Gaming from an external drive on a MacBook Air

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by buckers, Apr 2, 2011.

  1. buckers macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2010
    Location:
    Anglesey, UK
    #1
    Hi!

    Had a poke around the forums but can't find anything on this topic. I've found the gaming performance of my new 13" MacBook Air surprisingly strong, however, I don't have much hard-drive space to waste on installing loads of games on the built-in flash drive, but I get the impression that the flash drive is a factor in the good performance of the games.

    Basically, I'm just curious if there is a significant difference in gaming performance when games are run from an external drive?
     
  2. Javik macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2011
    Location:
    Australia
    #2
    Can someone please provide some first hand experience. I am interested as well...
     
  3. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2009
    #3
    since you can only use USB2 speeds max... yes... data transfer from the drive will be noticeably slower, but it should work... I wouldn't be able to stand it myself, but it depends on the game.
     
  4. Hastings101 macrumors 68000

    Hastings101

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Location:
    K
    #4
    It really just depends on the game. If it's one that accesses a lot of stuff on the hard drive then it will be pretty slow.
     
  5. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #5
    Loading times will be longer but during the loading, most of the data is moved to the RAM as it is so much faster. It shouldn't affect your gaming performance that much. Of course, your best option is to try it. It might depend on the game like said above.
     
  6. lythium macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2009
    Location:
    IL
    #6
    load times will be much higher, but actual ingame performance should be completely unaffected. Even if you only have 2gig of ram, swapping to and from an SSD is a non-issue.
     
  7. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #7
    Nope. Read speed of USB is significantly slower than the Apple laptop's built in SSD.
     
  8. gman901 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2007
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    #8
    I play all my Steam games via an external portable HD connected to my MBA 11". The games work very well and it's very convenient having my entire library on one small drive that's ready to play!:)
     
  9. Tonepoet macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    #9
    I think he's saying the loading time between areas would be longer due to what you've said but once the level is finally loaded, it'll be cached in the swap file on the system's host drive, which in this case is Apple's Solid State Drive. I'm not sure if that's how it actually works but it certainly seems to make sense to me, as in that case, the only time you'd notice a drop in performance is when trying to access something that's not already loaded in the cache.
     
  10. Zeov macrumors 6502a

    Zeov

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2011
    Location:
    Odense
    #10
    All the games i tried on my older macbook pro (2.4 GHz intel core 2 duo) with windows worked great on an external hard drive

    games :

    Left 4 dead 2
    Half Life 2
    GTA IV (800x600, otherwise it would lagg)
    CS 1.6 (duh)
    Team Fortress 2
    Counter Strike Source
     
  11. edddeduck macrumors 68020

    edddeduck

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    #11
    It's noticeably slower for the more modern games but not enough to make anything unplayable. Having 8GB of RAM instead of 4GB helps with the slowness.

    Edwin
     
  12. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #12
    Um, it's a MacBook Air. Might want to read at least the thread title before answering next time. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000

    Littleodie914

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    #13
    You actually misunderstood lythium's post in this same thread, so there's no reason to get snarky. :)

    To the OP: Your loading times will see the most noticeable performance hit, but after that the vast majority of your gameplay experience is dependent upon your GPU, CPU, and amount of RAM.
     
  14. buckers thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2010
    Location:
    Anglesey, UK
    #14
    I'll try running some from an external over the Easter and give some feedback. :)
     
  15. edddeduck macrumors 68020

    edddeduck

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    #15
    My bad, I meant 4GB/2GB instead of 8GB/4GB was an honest mistake but the advice was based on a MacBookAir (new model) :rolleyes:

    Basically the CPU in the Air is a little weaker that ones in other Mac's and it is using a shared RAM video card so having 4GB instead of 2GB is crucial to performance, as you are sharing OS RAM with your video card.

    If you decide to play the game off the USB HD anything that is streamed from the disk during gameplay will be effected by the change of performance. Games load the basic structure of levels and the initial textures etc when you see the loading screen but they also are constantly loading textures audio etc off the disk and into memory while you are playing in a level. The frame rate will most likely be affected in fast paced games for example running down a corridor into a wide open space as you enter the large area you might get some stutter or other form of performance drop as the much slower USB loads the files.

    This will vary from game to game and sometimes the games effected are not the ones you would first think, I would try to have a spare 10GB on your SSD and have your most popular game of the moment installed on the SSD and carry a USB drive will all of them. You can then install them onto the SSD when you want to play them (and only if you notice the difference).

    The reason why the SSD makes more difference in the Air is that with an underpowered CPU (compared to other MacBook's) and a low-end graphics card with shared RAM the SSD helps add performance which counteracts the slightly slower CPU and Graphics card so give you a great performing laptop.

    As I said it will vary from game to game, some games will show no difference some will be a bit slower.

    Edwin
     

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