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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  • MonkeyPaw - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    Totally agree. Not to mention that the last Mac I owned was a DP Powermac that crashed on me all the time, for no reason. The system would not even be under load and I'd get the black screen kernel panic. Maybe things are better now, but the closed hardware concept didn't do it for me back then.

    I don't mind Macs at all. I might own one again, if it weren't for Apples advertising smugness and lies. The products they make are usually quite good, and could probably stand on their own without the terrible exaggerations.
  • Alexvrb - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    Their products are no better quality than anyone else, and they're considerably more expensive to boot. Without their marketing/brainwashing department, they'd be dead by now. Reply
  • adonn78 - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    The drivers really are not there for the Mac platform. In addition the games have to be converted from directX to openGL. I format that has been seldomly used in the past few years for games. not to mention The video cards on apple are at least a generation behind. The newer cards and drivers are not available. And not optimized for the mac platform. Teh mere fact that the games are even playable ont he mac is a promising start. We may see regular driver updates and major performance increases is Steve jobs takes gaming seriously. But its unlikely. Reply
  • heffeque - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Who knows... maybe with 10.7 things will start changing in that direction. Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    i think that it's been said before, but people who are looking for the best performance possible are not going to go out and buy a mac for that purpose.

    if my hunch is correct, then steam on OSX is just a value add for people who are already stuck in the mac ecosystem (willingly or not.)
    if you look at it from that point of view, it's unlikely that playing your games at a lower resolution with a little bit of fuzziness is going to be a deal killer for most folks.

    while i have no doubt that the opengl ports will improve over time, there is very little incentive to make it perfect.
    people who must have "perfect" while they game buy windows machines.
    so i don't think that anyone can look forward to any serious improvement in the mac -steam situation.
    simply because not enough people care.
  • heffeque - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    Well... actually you pay for one game and you get it in both platforms. I only payed for HL2 once several years ago and I was able to download it "for free" for Mac. It's just a matter of commodity not to have to reboot in Windows to have to play for a while, though I have to admit that, although I do play Portal on Mac, I still play HL2 on Windows because of the better graphics and better frame rate. Reply
  • Lonyo - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    It's nice that you tested some more configurations, but the testing is still really lacking.

    3 different systems. Still no ATI cards.
    Yes, ATI might not be the automatic option, but it's more useful than testing a gazillion NV cards because it might allow some identification of the issues, like is performance driver related or game related. Is image quality driver related or game related.

    Please try and sort out testing something using ATI graphics.
  • heffeque - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    It probably has more to do with the DirectX vs OpenGL issue than nVidia vs ATi. Reply
  • Penti - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Driver developers or rather hardware graphics vendors do their own OGL implementation. They are different. Reply
  • Lonyo - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    The OpenGL for which NV Windows XP drivers result in worse performance on a GTX470 than a GTX285?

    While in Windows 7 the same card can be up to 50% faster

    NV OpenGL drivers can suck a lot, therefore using only NV cards on a non-gaming OS which NV may not have made decent drivers for (like they haven't made decent WinXP drivers for theGTX470) seems unfair on Valve (as much as I do not in fact like them).

    It would also indicate more whether the problem lies in the drivers being crap, or the OpenGL port being sub-par.

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