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What Mac should a gamer buy?


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#1 King_Eric

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 09:13 AM

So I'm a 24 year old guy who likes to game in the little spare time I have. Recently I've been more of a console gamer, but I'd like to switch back to desktop gaming for a bit, so I'm looking to buy a new rig. After taking a look at Apple's offerings (I'm a very happy mac user) I've run into a bit of a dead end: Which of their computers is a gamer supposed to buy? The one requirement I have is that I MUST be able to replace the video card at a later date as this can greatly extend the lifespan of a gaming comp; the iMacs don't allow this. On top of this lack of upgradability, the most powerful video card that you can get with an iMac is the NVIDIA GeForce 8800; I was hoping to get something closer to a 9800 to start.

So next I took a look at the Mac Pros, but guess what: the cheapest one is $2400. Sucks to that. I'm a casual gamer in a busy professional educational program; I can neither afford nor justify dropping that kind of cash on a comp for gaming.

So, any suggestions? Anyone know if apple is planning on releasing new versions of the iMac or cheaper Mac Pros?

#2 teflon

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 09:33 AM

Hi, welcome to the forum!

basically, the Mac Pro is and will be the only user upgradeable machine for the foreseeable future, and as you rightly point out, theyre already way behind the times, what with the new ranges being released from both NV and ATI (and theyre all very good cards at that!)

what I would suggest, if you have a half way decent mac right now which youre happy with, is slapping together a very cheap gaming PC. Ive been looking into it in the UK, and I can cobble something together for 400. thats a C2D at 3Ghz, 2Gb RAM, a ATI 4850 (which beats the 8800GT by miles BTW) and all the other bits and bobs needed to get it working. BTW, thats around the price of a Mac Mini...

of course, youll want a display too...

so, what mac are you on right now?
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#3 Quicksilver

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 10:31 AM

(Sorry Teflon--I was offline for a bit while I was writing this, and didn't see that you responded first)

Unfortunately, you're stuck.  The Mac Pro, along with every previous "pro" system that Apple has shipped for the last decade, is locked squarely in the mid-$2000 range.  The iMac will never have a replaceable GPU because that ability is not deemed to be necessary for the iMac's target audience (indeed, gaming is not on Apple's global priority list).

Your best bet is to go with a dual system configuration--as long as you're not doing computationally intensive work in Mac OS X, you should be able to get away with a cheap, "slow" Mac and some sort of gaming PC.  If I had your budget, this is what I'd be thinking:

- Buy a refurbished 20" iMac for ~$1000.  Apple's refurb stuff is excellent, and it has the same warranty as their new systems.

- Buy a bare-bones Dell XPS 630 with a Q6600 for $1200.  Sell the included Radeon HD3870 on eBay, and pick up a 9800 GTX for under $200.  If you need more performance a year down the road, you should be able to pick up a second 9800 GTX for pocket change.

Note that you can do better than the XPS 630 if you go the custom-built route.  If you don't need a discrete GPU on the Mac OS X side, you could grab a low-end Mac Mini and an open box 24" Samsung 245BW for $329 ($100 off).  The tricky part is figuring out whether or not you can easily switch the monitor between displaying video from the active D-SUB and DVI ports (and you'll probably need a D-SUB adapter).
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#4 QuantaCat

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:31 PM

View PostQuicksilver, on July 7th 2008, 06:31 PM, said:

(indeed, gaming is not on Apple's global priority list)

That's an understatement. He couldn't even properly meet up, or come to terms, with that guy from id soft.
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#5 Eric5h5

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:29 PM

View PostQuantaCat, on July 7th 2008, 02:31 PM, said:

That's an understatement. He couldn't even properly meet up, or come to terms, with that guy from id soft.

You mean that guy from Valve?  Since all of id's games are on the Mac.  But you know, I wouldn't either, and I'm way more pro-gaming than Steve...the guy from Valve is a dorkwad.

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#6 Quicksilver

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 01:24 PM

Why is he a dorkwad?
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#7 charmin

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 01:38 PM

id = Carmack.

Valve = Newell.

And this might explain the dorkwad:

http://kotaku.com/ga...-mac-304730.php

(Even if the text makes no difference, the picture should sway you.)
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#8 Quicksilver

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 02:06 PM

I've seen that interview, and I totally agree with what he said about Apple.
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#9 Lord Brixton

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 02:43 PM

View PostQuicksilver, on July 7th 2008, 09:06 PM, said:

I've seen that interview, and I totally agree with what he said about Apple.

Well, he knows what he's talking about OK, but that's the third most slappable face in Christendom

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#10 Eric5h5

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 03:11 PM

View PostLord Brixton, on July 7th 2008, 04:43 PM, said:

that's the third most slappable face in Christendom

::waits patiently for a list of the first two::  Being right about Apple doesn't make him any less of a dorkwad.

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#11 nagromme

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 03:21 PM

View PostKing_Eric, on July 7th 2008, 11:13 AM, said:

The one requirement I have is that I MUST be able to replace the video card at a later date as this can greatly extend the lifespan of a gaming comp; the iMacs don't allow this.

Right now, Apple has no gamer-targeted machine (meaning high-end in some ways, cheap in others, and big enough for upgradable parts).

Building a companion PC is one option, but if you want one machine and not two, you do still have ONE decent option in Mac-land: you CAN keep your Mac upgraded with gaming power, and pay less than a Mac Pro. But not in the way you're thinking...

The only loophole available to upgraders is the fact that Macs hold their resale value much better than other brands. You can eBay a year-old Mac, buy an Apple refurb (they have full warranty) of the latest model (or else get a student discount) and sometimes come out not paying very much out of pocket. Wait two years and the value drops more, but then again, you're trading up half as often. Changing your whole computer is extra hassle compared to just swapping a card, but Apple's Migration Assistant will transfer all your files, settings, bookmarks, wallpaper, etc. to the new machine pretty painlessly.

So in that sense, a SHORT lifespan can work out pretty well with a Mac. You're still at the whim of what models come out, and currently that means an 8800 iMac is the best bet. And not all models are available at refurb prices--if you go with new, it costs a little more.

I personally don't replace my Macs that often, but I know people who do and they often have the latest model (a few months later when refurbs show up) for surprisingly low upgrade cost.

A refurb 8800 iMac is $1,899.00 FYI. Look at the bottom left of the online Apple store.

Also, consider a MacBook Pro: the only thing more fun than going home to play games is not HAVING to go home :) And it can run Windows too--two laptops for the price of one, with decent gaming power for such a small package.

#12 Dark_Archon

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 05:23 PM

If you are buying the computer just to play games, a Mac may not be the best choice. If you prefer to use Macs and play some games too, the iMac with the 8800GS, Macbook Pro, or ideally, a Mac Pro with an 8800GT(or a Radeon HD3870) is your best bet.
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#13 teflon

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 05:47 PM

He has a similar disdain for the PS3 as he does for apple. Its just that he can make more money on the PS3, but he doesnt put as much effort into the port as for X360. Sure, it might be that PS3 is harder to code for, agreed, but theres plenty of power in there, yet the orange box suffers from some horrible frame rate issues in places.

and while he might be right that Apple doesnt do anything for gaming, you cant say that his demand of $1,000,000 up front from Apple to port HL2 to OSX wasnt completely out of the question/reality. Saying that definitely isnt the way to get Apple to work with you.
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#14 King_Eric

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 05:22 AM

View Postteflon, on July 7th 2008, 12:33 PM, said:

Hi, welcome to the forum!

basically, the Mac Pro is and will be the only user upgradeable machine for the foreseeable future, and as you rightly point out, theyre already way behind the times, what with the new ranges being released from both NV and ATI (and theyre all very good cards at that!)

what I would suggest, if you have a half way decent mac right now which youre happy with, is slapping together a very cheap gaming PC. Ive been looking into it in the UK, and I can cobble something together for 400. thats a C2D at 3Ghz, 2Gb RAM, a ATI 4850 (which beats the 8800GT by miles BTW) and all the other bits and bobs needed to get it working. BTW, thats around the price of a Mac Mini...

of course, youll want a display too...

so, what mac are you on right now?


Right now I've got a MacBook I purchased in August. Don't get me wrong, I love this comp, but I just don't see it handling Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3.

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions; I think I'm going to go with a PC for gaming, as much as I'd rather another Mac. It's too bad you can't really get a Mac with these specs for anywhere near that price: http://www.greenlyph...products_id=323

lol, and one more note about the Mac Pro: Does anyone else find it funny that it costs $500 to upgrade from 2GB to 4GB of RAM? $500!!!
(well, 500 in Canadian $$s)

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#15 QuantaCat

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 05:36 AM

View PostKing_Eric, on July 8th 2008, 01:22 PM, said:

Right now I've got a MacBook I purchased in August. Don't get me wrong, I love this comp, but I just don't see it handling Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3.

As far as Blizzard is concerned, SC2 will be "playable" on a macbook.
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#16 King_Eric

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 10:01 AM

View PostQuantaCat, on July 8th 2008, 08:36 AM, said:

As far as Blizzard is concerned, SC2 will be "playable" on a macbook.


lol, well my aim is not to have it 'playable', which I'm sure roughly translates to 'will look like ass but your computer won't explode'; I'd like to see it at it's best (or somewhere close to that).

#17 PeopleLikeFrank

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 10:20 AM

View PostKing_Eric, on July 8th 2008, 07:22 AM, said:

Right now I've got a MacBook I purchased in August. Don't get me wrong, I love this comp, but I just don't see it handling Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3.

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions; I think I'm going to go with a PC for gaming, as much as I'd rather another Mac. It's too bad you can't really get a Mac with these specs for anywhere near that price: http://www.greenlyph...products_id=323

lol, and one more note about the Mac Pro: Does anyone else find it funny that it costs $500 to upgrade from 2GB to 4GB of RAM? $500!!!
(well, 500 in Canadian $$s)

- Chris

Apple is notorious for their price gouging on stuff like RAM.

I think you're definitely better off with the MacBook for daily use and a PC for gaming. You can save a few hundred if you don't mind assembling yourself, plus get 2x the RAM and a bigger HD:

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That's a Canadian site. You could also knock off a few bucks by choosing a cheaper case - I went with the same one in the link you posted, but they have others on sale. There are also $20 and $25 dollar mail rebates on the RAM and video card listed there. If it were me, I'd also save a few more bucks by going with the Radeon 4850, since it matches or beats the 9800 GTX, uses less power, and is often cheaper.
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#18 nagromme

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 10:35 AM

View PostKing_Eric, on July 8th 2008, 07:22 AM, said:

Right now I've got a MacBook I purchased in August. Don't get me wrong, I love this comp, but I just don't see it handling Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3.

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions; I think I'm going to go with a PC for gaming, as much as I'd rather another Mac. It's too bad you can't really get a Mac with these specs for anywhere near that price: http://www.greenlyph...products_id=323

lol, and one more note about the Mac Pro: Does anyone else find it funny that it costs $500 to upgrade from 2GB to 4GB of RAM? $500!!!
(well, 500 in Canadian $$s)

- Chris

No, not funny! It's definitely better to buy RAM from another source. Then again, that's true with any name-brand PC maker.

Nor can you get a name brand COMPUTER for much cheaper than a Mac with equivalent specs. Deals are to be had on cheap PCs--but it's a risk I won't take again. I got burned badly enough by a cheap Acer and an eMachine.

A cheap PC is cheap for a reason. That doesn't mean it's not worth a shot, especially if you don't care about gaming with portability. (I almost home-built a PC myself, though not for gaming.)

#19 teflon

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 11:08 AM

that PC looks pretty good. So long as the motherboard is up to snuff youll be away. The Q6600 is a good processor (though personally, and for gaming purposes its cheaper, more efficient, and more effective to go dual core right now), and it overclocks well if you feel the need.

Id echo the sentiment of going for the 4850. Its a very good midrange card.
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#20 Aika

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 06:48 PM

If as you say you are a casual gamer maybe you don't need a really powerful box and won't feel restricted by Macs. If you want the latest and greatest of course Macs are terrible, they're so far behind the curve it's laughable but as a Blizzard fan who likes to play the odd RTS, FPS or RPG in between World of Warcraft sessions I feel well catered for even though my system is pushing 3 years now.

IMO if you invest heavily into a Mac specifically for gaming, aiming for the latest and greatest you'll just end up frustrated and are better off buying a PC for that. If you want an excellent computer that runs Blizzard games perfectly (and a few others decently) then I highly recommend the iMac :)
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