MacBook for gaming
Apple MacBooks have never been designed to perform as gaming laptops. And yet, in recent years, Apple has gone out of its way to make Mac gaming a reality. Hardware-wise, some models are better than others for this type of use. The best gaming MacBook is currently the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021), which includes numerous features that make it a terrific device for casual gamers. There are other noteworthy models we’ve gathered to help you choose the one that best fits your needs.
Best overall: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
For ultimate Mac gaming, there’s nothing better than the second-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021). Like the 14-inch MacBook Pro (mentioned below), this model offers an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC with up to 64GB of unified memory and 8TB of SSD storage. In addition, you can get up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.
But there’s much more. The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 by 2234 pixels) with ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz. It’s also packed with up to 21 hours of battery life between charges and comes with an all-new 1080p FaceTime HD camera with an advanced image signal processor and computational video.
With macOS 13 Ventura, coming this fall, gaming is going to get even better on Mac — especially on high-powered MacBooks like the 14- and 16-inch models. Besides offering a new Game Center experience, macOS 13 Ventura will provide better visuals, accelerated performance, and quicker load time.
The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook models (2021), some of the best MacBooks available, also see the return of MagSafe, HDMI port, and an SDXC card slot, besides its three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports. If you’re looking for any negatives, understand this is the heaviest MacBook Pro in many years (4.7 pounds). It’s also costly, even at the base level.
- Latest and greatest
- M1 Pro or M1 Max, you decide
- 16GB-64GB of unified memory
- 512GB-8TB of storage
- A Liquid Retina XDR display
- Most expensive model
- Heavy (4.7 pounds)
16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro gives you the most power and performance, though the price tag is high.
Best alternative: 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore
This is the one to buy if you want everything on the 16-inch MacBook Pro but with a smaller display and similar internals for less. Nonetheless, it’s still an expensive computer, which is something to keep in mind.
If you want to buy it for gaming, heed our advice: buy as much memory and storage as you can afford. And remember, you can’t change these options after purchase since upgrades aren’t possible. So with this in mind, consider getting an Apple M1 Pro with a 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine with 1TB of storage and at least 32GB of RAM.
- Liquid Retina XDR display
- Same great features as the 16-inch model
14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
Versatility at a lower price
The 14-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the 16-inch model except for the smaller display and price.
Best budget: MacBook Air (2022)
Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore
Our third pick, the 2022 MacBook Air, is also our favorite MacBook overall. It features an all-new M2 chip that offers an 8-core CPU, up to a 10-core GPU, up to 24GB of RAM, and up to 2TB of storage.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro (2022) also offers an M2 chip but we’re not recommending it for gamers because of key differences between the two models. The MacBook Air has an all-new 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology that provides 2560×1664 resolution. It also has a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and is lighter than the Pro model. On the negative side, you’ll need to pay extra for more GPU. Additionally, Apple has priced this model at $1,299 versus $999 for the previous model. It’s still cheaper than MacBook Pro models, but not nearly as much as before.
- Has Apple M2 SoC
- 18-hour battery life
- Liquid Retina display
- Better camera
- Must pay extra for more GPU
- Only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
MacBook Air (2022)
New inside and out
The 2022 MacBook Air is an excellent choice for any gamer on a budget, although this is still an expensive machine.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is likely the best Mac for you if you’re a gamer. It includes an Apple M1 Pro with 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. Inside, you’ll also find 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. You’ll receive even more power when upgrading to the Apple M1 Max. With this SoC, memory jumps to at least 32GB, with 1TB of SSN storage. These specs would be ideally suited for the gaming advances Apple plans to bring to the table with macOS 13 Ventura this fall. These include advanced gaming features, SharePlay gameplay, a redesigned Game Center dashboard, and more.
However, if you think 16 inches is too big for the display, buy the 14-inch MacBook Pro. It offers the same specs with a smaller screen. And for those searching for a budget option, you can’t go wrong with the brand new MacBook Air with M2, which comes with the fresh M2 chip and up to 2TB of storage. It also has an all-new 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology that provides 2560×1664 resolution, which will allow you to game with clear and vivid graphics.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe
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