macOS Monterey is finally making Macs better at gaming — here’s how

macOS Monterey is finally making Macs better at gaming — here’s how
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macOS Monterey was unveiled during Apple's WWDC keynote this week, and in a follow-up session the company revealed that the upcoming update will include support for variable refresh rates.

This is a big deal for Mac users who like to play games because Monterey will give all M1-equipped Macs (as well as many recent Intel-based models) the ability to dynamically adjust the refresh rates of their displays so that they sync up with a game's frame rate. Of course, the display must also supports Adaptive-Sync, a feature of the VESA DisplayPort 1.2a standard.

That means there's an important caveat to this new feature: even though all M1-equipped Macs and many recent Intel-equipped Macs will gain support for variable refresh rates in macOS Monterey, you'll still need to hook machines up to a compatible monitor to see the benefits.

The screens on iMacs and MacBooks are fixed-rate displays, so neither will support this feature. To see it in action you'll need to hook your Monterey-equipped Mac up to an external display with Adaptive-Sync support, which is now standard in many of the best gaming monitors.

How to enable Adaptive-Sync in macOS Monterey

Once you achieve that pairing you should be able to enable Adaptive-Sync mode, which tells the Mac to dynamically adjust your display's refresh rate so that it only updates when a new frame is ready to be displayed, delivering buttery-smooth frame rates.

To enable Adaptive-Sync in macOS Monterey, you'll first need to make sure you have a compatible Mac: Apple representatives have so far only said that Apple Silicon Macs and "recent Intel-based Macs" support Adaptive-Sync. 

If you do have a compatible machine, you'll see a new variable refresh rate option appear in the Displays section of your System Preferences menu. Simply switch it on, and you should see an immediate improvement in game performance. However, keep in mind that games must be running in full-screen mode to deliver variable refresh rates.

While macOS Monterey isn't due for full release until the fall, a developer beta is currently live, and there will be a public beta in July which may give you a chance to get an early look at this feature. 

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.