Final Words

The simple fact that Valve ported the Source engine to the Mac platform is enough to give the developers some leniency in improving performance. If Valve is truly committed to bringing all new releases on Steam to OS X than I doubt that Mac enthusiasts will be too bothered by the fact that performance is lower than under Windows, at least for a short while.

The Steam application itself is also slower under OS X. Launching games and the Steam application takes longer than under Windows.

Half Life 2 Episode 2 Load Time
Nehalem Mac Pro Mac OS X 10.6.3 Windows 7 x64
Time from Launch to Menu 48.7 seconds 35.5 seconds

Eventually performance and image quality parity will be necessary. Make no mistake, Apple is in the business of selling luxury computers. You can often get the same specs for less from Dell or HP, but the styling, attention to detail, ability to legitimately run OS X and user experience are all things Apple’s customers are willing to pay a premium for. A performance deficit rarely goes over well in these sorts of situations. It doesn't have to offer greater performance, but you shouldn't have to sacrifice so much just to play under OS X.

To Valve’s credit, at least on current generation Macs, Source engine games are absolutely playable. It supports Apple’s whole “it just works” mantra. You’re just better off running them in Windows if you have the option. Although I will admit that the convenience of not having to reboot is sometimes worth the frame rate penalty, at least for shorter gaming sessions. If I’m going to be playing for more than 20 minutes, then a reboot is more than worth it.

Image Quality: Still Foggy


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  • Hxx - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    The whole idea is that MACs are not for gaming... they never were and they will never be...gaming = windows and thats a fact Reply
  • michael2k - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    That would be true if Anand hadn't actually run Steam on Windows on the same HW...

    So it's not "Mac = Crap", it's "Valve ports = Crap".
  • foolsgambit11 - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    You assume it's Valve's port. It's not 100% clear from the review where the fault lies. For instance, perhaps OS X doesn't allow the same level of access to the hardware, or their graphics subsystems aren't optimized as well as Windows. That wouldn't be too surprising since this kind of usage isn't that common on a Mac. Or it could be a fundamental issue with the API. It would take more digging to find out.

    One thing is for certain: if Macs keep growing in market share, eventually game developers will be developing for OS X side by side with Windows. I hope OS X doesn't prove to be the problem here, because the last thing we need is another thing holding back game improvements (along with consoles and integrated graphics, for instance).
  • wolrah - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    If the OpenGL version of the Source engine was an option on Windows this could be a more interesting test. I'd like to see what parts of the performance and graphical differences are caused by the OS and drivers versus the different graphics APIs. Reply
  • Exodite - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    The comparison on actual Apple hardware was really the most interesting, thanks for noting that.

    The hackintosh experiment is fun I suppose but I feel it's rather irrelevant as far as a performance comparison goes.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Or at least, it left some areas open for question. Judging by the results here, Ryan's Hackintosh Portal comparison did not generate different results than using real Apple hardware. Reply
  • Exodite - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Ah no, I simply meant that it's not a scenario that's likely to come up a lot in the real world.

    That said it does lend credence to the idea that there's no special sauce gluing MacOSX and Apple hardware together.
  • Brian Klug - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    I actually thought that Ryan's choice to use a Hackintosh was brilliant - you can virtually guarantee the exact same hardware platform that way. Without having a Mac Pro or another piece of Apple hardware at the ready, it really does make sense.

    I agree though it's useful to see some numbers on current generation Apple hardware. I know I tried running our timedemo on a mid 2008 MBP and encountered some... issues... It'd be interesting to see if HL2/Portal runs at all passably on a MacBook with integrated intel graphics.

  • morphologia - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    No, but seriously...cherry-picking the hardware components is one thing, but their operational parameters are very locked into place on a Mac. For the sake of higher stability and guaranteed hardware intercompatibility, you sacrifice some of the built-in component flexibility present in a PC. Certain software (modern games) shows this more than others. Reply
  • Sahrin - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Your post assumes that you can't have stability and excellent performance. This is patently false, Windows users have been getting this for 7+ years. Reply

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