So can you play Steam games on MacBook Pro? I was curious about this, so I decided to do some research for you, and what I found might surprise you.
Whether you’re a new MacBook Pro user or planning to buy one, here’s what you need to know about playing Steam games on a MacBook Pro.
Most people assume Macs are only good for office-related work and they can’t handle any resource-heavy tasks like games. If they can handle games, it’s usually potato games that don’t require much power, like 2D platformers, games from a couple of decades ago, and whatnot.
Even the gaming performance on the M1 integrated GPU is comparable to some PC dedicated GPUs. The performance of the new M1 chip is quite similar to the performance that you would get from a GTX 1050.
What is the M1 Chip
Apple’s new M1 chip is basically an all-in-one chip based on ARM. The M1 chip has lots of different components, such as CPU cores, GPU, RAM, SSD controllers, cache, Neural Engine, encoders, and many other features built-in.
What makes the M1 chip special is it boasts much faster speeds than the previous designs, which were having all these components as separate chips on the motherboard. The M1 chip is supposed to offer up to 3.9x faster video processing and 7.1x faster image processing than previous models.
The reason for the faster speeds is all of the components can communicate faster and access the same data pool. The M1 chips also include an 8-core CPU as well as an 8-core GPU which offers a surprising amount of graphics processing power.
Can You Play Steam Games on Macbook Pro?
Yes. Steam has been available for the Mac OS since 2010. You can play Steam games on MacBook Pro by installing the Steam app and downloading a Mac OS-compatible game.
If you’re on the new M1 MacBook Pro, some Steams games won’t open because the M1 chip can only run 64-bit games and it’s based on ARM CPU architecture.
The latest version of the MacBook Pro comes with Apple’s brand-new M1 chip. These chips are designed specifically for macOS, and Apple plans to include them in all their upcoming devices, eventually phasing out their Intel CPUs altogether.
While you can play Steam games on an M1 MacBook Pro, most MacBooks don’t have the hardware to support triple-a games at 60 or more frames a second on maxed-out settings.
How to Install Steam on macOS:
Not to mention Apple’s Mac OS is still being updated to improve performance on games and apps too. The M1 chip is a revolutionary technology that combines RAM, GPU, and other hardware into one powerful chip with a brand new architecture.
For more information about playing Steam games on macOS, take a look at Steam’s Support.
Is Steam Compatible with Apple’s M1 Chip?
Yes, the Steam platform supports Apple’s M1 chip, and the program works smoothly with no issues. When the M1 MacBooks first launched, Steam wouldn’t work well, with frequent freezes, crashes, and overall sluggish performance.
However, those issues have been fixed with patches and updates to the program. Currently, Steam works very well on Apple products that use the M1 chip.
Apple M1 Steam Compatibility Issues:
The main downside to playing Steam games on the M1 MacBook Pro is the M1 chip only supports 64-bit games. Most Steam games, especially the older ones that would run well on this chip are not 64-bit. If you try to open a 34-bit game on the M1 MacBook Pro, it won’t open, which makes up a good portion of old-school games.
In other words, some Steam games work well, some run like garbage, and others don’t open at all. You will likely see a warning that the specific game is not compatible with the M1 architecture or it’s running on 34-bit which isn’t supported.
However, game developers are patching and porting their games to be compatible with the M1 chip, so it’s a matter of time before older games are playable.
For example, when the M1 MacBooks first launched, CS GO wouldn’t open, but now (as of 2021) it seems to work fine, particularly on the M1 chip, and it’s playable with between 50 and 60 FPS. Dota 2 also runs at 60 FPS.
Gaming on a M1 MacBook:
Gaming on an M1 Macbook is the same as any other machine, except you might encounter some games that have not been optimized for the new architecture.
When you think about it, most consoles still lock the frame rate of games to 30 FPS, so if you’re getting 30 FPS on the MacBook Pro M1 chip (an integrated chip!) that’s very impressive.
The previous models use Intel CPUs which have integrated graphics, also called Intel Iris Plus Graphics or Intel UHD graphics. Most of the MacBooks use a variation of Intel’s HD Graphics. The latest Macbook Pro that uses Intel CPUs has an Intel UHD 630 integrated graphics.
You can look at the comparisons of MacBook benchmarks here. Notice how the M1 chips score the highest out of all the tests?
Apple M1 MacBook Pro Gaming Benchmarks at 1080P:
For a full list of supported games, take a look at Apple Silicon Games.
Note: Some games can’t run on the M1 chip at the moment, but you can run non-MacOS games with CrossOver, an app that lets you run Windows games on Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS.
So as you can see, the M1 MacBook Pro can run most games with a decent frame rate. I remember the days when I could barely reach that framerate on a PC with a dedicated graphics card
. When you think about it, it’s really impressive. There are also other ways to play non-compatible games through cloud streaming services.
Is The M1 Apple Chip Good for Steam Gaming?
The M1 Apple Chip is not designed for gaming but it can handle most Steam games with a good frame rate, of between 30 to 60 FPS on high settings, depending on the game. It holds up surprisingly well when compared to the benchmarks from other laptops.
Of course, if you’re looking for a gaming machine, a MacBook Pro is definitely not the right choice, but you would be happy to know it can handle less demanding titles with reasonable frame rates.
Bear in mind, the native resolution of the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro is 2560×1600 and most games won’t run at that resolution. I suggest turning the in-game resolution down to at least 1080P to get reasonable frame rates.
MacBook Pro M1 vs Intel MacBook Pro for Gaming?
When compared to Intel versions of the MacBook Pro, the M1’s gaming performance is much better, and probably the best you can get from an integrated GPU on any machine. If you want a MacBook Pro that offers a significant gaming advantage, I would choose the 2020 M1 edition.
For example, Shadow of the Tomb Raider on a MacBook Pro M1 can run at about 20-30 FPS on the highest settings at 1080P. On the low settings with the M1, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is playable with an average of 50-60 frames a second. Pretty impressive for a built-in graphics card.
The same game on the Intel version of MacBook Pro runs at a slideshow rate of 10-20 FPS on the lowest settings. I was quite surprised with the graphics processing capabilities of the latest Apple M1 MacBook Pro.
I obviously wouldn’t buy a MacBook Pro specifically for Steam games, but it’s nice to know I can get some gaming sessions in without breaking my brain.
If you want something for games, it’s always best to go with a PC, nowadays pre-builts are sometimes cheaper than building one from scratch because of the global shortage of PC parts.
To summarize, if you’re planning to buy a MacBook Pro and you also have a large library of Steam games, I would choose the M1 model because the performance is much better than the Intel versions.
Have you tried playing games on a MacBook Pro? Leave a comment below!
Timothy Gagnon is the owner of My Portable Office. As a kid, he’s always had a fascination with electronics and never passed on the chance to disassemble and reassemble them. When he’s not taking a hammer to his electronics, he can be found playing with his cats or writing about his latest discoveries on My Portable Office.