Posts tagged with "Apple Silicon"

The M3’s Potential to Transform Mac Gaming

Raymond Wong has an excellent story on Inverse about the Mac and gaming. Wong spoke to multiple Apple representatives about its push to build Macs that can handle the most demanding PC and console games, exploring the impact of Apple silicon on the company’s efforts. In that vein, Doug Brooks, a member of the Mac product marketing team, told Inverse:

Gaming was fundamentally part of the Apple silicon design. Before a chip even exists, gaming is fundamentally incorporated during those early planning stages and then throughout development. I think, big picture, when we design our chips, we really look at building balanced systems that provide great CPU, GPU, and memory performance. Of course, [games] need powerful GPUs, but they need all of those features, and our chips are designed to deliver on that goal. If you look at the chips that go in the latest consoles, they look a lot like that with integrated CPU, GPU, and memory.

That integrated, console-like approach has the added benefit of bringing the iPhone and iPad along for the ride, greatly expanding the potential size of the market for game developers. According to Leland Martin, one of Apple’s software marketing managers:

If you look at the Mac lineup just a few years ago, there was a mix of both integrated and discrete GPUs. That can add complexity when you’re developing games. Because you have multiple different hardware permutations to consider. Today, we’ve effectively eliminated that completely with Apple silicon, creating a unified gaming platform now across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Once a game is designed for one platform, it’s a straightforward process to bring it to the other two. We’re seeing this play out with games like Resident Evil Village that launched first [on Mac] followed by iPhone and iPad.

With the introduction of the M3 family of chips, Apple’s gaming story continues to evolve by adding hardware-accelerated ray tracing, mesh shaders, and Dynamic Caching, which determines on-the-fly the amount of memory to make available to the M3’s GPU for improved performance. Those chip enhancements are paired with new developer tools designed to make it easier to bring games to the Mac.

There are a lot of variables at play, and whether Apple can compete head-to-head with PC and console games is far from certain. However, what’s clear is that Apple is doing more than at any time in recent memory to make a run at the top end of the videogame market.

Some of the fruits of those efforts are beginning to appear on the App Store. Capcom’s Resident Evil Village debuted on the Mac in the fall of 2022 and more recently on the iPhone and iPad. As Wong notes, Lies of P, one of the top releases of the year was released on the Mac at the same time as other platforms, and Baldur’s Gate 3 was released on Steam for the Mac just a couple of months after its debut on other platforms. Plus, Capcom is back with Resident Evil 4 on every Apple device, and Death Stranding is slated for early next year. That’s a lot of top-notch games.

I’ve been playing many of these titles across an original M1 MacBook Air, M1 Max Mac Studio, and, most recently, on M3 Max MacBook Pro that Apple sent me, and the early results aren’t surprising. The M1 MacBook Air struggles, while the M3 Max MacBook Pro looks stunning. That may not make any Mac the best choice for gaming today, but with the M3, the technology to make it competitive with PCs and consoles is emerging and will inevitably trickle down to more affordable Macs over time.

Whether that happens fast enough and whether Apple can attract the biggest games are just two of many open questions. However, as we head into 2024, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far and plan to share more of my ongoing exploration of Mac gaming in the new year.

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First Look: Stray for Mac

Source: Annapurna Interactive.

Source: Annapurna Interactive.

Stray, a high-profile and well-regarded videogame that debuted in 2022, is now available on the Mac. Initially launched on PlayStation and Windows, followed by an Xbox version this past August, today’s Mac release is available on both the Mac App Store and Steam.

The game, created by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, is set in a neon-lit, post-apocalyptic cityscape where you play as a cat. Thrown into an unfamiliar environment, your goal is to solve the mysteries of a dangerous rundown city aided by a flying robot named B-12.

Stray was generally well-received by reviewers, who appreciated how BlueTwelve imbued its cat protagonist with personality and captured life-like cat movement and behavior. As a result, it’s unsurprising that the number of systems on which you can enjoy Stray’s feline adventures has continued to expand.

I played Stray when it debuted on the PlayStation 5 and enjoyed it. The game’s controls are relatively simple, and the story isn’t terribly long, but the puzzles are challenging, and the cyberpunk visuals are stunning. It’s been a while since I last dipped into Stray, but the game was one of my favorites of 2022, so when I got the chance to play it a day before the launch, I jumped at the opportunity.

I’ve only had time to play Stray on the Mac for a few hours, navigating through the introductory scene and the early part of the game, so this isn’t a review. However, as someone familiar with the console version, I thought I’d share my early impressions playing on my M1 Max Mac Studio and my M1 MacBook Air.

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Apple Introduces the New MacBook Pro in Three M3 Chip Configurations

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the rollout of Apple silicon Macs is that the old rules don’t apply, and the new ones are still being written. The cadence of releases is still settling in, and today, in the face of speculation that Apple was struggling to release M3 Macs, Apple made it clear that not one, but three 3 nanometer process-based chips are ready to ship. Along with the M3 iMac, the company refreshed its entire lineup of MacBook Pros, computers that gained the M2 chip less than a year ago.

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Apple Reveals New M3 iMac

The new iMac.

The new iMac.

Just over two years ago, I spent the summer with a 24” M1 iMac on my desk and loved it. The elegant simplicity of an all-in-one Mac with just a couple of cables trailing off the back side of the computer is wonderful. The all-in-one design of the M1 iMac wasn’t new, but it was a stunning departure from its predecessor, with a slim, flat design that wasn’t possible in the Intel era. Plus, it came in a variety of vibrant, fun colors, which is all too rare in Apple’s product lineup.

Today, Apple announced the successor to that iMac that features an all-new M3 chip that, by Apple’s account, is ‘scary fast.’ Just how fast the new iMac is compared to other models will require hands-on testing, but from the specs alone, the new iMac is impressive.

Let’s take a look.

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Has Apple Overshot the Market with the New Mac Pro?

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Monica Chin, writing for The Verge, interviewed more than 20 professionals to try to figure out who the Mac Pro is for and gauge interest in Apple’s most powerful desktop computer:

I wanted to know whether Apple’s purported target demographic — people who spend their days animating, making visual effects, and doing various other tasks generally associated with big, powerful computers — were actually interested in purchasing this machine. So I asked a bunch of them, and the answer, basically across the board, was no. Not because the Mac Pro is bad but because Apple’s other computers, namely its laptops, have just gotten too good.

For everyone Chin interviewed, one of Apple’s other portable or desktop options was already meeting their needs. Another potential issue for the Mac Pro is its lack of eGPU support:

The lack of support for external GPUs makes the feature particularly confounding for graphic professionals. “GPU support, that’s what we mostly use PCIe for,” said Tom Lindén, who runs a 3D animation agency. Other than a capture card, he says, “there are not that many expansion cards that would be useful.”

Between the MacBook Pro and Mac Studio, it seems that the professional market is satisfied:

“The offering across the board from Apple has gotten so powerful that, frankly, the Mac Pro feels a little unnecessary,” echoes Nathan, who has owned a number of Mac Pros throughout his career but is now very happy with his 14-inch MacBook. “I think we all appreciate it for what it is and what it demonstrates, but at no point has anyone said to me, ‘So when are we getting an office load of these?’”

The Mac Pro has always been a niche product. However, ever since it was announced, there has been a sense among many who write about the Mac that the new Pro is more niche than any of its predecessors, which is borne out by Chin’s reporting. That doesn’t make it a bad computer, but it’s also one that 99.9% of users don’t need, especially at a substantial premium compared to Apple’s other pro Macs. Absent new uses for the Mac Pro emerging, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mac Pro doesn’t remain a product in Apple’s lineup for long.

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The Best Mac Gaming Experience Is a PC Sitting in a Dallas Data Center

I’ve seen the future of Mac gaming, and it’s not Metal 3 or Apple silicon. It’s a PC sitting in a Dallas data center with an NVIDIA 4080 GPU. That’s the data center my Mac connects to when I log into GeForce NOW Ultimate, the top tier of NVIDIA’s videogame streaming service. NVIDIA has data centers like it across the US and in Europe, streaming the latest, most demanding titles to a wide range of devices, including the Mac.

GeForce NOW is a technological marvel that turns traditional computing expectations on their head, offering Mac users a world where your Internet connection and display are more important than the computing power of the device on which a game is played. For Mac users, GeForce NOW is an opportunity to finally play the most advanced games available on the computer they love, which is exciting. However, for Apple, which has begun to market Macs as capable of playing modern games, GeForce NOW and services like it may end its AAA gaming ambitions before they leave the gate.

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Apple Updates the MacBook Pro and Mac mini with New Chipsets and Other Features

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple announced new MacBook Pro 14” and 16” models and a new Mac mini via press releases and a video on its YouTube channel. The new laptops are available in M2 Pro and Max chip configurations and feature faster memory bandwidth, WiFi 6E, and the same design as the models they replace. The Mac mini has also been updated to add the M2 and M2 Pro options, as well as other features.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

In its press release, Apple had this to say about the new M2 Pro and M2 Max SoCs:

M2 Pro scales up the architecture of M2 to deliver an up to 12-core CPU and up to 19-core GPU, together with up to 32GB of fast unified memory. M2 Max builds on the capabilities of M2 Pro, including an up to 38-core GPU, double the unified memory bandwidth, and up to 96GB of unified memory. Its industry-leading performance per watt makes it the world’s most powerful and power-efficient chip for a pro laptop.

The 13” MacBook Pro and MacBook Air were upgraded to the base model M2 last year, but the laptops announced today are the first to include the Pro and Max versions of that SoC. Regarding the MacBook Pro, Apple says:

With M2 Pro and M2 Max — the world’s most powerful and efficient chip for a pro laptop — MacBook Pro tackles demanding tasks, like effects rendering, which is up to 6x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro, and color grading, which is up to 2x faster. Building on the unprecedented power efficiency of Apple silicon, battery life on MacBook Pro is now up to 22 hours — the longest battery life ever in a Mac. For enhanced connectivity, the new MacBook Pro supports Wi-Fi 6E, which is up to twice as fast as the previous generation, as well as advanced HDMI, which supports 8K displays for the first time. With up to 96GB of unified memory in the M2 Max model, creators can work on scenes so large that PC laptops can’t even run them.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

The MacBook Pro with M2 Pro comes in 10 and 12-core CPU configurations that Apple says deliver up to 20% faster performance than the M1 Pro, about what you’d expect from an SoC with 20% more cores. The laptops can be configured with up to 32GB of unified memory that has 200GB/s of bandwidth, which is double the standard M2. The GPU has 19 cores and delivers 30% faster performance, according to Apple. The laptop also features Apple’s media engine that handles encoding and decoding video.

The M2 Max version of the MacBook Pro can be configured with up to 38 GPU cores for what Apple says is 30% better performance than the M1 Max, while the CPU has 12 cores. The MacBook Pro with M2 Max also supports up to 96GB of unified memory with 400GB/s of bandwidth.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple also updated the Mac mini today. Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said:

With incredible capabilities and a wide array of connectivity in its compact design, Mac mini is used in so many places, in so many different ways. Today, we’re excited to take it even further with M2 and M2 Pro. Bringing even more performance and a lower starting price, Mac mini with M2 is a tremendous value. And for users who need powerful pro performance, Mac mini with M2 Pro is unlike any other desktop in its class.

The Mac mini, which was among the first Macs to be updated to the M1, is gaining an M2 SoC, with an option to configure the desktop Mac with an M2 Pro. The M2 mini has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and the Pro version comes with a total of four. The M2 model can power two displays, and the Pro model three.

The updates bring WiFi 6E to all of the Macs announced today for the first time too. The only other devices Apple makes that support the faster wireless networking standard are the 11” and 12.9” iPad Pros.

These look like solid updates across the board, but I’m especially interested in the Mac mini, which seems to be the best value among the Macs announced today.

Both Macs can be preordered today, with deliveries starting January 24th.


What Wreckfest Tells Us About the Future of iPhone and iPad Gaming

In November, HandyGames released Wreckfest for iPhones and iPads. The demolition racing game was originally released by Bugbear Entertainment on PC in 2018 and the following year on PS4 and Xbox One. Since then, the game has been brought to current-generation consoles, streaming, and now, mobile platforms.

Although Wreckfest is several years old, it’s one of the more demanding console games brought to mobile recently, which makes it a good test for Apple’s latest SoCs. That’s what MrMacRight did on his YouTube channel, testing the game on everything from an original iPhone SE with an A9 chip to a 12.9” iPad Pro with an M2 chip.

There’s a lot of the sort of technical detail in MrMacRight’s video that I love, along with settings recommendations if you want to get the most out of whatever device you’re using to play the game. To me, though, the most interesting part of the video is the point in the Apple silicon lineup where the game’s performance drops off and how the choices the publisher made to bring Wreckfest to mobile affect the game.

The M1 and M2 SoCs handle Wreckfest well, maintaining an almost steady 60fps throughout. The first dip comes when trying to run the game at 60fps on an iPhone 14 Plus with an A15 SoC that ran into thermal throttling issues. Still, with tweaks to the game’s settings, it remains playable on a wide variety of iPhones and iPads thanks to quality reductions of some graphics assets, which also serve to reduce the size of the game and its memory footprint. Those graphical compromises made by HandyGames are understandable but also a bit disappointing for anyone with an M1, M2, or A16 device, which could handle better graphics and textures.

Wreckfest on mobile compromises on some assets to reduce the size and memory footprint of the game.

Wreckfest on mobile compromises on some assets to reduce the size and memory footprint of the game.

Big picture, MrMacRight’s analysis of Wreckfest suggests that we’re still in the early days when it comes to games that approach console quality coming to the iPhone and iPad. Plus, the sheer size of the gaming market that is still on older A-series SoCs means the sweet spot for game development will likely take a few more years before the performance that is possible on M-series and A16-based devices becomes the norm for most mobile gamers. Whether Apple silicon gets to that point before another solution, like game streaming, takes widespread hold, it will likely be one of the most interesting stories to follow in mobile gaming.

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The Magic of the M2 MacBook Air

Stephen Hackett writing on 512 Pixels about the M2 MacBook Air:

There’s something about the design of this machine that I can’t escape. The footprint is pretty similar between the two notebooks, but in my backpack, there’s a huge difference. Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled that the MacBook Pro has beefed up to be a better computer, but I’m drawn to the clean, simple look of the Air. I know the Pro is a better match for my workflows, but the Air can do everything I need — if just a little bit slower. And I don’t care about that speed difference any time I pick up the Air to take it with me. Something about it just clicks with me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

I completely understand where Stephen is coming from on this. On paper, the MacBook Pro’s advantages are undeniable, but they’re also expected. It’s a bigger, heavier ‘pro’ computer with fans, after all.

In contrast, the M2 Air feels like magic, despite the M1 version that preceded it. The performance boost from the M2 SoC and features like a bigger, brighter screen and a higher memory option are part of it, but so, too, is the fact that the new Air even looks like a MacBook Pro. Yet, the M2 MacBook Air is still the svelte, silent laptop that it replaces, which feels improbable if not impossible. Like Stephen, the MacBook Air has captured my heart, and I don’t see myself switching to a different Mac laptop anytime soon.

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