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Why the MacBook Pro is the perfect gaming laptop for me

Macs can game. In fact, my 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro processor can game so well, it’s become the best gaming laptop I’ve ever owned.

I’m no Apple fanboy, either. I’m loyal to my Windows desktop gaming PC with its 12th-gen Intel i7 and a power-hungry RTX 2080 Ti GPU — and I always will be. But as I game less and less at home because of my family, my desktop barely gets used anymore. And that’s where my MacBook Pro steps in.

Apple MacBook Pro seen from the side.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

It’s about more than just performance

Performance is obviously super important when it comes to discussing gaming laptops — and I’ll get to that later. But it’s not the only thing that matters. Convenience, for example, has become an extremely key factor. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that’s with you. And it’s a similar thing with gaming.

Unlike my desktop, my MacBook Pro is with me constantly. It’s with me at work and on the road. I don’t have to lug a different system around with me, and that means I have better (and more convenient) access to my favorite games, regardless of where I am. That’s just not something I’d be able to get away with on a traditional gaming laptop.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 front view showing display and keyboard deck.

Then there’s the screen, which is another essential element of a gaming laptop. Conventional gaming laptops are continuing to advance in this regard, but the MacBook Pro still stands above the rest with its Liquid Retina XDR display. The 2,500 local dimming zones you get on this mini-LED panel are twice the amount on even the latest mini-LED gaming laptops. That means superior HDR performance in games that can support it, especially compared to the vast majority of gaming laptops that still use IPS LED panels.

And there are a ton of other little things too. The speakers on this thing are amazing. They have perfect balance between the bass and treble — and wow, can they ever get loud. The webcam is big step up from your average gaming laptop too. I even enjoy MacOS itself as someone with a Linux background. Unix-like systems are right up my alley.

All of that makes the 14-inch MacBook Pro my go-to laptop, and therefore, the device I’ve been gaming on more than any other. So yeah, I love my Mac.

But none of that would make it the “perfect gaming laptop” if it couldn’t hold up from a performance perspective. The M1 Pro (or M1 Max if I’d gone for the upgrade) is what makes gaming possible on this little laptop in a way that no MacBooks were capable of in the past.

It handles graphics well

Despite being a laptop released in late 2021, this little MacBook Pro remains a powerhouse performer. That M1 Pro chip inside simply hums through whatever I throw at it, with its 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU — all backed up with a 16-core neural engine. The fans may turn on now and again, but I’ve virtually never heard them.

All that holds true in actual gameplay, too. This machine simultaneously handles graphics as well as a Windows laptop with around an RTX 3050 Ti inside. Rome; Total War (remastered) plays at native resolution without a glitch. If you’ve ever played this game, you know how glitchy a lower-end GPU can get when you’ve got enormous armies clashing on a battlefield. My Mac doesn’t stagger, not even once.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a graphics-heavy AAA first person shooter (albeit an older one), and I’ve never run into any problems while playing. Same goes with Metro: Exodus and the graphics-rich Shadow of the Tomb Raider, although the latter suffered some frame rate drops occasionally.

My MacBook Pro handles these games well without killing the battery or melting down.

Obviously, there’s a severe lack of new games coming to the Mac, but I’m really more of a relaxed strategy game kind of guy, and that means my favorite games run without a glitch on my Mac. For example, Cities: Skylines works like a charm and Civilization VI is no problem.

Two of my favorite games are Crusader Kings III and Hearts of Iron IV, and both run exceptionally well on my Mac too. In fact, they load a lot faster than on my PC back at home. I barely have time to enjoy the music during the load screen when I fire them up on my laptop.

The key to all this, though, is that my MacBook Pro handles these games well without killing the battery or melting down. Unlike on the average gaming laptop, the extreme efficiency of the M1 Pro means the MacBook Pro’s surface temperatures never get warm, and the battery life is decent while playing games. It’s not even worth comparing to your average gaming laptop.

Better than most gaming laptops

The Touch ID power button on the M1 Pro MacBook Pro.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

I’m not saying my 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro processor and 16 GB of RAM is better than my Windows desktop for gaming. For raw performance and access to the greatest library of titles, desktop PC is obviously the undisputed champion. And many gaming laptops are better in this regard too.

But many of those gaming laptops also come with massive trade-offs. You’ll sacrifice form for function, or lose battery performance, or generate insane temperatures and fan noise.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro avoids all of that. It perfectly balances performance, power consumption, and thermals in a beautiful and sleek form factor — all with the extra goodies like the better screen, webcam, and speakers.

The one drawback to gaming on a Mac is the much smaller library of available titles. There’s no getting around that. And while it matches my own personal taste of games well enough, I’m well aware that many PC gamers are on a different wavelength.

Games like Resident Evil Village coming to the Mac are a good sign, but even as is, the MacBook Pro continues to be my go-to gaming machine — and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

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