Early Gameplay Impressions (Macbook Air 11)

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Souloni, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. Souloni, Jul 23, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011

    Souloni macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2011
    Hey everyone. I am currently using the in-store $1199 Macbook Air and have tested a few games with various settings. I thought I'd share some 10 minute framerates with the community :D. In the future I plan to update this with longer gameplay benches.

    A lot of us are interested in getting the games to run at a solid framerate but have certain standards in mind as well. My overall goal was to make sure that the games played similarly to the XBOX360 or PS3 in terms of shading and model fidelity. Additional options which are extremely tailored to the enthusiast PC gaming community are turned off. The results are fantastic, but lack 2x AA which almost all current consoles use at the very least.

    These titles are all played in Windows 7 using Bootcamp. Vertical Sync is on, but AA, Volumetric Lighting, and Dynamic Shadows are always off. Resolutions are 1280x720.

    Batman, Arkham Asylum
    Textures: Medium
    Average: 29-32 FPS
    Notes: The game is nearly indistinguishable from it's console counterpart. Infact, it looks so nice running on the MBA's high density screen, the lack of '2x AA' is harder to notice. There are jaggies, as there would be on the 360 version, but because the pixel density is higher the jaggies are smaller. The first 10 minutes of Batman include up to 14 moving models within the same room, as well as shadows for objects. Shadows beneath people are indeed missing, and are available on the console version. The framerate and shaders definitely make up for it though.

    Portal 2
    Textures: High
    Models: High
    Shaders: Medium
    Average: 43-45
    Notes: When you start, the game will be running at a flat 60 FPS. After testing Batman I knew that this was a bit too good to be true. The lack of moving objects and overall small space your are confined in contributes to ridiculous FPS -- then the game starts. I skipped to another chapter and quickly noticed sharp decreases in speed, but they occurred so quickly that the game still felt very smooth. Overall it is like playing the game at 45 FPS the entire time. There is minor slowdown when there is a large view distance, and more slowdown when you start to use portals which double the viewable amount of moving objects.

    COD: MW2
    Textures: High
    Bullet Impact: On
    Motion Blur: On
    Average: 27-30 FPS
    Notes: Like Portal 2, the game is great when in CQB, but open fields and especially the first level make the framerate take a dive from a full 60FPS to 30 FPS. It stays pretty consistent, however, so the game remains quite playable. The only issue is that MW2 is played on consoles at 1024x600 at a smooth 60 FPS. I was unable to replicate this experience running at 1024x768, and I don't think hacking in that resolution will give the same performance either. If you are comfortable with 30 FPS on your shooters, it's perfectly fine. One might say it looks more cinematic :D

    So I decided to take a run through MW2 and actually play through the first level. Anyone who has played this before will know that there is a LOT of stuff going on within the first 10 minutes of the first level (not the opening sequence where you are in the firing range). I turned off Vertical Sync and noticed very little frame tearing, and if there was tearing it was literally one row of pixels at a time.

    The battle across the river was running at roughly 45 FPS with dozens of targets on screen, as well as buildings and debris. At no point did the game seem to slow below 35 FPS, and it never stuttered. This is VITAL within a video game, and something that makes dropping framerates bearable! The vehicle scene was where the game started to slow down a bit more naturally. The tons of smoke prevented the game from climbing past 35 FPS, but when the action started the framerate stuck at around 40 FPS. This is where my testing starts to take an amazing turn towards absolutely meaningless... As I ran inside a building, the game began to shoot to 60 FPS. After I went into the school, the game remained at around 50-60 with very little slow down and no noticeable stutter.

    This notebook is amazing... Absolutely jaw dropping performance!

    Closing Notes
    Having an 11.6" MBA means sacrificing a lot, and performance is definitely a place where we expect to lose ground. For the 2011 MBA refresh however, Apple seems to have forgotten that! If we were to simply give the MBA the same expectations we give a portable handheld like Nintendo's 3DS, we would be more than happy with the results.

    There has so far not been a single engine that refuses to run at above 30 FPS on average, and almost no game that stutters. The games also look incredibly good thanks to the quality of the DirectX shaders and the density of the 11.6" screen. In comparison to a larger gaming rig, or even a notebook with discrete graphics, the MBA must concede complete and utter defeat. Numbers don't lie, however the major thing is a balance between playability, graphics, and mobility. The MBA is the complete victor in this field with a processor strong enough to promote non-existant stuttering, console level shaders/textures, 4-5x faster loading, and a baby form factor. You might not be able to fit it in your pocket, but you can't join a game of Starcraft II on your PSP either.

    Keep in mind that these games were reviewed with the resources given within the first 10 minutes of each game. If there were a lot of things laying around, that would definitely impact the framerate more than typical gameplay (Batman).

    The average scores are my best guess at the entirety of the game; framerates were taken through FRAPs.
  2. arctic macrumors 6502a


    Jun 18, 2008
  3. PaulWog Suspended

    Jun 28, 2011
    Please run a temperature monitoring program and post up your max temperatures when running these games. I want to know if my Macbook Air (same model) is about the same as yours in terms of heat.

    I'm getting around 80-86 celcius in the most graphically demanding scenarios. Which can actually be somewhat often.
  4. Maxime macrumors regular

    Sep 23, 2007
  5. arctic macrumors 6502a


    Jun 18, 2008
    MW2 can be played with High Textures and Arkham Asylum with Medium. I never thought I'd be able to have my Arkham Asylum fix with these HD3000 Airs. I guess this means Bootcamp is the way to go when gaming in these new machines.
  6. striker33 macrumors 65816


    Aug 6, 2010
    80c plus is normal for MacBooks during gaming. Why do you need to compare?
  7. Peter Harrison macrumors 6502a

    Peter Harrison

    Dec 24, 2009
    I've heard that the HD3000 is currently more effective through OSX on the Airs though as the drivers aren't great for Windows yet. Might be wrong, but that's what I've read in this forum.
  8. i0Nic macrumors 65816

    May 17, 2006
    Sydney, Australia
    Ok that's great but here is my biggest concern - what happens if you were to connect the MBA to the 27" cinema display?

    This is my plan for when I get my 11" MBA. I want to play SC2 on it. Obviously I wouldn't be able to play it at native res of the 27" I assume? How low would I have to go? Would it look like absolute crap / run like crap?
  9. gman901 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 1, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Nice post! That looks a lot more promising than expected on Windows 7. I was curious why "This Is My Next" reviewed it and came up with only 11 fps using Just Cause 2 benchmarks. I know my 11" 2010 gets about 19-20 using the same benchmark. Could it just be a driver issue with the HD 3000 and if so, will Intel or Apple provides updates?
  10. arctic macrumors 6502a


    Jun 18, 2008
    Cool, thanks. But I'd love to see better framerates than the OP's tests using Lion.

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