Want to upgrade iMac for games...

Discussion in 'iMac' started by EheroDC, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. EheroDC macrumors newbie

    Dec 28, 2012
    Hi. I have a:
    iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2010)
    3.06 GHz Intel Core i3
    4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3
    ATI Radeon HD 4670 256 MB

    I just started playing Skyrim through steam (with Windows 7 installed) and unless I put the settings way down, the game chugs badly. I know its an old mac, but Skyrim isn't exactly new either.

    What would be good to upgrade so that I can run Skyrim and hopefully a few newer games a bit more smoothly.

  2. itsOver9000 macrumors 6502


    Mar 29, 2013
    B.F., KS
  3. Nosferax macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2014
    Buy a more recent computer... :p

    Seriously, the biggest problem is the video card which is quite obsolete now. Sadly, the iMac doesn't use standard GPU card so you can't just pop it open and replace it with a store bought card.

    Ps: I have the exact same iMac. I only use it for iTunes now.
  4. EheroDC thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 28, 2012
    So there is no way to increase performance in any way?

    Really don't have the money to buy a new iMac.....
  5. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    You should use the activity monitor to observe why your Mac is slow.
    Chances are, that the gpu and cpu are the bottleneck, in which case there is no upgrade that will help.
    Macs are not for gaming. I recommend a playstation.
  6. strukt macrumors regular


    Aug 8, 2012
  7. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    In theory you are right, but the cost doesn't really justify such an upgrade. Also the difficulty is very high. I would personally not do this.
  8. AlifTheUnseen macrumors member


    May 17, 2014
    I have a slightly better 2010 model: 3.2 GHz instead of 3.06 GHz and the ATI Radeon HD 5670 512 MB. Sadly, while I still can play Homeworld 2, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Portal 1&2, some other cool games such as Civilization Beyond Earth, Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen and other cool stuff just don't work. I tried The Witcher 2 and it just hurts…

    Being somewhat disappointed by what I hear from the 5K iMac, I investigated other options. Exchanging the internal HDD with a SSD and, as the iMac is already open, upgrading from 4 x 1 GB RAM to 2 x 8 + 2 x 1 GB will cost around 400-500$, including service (I know, stuff here is high-price). But no change in the GPU, so no newer games, but the iMac would in general be more pleasant to work with, as the CPU is still ok.

    Maybe I just accept that there is no xMac and just buy an upgradable PC for games and upgrade my iMac above for all the browsing and work… :-(
  9. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    Well, I've got a non-retina 27" (3.5GHz i7/32/512/4GB 780M) and it absolutely flies through in games at max settings, 1080p.
  10. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK

    The SSD will hugely speed up day-to-day usage, but more RAM is unlikely to help at all.

    If you buy the two together, you might falsely assume the RAM upgrade is contributing to the speed increase. You need to analyse your memory pressure to see if more RAM will benefit your usage.

    But in short, yes, upgradeable PCs are more suited for gaming.

    The 5K iMac 'flies through' games at 1080p, too. It will run hotter and therefore louder than the non-retina, though.
  11. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030


    Nov 8, 2014
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    For Skyrim ATI Radeon HD 4670 256 MB is not enough unfortunately as 512 MB is the minimum that it needs to run smoothly.
    So, for running some newer games (and older ones like Skyrim) a bit better first you have to upgrade your videocard and your RAM as well.
  12. jji7skyline macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2011
    Even my iMac (specs in signature) with Radeon HD 6750M 512MB can only run Skyrim on low settings when on 1080p.

    You can upgrade the graphics cards on this Macs, but unless you use a used-Mac card, you get mixed results. Additionally, the MXM cards you use to upgrade these Macs are extremely expensive.

    I'd recommend buying a separate gaming PC. You can build one yourself for around $500 that will run Skyrim on the highest settings. You can use it just for gaming and keep your Mac for productivity like I do. You can even use your iMac for the monitor and it will be better than most PC monitors and you will save money.

    I personally built a PC in Australia (where everything is wayy more expensive) for less than $300 that runs Skyrim on high settings @ 1080p. I did have some parts from my old build though, namely a hard drive, case and power supply. Those things are really cheap in the US though, so you'll have no trouble.

    If you want some help, PM me and I'll guide you through it :)
  13. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK

    The 21" 2010 iMac does not support target display mode. Is it possible to work around this? I thought the Mini DisplayPort was 'out' only.
  14. JoelTheSuperior macrumors 6502


    Feb 10, 2014
    London, UK
    I'd definitely agree with this. It's the route I ended up going down and I actually ended up with a very nice system in the end.

    Whilst I'm a bit of an Apple fanboy (I love my MacBook Pro) I wouldn't go back to having a Mac desktop, unless Apple decides to let me build my own (which seems unlikely).

    Take a look at Logical Increments.
  15. shaunp, Mar 3, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015

    shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    I've got a 6-core nMP with Dual D700's running in cross-fire under windows and Skyrim runs like a dog on that too. It jerks and pauses at 1440p (low settings), while my PC (core i7 GTX 780) runs the same game very smoothly at 1440p with all the settings turned up high.

    Honestly if you want to play games, an old Mac Pro with a decent graphics card would do it, but if you are going to spend that much you might as well just get a PC for gaming and keep the Mac for everything else. I know that's not what you want to hear, and I wish it were different too, but that's the reality.
  16. UniDoubleU macrumors regular


    Aug 14, 2014
    The thing with Skyrim is that it; like a lot of modern games eats up a lot of VRAM, it'll run poorly otherwise but you've only got 256 MB. At 1080p the minimum recommended VRAM is 1 GB. Plus it's not very well optimised for such a huge game. Vanilla Skyrim never ran smoothly for me. After 200 mods it runs buttery smooth though. Wow, what an experience. Took a long time installing everything. I'm currently on iMac 5K with 4 GB VRAM so that is not a bottleneck for me and can run fully modded Skyrim at 1440p on Ultra.

    If you're very serious about playing Skyrim I would recommend you to go through the STEP Core mods, as it boost up performance a lot. It's a huge hassle but it really works. You would have to pick the lowest quality option for mods and lower your resolution though, I'm sure it'll run.


    Though you can mod Skyrim to use system ram, not all games can do this so I couldn't recommend you to upgrade the ram, which is upgradeable in your model.


    I've noticed that you're playing the vanilla Steam version. They come with High-resolution texture pack by default and I recommend try turning that off also.
  17. kaltsasa macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2002
    Kellogg IA
    Skyrim's textures use a LOT of VRAM. On my MBP with 512MB Geforce 650 I have to leave it on medium or there's a lot of stuttering from the lack of video RAM. It is what it is, runs great on my mac pro w/ GTX 680 though lol.
  18. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    VRAM seems to be your biggest bottleneck. My iMac with a 1GB Nvidia 750m gets over 60fps on Skyrim on high settings, 1080p and a few addons from the Steam workshop for better graphics. I'm running Windows 8.1 via Bootcamp btw
  19. jji7skyline macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2011
    A desktop GTX650 is completely different from a mobile 650M.
  20. arulkaruppannan macrumors newbie


    Mar 3, 2015
  21. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    Anyone that even has gaming slightly on their mind when buying an iMac should be looking at maxing it out. Or just build a PC.

    While my system handles Skyrim and elder scrolls online quite well (medium/high graphics can maintain 35 FPS consistently and generally 60 FPS) I wish I would have maxed it out.
  22. Cloudsurfer macrumors 65816


    Apr 12, 2007
    I would say your GPU is the bottleneck. Everything else seems fine enough to run even modern games.

    As others have said, you're either better off buying a new iMac or build a dedicated gaming pc.
  23. aevan macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2015
    Most said it already, but here's my take. The gpu is the main culprit and even if you could upgrade it, it would be difficult and costly and still wouldn't be enough. If you want gaming (and you already have a Mac that you're satisfied with for the rest of the stuff) - the best upgrade you can get is the Playstation 4. Not only will you play the latest games in style, you'll also have access to some really great exclusives. If not that, then build a cheap gaming PC for around 400 dollars or more.

    Sorry to say it but there's not much more you can do. iMac is not the best platform to game on, even with newer models. With that said, there are some great classics you can enjoy on your Mac.
  24. TTTOOOMMM macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2015
    May I add my question to this thread, as it seems to fit as I'm in a fairly similar situation

    I do have a Mid 2011 iMac (i7, SSD, GPU 6970M 1GB) and I do run in the same problems while gaming (Windows @ BootCamp)...

    I thought about buying a gaming-rig and hook it to the iMac to use it as external display... which would be the most cost effective solution, instead of buying a new iMac (non-retina or retina) => because those are no gaming-machines.

    I don't have enough space on my desk to put a second big screen there, to run the gaming-rig completely dedicated... but I also found out, that the target display mode does only work from Mac-to-Mac and my Thunderbolt-iMac does not support to be used as external screen

    What to do in this case? Is there really no way, to use my imac als external screen for a (extra) gaming-rig?

    PS: The machine runs great for work, only gaming lacks... i wanna wait for the 2nd generation of the iMac-Retina and need to find a solution for the gaming-issue (and I'm talking about oldschool classics like half-life2/garrys mod not really crysis)
  25. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Pretty much no...

    The GPU upgraded 27" Imacs retina or non will run all modern games pretty well at high settings or better in 1080p.

    But if you want to wait a console or PC is your best option.

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