New MacBook Pros prove surprisingly good at gaming

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New MacBook Pro proves surprisingly good at gaming
The 2021 MacBook Pro can run Rise of the Tomb Raider as well as a top-tier Windows laptop.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max processors in the new MacBook Pro offer powerful graphic performance. That’s intended for artists rendering video and other professional tasks, but tests show that it translates to excellent gaming performance.

Of course, that doesn’t remedy the lack of high-end games for Mac.

2021 MacBook Pro provides top-tier frame rates when gaming

PCMag tested gaming on a 14-inch MacBook Pro running an M1 Pro processor with a 16-core GPU and a 16-inch model running an M1 Max with a 32-core GPU. It compared these to a Razer Blade 15 Advanced running a Core i7 processor with GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, which it described as a “a state-of-the-art high-end Windows gaming laptop.”

When testing Rise of the Tomb Raider with Very High graphic detail, the M1 Max was able to generate 116 frames per second on average, compared to the Core i7’s 114 fps. The M1 Pro average was 79 fps, but that’s still above 60 fps.

On Hitman, the M1 Max had an average of 106 fps, the M1 Pro averaged 104 fps and the Core i7 average 103 fps.

The tests included a couple of other games and the Apple chips didn’t always win. The Core i7 came out solidly ahead in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, for example.

PCMag’s Tom Brant summed up the results with, “The answer to whether or not the M1 Pro and M1 Max are good for gaming is: ‘It depends on the game.’ That’s a significant triumph for Mac silicon, since it’s essentially the same answer to whether or not an Nvidia or AMD GPU in a Windows gaming laptop is good for gaming.”

Note that these tests were focused on the processor, not the display, buttons or trackpad in the 2021 MacBook Pro.

The Mac gaming elephant in the room

PCMag tested the games that it did mostly because there aren’t many graphically intensive titles for macOS. Gamers use PCs or consoles instead. Or these days maybe iPhones and iPads. It doesn’t matter that the latest MacBook Pro rivals the graphic power of a PlayStation 5, one has the games and one doesn’t.

But perhaps this will turn into a “build it and they will come” scenario. Now that Apple is making computers capable of top-tier gaming maybe developers will start offering the games to take advantage of it.