The Windows operating system from Microsoft remains the top choice for gaming on a desktop personal computer. This does not mean that Mac computers from Apple are not powerful machines nor this suggests that the macOS is an inferior operating system. The introduction of systems-on-chips based on the RISC and ARM architectures beginning with the Apple M1 in 2020 has beefed up the processing capabilities of Mac devices. The arrival of the Apple M3 line which includes the M3 Pro and M3 Max in 2023 also introduced hardware-based ray tracing capabilities. Gaming on Mac is still possible and has also become better. However, because of the dominance of Windows and the established hardware and software ecosystems for this operating system, Mac computers are not the top choice for PC gamers.
Pros of Gaming on Mac: Advantages and Notable Capabilities
Most PC gamers and enthusiasts would agree that Windows is the best choice for PC gaming and video gaming in general. There are several advantages to this operating system. The first is the range of options to choose from. There are out-of-the-box desktop and laptop computers built for gaming from a range of manufacturers. There are even specific brands with gaming as their main selling point. The gaming library is also expansive and comparable to notable video gaming consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox.
However, although Windows is still the dominant operating system, Mac computers have also become popular in the last decade due to the effective business decisions and marketing strategy of Apple. Newer technologies have also made these devices more capable than before. Note that the newer generations of M-powered Mac computers have demonstrated processing capabilities and efficient power consumption that can rival and even outcompete high-end Windows PC setups. Below are the advantages of gaming on Mac:
1. Powerful Integrated Graphics Processor
The integrated GPU of an Apple M chip is powerful. The newer ones beginning with the Apple M3 are even equipped with hardware-based ray tracing. The overall system-on-a-chip is also power-efficient. These are demonstrated through the best-in-class capabilities of Mac computers when it comes to running and handling graphics-demanding applications such as extensive photo editing, graphics design, and video editing.
Nevertheless, when it comes to gaming, M-powered Mac computers have capabilities similar to mid-range Nvidia RTX or AMD Radeon graphics processors. Real-world tests have shown that the MacBook Pro M1 and MacBook Air M1 can run game titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Resident Evil at medium to high settings with decent frames-per-second. Newer Macs with newer M chips are also more capable.
2. Robust Hardware and Software Performance
Apple is known for the seamless integration between the hardware components of its products and their respective operating systems and software applications. This is true for Mac computers. The macOS and Mac software applications are optimized for the instruction set architecture and processing capabilities of the Apple M chips. This helps in providing a smooth performance and improving further the overall user experience.
The Apple M chips are composed of well-thought specific components. The central processing unit is as powerful as high-end processors from Intel but is more power-efficient. Another reason why the integrated graphics processor performs well is the use of the Unified Memory Architecture which makes storing and retrieving of temporary data faster than conventional memory and graphics memory architectures.
3. Access to a Growing Library of Games
Windows still has a larger game library than macOS but the expanding popularity of Mac computers has also been encouraging software developers to take advantage of the market trend. Apple announced in 2023 the arrival of high-profile game titles Resident Evil Village and Death Stranding on macOS. The popular PC gaming app Steam also has a dedicated macOS catalog. The App Store also has a unique selection of games.
Another advantage of gaming on Mac is the option to run Windows through virtual machine emulation or simulation. There are several simulators to choose from. The best ones include Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion. Using a virtual machine emulator allows Mac users to access, install, and run game titles made for Windows that do not have native macOS versions while stretching further the potential of the Apple M chip.
Cons of Gaming on Mac: Disadvantages and Main Limitations
There are several reasons why Windows has become the dominant operating system for PC gaming. It has a first-to-market advantage which helped it achieve a large market share. These factors attracted manufacturers to produce hardware components that will equip the PC running on this operating system with better graphics processing capabilities and software developers to develop games for the same operating system. The macOS cannot compete against the established hardware and software ecosystem for Windows.
It is important to note that the earlier generations of Mac were built with underpowered graphics processors. Apple has also earned a reputation for being too restrictive when it comes to the upgradability of hardware components. Hence, unlike Windows desktop computers, it is impossible to create a bespoke and beeped-up Mac. These made it unappealing for PC gaming. Most developers still do not make enough games that are compatible with the current generations of Mac. Below are the specific disadvantages of gaming on Mac:
1. Restricted Hardware Upgrading Option
One of the biggest disadvantages of gaming on Mac or using a Mac computer for the purpose of running games is that there is limited to zero option to upgrade the hardware components once the particular device is purchased. There is no option to switch to a newer and bigger memory and replace the graphics processor or add a discrete graphics processor. A user cannot upgrade to a newer chip without purchasing a newer generation of Mac.
The option to upgrade hardware components makes Windows desktop computers a default choice for PC gamers. A particular gamer can build his or her desktop setup from the ground up or purchase a newer and more capable graphics processor and add other components that will enhance his or her user experience. This option allows a user to keep up with the latest hardware advancements and improve gaming performance over time.
2. Limited Games and Lagging Game Library
It is also worth mentioning that the entire game library of macOS pales in comparison with the expansive selection of game titles for Windows. This comes from the fact that developers still prefer developing games for this operating system due to its larger market share. These games are also optimized to run on Windows. Remember that Windows is still the preferred for PC gaming and it has an unrivaled hardware and software ecosystem.
The selection of games for Mac is increasing. Some of these are also cross-platform compatible. There is still a huge number of famous game titles that are exclusive to Windows. Examples include the Elders Scroll V: Skyrim, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and The Witcher 3 among others. It is also important to underscore the fact that newer games are made available first for Windows because it is a more mainstream platform.
3. Performance of Discrete Graphics Processors
Another disadvantage of gaming on Mac is the limitations of its hardware capabilities. The Apple M chips are indeed impressive for their size and performance. The integrated graphics processors of these chips have also demonstrated decent graphics processing capabilities. However, despite these, the fact remains that an integrated graphics processor will never compete against the performance and full capabilities of a discrete graphics processor.
The Nvidia RTX line of discrete graphics processors remains the top choice for PC gaming. Each professor has a set of CUDA cores, Tensor cores, and RT cores that perform different and advanced graphics processing workloads. The same is true for high-end AMD Radeon and Intel Arc line of discrete graphics processors. Modern games take advantage of these hardware capabilities that are absent from an integrated graphics processor.
Conclusion: Advantages and Disadvantages of Gaming on Mac
Gaming on Mac is possible to a certain extent. It is still not the best. The newer generations of the Apple M chips have equipped Mac computers with better and more efficient processing capabilities and impressive graphics performance. However, based on the pros and cons above, it would take several years, market shifts, and considerable technological improvements to make gaming on Mac a true rival to Windows PC gaming. A particular individual who wants to become a serious PC gamer should refrain from purchasing the most expensive Mac and instead choose a beefed-up Windows desktop computer setup.