What Is Better for Gaming: Mac or PC?

By David Weinberg

Both Mac and PC computers can be used for gaming.
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In order to play graphically-intensive computer games, you need a powerful computer. Apple typically builds their Mac computers with Intel processors, capable graphics cards and high-quality displays, making them a solid option for gamers. PCs, on the other hand, are compatible with more games, have more options for upgrading and customization and often have a smaller price tag than Macs for similar hardware.


Higher-end Mac computers, such as the Mac Pro or the MacBook Pro are designed with powerful graphics cards in order to handle graphics-intensive tasks such as graphic design, video editing and video gaming. The graphics cards vary from model to model, and there are even upgrades available within each model. PC computers have a wide range of graphics cards depending on their intended purpose. As of February 2011, there are many graphics cards available for PCs that surpass the graphics capability of the best equipped Mac computers -- however high-end graphics cards in PCs are very expensive.


In addition to needing a powerful graphics card, modern video games require fast processors to process in-game physics and artificial intelligence. PCs come with a wide range of graphics cards. As of February 2011, these vary from single-core to six-core processors with up to 3.3 GHz speeds. PC users can also overclock certain processors for even higher speeds. Mac computers, particularly the Mac Pro, also have capable processors. The Mac Pro series is available with up to 12 cores at 3.33 GHz for a massive amount of computational power. That kind of power comes at a price; the base Mac Pro price is $2499 as of February 2011.


Video games constantly require faster hardware and new technology in order to run at their best. Some computers can be upgraded in parts to keep up with technology instead of having to replace the entire computer. Most laptops, whether they are Mac or PC, only support hard drive and memory upgrades. The processor and graphics card, which are most vital for gaming performance, are not upgradable. Mac computers with a custom form factor, such as the iMac or the Mac mini, also do not have upgradeable processors or graphics cards. As of February 2011, the Mac Pro is the only Mac computer than can upgrade these components and add other new components using PCI slots. By contrast, nearly all desktop PCs have multiple PCI slots for upgrading their components and graphics cards to extend the computer's usable lifetime.


PCs have a considerably larger library of games available than Mac computers due to the PCs traditional use as a gaming machine. Many computer games are release for Mac much later than they are released for PC, or they are not released for Mac at all. There are several tools, such as WineBottler or CrossOver games, that allow you to play PC games on a Mac but they are not compatible with all games. Mac computers can also run a Windows operating system in addition to Mac OS X, enabling them to play any PC game. In terms of hardware compatibility, Mac computers are far less likely to have problems with individual games due to hardware components because Mac computers all use the same or similar parts. PCs, on the other hand, can use a wide variety of different parts or upgrades, which may cause unforeseen problems with some games.