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#435083 Best Mac Computers for Gaming 2015

Posted Sneaky Snake on 07 July 2015 - 01:02 PM

Best Mac Computer for Gaming 2015
This article will focus on providing readers with the best Mac (both desktop and laptop) for gaming at various price points. The contents of the article are as follows:
  • Gaming on a Mac? Is This a Joke? - I will discuss why the Mac is a valid gaming platform and give links to some places you can find Mac games.
  • Understanding Computer Components in Relation to Gaming - I will explain the 3 main components (CPU, graphics card and RAM) and how they relate to gaming.
  • Best Mac Laptop for Gaming - I will go through the best pricepoints for Mac laptops in relation to gaming performance.
  • Best Mac Desktop for Gaming - I will go through the best pricepoints for Mac desktops in relation to gaming performance.
Read on to learn more!

Gaming on a Mac? Is This a Joke?
No. Mac's are very capable of running a lot of great gaming titles these days, and Mac gaming has never been better then it is right now. There have never been so many current, big name titles on the Mac, then there is today. That being said... the Mac is not a platform that Apple has designed necessarily for gaming, and as such you'll have to pay a lot more for a decently powerful Mac that you would have to if you bought a dedicated gaming PC running Windows. Also, there are many big-name titles that still haven't made it over to the Mac.

Mac gaming is a small but growing community that is started to gain serious traction in the computer gaming world. Here are a few places to find games for your Mac: Understanding Computer Components in Relation to Gaming

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): The Most Important Factor
The primary factor of any gaming computer is the strength of the video card. No amount of RAM or CPU power can compensate for a weak video card (also known as a GPU - graphics processing unit). This means that a fast i7 chip will struggle with games if it is not paired with at least a semi-capable GPU. Mac's come equipped with GPU's from three different vendors:
  • Intel Graphics: Not to be confused with Intel CPU's, Intel has a wide range of integrated GPU's that come coupled with their CPU's. Intel's processing units are power efficient and capable of light gaming but they fall far behind in performance compared to a discrete GPU from Nvidia or AMD. Intel's integrated graphics are featured in all Mac computers, with the exception of the Mac Pro.
  • Nvidia Graphics: Nvidia is the largest GPU manufacturer on the planet with GPU's ranging from tiny Android devices all the way up to massive workstation computing units. Nvidia currently has GPUs in the mid range iMac models in the form of the 750M and 755M.
  • AMD Graphics: AMD manufacturers a wide range of products, including GPU's, and are the second largest GPU manufacturer in the world. Apple has selected AMD as the current provider of high-end graphics options for the Mac. The iMac 5K, 15" Retina Macbook Pro and Mac Pro all utilize AMD graphics as the best configurable graphics option.
When comparing Intel, Nvidia and AMD graphics it should be a general rule of thumb that AMD and Nvidia will always be superior to Intel in terms or graphics (and therefore gaming) performance. Currently Apple does not offer any high end options from Nvidia, and as such AMD graphics are the most powerful option available to Mac computers.

Central Processing Unit (CPU): Important Up to a Certain Level
The CPU is responsible for processing a wide range of different computer functions, including many parts of a game such as the AI, physics, game logic and more. It is important the a CPU achieves a base level of performance in order to not bottleneck the GPU when it comes to a game's total performance. To keep things simple I am going to say that any i5 or i7 CPU that is faster then 2.5 GHz is "good enough" for gaming on a Mac. Faster speeds will benefit, but once the CPU is at the 2.5 GHz or faster level, it is better to spend money on a faster GPU instead of a faster CPU.

RAM: Just Make Sure You Have Enough
RAM (Random Access Memory) is where your computer loads the game files for quick access when you are playing a game. 8 GB is the recommended amount of RAM for most modern games. Many games are even playable on 4 GB's of RAM. Your computer requires a certain amount of RAM in order to load the game files into, and once it has enough it does not (and cannot) use anymore. 16 GB of RAM will give you zero performance benefit over 8 GB in 99% of gaming situations.

Cost Has Nothing to Do With Power
A common misconception with a lot of computer buyers is that more expensive equals better performance. Spending more money can be more powerful, but it's extremely important that you look at the components that make up a computer and decide whether or not it makes sense for you. For example, the new Macbook that Apple released (the super-thin one) costs around $1500 and is TERRIBLE at gaming, and that's okay. It is not a gaming machine and should not be used as one. The $700 Mac Mini (see below) destroys it in terms of power.

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Best Mac Gaming Laptop for the Budget (Macbook, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro)
This section will focus on providing the best budget points for getting a Mac laptop for gaming. If gaming is your primary focus I don't recommend spending in between these price points, as there is no real gaming performance gain in between them.

Best Laptop for $1300: 13" Retina Macbook Pro with 2.7 GHz i5 CPU and Intel Iris Graphics 6100: Apple Store Link
This Mac is really the minimum of what it takes to run modern games at somewhat acceptable settings. The Intel Iris 6100 graphics are considerably faster then the previous generation Iris graphics (found in the Mac Mini).

Expect to play modern games at low-medium settings at 1080p resolution.

Best Laptop for $2500: 15" Retina Macbook Pro with 2.5 GHz i7 CPU and AMD Radeon R9 M370X: Apple Store Link
This is the only Mac laptop with a dedicated GPU. It will perform much faster then the Intel Iris Graphics 6100 and is the most powerful Mac laptop you can buy. When compared with desktop Mac computers (see below) this will perform roughly identical to the $1800 iMac.

Expect to play modern games at medium-high settings at 1080p resolution.

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Best Mac Gaming Desktop for the Budget (Mac Mini, iMac, iMac 5K, Mac Pro)
This section will focus on providing the best budget points for getting a Mac desktop for gaming. If gaming is your primary focus I don't recommend spending in between these price points, as there is no real gaming performance gain in between them.

Best Desktop for $700: Mac Mini with 2.6 GHz i5 CPU and Intel Iris Graphics: Apple Store Link
This is the cheapest price point that has a capable CPU and somewhat capable graphics. The 2.6 GHz CPU coupled with the the Intel Iris graphics will offer a playable performance from most modern games (the most demanding titles will struggle to run, even at low settings). Note: you will have to purchase a monitor, keyboard and mouse in order to use the Mac Mini

Expect to play games at low settings at 1080p resolution.

Best Desktop for $1500: iMac with 2.9 GHz i5 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GT 750M: Apple Store Link
This is the first Mac desktop that contains a dedicated graphics card and will perform much faster then both the Mac Mini and the 13" Macbook Pro.

Expect to play games at medium-high settings at 1080p resolution.

Best Desktop for $2000: iMac 5K with 3.3 GHz i5 CPU and AMD Radeon R9 M290: Apple Store Link
This iMac will perform considerably faster then the $1500 version and surpass the 15" Retina Macbook Pro in performance. The M290 will be able to power nearly all modern games with decent graphics settings.

Expect to play games at high settings at 1080p resolution.

Best Desktop for $2550: iMac 5K with 3.5 GHz i5 CPU and AMD Radeon R9 M295X: Apple Store Link
This iMac is the most powerful gaming iMac having roughly 15% more graphics power then the $2000 iMac. Paying extra for the faster CPU is not recommended as it will be of no benefit in virtually all games. Note:the M295X graphics card must be specifically selected during the configuration process.

Expect to play games at high-ultra settings at 1080p resolution.

Best Desktop for $3000+: None (Honorable Mention: Mac Pro with 3.3 GHz Xeon CPU and Dual AMD FirePro D700)
The step up from the iMac line is the Mac Pro. The problem with the Mac Pro for gaming is that it is meant as a productivity machine and not a gaming machine. The CPU and GPU in the Mac Pro are certainly powerful, but they are both extremely expensive parts that aren't really designed for gaming. The $4000 Mac Pro with 3.3 GHz Xeon CPU and D700 graphics (fastest available) is only slightly faster then the top end iMac in gaming, while costing $1500 more and not coming with a beautiful 27" display.

If the Mac user is running bootcamp the dual GPU's can be combined to nearly double graphics performance, but if the user is willing to utilize Windows for gaming, then why spend $4000 on a Mac Pro? Get a gaming PC for $1000 instead that will have equal gaming performance.

The Mac Pro is a similar to a powerful Clydesdale horse, while a gaming computer is like a race horse. Both types of horses are fast/powerful in their own way, but they have completely different strengths and uses.

Leave a comment below with any questions or thoughts you might have!

#436081 What games are people playing these days!?

Posted Thain Esh Kelch on 26 August 2015 - 08:40 AM

View Postthe Battle Cat, on 25 August 2015 - 01:54 PM, said:

Dude, you call yourself a father?  You call yourself a role model to your child???  You should be playing Marathon with her in your lap.  It's never too soon to introduce children to the venerable classics.  I want her first words to be "Frog blast the vent core!"  Now go, you know what to do.
I know, I know. But I also have to teach her to focus on her back log, and I was playing The Witcher when she was born! It is quite evident from this forum, that back logs wasn't a problem when our parents were raising us, so we never learned about it. But now that I finished that game, I can teach her how to game properly!

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#434240 Apple does more damage to Macs than anything

Posted DirtyHarry50 on 15 May 2015 - 05:25 PM

I am annoyed that Apple refuses to make a tricked out desktop gaming rig with a cool case that has flaming apples on the sides and a special version of OS X where NOTHING is flat. I'd like this system to be a small tower but big enough to accommodate a full sized GPU card. The system should feature easy access for upgrades and repairs. The system specs should feature top end components selected with gaming in mind. It should come with 3 years of AppleCare standard. I would prefer it to be priced just slightly over the Mac Mini line. Apple has more money than they know what to do with. It is time that they gave back to the community, the neglected gaming community in particular.

I am a reasonable man. I only want what is fair.

#436059 Ubislop bails on another game

Posted Frigidman™ on 25 August 2015 - 07:02 AM


The Settlers 7 will apparently just stop working this coming october. So nice of them to have such a horrible DRM system that they can just give up on a game and reject it from all who bought and enjoy playing it still.

Yet another reason why I absolutely hate Ubipopsnizzle.

#432210 The MacGameStore Holiday Sale has begun!

Posted Frigidman™ on 19 December 2014 - 10:58 AM


The Holiday Sale includes hundreds of popular (and unpopular?) games on sale! All manner of stuff to get for your beloved, hated, or friend or otherwise.

Every day there will be flash sales, so be sure to keep an eye on that section. Something you are waiting for could drop like a rock in price!

Also, a bundle of games will be showcased on the home. New bundles are planned throughout the two weeks of sales.

#435081 What are you currently listening to

Posted Frigidman™ on 07 July 2015 - 09:29 AM

I'm currently listening too a bunch of yappers on IMG forums.

#431761 Shutting Down Inside Mac Games

Posted Frost on 22 November 2014 - 03:37 PM

As a small business owner myself...

I say, if there's sufficient cash for it, go for #3. If not, kill the IMG site and kill the MGS forums and merge the IMG forum with the MGS.

An active, friendly community forum for a dead news site and a dead forum for an active retail store site, all run by the same entity, makes extremely little sense both from a business and a workload perspective. I would like to see IMG survive, but if worse comes to worst, taking the active site and pairing it with the active forum seems the best option.

EDIT: And if you DO do that... for the love of all that is holy, don't just tell everyone here to move. This place's long history of discussion and problems solved makes it a cornucopia for searches. That's a big asset.

#428877 Steam Summer Sale '14

Posted macdude22 on 19 June 2014 - 02:02 PM

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#427155 Got Hit Again

Posted Frost on 05 April 2014 - 06:14 AM

I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took a taxi to the knee.

#414503 Black Ops

Posted Frost on 16 October 2012 - 04:35 PM

View PostAspyr-Blair, on 16 October 2012 - 01:34 PM, said:

That is not the driver that 650m users are waiting for.
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#385998 Oh Wow!

Posted the Battle Cat on 09 March 2010 - 11:38 AM

View PostFrigidman, on 07 March 2010 - 10:14 AM, said:

Whenever I click it, it keeps telling me I have reached my limit for votes today. Yet, I have never voted a thread ever before lol. I guess there is a bug somewhere, or setting I have set too strict haha.
OK, I've fixed this.  Members, Admins, IMG Writers, Developers, and IMG Pro members should be able to vote on the topics.  Let me know if you are in one of these groups and cannot a vote a post up or down.  That said, I not sure what use this feature will have, but here it is.  Each person gets 5 votes up and 5 votes down per 24 hour period.  Let me know if you think that is too much or too little.  I think the votes should be limited or it will be abused.

#437467 More SSI AD&D Gold Box goodness for Macs

Posted nick68k on 28 October 2015 - 09:57 AM

For those of you that like such things, the Krynn/Ravenloft/Dark Sun gold boxes are newly available for Macs from GoG.

I loved the Krynn series as a teenager. Haven't tried the other two, but they look interesting (gameplay-wise, Dark Sun seems to be a proto-BG).

#437103 Hi from #JNUC

Posted macdude22 on 13 October 2015 - 10:24 PM

You'll never find a more wrecked hive of neerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrds.

I want to be clear, I went to a party with my fellow admins in arms and this is 100% accurate when we Mac nerds have to interact with real people.

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Posted macdude22 on 20 August 2015 - 09:02 AM

Muh Gaweds. I need to win the lottery so I have time to play all these games.


#435711 Shadow of Mordor Benchmark Videos

Posted macdude22 on 04 August 2015 - 03:02 PM

View Postthe Battle Cat, on 04 August 2015 - 01:23 PM, said:

What problem does Apple have with Flash?

It's full of bugs, it's full of security holes, it's an energy hog, and it's unnecessary in 2015.

*breaths deeply*

#435250 Alien: Isolation

Posted Frost on 16 July 2015 - 07:54 PM

View Postmacdude22, on 16 July 2015 - 02:54 PM, said:

Does it comes with depends, for when I piss myself in the dark?

No, but at $12.49, you can afford to buy three 17 count sets of Depends for Men from Walgreens to go along with it and it'll still be cheaper than Alien: Isolation alone at regular price.

If you do the "explore everything" 25 hour playthrough time, you can afford to piss yourself every half hour all the way through the campaign and you'll finish just as you're on your last set!

#435245 What games are people playing these days!?

Posted Matt Diamond on 16 July 2015 - 01:37 PM

Thanks, DirtyHarry50, for rubbing my face in the fact that I am in a meaningless, uncreative and shallow point in my life where I spend much of my free time (such as it is) playing computer games. :-)

Seriously though, congratulations on your epiphany.

#435234 What games are people playing these days!?

Posted DirtyHarry50 on 15 July 2015 - 06:51 PM

I discovered three things this weekend:
  • After working on it just sporadically in short sessions over the past couple months it turns out that five years after the nerve surgery in my left arm ended over three decades of acoustic guitar playing that I do have enough function and with work I can play again. Huge.
  • Garage Band is an amazing little recording studio app for home use with too many features to go on about here. Incredible.
  • I can make wonderful music again and prepare myself to perform for the residents of the local nursing home to bring them some entertainment. Epiphany.
No pun intended but this is a game changer for me. I don't have countless hours for computers games anymore. I have a lot of productive, meaningful work to do that I find a whole lot of fun as well. There is more to this but it would be too much for what is already heading way off topic to begin with.

So the backlog is no more. I know many of us when we talk about playing games such as here, reference our typically large (huge?) backlogs. In my own case without meaning to I started subconsciously thinking about gaming like it was a chore. The too many games were work to get done. Does that sound at all familiar to anyone here?

Personally, I am chalking up to experience the fact that I blew a lot of money on a ridiculous amount of games because they were so cheap and so shiny. I knew I wanted to play them but I never stopped to think about the fact that I will not live long enough to play so many. I am not even making a joke there. I am looking at myself at age 56 and recognizing that even if I put in a 40 hour "workweek" playing games I don't think could I get them all played particularly if anything new and noteworthy comes out during my remaining lifetime.

Reality checks really suck sometimes but then the outcome can be really good.

For me the outcome is, I am just going to play what I feel like, when I feel like it and I don't have a backlog anymore. It's just a library with tons of books to read. That's all. I'll never read the whole library. That's fine. Shame I bought the whole damned place but oh, well. It's too late now.

So, with that said I am not playing anything now other than with Garage Band. Did I mention Garage Band is amazing? Oh, my God. Playing music again is just so amazing. I am so grateful. There are no words for it.

Sorry I went off topic there really but I like you guys and wanted to share that because it is a such big deal to me.

I'll be happy if I can get around to my Feral and Aspyr games over time along with the Bethesda RPGs I have all setup with Wineskin. That's a lot of stuff to have fun with when the gaming mood strikes. I tend to play one game at a time until I am done with it. When I dig into the next one whatever it is, I'll stay on topic again here and mention it.

I might play some Guild Wars while it is still running. I have that setup with Wineskin and it runs flawlessly. I always wanted to play that game and see the expansion worlds. I don't want to live there. I just want to level up a character class or two which is pretty fast in that game and see the expansions, maybe pvp a little and good enough. I stuck it on the Dock to remind me to play that when I feel like playing something for now.

#435169 What games are people playing these days!?

Posted macdude22 on 12 July 2015 - 09:33 AM

View Postdojoboy, on 12 July 2015 - 09:12 AM, said:

I've been really getting into Civ: Beyond Earth here lately. I think it can become a great game in the coming expansion, Rising Tide.

Im so behind I only recently got into playing Civ V lol.

In the news today, July 17, 2045. Man dies with 798 games in his backlog.

#434879 Feral's upcoming project?

Posted macdude22 on 25 June 2015 - 07:01 AM

View PostFrigidman™, on 25 June 2015 - 06:26 AM, said:

I agree with that. To me, 30 fps is 'unplayable' no matter how gorgeous it may look.

I dont think this stance is elitist... I prefer smoother play than photorealism.

The ePeen is strong with this one. :teehee:

That said I'll take Nintendo's buttery smooth 60FPS stylized graphics over "photo realism" any day. Toss in they just make pure fun games, I play my Wii U more than anything these days.