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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  • DaveGirard - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    I switched back to ZBrush - I just prefer the sculpting tools and the plug-ins. It's also not dependent on the GPU and is ridiculously multithreaded on my 8-core/16-thread Mac Pro. Reply
  • bingobingo - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    >Mudbox runs great, but at 7m polygons it is noticeably slow (I have both 4850 and 4890) Which version of Mudbox are you using? The initial Mac release was 32 bit. Reply
  • ReaM - Saturday, June 5, 2010 - link


    I ve been using macs for 6 years now and that's a lot of macs through my hands.

    In NO WAY should you compare MAC to PC as they are simply different animals.

    Yes, macs have crappy cooling, inability to overclock, usually slower than Windows machines, break more often than PCs built by users themselves, the price is high and the quality of parts - memory, PSU etc. is not the best.

    But it offers great stability - I turn off my mac maybe once a month, only because I have to go somewhere for a week or so. There are very few errors, computer does not freeze, programs don't quit unexpectedly THAT often as in Windows (but they do, but mostly firefox, not photoshop). OSX is great.

    My personal recommendation: DO NOT PLAY ON MAC! I killed two Macbook Pros, because they have bad cooling! Current iMacs get very hot! My Brothers 27 GPU goes up to 89°C when playing games. With that temperature, expect HDD, PSU, and your beautiful screen to fail. Macs are simply not designed for games and even fan control does not help.

    Macs are great for Photo Video editing, maybe watching movies, if you are a student or don't have a HDTV, but for games, I have a different machine.

    Just be careful, if you play games on mac, he is very likely to overheat and then you will get stains on screen (imac), or the logic board on your macbook will fry.

    Currently I have a i7 860 4200 @ 1.29V hackintosh/PC, MacBook Pro and iMac 20 Alu.
  • KaarlisK - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    Um... could we please have some standard Windows benchmarks (3dmark, a couple of games, PCMark) of the Geforce 320M chipset/IGP? (wasntme) :) Reply
  • Cloudie - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    Dear Anand, would it be possible to test other games (eg. WoW, Starcraft II, the Sims, Spore) on both platforms? Reply
  • Steveymoo - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    Yeah, because the performance between these two Operating systems has everything to do with the differences between the way OpenGL and DirectX deal with similar visual effects, and the ability of the graphics card manufacturer to write fully optimised drivers for both OpenGL in Mac OS X, and Direct X in windows 7. Some of it could be down to how well Valve have developed the HL2 engine to work using OpenGL, and actually, least importantly, how well the OS handles CPU instructions (seeing as this is a very CPU-friendly game.) I would be quite interested to see whether using a professional graphics card (optimised for OpenGL, for example, the ATI's FireGL, and Nvidia's Quaddro FX series,) would handle these ported steam titles.

    Seeing as OpenGL is Open Source, and DirectX is designed by a corporation driven by profit, you can imagine which one is probably developed to work better with hardware sold by other corporations, designed primarily to be used to play games on Windows based PCs.
  • bingobingo - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link


    The tone of the article appears to target Valve for the performance issues on the Mac. The performance is a problem with the video drivers and an issue that Apple has not addressed yet.

    In addition, these performance issues affect nVidia hardware more so than AMD hardware. If you were to compare the Radeon 4870 across both platforms you'll find less of a performance difference.
    For an unknown reason, the memory management for vertex buffer objects is not on par with the Windows platform.
  • sebmel - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    It's also curious to note that this early version of Steam for Macs turns out to be seriously more stable than the mature Windows version. That might be worth looking into. Valve founder Gabe Newell: "what's sort of surprising is how much more stable our games are on the Mac." Looking at the early data available from the Steam client, "the Mac is five times more stable than Windows" when using the metric of minutes played versus number of crashes." Newell remarked during the podcast that graphics performance is much less of a concern overall compared to finding ways to offer a better user experience, such as the greater stability on the Mac. "I think we're starting to enter a period where graphics performance is sort of a solved problem". Reply
  • thehomelessguy - Monday, July 5, 2010 - link

    ha I actually had it crash on me. But then again I was downloading a ton of games at once. So maybe it was expected. Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian Reply

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