MacBook Pro and its Retina display:
Those of you out there that are clamoring for capital to purchase this glorious piece of technology, bravo you have your head on straight. You also might be asking yourself “if I drop $2,000+ on this laptop can it game?”. Its the exact same question that I had while reading the spec sheet for the new MacBook Pro (with Retina display). Now the reality of it is that the Nvidia GeForce 650M is a powerful card for a laptop and by all accounts it should be able to game. Then you have to take the sheer size of the 2880×1800 display resolution and once you add those numbers into the equation, things get concerning .
While that display is arguably revolutionary and might be an amazing display for reading, photo editing, and video editing it is not very conducive to gaming. The argument that most modern day games cannot scale to the 2880×1800 resolution is flimsy and false. In reality most modern games can display those resolutions. The problem lies in the power that it takes to push out the resolutions to the display. Let me explain the problem, the solution and the logic being the new MacBook Pro (with Retina display).
The most basic logic states that you can cut the games displaying resolution to 1440×900, the size of the previous 15′ display, and the game will look fine/playable. Most images, interfaces, games, and videos will look pore scaled down on a display with a higher resolution though arguably not noticeable to almost all who encounter it. Though there are many of us that can detect a resolution not fit to a native display.
Side Note: Many people are saying that the Retina display is a gimmick or marketing stunt. Remember that is what people said about VHS, HD, DVD, BluRay, and High Speed internet. Apple is setting a standard, once again, that other manufactures will have to keep up with.
If you have ever looked at benchmarks for a graphics card you will notice that the higher the resolution the lower the performance. Some cards handle this change better than others and some just outright cant deliver a good performance on anything higher than 1920×1080. Arguably 1920×1080 is a fine resolution for almost all the tasks that you might accomplish in a given day. Sadly 1920×1200 is now considered a high resolution. Display manufactures see it fit to cap displays at 1920×1080 for most consumer displays. The whole “HD Revolution” really short changed the computer display market. In reality we had higher than 1080 [HD] resolutions on computer displays before 1920×1080 became a standard for TVs. The thing that irks me is that they present “1080 HD Resolutions” as some sort of high standard for a computer display.
For the longest time 1920×1200 was the pinnacle of computer displays, this resolution usually came affixed to a 24inch to 27inch display. It was the resolution that any serious techie would aspire to. Then the manufactures turned up the game and started to release 30 inch displays with 2560×1600. These displays cost the down payment on a car, but at the end of the day it was awesome sitting at your desk with a insanely high resolution 30inch monitor blaring images of the Internet and gaming into your eye sockets. I personally owned a 30 inch Apple Cinema Display and it was wonderful, not because of the its pixel density but because of the added screen real-estate it provided at 2560×1600. Functionally the larger the display resolution the more information you can fit on the screen. This is not the be mistaken with the concept that the larger the screen the more screen real-estate you have.
Games like StarCraft II, DoTA 2, and Diablo III take no benefit from a larger resolution display. Due to the competitive nature of such games a larger display does not grant you more access or viewing of the game. It simply blows up the game to a scaled identical UI based on the display size on larger resolution screens.
I will explain GUI and break down the reality of resolution vs PPI vs screen size.
GUI (Graphical User Interface): The way in which an OS displays on any given display. The interface that you interact with.
- For example: A GUI will change in size depending on the resolution of a display. Windows displayed on a 1920×1080 monitor at 60inches will look much larger than Windows displayed on a 1920×1200 24inch display.
- The user interface changes depending upon the resolution of the display not the size of the display.
- The easiest way to understand this is by setting two displays with a physical same size but different resolutions next to one another. You will notice that the display with the higher resolution will display the GUI in a smaller form, thus allowing you to view more information
Display Resolution: The resolution at which your screen displays images and text.
- Often the price of your display will dictate the resolution of the display.
- On smaller displays, 17inches and under, high resolutions can become difficult to read and interface with. In order to fix this problem most modern day operating systems have options to adjust the size of the GUI.
PPI: The size of the pixels per inch on the display or the density of the pixels.
- PPI was not really a concept that was understood by the general public until Apple released the iPhone 4 with its Retina display. Thus pushing the marketing idea that 300+ PPI was Retina resolution, similar to the 300ppi you find in the way that we print.
- The PPI of a display does not define the way that a GUI (graphical user interface) displays. The operating system defines the size and output of the GUI.
Screen Size: The literal size of your screen. From bottom left edge to top right edge.
- The larger the screen the more you see: FALSE
- The larger the resolution the more you see: TRUE
- Example: If you have a 27inch display but it only displays at 1920×1080 a 24inch display at 1920×1200 pixels will offer slightly more space on the screen.
- Example: A 120inch TV display at 1920×1080 does not have a higher resolution than a 30inch display at 2560×1600.
- While the 120inch TV display is literally larger in screen size it does not have any where near as much screen real-estate as the 30inch display at 2560×1600.
Sadly games do not necessarily work in this sense of a traditional GUI. Most game interfaces will scale to fit a screen size of 1920×1080 the same in the way they would scale to fit a screen at 960×720. A handful of games such as World of Warcraft will actually allow you a wider spectrum of viewing. Almost all, if not all, competitive games will not add information or provide a wider spectrum or view on a higher resolution display. This keeps things fair among gamers and experiences through different machines similar. It would troublesome if someone with a higher resolution display saw more on screen while playing Counter Strike or DoTA 2 than someone with a 20″ 1920×1080 display. While the size of the display may make things easier to view it does not provide more information or access on most games.
“At full resolution and maxed out settings (shadows, physics, etc.), we jumped between 15 and 20 frames per second — just barely playable at most times, but on higher difficulties that’ll prove aggravating. If you want to keep all the settings on max, jumping down to 1680 x 1050 (same as standard MacBook Pro) gave us a consistent 30FPS and is still very playable. “
As seen in the above image you will have serious frame rate drops attempting to play any modern game on a display of this resolution with a card that was not built for gaming on such a high resolution. Even modern day gaming graphics card have problems leaving the comfort of 1920×1200, let alone displaying to a 2880×1800 resolution. Though Apple did make this statements during its keynote “you will see a gaming experience with this resolution that you have never seen before.”, lets hope developers get on board with that.
This laptop cannot really game at the level most of us would like. At least it cannot do it on its own built in display.
The Nvidia GeForce 650M in the MacBook Pro is a powerful card and should be able to power a game at relatively high settings on a standard size display. So my theory is simple, shut the laptop so the display turns off plug in a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. You now have a mobile gaming rig. Now its not going to go heads up with desktop counterparts because at the end of the day it is still a laptop, but what it will do is offer you an easier way to pull power out of your laptop. The MacBook Pro will no longer be pushing pixels to the high resolution Retina display allowing its resources to better used for gaming on the standard resolution display.
Why in the world would you even bother doing this? It feels like an excuse for an inferior product no? No not at all, this is one of the thinnest and most powerful laptops in the world and by all accounts is nearly perfect. The problem only lies when gaming, a task that this machine was not necessarily built for. So to cure this problem I have provided a simple solution. If you are really concerned with gaming at all then these requirements are small and should not really pose any problems for you. That is if you are at all serious about gaming. I would never game on a 15″ display if I could help it.
Its A Laptop
If you want to game and this is your passion you should stop thinking about purchasing a laptop. I know its appealing and portable but you will never find anything that will cure your desires. Sure Alienware, Falcon North West, and a few others offer gaming laptops that can cause some pain. But have you seen how large they are, how much they weigh, what their battery life is, and how ugly most of them look. Have fun with your Toshiba Qosmio…
Statistically Apple devices are the some of the best laptops on the market, sure they come at a premium but at the end of the day I truly believe that you get what you pay for.
THE VERDICT: Kinda…
- It cant game easily.
- Possible with an external display.
- Still worth considering if not your main source of gaming.
- Companies such as Blizzard have already said they will be making improvements to its UI.