Macbook gaming analysis after 30 days with 320m

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by unwinded, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. unwinded macrumors regular

    Jul 31, 2007
    Gamers can be lumped in to several categories:

    Non-Gamers: People that don't play any games, not even simple flash ones
    Casual Gamers: Partakes in flash games, bejeweled, Nintendo Wii, etc.
    Part-Time Gamers: Non hardcore gamers that just want to play the occasional game and not concerned with playing at the best settings
    Console Gamers: Gamers that play on 360/PS3
    Niche Gamers: People that only play specific games like WOW, CS, etc.
    PC Gamers: People who spend ungodly amounts of money on expensive gaming hardware to play a small library of games at the absolute best settings

    I'm probably a part-time console gamer (and own a PS3) so I had no issues with getting a 320m equipped Macbook. The 320m is an integrated graphics card that borrows system RAM to run and therefore does not live up to it's potential if it were to be equipped with dedicated RAM. In return you get better battery life and in theory it costs less. But can it game? Nvidia named this card 320m because overall performance (even with shared RAM) is nearly identical to a dedicated 320m. The dedicated iteration as less cuda cores, but the performance is the same because it isn't integrated. Therefore, one can compare it to the dedicated 320m and it is better than a 310m.

    Despite this, you'll often see PC gamers make snide remarks such as "it's only good for office applications" or "the only game it can run is minesweeper". This is because the intel integrated cards have traditionally rubbed people the wrong way (and btw, those cards can play games too other than minesweeper, but they are pretty slow compared to this 320m)

    I'll summarize my experience with 30 days of gaming with the 320m. These are the games I tried with it: Modern Warfare 2, Metro 2033, Fear 2, GTA IV, Dirt 2, Fallout 3, Devil May Cry 4, Lost Planet, Oblivion, Crysis demo, Gears of War, SFIV, and The Orange Box. The 13" Macbook can generally play games that look as good as and even better then PS3, 360. This will appease most everybody but the discriminating hardcore PC gamer. In comparison to my previous 15" Macbook Pro with a 128mb 8600m, it runs as good as and better. Higher vram iterations of the 8600m perform better though from what I've read. So an integrated card on a 13" laptop is similar in performance to a dedicated mid-level one from less than 2 years ago which I think is kind of impressive

    I ran all games at native res and usually with no AA. AA killed performance in all but the source games. I cranked up AF all the way because there was almost not hit in performance. I also enabled vsync and used triple buffering via d3doverrider. Modern Warfare 2 with textures set to auto and all other options set to default ran at around 45fps average with 30fps lows and 60fps in many instances. Same with Fallout 3, I used high settings but lowered shadows and water for a similar framerate to CODMW2. All the games in the orange box ran great, near 60fps. Portions of HL2:E2 and Portal ran at 45 fps, and most likely cause it's online TF2 ran around that often. In OSX, there is about a 15% performance hit (vsync off in OSX).

    Street Fighter IV ran at a solid 60fps on medium settings as did Devil May Cry IV. Lost Planet ran 25fps average in DX11 mode and generally higher in DX9 mode for some reason, but has a motion blur effect that makes the game look smoother than the framerate is (not sure if it can be turned off). Gears of War ran at default settings 60fps. Oblivion ran 30ish FPS outdoors and 60fps indoors. Fear 2 was around 40fps on medium settings and somewhere between 20-25 on high. This is similar to Dirt 2.

    I ran the Crysis Demo which ran around 30fps on medium settings. It looked crappy though. This one is highly tweakable and I didn't mess around with it, but people like to use it as a benchmark.

    Now for the bad news, Metro 2033 and GTA IV. GTA IV is a crappy port and was made to use 3 cores. Since the Macbook only has two (and no hyper threading) performance suffers. I used a guide to achieve the console settings and tweaked the ini file a little. I got 20-25fps which I guess is similar to the console version but it stuttered a lot when loading new stuff and I wasn't a fan of it. Metro 2033 at the lowest settings averaged 22-25fps which is kinda playable I guess, but not for me. It runs off the s.t.a.l.k.e.r. engine which is also CPU-hungry from what I've read.

    Finally, I didn't even bother with FFXIV which sucks even on better hardware. It's probably optimized to use the PS3's SPUs and not ported efficiently to the PC.

    So in conclusion, if you're not a discriminating PC gamer (The kind who pays $1000 every few months to upgrade their gaming rig and then downloads games off a usenet subscription and is in essence contributing to the problem of a small library of pc games!) You'll find that this entry level system plays games on a similar level to modern consoles (not surprising cause consoles are old tech) which is likely all that many people inquiring really care about.

    Remember to game in boot camp, don't bother with vmware or parallels or wine unless you're just messing around. Steam runs pretty good in OSX but there is a performance penalty. And finally, remember that in two years people will group this card with the 330m saying the performance is about the same. The little extra might mean something now but in the ever changing world of PC-hardware it won't make a difference someday. BTW - I compared my framerates to notebookcheck and they're similar. Also they are similar to the m11x despite the better video and arguably better CPU (it's ULV)
  2. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    and casual PC gamers... play games on the PC but more casually, or simply do not care about the biggest and baddest graphics settings. I myself like to play newer games (I never use consoles), but it really makes zero different to me if I'm at 1280x800 with low graphics settings, or 1920x1080 with maxed settings.

    I love the 320m in my MBP, its fantastic :)
    while VMware and Parallels are really only good for playing games that are quite old, or graphically very simple, and still doesn't do that too great, Wine is not in that same category.

    What runs good with Wine changes from game to game. One game can run horrid while another runs fantastic... nothing to do with the age of the game. yes if you are a hardcore PC gamers that needs the best graphics you can get, you should game in Windows... but then you probably didn't buy a machine like this for gaming. If you do not mind lower graphics settings, then Wine is awesome... games (ones that work) are completely playable, and you don't have to install or use Windows... or lose access to all of Mac OS X just to play a game. With places like doing all the hard work for you to make 'wrappers' you can just put your game in and play... it isn't excessively hard to do anymore. Even making wrappers is becoming easier (though still advanced), as less understanding of things is needed with newer tools like Wineskin (a wrapper making tool i make).
  3. Aegelward macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2005
    You forgot those of us who extensively research our PC hardware to get the best bang-for-buck factor ;)

    I'm curious to how a 320M can handle gaming on a HDTV, thinking of getting a Mini to hook up to my HDTV for a HTPC and perhaps doing some occasional gaming on it too..

    I only have 720p at the moment, but perhaps 1080p in the future.
  4. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    its not made to run high res in high graphics situations... if you tried to game in 1080p without using very low settings in more modern games, you'd kill the thing.... you'd probably always want to stick with 720p, and lower to mid graphics settings. The 320m isn't made to be a high end gaming card, and its far from it... its a decent, very powerful power friendly IGP.... but its still an IGP... it might be the fastest IGP ever made, but most midrange GPUs will still wipe the floor with it in raw graphics performance, even if they use 3X more power and make 3X more heat.
  5. txa1265 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 15, 2002
    Corning, NY
    So ... you start by making gross generalizations about gamers as if they are fact ...

    ... and conclude by broad-brushing anyone who likes playing their PC top-end graphics as a pirate?

    And so why are we supposed to assume that what is in the middle is any less of an inaccurate pile of opinions than the festering piles of garbage on either end?
  6. unwinded thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 31, 2007
    You're note. Well, the performance calculations/settings are fact, not opinion. But you're right, I am a bit opinionated. Just remember, most PC games are made for the consoles first and the consoles are based on 5+ year old PC hardware. If all games were tailored toward PC (ex. Crysis which is two years old) things would be a bit different. PS, 1080p h.264 video runs fine on the 320m.

    Wasn't trying to offend any PC gamers, I have friends that buy the latest hardware and put it in SLI/Xfire solutions. Except honestly, there are not that many games available on PC and nothing to take advantage of that hardware at all except console ports. Even then, these friends of mine pay a subscription for a usenet service where they illegally download games. I'm not stereotyping all PC gamers (I know steam is quite successful) but something makes me think my buddies are similar to the vast majority of high-end pc gamers... ex. they pay a lot for the hardware and download the games via piracy for free. just sayin
  7. txa1265 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 15, 2002
    Corning, NY
    If all you are looking for is console games, all you will see are console ports.

    The PC is thriving in the traditional RPG area, strategy, adventure and so on ...

    Again, it is fine to be opinionated - just use care presenting opinions as facts.
  8. Youngchild macrumors member


    Mar 24, 2008
    Red Sox Nation
    Not stereotyping, just generalizing. So the sample size of your buddies gives you insight on the rest of the 'majority'. I know plenty of gamers who fit all of your category's that pirate games. Heck, I know people, categorized as 'casual gamers', who have pirated Popcap games. On the flip side, I know plenty of people who pay for all of their software.

    I have a gaming desktop that is a mid-range to upper-range rig. I don't spend that much money on it, maybe a couple hundred a year. When I game, I prefer to play on my desktop for obvious reasons, but occasionally I do use my MBP - and I've been satisfied with the results for the most part. I don't pirate games or software, this is a personal choice and preference of mine. I work in the IT industry and in my personal endeavors have been a victim of software piracy.

    I think you have a lot of information that prospective buyers would like to know, but be careful injecting your personal opinions and broad generalizations as facts.

    ~game on~
  9. APtalent macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2010
    You have got to be kidding me. Seriously?

    You start off making vague unintelligent generalizations, now you bring up lies?
  10. Huntn macrumors P6


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    The MacBook has come along way for gaming. My wife likes playing Nancy Drew games in Bootcamp on her circa 2008 MacBook and she plays Spore on it, no problem. However if you are more than a casual gamer, and it is within your budget, a MacBookPro is a better choice.

    There is no basis to say there are a small number of PC games available to play as an argument to go Mac native only. There are a TON of games, many crap, but many good that have not seen the light of day on the Mac except for running Windows (Bootcamp) on your Mac hardware. Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Crysis, Witcher are just a few names. Just go look at the selection of games available on Steam that are not Mac compatible. Things are changing with the Mac, more games are appearing, if you are casual, you are covered with the MacBook. But if you want unfettered access to games, my suggestion would be to go with a MacBook Pro or higher tier iMac.
  11. capple macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2008
    all opinons are subjective but this is plain wrong
  12. unwinded thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 31, 2007
    Sorry for being opinionated, I need to stop doing that because it only starts trouble. But really, I'm not lying about PC games.. there isn't much available compared to consoles. If you stop and look at the PC gaming industry as a whole going back a decade (and including Steam's vast library) yes there are a lot of games. But there aren't a lot of current games unless there is some discreetly released ones I'm not aware of. Look at Amazon's top 20 for example, it has Starcraft II and WOW, Bioshock 2 and Fallout:NV, Sims games, casual games, old games like KOTOR 2 and collections. The PC games aisle at Best Buy consists of budget casual games, best sellers, and new releases. And it doesn't look much different than the Amazon top 20.
  13. unwinded thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 31, 2007
    How so? There are very few PC exclusives anymore. Modern games are expensive to make and PC gaming potential is held back by console ports on many occasions. Take Modern Warfare 2 for example, it has and 'extra' setting for textures that produces better textures than what was designed for the consoles. But they are still pretty low resolution textures when viewed up close, even modest hardware can handle better textures. I know that's one example, but most multi-platform games are made with the Xbox 360 in mind mainly because that is what many gamers have. Crysis is still used as a modern PC gaming benchmark despite being 2 years old. For the sequel, they are actually "dumbing down" their engine and the PC version will suffer as a result.

    Civilization V and Starcraft 2 are rare examples of PC-only games which engines built from the ground up to take advantage of PC hardware. Obviously Source was designed for the PC but it predates this generation of consoles. Mafia 2, Metro 2033, Bad Company 2, COD series, etc. are all console first, PC later productions.
  14. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    Can the same be said of the mb with a 9400m? Or is that way worse?
  15. unwinded thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 31, 2007
    Thanks for the advice Youngchild, you're definitely right and I will avoid that in the future for sure. I know I offended a couple readers here and that wasn't the intent (I was trying to be funny too, but I failed miserably). From my personal observations over the years for those that game on the PC, I've seen gamers who pirate everything they play and gamers who pirate some games and buy others. It's kind like the music industry but different because I've seen people pirate games they love and should've paid for, yet they still buy some games. I know a lot of people bought Arkham Asylum because of the grappling issue plaguing the pirated release. Either way, piracy is obviously bad for the industry but so is DRM. It's like a double-edged sword. Anyways, I'm hoping Fallout:NV doesn't stray to far requirements-wise from FO3 so I can play it on my MB!
  16. capple macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2008
    So what you are saying is 'older' pc games dont count because you are not interested. You know, most recent strategy and mmo games are pc-only, but whatever
  17. Rodus macrumors 6502a


    Oct 25, 2008
    Midlands, UK
    There are plenty of games that have been released on consoles and the PC that are not simply 'ports'. Metro 2033 and Just Cause 2 for example, both of these will push bleeding edge hardware to it's limits and don't suffer from consolitis as they were properly developed for both platforms. I consider myself a fairly hardcore gamer and I certainly don't grab all my stuff off usenet, Steam all the way. As for the Crysis 2 engine being dumbed down, it certainly doesn't look like it from the movies we've seen so far, they have optimized it properly unlike the first one which was a mess but us PC gamers won't suffer, remember, with the first game even people with the absolute latest in hardware could actively run it.
  18. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    the 9400M has roughly half the actual graphics performance as the 320m
  19. Brinkman macrumors 6502


    Jul 26, 2010
    It would be amazing if they threw the upcoming 460m into the next mbp lineup!

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