The cake is a lie

Steam for the Mac is now available in a public beta but should users that already have a Windows Boot Camp partition on their Apple systems be concerned about making the move to the native Mac client? How is image quality and performance affected in the one “standard” title available today, Portal?
Basically any time we can use the excuse of an article to play video games, we do so here at PC Perspective.  Case in point is our recent 6-panel Eyefinity configuration video seen here.  Just this past week Valve released the Steam gaming client for the Mac and what better reason to sit down and rehash the great game Portal than to test out the new iteration of Steam and how it might affect the future of PC gaming.

Our video should just about summarize our thoughts here but to really drive it home: Steam on the Mac works and worsk decently well but the better gaming experience is still found on Windows, even on the exact same hardware, by far.  The image quality was superior when we were testing on the MacBook Pro with our Windows 7 partition under Boot Camp and so was the frame rate and performance.  Moving from ~60 FPS to ~35 FPS is dramatic as any PC gamer will tell you.

Much of this difference is likely attributed to the use of Direct X for the Windows version and OpenGL for the Mac version and the sheer amount of time that has gone into the long-term development of the Source engine on Windows.  The Mac engine on the other hand is very new and is really just getting started; if anything we expect Valve to tweak the OpenGL version as time goes on and we will likely see some of the performance and image quality deltas constrict.

There may not be much incentive for Valve to do so quickly however; the truth is that graphical power on the Mac platforms is well behind what is available on Windows and the fact that a user still cannot upgrade their system as easily (no Hackintosh’s are not in my discussion here) points toward Valve treating the Mac more like a console.  They can pinpoint exactly what hardware (or nearly) they want to target and build and perfect the engine with that in mind.  Coding for the huge array of available hardware for Windows PCs presents more problems to go along with the added benefits and power. 

The eternal debate of options or limitations to consumers will likely continue.

But for now, Steam is on the Mac and if you are Mac user there is nothing to not like about that.

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