My expectations for AAA gaming on any 13″ notebook with integrated graphics are low for any IGP notebook brand. At Apple’s WWDC and Mac product launch, gaming (game/games/gaming) was cited 23 times, so I believe Apple intended to create a good gaming experience. Gaming has not been much of a focus for the Mac operating system, but it has been a significant point of success for Apple on iOS. I am confident the company is talking more about iOS developers’ games, but it did demonstrate AAA games like Tomb Raider, which led me to believe that AAA games were a target. Therefore, I wanted to see how playable AAA games were on the new M1-based Mac, given the giant M1 GPU and its UMA architecture that should speed up memory reads and writes between CPU and GPU.
This review is a follow-up to my first review using the new M1 MacBook as my primary productivity tool for nearly a week, where I had a mixed experience with some productivity software titles. I will add that the Apple M1-optimized software screamed and was performant.
Now let’s dive into AAA games.
My test configuration
I used my new Apple MacBook Pro 13″ notebook for the full duration of my testing. It came with the latest macOS Big Sur, Apple M1 processor, and 8GB of RAM. The system also came with a 13.3-inch built-in retina display at 2560 x 1600 resolution and 500GB of storage.
I want to preface that my MacBook Pro 13″ was not the highest-end configuration. The MacBook Pro M1 comes with up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage at the high end. More RAM could increase FPS in certain games, so my results are not the new MacBook Pro ceiling with the new M1 processor. I have ordered a 16GB system, but it does not come in for a while.
Game test list
For the gaming titles, I tested Fortnite, Shadow of The Tomb Raider, Dota 2, Sid Meier’s: Civilization VI, Empire of Sin, Total War: WARHAMMER II, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Firewatch, and Subnautica. Please note that my ratings are evaluations on the following criteria: FPS score, lack of lag/stutter, and ability to boot and consistently play the title.
Fortnite: While Fortnite is technically not an AAA title, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most popular battle royale games. I tested the game on 1440 x 900 and 2048 x 1280 resolution on high settings. At 1440 x 900 resolution, I was consistently getting in the 70-80 FPS range, and I also saw some FPS scores that peaked into the 100’s. I raised the resolution settings to 2048 x 1280, and it dropped the FPS to 50-60 FPS on average, but that was still a good gaming experience. The application did freeze on several different occasions, taking several minutes of waiting or a forced quit to fix the issue each time it happened. Apart from the application freezes, the M1 is performing well out of the gate.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider/Rosetta 2: I used…