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MacBook Pro good for game dev?


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Poll: MacBook Pro good for game dev? (13 member(s) have cast votes)

MacBook Pro with Windows 7 good for game dev?

  1. More than enough (3 votes [23.08%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.08%

  2. It'll do (3 votes [23.08%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.08%

  3. Not really (1 votes [7.69%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.69%

  4. Absolutely not (6 votes [46.15%])

    Percentage of vote: 46.15%

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#1 3x3is9   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 08:15 PM

I just started college, and I'm taking Game Programming. I need a decent laptop to handle my school work, and ideally my work after I'm done school. I'm not too sure what those needs might be, which makes it difficult to decide what to do.

My computers are all out of date: two 6 year old Compaqs (desktop and cheap laptop) and a 3 year old Mac mini (2GHz Intel Core Duo, 4GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400 with 256MB VRAM). I've wanted to get a MacBook Pro for quite some time, but haven't been able to justify the price since the others handled all my needs.

Now, the specs I found for the newest 17" MacBook Pro, from the Apple Store and this site: http://apcmag.com/ap...pec-by-spec.htm
  • 2.3GHz Quad-core i7-2720QM
  • AMD Radeon HD 6750M
  • 8GB 1333MHz RAM
Would that be a respectable machine for the kind of processing I'll need for game development? Of course, I would have to dual boot with Windows 7.

I know equivalent PC laptops can be much cheaper, and everyone says Macs are overpriced. The price doesn't bother me because I like Macs, and I've been saving for a long time. If the hardware isn't beefy enough though, I'll have to look into a PC.

So, in your experience, would a MacBook Pro with Windows 7 be good for game dev?

Edited by 3x3is9, 10 September 2011 - 09:25 AM.


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#2 romer   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 08:43 PM

What I've found the thing you have to careful of when using Macs for game development is knowing what is exposed through their OpenGL driver. Only recently with 10.7 does Apple claim their OpenGL driver have core OpenGL 3.2 support, which you can tell by looking at the OpenGL capabilities table on their developer website. That said, it's been my experience that even though they claim to support a particular version of OpenGL, its best to double check with something like GLEW's glewinfo utility to see HOW that functionality is exposed. Sometimes you'll have to use an ARB extension function pointer instead of a "core" function pointer. Again, libraries like GLEW or GLEE will make setting up the function pointers a cinch, just gotta double check to see which one to use.

That all said, the particular specs for the Macbook pro you listed ought to be adequate for game development, assuming you aren't looking to really tax the system. I don't know if new MBPs come with 10.7 or 10.6, but either way, based on the capabilities table here, it indicates that enough is exposed so that you ought to be able to develop using a modern approach that utilizes the programmable shader pipeline (as opposed to being forced to use the older, now deprecated fixed function pipeline). For what it's worth, I develop on a Mac on 10.6 that has a Radeon 5750, and I haven't had any problems yet. Hope that helps.

#3 D.Chhetri   Members   -  Reputation: 181

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 08:46 PM

There is no need for a poll. Of course macbook pro is good enough for game development, especially since you are( im assuming ) just starting off. I do own a mac and like you I upgraded from a pretty old windows laptop. I can say that the mac is pretty fast and has good hardware for game development. But unless you really want mac, I would suggest you to get a PC. The reason being is that your school probably has more free software for PC. And you can possibly get the same hardware for cheaper price. If you want more power, you can always manually buy more powerful hardware.
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#4 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 8060

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 10:15 PM

Mac laptops are put together really nicely. Yes, you pay a premium if you look at only paper specs, but the build quality and overall niceness is, IMO, well worth the price -- and if we want to compare apples-to-apples, an equally-nice PC laptop from a boutique vendor will cost as much or more, and Apple is even pretty competitive on price with the higher-end mainstream vendors like Lenovo, Asus or Sony.

Moreso than specs that are going to be outdated in 6 months, regardless, you want to pick a machine that feels good and that you are happy with, whether its Mac or PC. Its the nicities that go the distance in the end -- quality and resolution of the screen, battery life, keyboard and track pad feel. Each and every mac has that in spades -- with PCs, you have to look around (largely due to sheer variety of options) and usually compromise somewhere. PC companies for the longest time haven't gotten it with their laptops, design wise, until recently -- Intel's push for the "ultrabook" is finally getting some vendors to release hardware that looks and feels as nice as my (now years old) unibody macbook.

Keep in mind that you don't need some monster laptop with the latest GPU to do game development. Frankly, its unlikely you'll ever begin to push today's hardware, even if you graduate 4 years from now -- If you find your laptop feeling slow, it will be far more likely due to the inefficiency of your code than due to an inability of the hardware. Basically -- would it run Crysis acceptably well? Are you under the delusion that you will be programming Crysis in the next 5 (or even 10) years? If you want a beefy laptop for play, then by all means kill 2 birds with one stone and get whatever you can afford, otherwise, just about any middle-of-the-road laptop with discrete graphics (or any with the higher-end Llano APU) will easily out-last your skills.

#5 ApochPiQ   Moderators   -  Reputation: 16377

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 12:32 AM

Use what you are most comfortable with. The other arguments for and against are largely academic at this point in your career.

#6 Serapth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5661

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:19 AM

Entry level MacBooks are appallingly bad for game development, but the premium Pro's have a reasonable enough GPU, which is generally the achilles heel.


... now price, lets just say one of the biggest reasons I don't own a MBP is price, but that may not be a factor for you. When last time it came to purchasing a development laptop, I ended up going Dell which cost me half as much and handed me double the spec of the MBP of the day. It's kinda hard to spend that kind of price difference. Don't think of me as an antiMac zealot, I have an iMac, iPad, iPhone and various iPods. I simply couldn't reconcile the huge price difference for MBP, which are more glaringly obvious now that they are basically PC's inside.

Although my Dell is still going strong, I am keeping an eye on HP. If they do exit the PC business I am extremely tempted to pick up an Envy at fire sale prices. They tend to be extremely well spec'ed machines.

It will be nice to see a MBP purchased to actually do something worthwhile though. The vast majority I see in the wild are used to surf Facebook at Starbucks. :D

#7 Tachikoma   Members   -  Reputation: 552

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:40 AM

By the time you will become proficient enough to start advanced graphics programming, there is a chance that future incarnations of OS X will eventually support OpenGL 4.x. MBP hardware is already capable of it, but the problem is that Apple is slow releasing drivers supporting the latest GL version. However, for the moment, all of this is immaterial. Furthermore, slow GPUs will not stop you from learning game development. As a solo developer, you can do A LOT with entry level hardware.

I guess one thing that will affect you choices is whether you want to play modern games on your system. You choices on the Mac will be somewhat more limited compared to Windows.
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#8 3x3is9   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:24 AM

Thanks for the replies. I'm not sure if I made it clear enough that I'd be installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. Most of the software that the school provides is Windows-only, and I imagine that game dev is pretty Windows based in general. It's been mentioned that Mac's don't have great support for OpenGL, which if I understand right from a wiki search, is a software thing. Would dual-booting with Windows 7 take care of the OpenGL problems?

#9 Serapth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5661

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:31 AM

Thanks for the replies. I'm not sure if I made it clear enough that I'd be installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. Most of the software that the school provides is Windows-only, and I imagine that game dev is pretty Windows based in general. It's been mentioned that Mac's don't have great support for OpenGL, which if I understand right from a wiki search, is a software thing. Would dual-booting with Windows 7 take care of the OpenGL problems?


A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

#10 undead   Members   -  Reputation: 320

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:38 AM


Thanks for the replies. I'm not sure if I made it clear enough that I'd be installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. Most of the software that the school provides is Windows-only, and I imagine that game dev is pretty Windows based in general. It's been mentioned that Mac's don't have great support for OpenGL, which if I understand right from a wiki search, is a software thing. Would dual-booting with Windows 7 take care of the OpenGL problems?


A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

I agree, with one exception. The Mac Minis.

#11 3x3is9   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:59 AM

A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

Now, I don't really want to bring up an Apple debate, because they're usually pointless. I'm just wondering why you would say a MBP with Windows is a bad idea. Is it a hardware/software incompatibility issue? Or is it just that it's a waste of money to use Windows on a Mac? The reason I am buying this mainly for school, but it's also going to be for personal use. I like Mac OS X better than Windows, so I can switch back when I'm not working. The thing I'm worried about is wasting my money on a laptop that won't accomplish my school work, which is why I'm getting it. If a MBP won't do the job, I'll just have to suck it up and get a PC laptop, but of course I'd rather buy a Mac.

#12 undead   Members   -  Reputation: 320

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:22 AM


A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

Now, I don't really want to bring up an Apple debate, because they're usually pointless. I'm just wondering why you would say a MBP with Windows is a bad idea. Is it a hardware/software incompatibility issue? Or is it just that it's a waste of money to use Windows on a Mac? The reason I am buying this mainly for school, but it's also going to be for personal use. I like Mac OS X better than Windows, so I can switch back when I'm not working. The thing I'm worried about is wasting my money on a laptop that won't accomplish my school work, which is why I'm getting it. If a MBP won't do the job, I'll just have to suck it up and get a PC laptop, but of course I'd rather buy a Mac.

I don't want to defend Seapth as he can do it by himself but he said "if you are going for MOSTLY windows". :)

#13 Serapth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5661

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:23 AM


A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

Now, I don't really want to bring up an Apple debate, because they're usually pointless. I'm just wondering why you would say a MBP with Windows is a bad idea. Is it a hardware/software incompatibility issue? Or is it just that it's a waste of money to use Windows on a Mac? The reason I am buying this mainly for school, but it's also going to be for personal use. I like Mac OS X better than Windows, so I can switch back when I'm not working. The thing I'm worried about is wasting my money on a laptop that won't accomplish my school work, which is why I'm getting it. If a MBP won't do the job, I'll just have to suck it up and get a PC laptop, but of course I'd rather buy a Mac.


Then buy a mac.

It all comes down to value for money, and we all have different opinions on that subject. If someone else is paying or im filthy rich, paying a large premium isn't that big of a deal. Sadly I am neither rich, nor do I have someone else footing the bill. When the MacBook is being used primarily as a PC, that premium gets even bigger because:

- you can buy a better equipped PC for far less money
- you still need to license Windows, which when not OEM is a huge cost addition. ( Or you are a pirate, which if you are going into software development for a living, tisk tisk )
- you get a slightly inferior windows experience. The mousing is meh and your keys are wrong, for example.

You may not have the attachment to money I do, or you may have someone else paying or perhaps the fashion premium of a Mac is important to you, all very valid possibilities, but all untrue for me. If I was buying a machine to do development in XCode for the Mac or I wanted to run a *nix as a primary OS, I would buy a Mac. But if I was buying a machine to do development in Windows and a lot of gaming, I would not.

#14 Serapth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5661

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:30 AM



Thanks for the replies. I'm not sure if I made it clear enough that I'd be installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. Most of the software that the school provides is Windows-only, and I imagine that game dev is pretty Windows based in general. It's been mentioned that Mac's don't have great support for OpenGL, which if I understand right from a wiki search, is a software thing. Would dual-booting with Windows 7 take care of the OpenGL problems?


A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

I agree, with one exception. The Mac Minis.


I am not avidly anti-Mac, I actually quite like my iMac for what I use it for, at 1000$ ( at the time ) for a single plug solution wasn't a bad deal really, if I figure Mac OS as a value add, which in that case I do. The Mac Mini is an interesting machine, which if they shipped with slightly better video, I would have picked on up as a Media Center solution. Then again, at 400-500$, there isn't much of an Apple Tax on them either. It's once you start talking laptops that the price gap becomes quite so vast. The entry level MacBooks have fairly appalling specs, but the Pro's with more reasonable specs are just outrageously expensive. However, if you want a high end MacOS portable experience, they are the only game in town. If on the other hand, you want a Windows machine, they are an overwhelmingly bad purchase.

#15 undead   Members   -  Reputation: 320

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:42 AM

I am not avidly anti-Mac, I actually quite like my iMac for what I use it for, at 1000$ ( at the time ) for a single plug solution wasn't a bad deal really, if I figure Mac OS as a value add, which in that case I do. The Mac Mini is an interesting machine, which if they shipped with slightly better video, I would have picked on up as a Media Center solution. Then again, at 400-500$, there isn't much of an Apple Tax on them either. It's once you start talking laptops that the price gap becomes quite so vast. The entry level MacBooks have fairly appalling specs, but the Pro's with more reasonable specs are just outrageously expensive. However, if you want a high end MacOS portable experience, they are the only game in town. If on the other hand, you want a Windows machine, they are an overwhelmingly bad purchase.

I got a mac mini 2011 with an ATI (not a great video card but ok). And I couldn't find a PC equivalent because all small PCs I found had an atom CPU. I already had a spare non OEM win7 64 professional.

Now I have a media center, a portable PC, a second development machine for hobby or emergencies and I have the chance to learn something about iOS programming.

Never had a mac before because I use windows and they cost a lot and give less, performance-wise. And yes Apple Tax isn't much on a mac mini.

I agree, in the end it's all about what fits better somebody's needs.

#16 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6288

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:46 AM


A MBP booted mostly into Windows is a bad purchase. Period.

Mac OS is about the only reason to pay the ( rather horrid ) Apple Tax, so if you are going for mostly Windows, there are many many many many better choices than a Mac.

Now, I don't really want to bring up an Apple debate, because they're usually pointless. I'm just wondering why you would say a MBP with Windows is a bad idea. Is it a hardware/software incompatibility issue? Or is it just that it's a waste of money to use Windows on a Mac? The reason I am buying this mainly for school, but it's also going to be for personal use. I like Mac OS X better than Windows, so I can switch back when I'm not working. The thing I'm worried about is wasting my money on a laptop that won't accomplish my school work, which is why I'm getting it. If a MBP won't do the job, I'll just have to suck it up and get a PC laptop, but of course I'd rather buy a Mac.


It is primarily a money issue, i bought my new asus laptop for around 60% of what an equally specced MBP would have costed me, and then got a Win7 license(OEM) aswell. (Only drawback, and probably the reason for the low price is the cheap glossy display (But MBPs use similar glossy displays allthough with lower resolution))

The only PC laptop manufacturer i can think of with a similar price/performance ratio as Apple is Sony and in some cases HP (Their elitebook line is quite expensive), those tend to have significantly better displays though. (getting a good high res anti-glare monitor on a MBP costs quite a bit extra ($150 extra on the 15" MBPs) while its the default option for elitebooks)
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