Gaming on new Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by panzer06, Mar 15, 2009.

  1. panzer06 macrumors 68030

    panzer06

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    #1
    I purchased a new Mac Mini as my primary home computer (mainly for working from home) and some Windows gaming when I have a free minute or so.

    It is a 2.0 base unit that's been upgraded to 4GB Crucial DD3 RAM and Seagate 500GB 5400rpm hard drive.

    Vista Business SP1 experience ratings

    Processor 5.0
    RAM 5.9
    Business Graphics 5.0
    Gaming Graphics 5.2
    Hard Disk 5.8

    I installed Titan's Quest:Immortal Throne (TQIT) and Company of Heroes OF.

    While TQIT is not super graphics intensive, it requires a decent GPU. Compony of Heroes is very graphic intensive (especially if you wish to use DX10, which I did not).

    In general the system is good at handling both games at High/Med setting w/o AA. This is to say, while playing the characters look decent and there is minimal pausing and hanging. However, the fact that there are occasional pauses (very slight but noticeable) may annoy some players.

    My Sony Vaio with the dedicated ATI 3650 is much more stable and more fluid, though I can't set the graphics settings in the games any higher than High/Med with the ATI 3650 either.

    Lowering the in-game graphics settings doesn't seem to make any difference in actual game play (other than making the characters more blurry), there are still occasional pauses.

    Do you suppose Apple's Bootcamp nVidia drivers are weak?

    I tried installing the nVidia reference drivers but they won't install. Or perhaps the 9400 is just a casual card, slightly better than the Intel 4500...

    Cheers,
     
  2. jmpage2 macrumors 68030

    jmpage2

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    #2
    This has nothing to do with weak drivers and everything to do with the GPU itself being pretty light weight for gaming.
     
  3. EDarkness macrumors member

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    #3
    From what I've been reading, they've underclocked it as well.

    I've been wanting some good benchmarks and such for gaming, but I haven't had much luck for some reason. You'd think people would be putting the Mini through some paces, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
     
  4. tarasis macrumors 6502a

    tarasis

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    #4
    A shame if they have underclocked it but can sorta understand it.

    I am getting my Mini in the next couple of days (on route from Amsterdam to Germany) and plan on doing a bunch of benchmarks as I want to compare it against my old gaming PC. The one figure I have seen put it about 4 times better in 3dMark06 (me:506, MacMini 19??), than my Athlon XP 2800+, 1GB Ram, GT 6600 128mb which admittedly is now long in the tooth :), which is good enough for me.

    The only recent stuff I want to play atm is Lego Indy, Lego Batman, Neverwinter Nights 2, Dragon Age, The Witcher & BSG: Beyond The Red Line but have lots of old games I need to work through
     
  5. rrijkers macrumors 6502

    rrijkers

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    #5
    Maybe it's the drive
     
  6. panzer06 thread starter macrumors 68030

    panzer06

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    #6
    I doubt it, since Vista rates it as 5.8 and I have other desktop PCs with drives rated at 5.1 & 5.2 and they don't have any issues. Of course they have dedicated PCIe GPUs (nVidia 7600 & ATI 2600XT)

    I'm beginning to think jmpage2 is correct in his assessment. I am very glad the 9400 is worlds better than the Intel 950 or x3100 so I can't really complain. Also, it's definitely more responsive under OS X than my older C2D 2.16 MBP.

    I shall hope future drivers will improve performance.

    Cheers,
     
  7. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #7
    hhmmm slight pausing during the game would mean problems with RAM access (to me anyway). because the RAM is shared, and in such low quantities it may have trouble accessing it as quickly as a purely dedicate GPU..

    vista isnt the best of OS's to run games on either :rolleyes:

    good to know that it can run them quite well though!!
     
  8. panzer06 thread starter macrumors 68030

    panzer06

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    #8
    Hmmm, the shared RAM idea sounds interesting. Perhaps that is a contributor.

    Yeah, I wish I could get XP or Vista to boot from an external FW drive! They I could use separate drives for each OS.

    At least now the mini is a viable Windows gaming platform with modest settings.

    Cheers,
     
  9. alphaod macrumors Core

    alphaod

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    #9
    What resolution are you running the games at?
     
  10. panzer06 thread starter macrumors 68030

    panzer06

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    #10
    Ah... Alpha, always thinking! I am of course using full native resolution of my external Samsung HD 24" monitor @ 1920x1200. I will lower the res to 1280x1024 and see if I get a smoother gaming experience.

    Thank you for the suggestion.

    Cheers,
     
  11. rrijkers macrumors 6502

    rrijkers

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    #11
    These are more SLI kinda resolutions, especially on these settings :cool:
     
  12. panzer06 thread starter macrumors 68030

    panzer06

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    #12
    Perhaps if I wanted to run everything on High/Ultra but my Sony Vaio with the ATI Mobile 3650 runs just fine @ 1920*1080.

    I will test 1280x1024 on the mini and take it to 1024x768 if necessary. If the lower res works, 1280 will be fine for most of my games.

    Cheers,
     
  13. The Hammer macrumors regular

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    Toronto, Canada
    #13
    would a 7200 rpm drive have made any difference to the original posters experiences?
     
  14. Shivetya macrumors 65816

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    Jan 16, 2008
    #14
    For initial loading of game data. It would make some things much more responsive provided the mini's controller is up to the task. Frankly I can't see upgrading one of these machines without yanking that 5400 rpm drive.
     
  15. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #15
    hhmm i think 1280x1024 will be good enough, your monitor will be crying at that res :p
     
  16. panzer06 thread starter macrumors 68030

    panzer06

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    #16
    Well, indeed the resolution change resolved the issues. No pause at any point when using 1280x768, I was even able to bump Company of Heroes up to mostly HIGH settings. I also ran the in-game Graphics performance test and received a Good instead of average.

    So while much better than its integrated Intel predecessors, the nVidia 9400M is still a wee bit light for hi-res gaming.

    It should also be noted that I had previously changed (before lowering the res) the nVidia control panel to performance from quality, which does produce a few jaggies. This seemed to make no difference so I will try putting it back to quality and make sure everything stays smooth.

    And and indeed my monitor wept at being forced to perform at such a low resolution but I'm sure it will survive since I spend most of my time in OS X at native res.

    Cheers,
     
  17. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #17
    oh well thats great to hear that it sorted it! it must have been just reaching its peak with that res and settings!! i still think its a pretty decent effort from a discrete graphics card!! that thing would perform better than my x1600 which is only around 2-3 years old!
     
  18. tarasis macrumors 6502a

    tarasis

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    #18
    I need to write up my results figures wise but I have been putting the Mini through its paces on various games & benchmarks in Windows XP.

    First specs:

    Old Gaming Rig (ORG): Athlon XP 2800+ (roughly 2GHz), 1GB Ram, GeForce 6600GT 128mb, can't remember HD speed off top of head.

    New Mac Mini (NMM): 2.26GHz, 4GB Ram (roughly 2.86GB seen in Windows), Nvidia 9400 reported as having 512MB

    Benchmarks wise (3dMark 01, 03, 05, 06) the mini performs better than my old gaming rig. (Interestingly the NMM performs 4 times better than the OGR at 3dMark 06 - 19?? vs 5??)

    With Geekbench NMM was better than ORG.

    Game wise I looked at Trackmania Nations Forever, X2 Rolling Demo, X3 Rolling Demo, Company of Heroes.

    In Trackmania the Mini performed between 1 to 5 FPS slower than the ORG. This is at 1680x1050 with various config changes.

    In X2 at 1024 the Mini was about 7 FPS better but at 1680 the PC was about 13 FPS better

    In X3 with defaults at 1680 the Mini got 13 FPS where the ORG died.

    Company of Heroes is interesting the defaults for the Mini's graphics are siqnificantly different than the OGR. I need to run the tests again with the Mini using the PC settings but with the PC using the mini settings at 1680 its Mini 12.3 vs ORG 1.5

    I don't yet have any FPS installed, need to install Half Life 2 & Far Cry but I don#t have anything more recent.

    Its looking like with older games the OGR is marginally better and with newer stuff the Mini is better and given the OGR sounds like an airplane taking off and the mini is silent it is a win for the ton of old games I need to play through.

    That said I was expecting a bit better out of the mini's graphics. I know its a mobile version but 4 (3?) years on from the dedicated AGP card card with less mem I'd have thought it would outperform on older stuff.

    Curious how NMM would perform in Vista with COH DX9 vs DX10.
     
  19. shinchan72 macrumors member

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    Mar 3, 2009
    #19
    Apple's default boot camp drivers are horrible. In both my macbook pro with the 9400/9600 and the new mac mini I just picked up Friday , the first thing I did was go to laptopvideo2go and get the mod'd Nvidia drivers.

    While it doesn't make the mini a screaming machine under XP for gaming it does make a decent difference. They allow you to clock it back to normal core speeds (and without problem for me , just make sure you have decently cooled area for the mini).
     
  20. tarasis macrumors 6502a

    tarasis

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    #20
    Thanks, I'll check them out and see what diff they make. I did check Nvidia's site for newer drivers but it claimed they where the most up to do.

    I think I used to use modded drivers on my old windows laptop which had an ATI chip in it and remember it making a difference there, so not surprised it made a diff.
     
  21. tarasis macrumors 6502a

    tarasis

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    #21
    BTW Out of interest which drivers did you grab?

    EDIT Tried installing Dox's 182.05 but it won't install as it doesn't recognize the card.

    Going to try the 180.70 now as they match the device id and subsystem. Initial try didn't work (put the modded inf in), restoring bootcamp drivers and will try again after that.
     
  22. shinchan72 macrumors member

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    #22
    I'll have to look and see , I usually hit the forums on there and find the reports of the various experiences with each one. I usually stay away from the "latest" at the top and hit one or two under that have been used by others some.

    I think I put 181.22's this last time as the 182. and over seem to have few more bugs.

    But this is in Vista64 also and it differs for each one between 32 and 64 bit and Vista and XP.

    But overall I've always had better luck with the drivers and mod'd inf from them and got better performance be it a laptop or desktop. And it's not just Apple's boot camp drivers , Dell and others who have specific drivers for their Nvidia cards are always way behind also so I've learned to just go straight there and use the laptopvideo2go ones regardless of what machine.

    Make sure and grab the mod'd inf's , and if there's one that doesn't have your specific card/combo already you can usually post on the forums there requesting one and within a day someone makes one.
     
  23. tarasis macrumors 6502a

    tarasis

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    #23
    Let me know how it goes, wasn't able to get any drivers installed.

    The downloaded inf file (for 180.70) definitly includes an entry for the device id string at the end of the file but not at the top. Have added one to match surrounding entries and installer seems to have accepted it. Will see how it goes.

    EDIT Okay installed but performed a little worse in all I tested. Off to try some more recent drivers and see how they go.

    Edit 2 Stumpted, previously used mobile_nv4_NV3x but wondering if it should be nv4_C7:

    nv4_disp entries

    NVIDIA_C79.DEV_0861.1 = "NVIDIA GeForce 9400"
    NVIDIA_C79.DEV_0863.1 = "NVIDIA GeForce 9400M"
    NVIDIA_C79.DEV_086A.1 = "NVIDIA GeForce 9400 "
    NVIDIA_C79.DEV_0870.1 = "NVIDIA Geforce 9400M"

    where top line below by me allowed install of drivers

    %NVIDIA_C79.DEV_0861.1% = mobile_nv4_NV3x, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0861
    %NVIDIA_C79.DEV_0863.1% = nv4_C7x, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0863
    %NVIDIA_C79.DEV_086A.1% = nv4_C7x, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_086A
    %NVIDIA_C79.DEV_0870.1% = mobile_nv4_NV3x, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0870

    EDIT 3 Tried installing stock 182.05 with the mod inf with both mobile_nv4_NV3x & then nv4_C7x but neither worked. They would produce a black screen apart from a blob of red screen corruption at the top.

    Cleaned the system and tried with Dox 182.05 with line added for DEV_0861 matching DEV_0863 & 0870 (both listed as 9400M cards) and that has installed fine. Currently benching to see what difference if any there is ...

    Ah might be a go-er, after benching X2 Rolling demo, finished fine but screen black with visible a (moveable) mouse pointer. However came out fine with Trackmania testing.

    Okay results with DOX 182.05

    X2 Bench at 1680x1050 was 1.5FPS better
    Trackmania Nations Forver Auto settings at 1680x1050 is 3 FPS better
    Company of Heroes Automatic at 1680x1050 is effectively the same, about 1FPS give or take.
    X3 Bench at 1680x1050 was 0.7 FPS better

    Not worth the effort, for me, for that atm I think I will go back to the stock bootcamp drivers.
     

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