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The MacBook Pro M1 Max is an absolute beast — and a complete waste for gamers

The MacBook Pro 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

The new MacBook Pro 2021 14-inch and MacBook Pro 2021 16-inch are the most powerful laptops ever, thanks to the new M1 Pro and M1 Max. These chips offer a serious upgrade to last year’s M1. Apple claims the chips, particularly the beefy M1 Max, rival or surpass GPUs from AMD and Nvidia.

The M1 Max’s 32 GPU cores are certainly impressive. As WCCFTech reported, YouTubers like Vadim Yuryev provided stats of the M1 Max and claimed the chip can deliver 10.40 Teraflops of performance compared to PS5's 10.28. The Radeon RX Vega 56 (10.5 teraflops) and GeForce RTX 2080 (10 teraflops) are also within this range. And in our own MacBook Pro 2021 benchmark testing, the M1 Pro and M1 Max-equipped machines both achieved some stunning results.

While the M1 Max is objectively powerful, that doesn’t mean the MacBook Pro packed with the chip is automatically a gaming laptop or. That isn’t to say the potential isn’t there. The MacBook Pro or a future device with an M1 Max could be a solid gaming platform. Unfortunately, there are two significant obstacles preventing that from happening.

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Where are the macOS games? 

The first thing preventing the MacBook Pro from being a viable gaming platform is the lack of noteworthy titles for Mac. Fortnite, Hades and Disco Elysium are solid titles, but where are the Grand Theft Autos, Assassin’s Creeds or Witchers? You can find them on Steam, GoG and gaming consoles but you won’t find them on macOS.

Here’s a list of the top 10 most popular Steam games.

(Image credit: Steam)

Only four titles on this list have Mac support. That’s great, but they aren’t exactly brand-new games. Team Fortress was released in 2007 while Dota2 and Rust came out in 2013. Hit Steam games like Resident Evil Village, Hitman 3 and Mass Effect Legendary Edition are not on Mac. You could have a program like Parallels run Windows on Mac, but it’s not as solid as having native Mac support. 

A steep price to pay 

Even if Mac had a wealth of AAA and indie games, the other major barrier preventing it from being a viable gaming platform for most consumers is price. $3,299 for the decked-out MacBook Pro with an M1 Max chip is a hard pill to swallow, even if you have a well-paying job. The 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $3,499 with M1 Max.

Powerful Windows gaming laptops cost considerably less. For example, you can get an Alienware M15 R4 gaming laptop with 10th gen Intel Core i7, Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for $2,609. The 17-inch MSI GE76 Raider with a RTX 3080, 300Hz refresh rate and 1TB storage goes for $3,099, although more expensive and powerful configs are available. 

If you’re a professional musician or 3D illustrator, then the price of the new MacBook Pros is justifiable. If you’re a gamer with that kind of money, you’re better off buying a gaming laptop or gaming desktop like I did

Reality check 

Gaming is possible on the new MacBook Pros. Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max are more than capable of delivering high-quality graphics and smooth performance. But at present, the lack of AAA titles doesn’t justify the price of Apple’s newest laptops. This could change in the future, especially if Apple throws enough money at developers to get big titles on macOS.

For now, you’re better off with true gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 15 Advanced or the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Tony Polanco

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.


  • d3bug
    What exists now cannot be used to determine what will exist in the future... I have an M1 mini with 16gb/1tb... I use Parallels and almost every single game I own runs flawless... plus if I do anything other than game my mini beats the shit out of every single PC I have ever owned on that front, and it does it while sipping power even when hammered... and that is running Windows 11 through Parallels.
    Getting an M1 Max, and comparing it against laptops that it can spank without missing a beat is kind of stupid considering you are only comparing GPU performance
    Not to mention that the performance / watt cannot be matched by ANYTHING in the market. So if you want a $400 electric bill, sure, it's possible to beat the M1 Max but not with the state of CISC CPUs currently... not at the same performance/watt
    There are more things than games in the world, and even gamers do those things. Some gamers even do video editing @ 8k for example. If you have the room for one system in your life, you are better off using an M1 Max with it's boosted editing performance and encoders built in rather than a gaming laptop from the PC realm that will perform like shit when editing 8k streams for your gaming videos. Otherwise, you need a mac AND a PC... one to game on, and one to edit on (in a reasonable amount of time)... make no mistake, 8k is the future, and it's better to be future proof to some degree rather than be constantly trying to catch up.
    Reply
  • Mark Spoonauer
    Your point is well taken but the fact that you need to run Windows on Mac to play the latest games pretty much says it all. That should not be the case.
    Reply
  • d3bug
    Mark Spoonauer said:
    Your point is well taken but the fact that you need to run Windows on Mac to play the latest games pretty much says it all. That should not be the case.

    Yeah it says that developers currently won't develop for MacOS due to market share. What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? I can still play games with better performance on my Mini than I did on my PC with a GPU... and I can do it with 1/8 the electrical consumption.
    Reply
  • MrMLK
    Mark Spoonauer said:
    Your point is well taken but the fact that you need to run Windows on Mac to play the latest games pretty much says it all. That should not be the case.

    I agree. As a gamer, it isn't important to me how well the games run, or how much fun I have. The important thing is whether or not I have to run Parallels. Oh wait, it doesn't matter at all.

    While it would be nice to have more native support, the fact that all my games all run fine under Parallels is actually what pretty much says it all.
    Reply
  • aLilBabyOtter
    MrMLK said:
    While it would be nice to have more native support, the fact that all my games all run fine under Parallels is actually what pretty much says it all.

    Ya the only downside is having to pay for Parallels. And I'm saying that objectively, not to be snarky. And some people don't want to have to do workarounds, which as a long-time Linux user I understand as well.

    If parallels works great then I'm excited, because I just ordered the new 14" MacBook Pro. I upgraded to Windows 11 on my desktop and laptop and I'm not a fan. I'd rather run macOS (which I've used for 6 years at work so I already know what I'm getting into) and use Parallels when necessary. I don't mind the workaround.
    Reply
  • MrMLK
    aLilBabyOtter said:
    Ya the only downside is having to pay for Parallels. And I'm saying that objectively, not to be snarky. And some people don't want to have to do workarounds, which as a long-time Linux user I understand as well.


    Sure, it would be better if you didn't have to pay the $80 for Parallels, but I don't think that that is the deal breaker that Mark and Tony make it out to be.
    Reply
  • JimboCrimley
    ...Okay? It's not trying to replace gaming machines because no one buys a Mac for gaming, and Apple does not cater towards gamers. That's just their approach. Has been for a long time. Bizzare article.
    Reply
  • lairdp
    Sure. if you want to play PC games, buy a gaming PC, most likely a desktop for best performance. If you want to use as a general purpose computer, or in particular editing video, a Mac will give you amazing performance and battery life in a laptop.
    Reply
  • therealcaptaincrunch
    The is not the M1 Macs. they have stunning performance even for games. The problem is that none of the AAA titles are written for the M1 Mac. They are all INTEL x86 Mac ports that have to be emulated in Rosetta 2's translation layer That is the fault of the game publisher, not Apple.

    Also, in performance per/watt, which is what matters in a laptop. The M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max destroy the INTEL and AMD chips.
    Reply
  • aLilBabyOtter
    therealcaptaincrunch said:
    performance per/watt, which is what matters in a laptop

    Not necessarily. I agree that the M1 chips are great, but "what matters" is subjective. If someone's main focus is gaming, then going with more processing power (dedicated GPU) at the cost of power consumption is probably a better choice.
    Reply