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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  • tipoo - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    Yeah, the visual differences look similar to cross platform 360 vs ps3 games, the OpenGL render just seems to have a more washed out look. Reply
  • GTVic - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    The Portal comparison seemed to clearly show that the OS X version did not support HDR and I believe the perceived fogginess was actually just a lack of HDR.

    I'm not sure what's going on with this game but it looks like some type of distance related issue. In an outdoor setting, items further away are fogged to simulate a natural environment and items closer to player should be clearer and this is not happening. So that problem plus the lack of HDR results in the muted colours. In an indoor setting like Portal, there is no manipulation for distance so HDR is the only factor.
    Reply
  • smartalco - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Could you more closely compare AA levels between the two? I noticed in the Portal review that at 4x AA (at least I think that is what it was run at) OS X had better AA quality (I made a comment about that on the last story, but never got a response, I even have an image comparing areas side by side!).
    The screenies you posted I'm not so sure about, because the grenade and hand are about the only things close enough to get a good view of.
    Reply
  • alreadystarted - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    I've never been big on FPS games, but having good games like Portal and HalfLife2 available for my OS of choice is great no matter what the comparison is to the windows versions. I played through Portal and am currently enjoying HL2 and if there are performance or quality issues I don't notice them. I do notice however that they are a lot of fun to play=)

    I'm really glad to have the opportunity to play good games like these for very reasonable prices. Worth every penny IMO.
    Reply
  • Deusfaux - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    ..at higher resolutions? Reply
  • mi1stormilst - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    I remember the days when MAC had "superior" hardware...do you? I also remember when that day ended and the shock waves it sent through the MAC community...fun stuff ;-) LOL! The also recently convinced Valve the KING of online gaming distribution to get Steam (8+ years old) working on a MAC...nothing like being cutting edge ehh? ;-) Reply
  • Penti - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    The Source engine in question is used in current generation games from late 2007, 2008, 2009 but will also be used in next generation Valve games, Portal 2 will be release on Mac from the start for example. It's not simply third party ports and I expect them to improve. It gives the Mac the whole engine, SDK, and developing environment which some other parties will also use. As they will continue to work on the engine which powers these games and their upcoming titles it's not simply some port of old stuff. And just look at Starcraft 2. It has great interest and support for the Mac platform. From the start and not through some third party. As it's the current generation engine they port it doesn't warrant the crap you come with. It's the tech Valve will use and build on in the next couple of years. It's still a engine with life in it not some last generation abandoned one. It's not the 6 year old Half-Life 2 engine, it's the Orange Box engine which powers HL2, EP1, EP2, Portal, TF2, and newer meaning Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. Future Portal 2 engine. Future HL2: ep3 maybe. Source engine are shared among many games and it's not an old branch of it that's being ported. Allows them to release games for Mac from the start by maintaining a Mac branch of the Engine. An engine that's multi-platform today any way. Reply
  • Penti - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    Besides this has already made other games available to the consumers like Unreal based games now available for the Mac. Like Killing floor from tripwire interactive. Steam is certainly a valuable contribution. Wouldn't have been for Valve in 2003 though. Reply
  • sebmel - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    MAC = Machine Address Code, a unique ID number used to address hardware on networks Mac = short for Macintosh, a different spelling of the McIntosh apple after which the OS was named Reply
  • FXi - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link

    Gaming (and the lack thereof) is the #1 reason Macs are not more popular Reply

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