Experiences w/ Games on MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by DKZ, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. DKZ macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2006

    I bought a 4gb 1.4ghz MBA 11", and so far I'm very happy. I have been trying out a couple of games to see what runs well, and I thought some people might be interested in my findings.

    I have tried these games:
    Halflife 2 (Steam) Runs acceptably, with medium to high settings (recommended) but there is a fair bit of screen tearing and some weird stutters. I've checked with in game fps counter, and it doesn't dib belowe 30 fps at any point and v-sync didn't help, so there might be some issue with the data-streaming engine. But it is most certainly playable and pretty.

    Starcraft 2 runs well on medium at native resolution, not that much to mention. Though you'd properly want to lower the settings for online play.

    Torchlight runs well on medium to high, would say at around 30 fps, so if a super smooth experience is more important then eye candy, there is plenty room for improvement.

    Team Fortress 2, is unplayable at any setting, which shouldn't be. I believe there is something wrong here. Don't know if it's valve or Apple that has to shape up, but it's unplayable on my MBA.

    Thats what I have tried so far. Please share your experiences.

    Oh, and btw, everything I've tried was in OS X, with 64gb, I don't want to allocate 15gb for bootcamp. Not that people shouldn't share if they have experiences from bootcamp.
  2. ReallyBigFeet, Nov 15, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010

    ReallyBigFeet macrumors 68030


    Apr 15, 2010
    I'm curious about something.

    I don't play HL2, but I do play Day of Defeat: Source which is basically a re-skinned HL2 (even launches hl2.exe on my Windows box). You say you get some "weird stutters." I do also. I've gotten it to run very smooth except for the "death cam" visuals. Whenever I get killed, the whole game just lags big time. Otherwise, it seems like it plays very smooth.

    I've changed every setting to low and still get this. I've started improving my settings gradually to find if one makes a big difference versus the other, but so far, only AA seems to make much of a difference. The death cam stutter still remains and like you...I wonder if its just a fault of the OSX version of the game.

    I've seen forum posts in different places with others who discuss this very problem on the Windows side of Steam, and for most, an updated graphics driver took care of it for them. Living in the OSX "walled garden" that we do, I think we are stuck with it until/unless the graphics drivers get updated.
  3. DKZ thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2006
    Ya, that sounds a lot like what I'm seeing. First I thought it was the "puny" cpu, but thinking back, it's properly a lot faster then the cpu I had in the comp I played HL2 on when it launched.

    It's a bit over my head to diagnose the problem. But it could be that the Source engine doesn't play nice with the SSD or something like that. FPS' are solid though, so I don't think it's an actual performance problem.

    And yes AA did have a considerable effect, but at this screen size, I don't really think it's all that necessary any way.
  4. pwolfe macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2007

    I have found that I was able to play a user vs AI match of Starcraft 2 on all settings low and it was very smooth. However this past weekend I tried to play a game of SC2, me and a buddy vs 2 AI and it completely choked. Was absolutely unplayable.

    I was pretty dissapointed, but as I didn't buy this as a gaming machine, I'll just be content with single player for airplane rides.

    Left4Dead2 also plays pretty well on low.
  5. efirmage macrumors member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/532.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.5 Mobile/8B117 Safari/6531.22.7)

    This is beating a dead horse but for Starcraft performance Windows is unbeatable. That said I could play it on low settings with the top spec previous gen MBA online with a solid fps.

    Do you have the most recent OSX update? I believe there was a graphics update in it.
  6. pwolfe macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2007
    I am fully up to date. It may very well have been the network I was on, I have yet to test it at home over battle.net.

    I have been noticing slow wifi overall on my air compared to other devices on my network.
  7. DKZ thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2006
    Could it be latency on the wifi you're seeing?
  8. pwolfe macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2007
    Absolutely. I haven't had time to test it on my home network. Been wrapped up in another project.
  9. DKZ thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2006
    I have been considering buying a ethernet adapter for gaming, but then again, maybe thats a little overkill with this kind of computer.
  10. pwolfe macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2007
    And you will be limited to usb speeds with the ethernet adapter.
  11. R.Youden macrumors 68020


    Apr 1, 2005
    I have played Football Manager 2011 on my new 1.6GHz, 4GB, 128GB MBA and it plays pretty well. For a relatively simple game it is quite graphics intensive under 3D match mode but it plays well, lags occasionally. If anything it runs better on my air than my 2.8GHz 2008 MBP.
  12. yegon macrumors 68030

    Oct 20, 2007
    Ooh ooh, good one, it'd not occurred to me to put FM on my 11"! Awesome.
  13. Stingray454 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    I've played some World of Warcraft on the 11", 1.6Ghz Air. I think it's running really good. In very crowded areas (Dalaran) I only get 20-30 fps, but when questing, running instances and such I usually average around 50-100 fps, which is very playable. It's a really nice extra bonus to be able to play some casual WoW on the Air.
  14. foiden macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    Casual eh? Having 20-30 fps in a highly crowded area in WoW, is pretty much serious WoW, if I ever saw it. That's pretty amazing. However, do you notice it making any major slowdowns after a long time of play? I'm only really asking about what it is like after perhaps 2+ hours, with it on. That should be enough to drive it up to whatever heat index it will go to. It's more of a question of overheating.

    Still, this is looking very good for some good light video-editing. Maybe not to heavy lift with it, but certainly good to do a starter for bigger projects, when travelling, before offloading a good layout to my main computer to finish.
  15. Stingray454 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    Yeah, I'm impressed. I guess 25-man raiding might be a problem, but anything other than that works just fine. CPU usage isn't spiked, seems to be 50-75%:ish most of the time. I tried playing for about an hour, and during that time the temperature didn't rise any more than it did during the first few minutes - about 75°C (which is less than my 13" MBP). I didn't notice any slowdowns with time either, and the Air came back to normal temperature surprisingly fast after I quit the game.
  16. ReallyBigFeet macrumors 68030


    Apr 15, 2010
    Back to my comment about DOD:S (built on the Half Life 2 engine) being laggy during certain points in the game....

    I'm starting to wonder if the issue isn't graphics settings at all but rather SOUND settings. The HL2 engine uses MP3's I think to augment the sound effects. I notice I get that same little lag "stutter" in performance whenever I use voice chat (which is built into the game itself) as well as during the death-cam shots. The death-cam shots are accompanied by a "woosh" kind of sound effect that it is out of character for the remainder of the ww2 sound effects. I get the same stutter if someone shoots a Panzerschreck/Rocket at me and it explodes nearby, or when I'm on that class and I shoot one.

    So it makes me wonder if the sound driver is causing this? The game doesn't require much in the way of horsepower to begin with since its so old. Except for these little stutters, it runs smooth as silk even on high detail.

  17. Abyssgh0st macrumors 68000


    Jan 12, 2009
    Regarding TF2; I played it in Summer 2009 on a 2.13GHz 2GB 160GB 9400M Macbook and it was pretty good on medium-ish settings. Granted this was obviously via Bootcamp (before Steam OS X release), but it should not be unplayable by any means; especially with 4GB RAM and the 320M.
  18. Viper2005 macrumors 6502


    Dec 2, 2007
    I have a similar experience with WoW on my 1.6 4gb 11" MBA. I got about 15-25 fps in dal during peak hours but last night during the cataclysm event in org, where EVERYONE was waiting for the elemental invasion, the fps went to about 10..
  19. Stingray454 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    Indeed, maybe I got a bit lower settings - I've set them quite low, since I don't see much difference anyway (5 fps more beats a tiny bit clearer textures or prettier water imo). And during that event event you mentionen even my 27" i7 iMac got 20 fps, so 10 isn't all that bad :)
  20. Altered3 macrumors newbie

    Nov 1, 2010
    I really like Crossover for Mac, which gives a really nice Wine-based Windows emulator, without needing boot camp: http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxmac/. On my MBP with 9400m graphics, I get 40 fps in Lord of the Rings Online. Nvidia 320m is around 50% faster than 9400m, so I expect you would be very pleased with Crossover performance on a new MBA. They have a list of supported games on their site. In my experience, I get around 90% of the performance I see in Windows 7 bootcamp, running Crossover in OS X. Crossover could be especially useful on a MBA, because you have such limited disk space for boot camp partitioning.
  21. DKZ thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2006
    Ya, in light of some of the issues I've encountered, it could be interesting to see how Crossover will fare.

    And does anyone know if the usb ethernet adapter has issues with latency or is it only the bandwidth that suffers?

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