OS X What really matters for gaming performance?

ForTozs

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 20, 2013
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I'm looking at getting another Mac and I'm hoping it can run Diablo 3, Star Craft 2, and other games. What's the best predictor of performance for this? I'm hoping a new mini might have me covered, but I hear an aweful lot about the need for dedicated graphics. Would I be better off with a 2011 mini with the dedicated Radeon 6630M? Are neither of these good enough? The Intel HD 4000 does have the latest OpenGL and DirectX support. Is this a better predictor of performance? Its just really hard to get an idea of what games that Macs support. What is the best measure?
 

doh123

macrumors 65816
Dec 28, 2009
1,304
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wait for a mini with the HD 5000? Intel, but better than a lot of older GPUs.
 

Jethryn Freyman

macrumors 68020
Aug 9, 2007
2,333
2
Australia
Integrated graphics suck; CPU performance in any current Mac is at least sufficient for more or less any modern game, as is 4GB of memory (although in some cases, not by much), so the graphics card is going to be the main issue. HD 5000 cards by Intel are a big step up over previous cards, but still nothing like a nice big dedicated desktop card that draws 100W of power and sounds like a wind tunnel if you crank its' fan up to max. But I digress a bit here...

The Intel HD 4000 card may support OpenGL/DirectX v.whatever, but it has no guts. Can't comment on the Radeon 6630, except to say it's nothing stellar.

What's this new Mac for? Just games? Is it going to be your main computer, you going to take it around with you a bit (i.e. you need a laptop)?

Then I could give a better answer.
 

edddeduck

macrumors 68020
Mar 26, 2004
2,059
13
Your Graphics Card is by far the most important factor in games performance.
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors G3
May 28, 2005
8,014
588
Pennsylvania
In order of importance

1) Video card
2) Windows 7/8
3) Maxed RAM
4) CPU

This list holds true for most games, and assuming you have at least 2gb of free RAM (so probably 3 or 4gb of RAM in your computer). The only time I would change this is if you're doing a lot of MMO's, in that case the CPU should be #1, above even the graphics card.
 

Dirtyharry50

macrumors 68000
May 17, 2012
1,769
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I'd say Graphic Card Drivers to be at least equally as important.

Raw horsepower will get you only so far.:)
Well, on the other hand, drivers can only take you so far with an HD4000.

Personally, I'd recommend considering whatever Mac has the best GPU option you can afford if you want to play games. The rest of the system as previously noted is going to be great for games, it is the GPU you need to pay attention to and get the best performing one you can.

I would really be hesitant to recommend a Mac Mini to someone wanting to play games often. I think you'd be doing yourself a favor to examine the iMac options in your price range too in comparison.
 

ScottishCaptain

macrumors 6502a
Oct 4, 2008
872
467
Windows 8 is fine for games. If you want to run Bootcamp off an external disk drive without partitioning your internal, it's the only choice you have.

Also, I'm not sure what "max RAM" means here- but most games won't go past 2GB, and they certainly won't go past 3.5GB because I'm not aware of any engines that are compiled for 64-bit support (except for some Source games, but those are nearly a decade old at this point).

So really, 4GB of RAM would be OK. 8GB would be optimal, just because then there's plenty of space for the OS too, and no modern game is capable of addressing more then 3.5GB anyways. Something like 16GB is totally pointless, because you'll never ever use that much RAM for gaming. Not now, not in the near future.

-SC
 

Dirtyharry50

macrumors 68000
May 17, 2012
1,769
182
Windows 8 is fine for games. If you want to run Bootcamp off an external disk drive without partitioning your internal, it's the only choice you have.

Also, I'm not sure what "max RAM" means here- but most games won't go past 2GB, and they certainly won't go past 3.5GB because I'm not aware of any engines that are compiled for 64-bit support (except for some Source games, but those are nearly a decade old at this point).

So really, 4GB of RAM would be OK. 8GB would be optimal, just because then there's plenty of space for the OS too, and no modern game is capable of addressing more then 3.5GB anyways. Something like 16GB is totally pointless, because you'll never ever use that much RAM for gaming. Not now, not in the near future.

-SC
Actually, I can think of a modern game I play that is 64 bit and that is World of Warcraft. I'm sure there are more but I'm not going searching for them. WoW tells me I am running the 64 bit version every time I start it up.
 

ForTozs

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 20, 2013
8
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I'd like to try a variety of games, but Diablo 3, Dragon Age 2, Strike Suit Zero, and Star Craft 2 are probably top of my list. I think all but Strike Suit Zero are available for mac. Oh yeah, and Star Wars mmo. But this system would basically be for games and would not need to be portable (but I don't want to have to sit at an iMac). I haven't ruled out a Windows system, but it looks like I might need to dish out a good $500 for an ok gaming desktop anyway, so if a new mini (or old pro) could do it for a similar price, I'd prefer to stay in my "ecosystem". I have a friend with an older macbook than me that manages Diablo 3 well (I'm not looking for perfect play on max settings) on lower settings. I'm still waiting to hear his cinebench 11.5 score. So maybe the next mini update has my name on it if it gets the Intel HD 5000? Still looking. No rush. But thanks for the replies (I really appreciate the information on Cinebench benchmarks, I at least have a measuring stick now).

EDIT: btw, the 2011 with the Radeon has a Cinebench 11.5 OpenGL of 24.51 fps - I got this from http://www.electronista.com/reviews/mac-mini-2011.html
 
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ScottishCaptain

macrumors 6502a
Oct 4, 2008
872
467
Actually, I can think of a modern game I play that is 64 bit and that is World of Warcraft. I'm sure there are more but I'm not going searching for them. WoW tells me I am running the 64 bit version every time I start it up.
Interesting. SC2 and Diablo 3 aren't. I know a few of VALVe's Source based games are 64-bit, and I think Crytek has a 64-bit build of their engine available, but nobody actually uses it.

Out of curiosity, does WoW ever consume more then 2GB of RAM? Are you on Windows or OS X?

I'd like to try a variety of games, but Diablo 3, Dragon Age 2, Strike Suit Zero, and Star Craft 2 are probably top of my list. I think all but Strike Suit Zero are available for mac. Oh yeah, and Star Wars mmo. But this system would basically be for games and would not need to be portable (but I don't want to have to sit at an iMac). I haven't ruled out a Windows system, but it looks like I might need to dish out a good $500 for an ok gaming desktop anyway, so if a new mini (or old pro) could do it for a similar price, I'd prefer to stay in my "ecosystem". I have a friend with an older macbook than me that manages Diablo 3 well (I'm not looking for perfect play on max settings) on lower settings. I'm still waiting to hear his cinebench 11.5 score. So maybe the next mini update has my name on it if it gets the Intel HD 5000? Still looking. No rush. But thanks for the replies (I really appreciate the information on Cinebench benchmarks, I at least have a measuring stick now).

EDIT: btw, the 2011 with the Radeon has a Cinebench 11.5 OpenGL of 24.51 fps - I got this from http://www.electronista.com/reviews/mac-mini-2011.html
FYI, Cinebench is a really, really bad benchmark to use for benchmarking game performance. Cinebench is maintained by MAXON, primarily as a means for benchmarking a computer and comparing the general performance of that system running their flagship product Cinema 4D. The OpenGL tests in Cinebench are designed to replicate the OpenGL performance of the C4D viewport, not an OpenGL game.

Case in point, I'm lucky to pull 30FPS in that OpenGL test on my 2010 Mac Pro (5870). That's not even full screen. I can easily get 60+ FPS in Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3 at 2560x1400.

So I wouldn't necessarily rely on Cinebench as a rating of "what computer will play game X better".

-SC
 

ForTozs

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 20, 2013
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Great... :rolleyes: Well, do you know of any benchmarks that might be better for gaming performance? I was hoping twice the framerate for the OpenGL test would be close to twice the framerate for game x. I guess that's flawed logic.
 

ScottishCaptain

macrumors 6502a
Oct 4, 2008
872
467
Great... :rolleyes: Well, do you know of any benchmarks that might be better for gaming performance? I was hoping twice the framerate for the OpenGL test would be close to twice the framerate for game x. I guess that's flawed logic.
Unfortunately, no. As I said, the OpenGL test is centred around the same engine that drives the Cinema 4D viewport. It's designed to be accurate, not fast. MAXON tends to do a lot of weird things with their OGL support that game engines would never, ever do- because they don't need to. Hence the FPS disparity.

Your best bet would probably be... Well, hell, I have no idea. Maybe something like this? I've never tried it though:

http://unigine.com/press-releases/130212-heaven-benchmark-4.0/

They have a free version available. It looks a lot more "game biased" rather then "professional CG viewport biased" as Cinebench typically is. I suppose the real benchmark is to just fire up your favourite game and see how well it works, but that requires you to own that game and most of the games on the Mac App Store come with external licensing systems, which makes testing multiple systems problematic to say the least.

-SC
 

ForTozs

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 20, 2013
8
0
I have a few games. Portal 2 (OSX) and SimCity (Win) would be the most GPU intensive I think. I'm checking out Heaven. Its just there's so much information on systems using the Cinebench OpenGL. It doesn't seem there's as much out there using Heaven.

EDIT: Nevermind! PC mag posts Heaven scores for a bunch of systems. Thanks!
 
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edddeduck

macrumors 68020
Mar 26, 2004
2,059
13
Great... :rolleyes: Well, do you know of any benchmarks that might be better for gaming performance? I was hoping twice the framerate for the OpenGL test would be close to twice the framerate for game x. I guess that's flawed logic.
Quite a few of our games have performance tests built into them :)

Borderlands 1 supports time_demo like the PC version, Dirt 2 has one as well. I think Batman Arkham City has one.

Those tests as they are in game tend to give a better results.

Edwin
 

Jethryn Freyman

macrumors 68020
Aug 9, 2007
2,333
2
Australia
Except none of these runs on recent macs.
Doom 3 at least is on the app store, $10 or something.

And that they are way too old to do any proper benchmarking on a modern system
Not... totally... they're more useful as a sort of synthetic benchmark these days to compare systems, especially Q3, since it's SMP aware, as is Quake 4 with the latest patch, they can give you an idea of performance vs one computer to another.

I'd mention something more recent, but really, there's not too much out there that's very cross platform, easy to run and bench multiple Macs, I'd suggest running OpenMark to benchmark a Mac if you want probably the best overall general idea of where gaming performance is at.

And ugh, my mind is all over the place tonight. Sorry, hope all that ^ made sense.
 

cluthz

macrumors 68040
Jun 15, 2004
3,118
3
Norway
Unigine heaven and Unigine Valley is probably the best benchmarks you will find for the Mac. And they are free.

Even tho Doom3 is SMP aware I'm pretty sure it won't be able to tax bandwidth on any recent GPU.

There are games like Portal 2, Civ V and Dirt 2 and I believe the f2012 also have a built in benchmark.