Macbook Air gaming?

Hey everyone, anyone have one of the new MBAs from late last year? I'm in the market for a new laptop, something to carry to and from work so not too heavy, but I'd also like to get a little gaming out of it...specifically Starcraft 2 and civ (either 4 or 5), and of course, the usual popcap/world of goo stuff. Any idea if how the air runs SC2 and Civ? Or is there another laptop that would work better. As I'm looking at the Air, I'm obviously most interested in portability, with the option of running some games on it.

Thanks.

In my opinion, if you plan on going the mac route you should go for a MBP. For roughly the same price you can get a 13" model with a larger hard drive, more powerful processor, and better battery life among other things. Yes, it's thicker, but not by much, and no matter how you look at it you're still toting around a 13" laptop. You're basically giving up performance to go from very-portable to uber...ish...portable.

The graphic chip in the MBA is quite poor. If you have any interest in gaming, go for at least a MBP. Graphic chips on Macs in general are pretty bad, but the Air is exceptionally weak.

If gaming is a big priority for you, Apple just doesn't make anything very appealing.

I've not tried SC2, but I've done Civ V on my 11" MBA (1.4 GHz). It's usable, but just barely. I do the non-3d map, and it churns quite a bit in later turns, but I'm generally doing it when my primary task is on my other machine, so taking a while is not necessarily a big deal to me.

I can try loading up SC2 on it if you want, but I'd suspect the performance will not be worth it.

I had a 13 inch to try for about a month. It's definitely a sexy machine and very light and portable (I could carry it in the inside pocket of my winter coat without issue), and it IS gaming capable. I didn't try sc2 myself but I was able to run WoW. Mind you with portable gaming I accept I won't be running on all max. Youtube examples of sc2 on the mba are aplenty, ie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uboCp9upYdQ .

However the fan gets pretty loud while gaming, I think it hits something like 6400rpms and the otherwise silent machine really sounds like it might lift off once you put any real performance pressure on it. It does seem to do the job of keep the machine reasonably cool though, so I guess that's kind of the pay off of trying to push/pull heat out of such a small cramped space.

*edit* also if you do decide to go this route I would say consider the 4gb ram upgrade

Hmm...sounds like a 13" MBP might be the better option. Looks like they have the same video card, but the processor is significantly faster. I'm in no hurry to buy yet...any clue if there's a refresh coming soon on the MBPs?

maddoc1979 wrote:

Hmm...sounds like a 13" MBP might be the better option. Looks like they have the same video card, but the processor is significantly faster. I'm in no hurry to buy yet...any clue if there's a refresh coming soon on the MBPs?

There was, but the Intel Chipset flaw will delay that a bit longer.

Just thought I'd chime in here based on recent experience. I already have a MacBook Pro that my wife and I use as our shared desktop, iTunes Machine, media "server" and all around main computer. So I decided to pickup a MacBook air for programming more portably and for writing. I picked up the 2+ GHZ, 4GB Ram MacBook Air 13".

This weekend I installed Windows 7 on it and I was able to play Civ IV without any hiccups. Additionally playing Stalker: SOC on it. Figured I might as well as I've been curious about those games, but haven't had a semi-decent PC I could game on for a good decade. Being a Linux user who usually uses the same computer for 5, 6 years.

Anyway, I bought those Stalker first and was pleasantly surprised when it ran perfectly. So I grabbed Civ IV and same thing (good game, btw). Now I'm kind of curious what else it can do. I'm not sure how intensive Civ IV is, but it's really smooth. I think the solid state drive really helps overcome the puny graphics card and the so-so processor. I'm not ready to recommend it as a gaming PC by any stretch. However, if you need a MacBook Air for other reasons and you're curious about playing some older games it appears to hold up pretty well.

Oh, and I'll take free copies of games to "test" for anyone who is curious.

DSGamer wrote:

Oh, and I'll take free copies of games to "test" for anyone who is curious. :)

You got Portal? A bunch of us have extra copies of that to give away posted in a thread in the game section. Would run in either OSX or Windows.

MannishBoy wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

Oh, and I'll take free copies of games to "test" for anyone who is curious. :)

You got Portal? A bunch of us have extra copies of that to give away posted in a thread in the game section. Would run in either OSX or Windows.

Yeah, portal runs just fine on the MBA (and mine is the lower-powered one).

I do have Portal. I haven't installed that yet, though. I need to increase the size of my bootcamp partition, if that's possible, as I made it too small. I thought I'd simply play "The Last Express", "KOTOR" and "Stalker". I didn't expect to be trying newer games. So far what I own in my pathetic Steam/GOG collection.

Portal
Civ IV
The Last Express
Fallout
Dragon Age: Origins
Stalker: SOC
KOTOR

EDIT: Oh, and this might crack up some of you PC gamers. Part of my reluctance to install Portal is because I already beat it 3 times on the 360 and I have no keyboard and mouse muscle memory for gaming. So the first time I tried Portal on PC my hands kept hoping a 360 controller would be dropped in them. With games I've never played before like Civ IV, The Last Express, etc. this isn't a big deal. I fear I'll have the same problem with Dragon Age and KOTOR.

I'm very impressed that Stalker runs. Civ IV is less surprising, it's a pretty old game now that runs perfectly on my super cheap laptop, and it pretty dependent on a decent CPU, and 2.2 Ghz Dual Core (I assume?) is a decent CPU from when it came out.

Dragon Age on that intrigues me.

DSGamer wrote:

Oh, and I'll take free copies of games to "test" for anyone who is curious. :)

EriktheRed was trying to give away an extra copy of Halflife 2 the other day.

Arise. I'm curious about The Old Republic. Has anyone tried this with Bootcamp on a MacBook Air.

DSGamer wrote:

Arise. I'm curious about The Old Republic. Has anyone tried this with Bootcamp on a MacBook Air.

Nope, is there a demo? It barely runs Arkham City and Civilization 5

Malor wrote:

The graphic chip in the MBA is quite poor. If you have any interest in gaming, go for at least a MBP. Graphic chips on Macs in general are pretty bad, but the Air is exceptionally weak.

The latest Macbook Pro with the i7 processor is not much better, I have an i5 Air that actually beats it in most games due to the faster HD :/

Maybe with 8gb of RAM on the MBPro it would have a better showing for 3d games, but there's very little difference between both, the graphics chips are awful on both.

Yeah, Macs are just bad for gaming. It's a real shame, because they're so nice otherwise.

But with Apple's steady moves toward locking everything down, they're a lot less attractive as solutions than they used to be. You can still run anything you want on a desktop, but developers are being told they have to comply with ridiculous and draconian restrictions if they want to sell through the Apple App Store, so it's looking like a bad ecosystem to hitch your wagon to.

Malor wrote:

Yeah, Macs are just bad for gaming. It's a real shame, because they're so nice otherwise.

But with Apple's steady moves toward locking everything down, they're a lot less attractive as solutions than they used to be. You can still run anything you want on a desktop, but developers are being told they have to comply with ridiculous and draconian restrictions if they want to sell through the Apple App Store, so it's looking like a bad ecosystem to hitch your wagon to.

I'll be honest, as a regular user, the app store is awesome, because you know the software works, easy to install and uninstall, no viruses, apps update automatically, etc.

I feel safer downloading stuff from there than other places, and the prices are usually lower. And you can delete stuff and re-download as many times. And use the apps on a bunch of machines as long as you use your apple id. It's kind of like Steam, really.

So as a user, I don't really care if Apple makes developers work extra hard... I don't think it's a bad ecosystem for the end user, I dunno.

The restrictions Apple is putting on developers are so severe that it will barely be a general-purpose computer anymore if you keep buying through the App Store.

Malor wrote:

The restrictions Apple is putting on developers are so severe that it will barely be a general-purpose computer anymore if you keep buying through the App Store.

Seriously? We won't be able to surf the web, process words, store and edit photos and videos, email and chat, and store and listen to music?

I'm working on six years with my current iMac, which I can boot in Windows, and do all of that. the walled garden of Apple mean I can't upgrade for crap, yet it still works fantastically as long as gaming is not an issue. And since i switched to Mac nearly ten years ago because gaming on the PC was an unmitigated mess that bled into making a mess of everything else, that's not a problem for me.

You are absolutely right. Apple hampers all of their consumer grade computers so much that they are not ever going to be a good gaming platform. I can buy a brand new iMac, and won't be up to snuff for too many current games. I can't imagine trying to use a air as a gaming rig.

If you had said that all his Mac would be is a general-purpose computer, I might buy it. I don't really believe that, but think you can make a case.

But the main reason I don't care is that when I do buy another computer, it will be based on my needs and its capabilities. If Apple destroys their line of laptops and desktops, then I will get a PC. But first my current iMac and Laptop will have to stop functioning as useful devices. I wish I could believe that a PC would last me so long.

Malor wrote:
Seriously? We won't be able to surf the web, process words, store and edit photos and videos, email and chat, and store and listen to music?

Go actually educate yourself instead of just spouting. Go find out what the new App Store restrictions are for developers. They will seriously hamper the use of the computer as a general-purpose computing device. Most current programs will not work as designed under the App Store sandbox model.

What you were able to do with it last year is great and all, but Apple is changing the rules.

I understand an largely agree with where you're coming from. Apple is threatening to one day turn the UI into basically iOS and force everything to go through an app store. This is worrisome. Doesn't really answer my question, telling me to give up on that and come join the glorious PC master race.

Seriously? We won't be able to surf the web, process words, store and edit photos and videos, email and chat, and store and listen to music?

Go find out what the new App Store restrictions are for developers. They will seriously hamper the use of the computer as a general-purpose computing device. Most current programs will not work as designed under the App Store sandbox model.

What you were able to do with it last year is great and all, but Apple is changing the rules.

Malor wrote:
Seriously? We won't be able to surf the web, process words, store and edit photos and videos, email and chat, and store and listen to music?

Go actually educate yourself instead of just spouting. Go find out what the new App Store restrictions are for developers. They will seriously hamper the use of the computer as a general-purpose computing device. Most current programs will not work as designed under the App Store sandbox model.

What you were able to do with it last year is great and all, but Apple is changing the rules.

Tell me one thing that is going to cause me to to be able to do what I laid out.

Yes, they are limiting what developers have access to in order to limit devs ability to spread malware. It might be unnecessary. Hell, it might even mean I use Apple products to do all of those things because independent devs are too hamstrung.

I don't care. I buy a computer to do what I want. If it won't, I will buy something else.

I actually went looking for that information, and it's behind a wall (registered dev login) on the main apple site, but I found what seems to be the requirements here: http://pastie.org/1236378

It looks like everything on the app store has to go through their vetting process, just like iOS apps, and all the problems that apply to that market seem to apply here too.

All financial transations have to go through apple, all apps are not to contain content apple deems offensive, apps must comply with UI guidelines (even when apple is flexible for their own stuff), must be self contained and not download anything to improve their functionality (plugins, etc).

I'm trying to think of a good real-world analogy but failing. Probably because it's so silly.

You artificially limited the solution space to that of a largely passive consumer, someone who just sits there, getting fat, while entertainment is fed to them. For a fee, of course.

Computers are wildly more powerful than that. You should be able to expect far, far more out of a general-purpose computing device. Maybe you're willing to be just a consumer of content, but not all of us are.

Right, and they can't talk to other applications, and can't leave their local sandbox. You can't build powerful chains of programs to do what you want, everything has to be self-contained. You can't write a program that controls other programs. You can't write a program that customizes the desktop. You can't write a program that interferes with Apple's revenue generation in any way. And they can change the rules any time they like, and there is f*ck all you can do about it.

That's not a computer anymore, that's a tinkertoy, one designed to funnel lots of money into Apple's pockets.

Malor wrote:

Right, and they can't talk to other applications, and can't leave their local sandbox. You can't build powerful chains of programs to do what you want, everything has to be self-contained. You can't write a program that controls other programs. You can't write a program that customizes the desktop. You can't write a program that interferes with Apple's revenue generation in any way. And they can change the rules any time they like, and there is f*ck all you can do about it.

That's not a computer anymore, that's a tinkertoy, one designed to funnel lots of money into Apple's pockets.

I don't think you understand how 99% of the people in the world use a computer.

And you can design what you want for your own computer. Apple just isn't going to place it in their app store for you to screw up everybody else's computer with a $2 app. You can still buy software and install it on your computer. But if it comes through the app store, you have to follow Apple's rules. I don't see it as a big deal. I see it as something I would expect from Apple.

Malor wrote:

Right, and they can't talk to other applications, and can't leave their local sandbox. You can't build powerful chains of programs to do what you want, everything has to be self-contained. You can't write a program that controls other programs. You can't write a program that customizes the desktop. You can't write a program that interferes with Apple's revenue generation in any way. And they can change the rules any time they like, and there is f*ck all you can do about it.

That's not a computer anymore, that's a tinkertoy, one designed to funnel lots of money into Apple's pockets.

I understand your issue, but I honestly don't see what's the big deal as long as you can install stuff on your Mac in the usual way (with .dmgs and installers, etc). As far as I can tell, that's not going away.

It would help if you could point to something specific, instead of general ideas about the worst case scenario...

For instance I know "adult" apps are forbidden on the iPhone (trust me I looked) but you can still check out a bunch of other porn sites, and some even have their "web-app" that doesn't need to go through Apple.

edit: It's like, I've used Windows for 15 years or more, and after switching to a Mac, I can still do pretty much everything that I did before (except for playing decent games). I'm just not seeing what I lost from Windows, I guess for me the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Like I said earlier, they're heading towards a world where someday you won't be able to install things on your Mac in the usual way. That's my biggest worry. Once that happens, as Malor alludes to, they become the gatekeeper for everything including a filter for massive censorship. I don't say this out of any bias. There isn't a Windows PC or Linux PC in my home after 12 years of running only Linux. I completely drank the "it has to be free" kool-aid and I still believe it to some extent. Eventually, though, I just needed to get stuff done on my computers. I hate the thought of going back to Linux or giving up my iPhone, but Apple is pushing and there will come a point where I say "no".

DSGamer wrote:

Like I said earlier, they're heading towards a world where someday you won't be able to install things on your Mac in the usual way. That's my biggest worry. Once that happens, as Malor alludes to, they become the gatekeeper for everything including a filter for massive censorship. I don't say this out of any bias. There isn't a Windows PC or Linux PC in my home after 12 years of running only Linux. I completely drank the "it has to be free" kool-aid and I still believe it to some extent. Eventually, though, I just needed to get stuff done on my computers. I hate the thought of going back to Linux or giving up my iPhone, but Apple is pushing and there will come a point where I say "no".

I really don't believe that's true. They may have products, like the iPhone and iPad where this is true, but I believe you will always be able to buy and install software on your iMac and Macbooks. This policy has to do with their App Store, and I can't really blame them.

But Apple has used the "power" to let me grab a Microsoft app from their app store, for free, that let's me sync my Windows Phone to my iMac. Could Apple force me to get the app from Microsoft directly? Sure. But what is the difference?

All I know is that I own several Apple products that let me do what I want, and they operate intuitively and durably. But it didn't make me get an iPhone, or even an Apple TV device. But overall, my experience owning a Mac has blown away the years I had PC's. And if that is because of the limits apple puts on developers, well, then, bravo!