How the first real game for Mac runs on Apple Silicon. Consumption and comparison with NVIDIA

Playing with the Mac is not easy: Apple computers have never, historically, been computers for playing games. They weren’t when the hardware was similar to that built into Windows PCs, and they were even less so when the transition to Apple Silicon began. For over a year, the only game that was taken as a reference to show that Apple Silicon somehow managed to get by with games was Tomb Raider, but without shine.

If we take away the casual games of Apple Arcade, AAA games for Mac can be counted on the fingers of both handsand none of these are recent games.

The advantage of PC-based solutions, thanks also to the latest technologies such as Direct Storage and upscaling based on machine learning (DLSS), is too wide to be filled in a short time and above all Apple has never made available to those who develop games something that could really be useful for the final purpose, that is to make a game run well without having to go crazy with optimization.

With the arrival of Metal 3, announced at the recent WWDC, the Cupertino company has finally offered these tools: Metal 3 for example integrates MetalFX, an upscaling solution based on machine learning that uses some instructions present in the GPU of the new M2 processors .

MetalFX is also able to do what DSS 3.0 and the solutions from AMD and Intel will do, that is, generate missing frames to compensate for those that the GPU cannot draw in real time. What’s more, Metal 3 also allows access to a “fast resource loading API” which manages the management of resources between shared memory and storage, usually very fast. A solution similar to Direct Storage, but integrated in a architecture that thanks to its own construction is designed to facilitate the exchange speed and reduce latency. Apple does not have external SSDs, and it does not even have RAM banks: it has everything soldered on and near the SoC, to minimize latency and benefit from a large bus.

Obviously, it is one thing to promise performance and versatility, another thing is to demonstrate that Metal 3 really works and combined with the M2 processor can give performance similar to those that can be had on similar Windows solutions. The opportunity to do so was given by Capcom, which decided to port Resident Evil Village for Apple Silicon using all the new Metal 3 bees.

How the first real game for Mac runs on Apple

Compared to Tomb Raider, which wasn’t written for Metal 3 and didn’t have access to all the new APIs designed to make the most of the processor, Resident Evil Village born to be also a game for Mac. A real game, a game of what can be defined as triple A.

We wanted to see how it runs, comparing it to a PC based on “his majesty” NVIDIA RTX, to be precise a 3050Ti. This is obviously not a race: the goal is simply to understand when Apple has approached NVIDIA in terms of performance, and we have chosen a “mobile” solution because the reference platform we have taken in the Mac field is the MacBook Pro with M2 processor. A computer, this, which is priced at almost 1600 euros but which is something less on the market.

1668234353 743 How the first real game for Mac runs on Apple
ROG Flow X13: 1,999 euros, 13 “screen with Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU
1668234353 719 How the first real game for Mac runs on Apple
MacBook Pro with M2 processor

In the PC field we chose the ROG Flow X13: 1,999 euros, 13 ”screen with Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. An excellent product designed for gaming, with a price that is all in all fair but above all also designed for use on the move.

We have discarded solutions with a more powerful GPU simply for a matter of consumption: we already know that NVIDIA is very strong, even on notebooks, but we also know that it is strong when connected to the current. We will do our test in both modes, battery and 100 Watt external power supply to see how far it can go.

Identical graphics settings for the two computers

The Mac version of the game can be downloaded from the Mac AppStore, the PC version from Steam. On both computers we updated the OS and drivers to the latest version and configured the game in the exact same way: 1920 x 1080, variable frame rate and all graphics settings to the maximum. In the case of NVIDIA we have only disabled ray tracingbut as you can see, we have obtained two perfectly mirrored profiles.

We connect the Xbox controller and start playing on Mac: the loading is lightning fast and, after the initial sequences, we are faced with a game that honestly surprises: the quality of lighting, effects and textures is very high, and everything this is kept at a constant 60 fops. Metal 3 has a command-line activated HUD that overlays the statistics, and we can see how as we move around the environment the fluidity remains excellent and no frames are lost.

After a couple of “cut scenes” we find ourselves in the village, in the dark, and after the first sequence we begin to see the first drops: the sequence we recorded, visible in the movie, clearly shows an M2 processor that sometimes manages to keep 60 constant fps but that, in some situations where the depth of field is high and there are different levels to manage, must go down to 40 fps. The good news is that the Mac stays cool, and the fan doesn’t seem to heat up that much. Here is a video.

While we were playing we took care to save all the parameters related to the M2 processor to a file, and below are the graphs related to our game session. The CPU is not used at 100%, while the graphics cores of the M2 SoC are squeezed to the full with the clock rate locked at 1.4 GHz.

What is striking, however, is the consumption, which in the end is the workhorse of M2: the GPU alone consumes a maximum of 8 watts while the whole SoC consumes, for a single moment, 14 watts. The average, however, is much lower, around 12 watts.

At the highest graphics level and at 1920 x 1080, which is a more than adequate resolution for a 13 “screen, an M2 processor manages to keep 40 fps and at times even reach 60 fps with a maximum consumption of about 12 watts.

Below are some frames captured during gameplay, compared to the same frames captured by the Asus computer with the RTX 3050 card.

How’s the Asus computer doing? Exactly how we expected it to go: very fast if connected to the mains, slower if battery powered.

In reality, there are different game profiles: in performance mode, with the fan running and the notebook connected to the current, it manages to stay around 100 fps with the same graphic details as the Mac version.

If we disconnect we can juggle between different profiles, and it is up to the user to understand if he wants more autonomy or greater performance. We have a very conservative mode that limits the frame rate to 30 fps, while if we want a more balanced mode, the one we have chosen, the framerate is around 45 fps with a consumption, for the GPU alone, of about 20 Watts. If we calculate the CPU and GPU together, the consumption rises considerably, we are around 33 watts on average. Here is the graph.

The graphical rendering on PC is slightly different: atmospheric events are much more visible and even the fog seems more real. On the Mac, in the first sequence, it doesn’t even seem like it’s snowing while on the PC it really feels like you’re in a storm.

The RTX 3050 goes faster, but games on Apple Silicon M2 manage to have a really good performance / consumption ratio

The advantage of the PC is not that NVIDIA cards are strong anyway, but that the PC has games. It could even be worse, but it still has the games and as always “C.ontent is the King“.

Over time, Windows machines have known how to carve out a huge space and now they are enjoying the benefits. The result of the Mac, however, is surprising: we are faced with a game that is not only playable, but is a real game to which nothing can be said. Full HD, maximum details, almost 60 fps stable but above all a ridiculous consumption if we think about what a modern video card usually requires in terms of power and resources.

In short, Metal 3 demonstrates that it is possible to develop triple A games by making them run well even on Mac, and to carry out interesting ports such as performance and consumption exactly like the one made by Capcom.

The question to ask is only if the software houses will be interested in pursuing this path, or they already have too many problems managing the current platforms, which for smaller developers are already too many.

We would like to say thanks to the writer of this write-up for this incredible web content

How the first real game for Mac runs on Apple Silicon. Consumption and comparison with NVIDIA

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