 03:28 PM   #16
answer348
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This thread is fantastic. Please keep up the great work. On that note, I would love to see the breakdown for Guild Wars 2.
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 10:35 PM   #17
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Guild Wars 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by answer348 View Post
This thread is fantastic. Please keep up the great work. On that note, I would love to see the breakdown for Guild Wars 2.
Alright, I've got your Guild Wars 2 numbers here since two people requested it. Sorry for the slowness here, it was a busy social weekend.

Guild Wars 2 was interesting to test because it has so very many graphics options for a modern game and because its performance varies so wildly depending on how you set it.

Methodology and notes
As with Battlefield 3 and Diablo 3, it was a little difficult to test this one because of random events and other players. In some tests, there was light action in view and others, not so much, so keep that in mind.

For this test I ran quite a ways down a wooded, high-foliage path in Kessex Hills, then across a bridge over a river and into a small town/fort to get some variety.

Note, however, that I tested a light combat/no combat situation. In very large battles with tons of actors and spells flying around like world events or PvP, you will lose about 5-10fps so if you get into PvP and the like you will want to pick a setting that bottoms out at 40fps rather than 30 in my opinion.

Another note: There is a Mac client for Guild Wars 2, but I didn't test it. It's in beta, though, which probably means more poorly optimized performance, and I've already noted in the Diablo 3 writeup that the Mac OS video drivers are at least 20% slower than the Windows ones, so keep in mind that if you play Guild Wars 2 on Mac OS instead of in Boot Camp your mileage will probably vary significantly.

Color coding is still in place: Red is unplayable, black is borderline, and green is smoothly playable.


Tested base settings
High: This is almost everything maxed, what you get when you select the pre-set "Best appearance."
Low: This is everything turned down as low as it will go. It's what you get when you select the pre-set "Best performance."
Medium: This is most things a mixture of low, medium, and high. It's what you get when you select the "Auto-detect" option.

There are three exceptions to the above:
- In High and Medium, I turned off Reflections completely. This is reflections on water. I found that the game stutters so as to be problematic regardless of the resolution when this is enabled, and it's a pretty minor visual effect on water that is really unnecessary. The performance gains are insanely huge, so I don't think anyone in their right mind would keep this on.
- On all settings, I disabled V-Sync.
- On Low, I switched "Render Sampling" back to "native" from "Subsamble" because on anything below 1920x1200 this looks unacceptably bad.

I'll note that I also found "best texture filtering" to be a pretty major hit, but it does make a fairly big difference in visual quality on medium-distance objects so I don't think everyone would agree with me about turning it off. Thus, I left it on when set to High as is the default setting. But note you can get 5+ fps more by turning this off at the cost of slightly fuzzing textures at about 12+ meters away.

Medium/Auto setting details: Animation High, AA None, Environment High, LOD Medium, Reflections None, Textures Medium, Render Sampling Native, Shadows Medium, Shaders Medium, Post-Processing Low, Best Texture Filtering Off, Depth Blur On, High Resolution Character Textures Off, Vertical Sync Off

2880 x 1800

High
Min FPS: 19
Max: 25
Avg: 22.1


Medium/Auto
Min FPS: 28
Max: 38
Avg: 32.8

Low
Min FPS: 41
Max: 58
Avg: 49.3


1920 x 1200

High
Min FPS: 36
Max: 46
Avg: 41.5

Medium/Auto
Min FPS: 58
Max: 71
Avg: 64

Low
Min FPS: 76
Max: 101
Avg: 91.2


1680 x 1050

High
Min FPS: 35
Max: 55
Avg: 50.1

Medium/Auto
Min FPS: 64
Max: 83
Avg: 75.8

Low
Min FPS: 84
Max: 120
Avg: 105.6


1440 x 900

High
Min FPS: 54
Max: 66
Avg: 60.7

Medium/Auto
Min FPS: 82
Max: 99
Avg: 88.7

Low
Min FPS: 105
Max: 133
Avg: 124


1280 x 800

High
Min FPS: 63
Max: 76
Avg: 69.7

Medium/Auto
Min FPS: 78
Max: 106
Avg: 94.3

Low
Min FPS: 103
Max: 133
Avg: 122.6



The big news: Subsampling
After fiddling with all these, there are two approaches I settled on for best balance of prettiness/playability. Let me explain.

Guild Wars 2 has a setting that I think may be the future of retina display gaming, called render sampling. There are three options: Subsample, Native, and Supersample. Basically, you can tell it to render the 3D elements at a lower or higher fidelity than the display's native resolution while keeping the output at the native resolution.

This is actually something the Xbox 360 and PS3 have been doing for years — Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption are subsampled at 630p but output at 720p on the PS3, for example, and Halo 3 ran at 640p while outputting at 720p on the 360. And I'll bet you a million bucks we'll see a lot of 1080p-but-not-quite-really-so-technically-like-900p-or-something games on next year's new Sony and Microsoft consoles for the first couple years of their cycles just as we saw that for the first couple years on the 360 and PS3.

If you pick the Subsample option at anything below 2880 x 1800, in my opinion it looks really bad. But if you pick it at 2880 x 1800, it looks stunning. As I said in previous posts, the resolution scaling on the Retina MacBook Pro is way better than most laptops, but it's not 100% perfect. This avoids what few pitfalls remain in scaling and just looks fantastic.

The inclusion of the subsampling rendering option is awesome for gaming on the retina. I had seen this in some previous games (like EverQuest 2 and ARMA II/DayZ) and never really understood the point until now. It's not like full scaling is bad on this display; as I've said, it's much better than I've ever seen before. But this option just gives it that extra nudge to perfection.

But if you prefer the traditional method of dropping the output resolution (or want a few extra frames, as the subsample is still not as efficient as the alternative) I tested that too. Here are the settings.

1920 x 1200 native sampling preferred settings
Animation High, AA None, Environment High, LOD High, Reflections None, Textures High, Render Sampling Native, Shadows Medium, Post-Processing High, Best Texture Filtering Off, Depth Blur On, High Resolution Character Textures On, Vertical Sync Off

Min FPS: 47
Max: 61
Avg: 54.5


2880 x 1800 subsample preferred settings
Animation High, AA FXAA, Environment High, LOD High, Reflections None, Textures High, Render Sampling Subsample, Shadows Medium, Shaders High, Post-Processing High, Best Texture Filtering Off, Depth Blur On, High Resolution Character Textures On, Vertical Sync Off

Min FPS: 39
Max: 48
Avg: 44



Verdict/conclusion
Guild Wars 2 definitely runs on this machine, though like most modern games you cannot completely max it out. You can get closer than you can with most games, though, which is really impressive given how great the game looks. Most of it is killing just a couple problem settings that are not well optimized for a GPU with only 1 GB of memory. Do that and it looks gorgeous and runs very smoothly, with a wide range of customizations.

Turning off water reflections is a must (likely due to video memory restrictions, not raw power, given that the negative effect is stuttering) but not a big deal. Less wonderful is the notion of turning off Best Texture Filtering, but in my opinion it's worth it, because if you have these two things off you can almost play at (otherwise) max at 2880 x 1800 except in big battles.

For some reason the scaling is a little more noticeable on this game than it is in most I've played — maybe because there are already so many fuzz and blur effects going on, it seems to amplify them. It's still vastly better than scaling on any other LCD display I've ever used, but it's what makes the subsample alternative so welcome.

So yeah, you can't max it. But you won't have any trouble making it look pretty at 1920x1200, and thanks to subsampling, even the native output can run smoothly. And if you are a total performance hawk, you can get face-melting numbers out of this on lower settings, even at high resolutions. I feel like I'm repeating myself, coming to the same conclusion on almost every game (all but Battlefield 3), but that's because a clear pattern is emerging: To play games on the Retina MacBook Pro, play on High at 1920 x 1200. Looks great.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by glyph42 View Post
I'm in that situation right now and I'm finding your post to be very helpful. Thanks for taking the time & effort to post your results! I would be interested in seeing your analysis of Guild Wars 2 & Deus Ex performance, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this thread no matter what game you decide to post next. I'd also be interested in your thoughts on heat & fan noise while gaming. Thanks again!
Hey glyph, just pinging you with a quote because I fulfilled your request for Guild Wars 2 and didn't know if you'd see it otherwise since I'm a bit late. Look above!

Last edited by TheInteractive; Nov 12, 2012 at 11:21 PM.
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Old Nov 13, 2012, 03:20 AM   #18
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Thanks again! Guild Wars 2 performed better than I expected and that Subsample information was new to me. I don't think you need to worry about sounding repetitive if you keep coming to the same conclusion... everybody likes a little reassurance that their favorite games will work fine when they are contemplating a $2,000+ purchase!
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Old Nov 13, 2012, 04:32 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glyph42 View Post
Thanks again! Guild Wars 2 performed better than I expected and that Subsample information was new to me. I don't think you need to worry about sounding repetitive if you keep coming to the same conclusion... everybody likes a little reassurance that their favorite games will work fine when they are contemplating a $2,000+ purchase!
Glad it's helpful. Don't hunt me down if you buy one and aren't satisfied but if you're accustomed to laptop gaming it'll be great. It's just no dedicated desktop gaming machine. But I can't show up to a meeting with one of those ridiculous Alienware 17-inch machines or whatever so I'm thinking this was the right compromise for me.

Honestly the biggest annoyance for me is slight interface lag in Mac OS at the retina resolution, but that's the sort of thing that only someone who would spend $3,000 on a laptop to begin with would notice. Can be fixed by turning off automatic graphics switching, but then battery life suffers. The integrated Intel chip is just barely able to handle the resolution. The 2013 refresh will have twice the integrated graphics capability so that should be resolved then though.

Also, there is an annoying bug where graphics performance plummets in both operating systems (basically half) and the only way to fix it is to reboot and reset the SMC. Doesn't happen often and it's not too hard to fix (especially since it boots practically instantly) but it is annoying bug. Will probably get fixed in a firmware update at some point.

Will try to get to one or two more requested games as time allows.

Last edited by TheInteractive; Nov 13, 2012 at 04:38 AM.
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 12:05 PM   #20
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Assassin's Creed 1, 2, Brotherhood and Revelations run perfectly smoothly with all settings on highest possible and 1400x900 res (MacBOok Pro Mid 2012, non retina)
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 01:39 PM   #21
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Great thread and good work! This could as well end up as a sticky!

What would be awesome, is compare the windows benchmark vs the OSX ones for any of those games.

Would have to find something similar to FRAPS on OSX first.....
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 05:48 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GalakFyarr View Post
Assassin's Creed 1, 2, Brotherhood and Revelations run perfectly smoothly with all settings on highest possible and 1400x900 res (MacBOok Pro Mid 2012, non retina)
What amount of fps are you averaging?
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 05:18 AM   #23
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Great thread, I've managed to find a buyer for my MBP and will be getting myself the 2.6GHz 512GB SSD Retina in January and have been interested in how it'll perform with gaming. Skyrim and Deus EX HR are 2 games I own already so glad to see you have covered them.

Thanks for the analysis
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 09:55 AM   #24
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Thanks for all of the helpful information! I just recently purchased a rMBP and was trying to decide whether to go with Win7 or Win8 for Boot Camp and gaming. Seeing all the performance numbers, I went ahead and decided on Win8.

I'm interested to see your work with WoW!
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 12:42 PM   #25
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OP, thanks for the benchmarks!

It was just this weekend in an Apple Store, that I realized that the retina display MBPs don't have internal DVD drive, a shocker, however the regular display MBPs still have them. For reference, I'm used to having an external Windows drive hooked up when I'm playing many of my games and Windows Steam, so I am kind of used to that anyway. But some part of me likes an internal media drive.

An Apple rep at the store emphasized that Apple was the first to get rid of floppy drives, and said due to the skinny profiles was moving away from internal media drives, and that in the future it would not make any difference anyway. Yeah, it made me start thinking of Blizzard's online authentication requirements for Diablo instead of the good ole days when you could just have the original DVD plugged in the "internal" drive. How do you all feel about this? How much of an inconvenience is it actually? You'll have to buy an external drive for about $80. Disregarding what is really a minimal expense, would the lack of an internal drive make you hesitate purchasing the retina display MBPs?
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