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MacBook vs. MacBookPro

Does CPU speed matter for gaming on a Mac Laptop?

The difference between, for example, 2.4 Ghz and 2.6 Ghz will be negligible when running the games. What will contribute to the smoothness and quality of the games the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and to an extent bus speed, CPU cache and RAM.

When it comes to RAM, the more the merrier – to avoid the Hard Drive being used to swap applications when your memory is full. Get as much RAM as you can afford.

Consider the current models of a MacBook vs. a MacBookPro – they both have similar specifications on the CPUS.

  • The 13″ MacBook has 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache
  • The 13″ MacBookPro has a 2.4GHz or 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache
  • The 15″ MacBookPros have 2.4GHz, 2.53GHz or 2.66GHz Intel Core i5/i7 processors with 3MB and 4MB shared L3 cache respectively.

The i5 and i7 CPUs are the next in an architectural line of mobile CPUs from Intel, so it’s not the “Ghz” that’s going to improve your gaming – it’s having the later generation CPUs. In the CPU arena, the 13″ Pro/Non-Pro models are the same – but the 15″ Pro models are clearly in front.

Now consider the Graphics Processor, the real workhorse in modern 3D gaming. The current models as shown:

  • The 13″ MacBook has NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM ***shared with main memory***
  • The 13″ MacBookPro has NVIDIA GeForce 320M with 256MB DDR3 SDRAM ***shared with main memory***
  • The 15″ MacBookPro has TWO GPU devices: Intel HD Graphics with 256MB DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory, and NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics processor with 256MB GDDR3 memory and automatic graphics switching

In all cases, there is a GPU sharing Main Memory. These are much faster than the Graphics of yesteryear, but sharing the main memory means using some of your 2GB or 4GB of RAM. Games will play and look acceptable, but the framerate wont be the best you can get.

Where the laptop will shine, is with the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT chips. They have dedicated DDR3 memory allocated to them, designed to do one thing only – fast 3D.

My recommendation:
If you are on a budget – a MacBook or a 13″ MacBookPro will have to do.
However if you can afford it, and want to game – a 15″ MacBookPro with a dedicated GPU will play your games as smooth as any current generation laptop can. You can’t go wrong with the larger screen either.

3D Cards and WoW – the 7300 GT TDH

Winfast A7300 GT TDH Box

I recently upgraded to a 22″ widescreen monitor. To drive this monitor in a Digital fashion, I jumped from a Geforce 3 series to a Geforce 7 Series with a Dual Link DVI connector. It turns out the monitor wasn’t dual link, but this review is on the card, not the monitor. The old 3D card was some major brand, I can’t remember which, and since I was upgrading an existing AGP card, I had to choose a replacement AGP card as well. The new one is one of the last AGP models available in the shops for an “entry level” card. It’s a Leadtek 7300 GT TDH.

Winfast A7300 GT TDH Card

The visuals of this card are a vast leap in terms of what the old one offered. I can also drive my 22″ screen at 1650 x 1050 resolution, practically full HD (though the computer struggles decoding 1080i). One of my other strong factors in buying a new card was for the World of Warcraft (WoW). I play it casually, to unwind from the real world :-). I have seen the in game visuals jump from slow and nice to fast and brilliant with the 7300 GT TDH. Below is a set of in game screenshots, showing what the game looked like before and after the upgrade. The lack of motion does the pictures no justice at all.

BeforeAfterAfter Battle

In the both after shots, a good deal of the quality comes from the fact that this card is fast enough to allow AntiAliasing to be always turned on, even at high resolutions.

The only problem I have had with the card is that it requires a dedicated Molex power connector attached to it, and even though I exceed the mandatory minimum 400Watt PSU, I still get the occasional error saying “Your card is not receiving enough power”. In fact it drew so much power initially, I had to take one of my HDDs out and put it in a USB enclosure.

If you have an AGP slot, a decent computer and a powerful enough PSU, $130AU for this card is worth the upgrade to tide your system over until you are ready to enter the realm of PCI-Express motherboards and 3D cards.

WoW, BC and real life

Listening to Starman talk about his Arcane/Frost spec on worldofwarcast makes me want to hurry up and get a move on in this game. I’ve played the game since it came out in 2004, and my main char is a lvl 49 arcane mage, so why can’t I make it past lvl 60, and why can’t I even get into to the outlands? (I have the expansion).

Life.. that’s why. Family and a full time job too…

Looks like I have to live with that. At this rate I will probably be a lvl 70 some time in 2008.

Now back to listening to every podcast talk about life after lvl 70.

/dev/klog » MPQ Extractor

Do you play World of Warcraft? Do you play on a Mac? Do you want to listen to music from the game on your iPod? Jean-François has the solution over at his blog.MPQ Extractor 1.0!

Update: Jean-François has suggested that it is easier to use MPQFS. I haven’t test this however.

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