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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

OS X versus Windows Gaming:
Is there still a performance gap?

Posted Friday, May 20th, 2011, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
At 9AM on May 20th, updated WoW graph with 4x MSAA results

One frustration of Mac users is the historic gap in gaming performance compared to Windows. Many hard core gamers love their OS X and Mac but "Boot Camp" their way into Windows to gain better game performance. So has the gap closed in 2011? We compared four games running under OS X and Windows 7 on both the 2010 Mac Pro 6-core and 2011 iMac 4-core.

Steam Portal 2 was tested with these advanced Video settings: 4x MSAA, Anisotropic 8x, Vertical Sync DISABLED, Multicore Rendering ENABLED, Shader Detail VERY HIGH, Effect Detail HIGH, Model/Texture Detail HIGH. (RED bar indicates the fastest at each resolution.)

GRAPH LEGEND
Mac Pro 3.3 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 6-Core Westmere with Radeon HD 5870 (1G)
iMac 3.4 = 'mid 2011' iMac 3.4GHz Core i7 with Radeon HD 6970M (2G)
Wind7 = Windows 7 OS with latest AMD GPU drivers
OSX = OS X 10.6.7 "Snow Leopard"

Another Steam title is Left 4 Dead 2. Advanced Video Settings included: MSAA 4x, Anisotropic 8x, Vertical Sync DISABLED, Shader Detail VERY HIGH, Effect Detail HIGH, Model/Texture Detail HIGH. (RED bar indicates the fastest at each resolution.)

Blizzard Starcraft 2 was tested using a replay of a Roundabout War multiplayer session. We found by setting the viewport to the center square with the pools of water and statue, not only were our frame rates steady but the GPUs were pushed harder than when we observed game activity in the perimeters. For settings, we used "High" presets for texture and graphics quality. (RED bar indicates the fastest at each resolution.)

Blizzard World of Warcraft Cataclysm was tested Full Screen, 4x Multisampling, and "High" Quality preset. Our "Narache Village Totem to Tree to Totem Sprint" emphasizes GPU over CPU. (RED bar indicates the fastest at each resolution.)

CONCLUSION
At least in the case of the 2011 iMac, the OS X vs Windows gap has closed. But the gap is still wide in the case of the Mac Pro with the Radeon HD 5870. One reason for the gap is the fact that games are often developed under Windows and DirectX. When they are converted to OS X and OpenGL, something gets lost in translation. Thankfully, companies like Valve are putting in the extra effort to give OS X versions a fighting chance.

FYI, we tried both the Radeon drivers that come with the Apple Boot Camp Driver Installer disc and the latest ones posted on the AMD website. The results were essentially the same. Also keep in mind that this is a "snapshot" of performance. There are constant software and driver updates that alter the comparative performance picture.

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copyright 2011 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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