Gaming on a thunderbolt display?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Stingray454, Dec 5, 2011.

  1. Stingray454 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    Ok, I'll start out with saying that I KNOW that the Air is not great for gaming. That being said, I love the little thing, and while I mostly play on my iMac, it happens that I run the occasional game on my Air as well. It runs ok - for example, World of Warcraft runs without any problem at 30 fps (I've capped the framerate to 30 to keep it cooler, it can go much higher depending on what you're doing in the game). Enough for casual gaming for me.

    Anyway, I though about getting a Thunderbolt display for the Air. I'm curious if anyone here has one, and has tried gaming on the TB display compared to the laptop screen.

    I would imagine that the CPU is mostly used to calculate things as player positions, what animations to use, networking and whatnot, and send info to the graphics card what to draw. The graphics card would sort the data, handle textures and so on, and finally draw the content on the screen. That makes me think that even if the screen area is almost 4x as large, it doesn't mean anywhere near a 4x slowdown for either the GPU or CPU. Actually, I'm guessing the impact wouldn't be that big at all.

    So, my question is - how much of a slowdown will you see on games running on the Air when played on the TB display compared to the computers display? Can the GPU handle it relatively well, or will I see a lot of stuttering and low FPS? I'm guessing the memory of only 4Gb might be a problem with the shared graphics memory, but.. I would be very interested to hear from someone that has tried :)
  2. DeusInvictus7 macrumors 68020

    Aug 13, 2008
    Kitchener, Ontario
    Screen resolution has a bigger impact than you are making out to be.

    In fact, if people are experiencing lag or FPS drops in games, the first setting to change is normally the resolution, especially if you are using a large monitor with a massive resolution.
  3. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    Indeed, at native resolution you are going to have a big problem for pretty much any game with moderate graphics.
  4. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    4x the screen resolution means your GPU has to push 4x the pixels which means a 4x slow down...

    It also means the frame buffer in VRAM is 4x as large.
  5. Stingray454 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    Yes, I'm not saying there won't be and performance loss at all, of course there will. I'm just curious about how much, and would like to hear from the people that run their Air with a TB display about how big a loss we're talking about. Say a game will run at 30 fps at native resolution - are we talking 25, 15 or 5 FPS when run on a TB display in fullscreen? I would be very interested in numbers, not just "yes, it will be slow" :)


    Well, while id does have to push more pixels, I'm not sure that's whats taking time for a GPU. Setting up the scene to render, sorting out textures and so on is a large part of the work. For example, I just tried on my iMac - running a game in 2560x1440 gave me 60 fps, changing the resolution to 1280x720 gave me a massive boost to 62 fps :p
  6. O and A macrumors regular

    Jul 22, 2002
    New York City
    Sorry but you're vastly underestimating how important the GPU is.

    My guesds is you will see at 3-4x slowdown in peorformance.

    You're example of the iMac running at half res with only 2 FPS improvement is invalid. Mainly because we have no idea if the frame rate for said game is capped. above 60 FPS. My guess is it probably is.
  7. Stingray454 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    It's not - I haven't set a cap manually, and depending where I'm at in the game the fps differs - in simple environments I get 100+ fps, this was standing in a bigger open area that's a bit more difficult for the game to render, hence the drop to 60.

    Anyway, I'm asking for solid numbers form someone that own a TB display. No offence guys, but comments like "it will be slow", or "I think it will be 4x slower" isn't really helpful unless you have some data to back it up.
  8. seepel macrumors 6502


    Dec 22, 2009
    Increasing the resolution can drastically affect the screen. The simplified work flow is

    1) do physics
    2) draw screen
    3) repeat

    When you get into fancy 3D graphics often the drawing part is what takes longer. So if you have to draw 4 times the amount of stuff doesn't it stand to reason that it won't be able to go through this loop as quickly?
  9. Stingray454 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2009
    Of course - I'm not questioning that it will be slower, I'm just curious how much slower it is. Are we talking a 10%, 50% or 90% slowdown? And as good as educated guesses might be, I was hoping for someone that owns a TB screen and have tried the difference in some games to comment on it to get some real-world numbers.
  10. galactavius macrumors newbie

    Feb 21, 2014
    Professional Reply - MacBAir and Thunderbolt on WoW

    I currently have a MBA and run on TB and play wow. FPS is 45 on low setting, 25 on Fair, 10 on good, and 5 on "extreme". It makes it difficult to play on the bigger screen, recommend stronger laptop if playing via TB display (e.g. MacBook Pro Ret or higher, new Intel Iris graphics cards should be able to handle the load )

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