Is a MacBook Pro M1 Max a gaming laptop?

I’ve had the great privilege of taking the new Apple MacBook Pro M1 for a spin for the past few weeks and I love it. Everything you’ve come to expect from Apple is present and accounted for. The stylish design, the premium finish, and the easy-to-use and intuitive software; it’s all right at your fingertips with the MacBook Pro M1.

However, Apple had something else in mind when it sent me the laptop; gaming. Apple wanted to show off how far gaming had come on Mac and how great the MacBook Pro M1 was for gaming. Colour me intrigued.

I’ve used and owned MacBooks in the past and love them for what they do but my memories of gaming on a MacBook only extended so far as Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 and Papers, Please.

Could MacBooks have moved on so much as to rival PCs in the gaming space?

MacBook Pro M1

I don’t have much of a mind for technical specifications or what that all means. However, I can tell you that the MacBook I’ve been using includes;

  • Apple M1 Max chipset
  • 10 core chipset
  • 32GB memory
  • 24 core GPU
  • 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display – 3456 x 2234

Again, I don’t fully understand the technical specs or how they relate to gaming or compare to other PCs but I can tell you that the MacBook M1 Pro Max’s performance is pretty phenomenal. I’m not going to go all deep-dive and provide you with in-depth details, FPS numbers and so on. Instead, I’m simply going to tell you that when playing the right games, the MacBook M1 Pro Max is a beast.

The phrase, “the right games,” is a bit loaded so let me explain. A huge percentage of the most popular and biggest AAA releases in gaming each year are not released on Mac. Usually, they’re available on PC and consoles with Macs barely being an afterthought. In recent years this has started to change. Resident Evil Village, Metro Exodus and Baldur’s Gate III are just a handful of the most recent, high-profile games to come to Mac and they’re all excellent examples of just how far gaming has come on Apple platforms.

I played all three of the above titles extensively on the MacBook and they all ran flawlessly. It’s pretty incredible to see just how well these games run on a laptop, particularly Resident Evil Village and Metro Exodus, with nary a frame drop, hitch or technical foible to be seen. Even more impressive is the length of time you can play games on the MacBook before the battery starts to give way. I remember a time not so long ago when playing a game on a laptop meant being tethered to the wall lest you lose processing power or actual power, after only a short stint.

While these examples are a phenomenal showing for the MacBook Pro M1 Max, the flipside is that the number of big-budget games available for Mac is limited. My Steam library is in the triple digits, but the number that runs on Mac is less than a third. Once you factor in that this MacBook can’t run 32-bit games, you lose even more. That being said, Apple does close the gap somewhat with Apple Arcade.

Granted, Apple Arcade games are not big-budget, AAA must-plays but many of them are absolute gems. And when you factor in the non-gaming use you’ll get out of your MacBook it starts to look like a really good solution. Hear me out…gamers often need to vote with their wallets and often are forced to end up choosing one console or piece of hardware over another. PS5 or Xbox Series X for example. Buying a high-end gaming PC on top of that is a tall order. Hell, even buying a MacBook on top of that is a tall order, however, if you’re in the market for a new laptop and you’re interested in gaming on it, the MacBook is a viable option.

For everyday use, for work, for graphic design/editing and for all of the other things Macs are brilliant at, the MacBook M1 Pro Max is a no-brainer. Is it a gaming laptop? I’d say yes, with a but.

Yes, but for now, the games you can play on it are limited. However, those games you can play on it run flawlessly. If you’ve already got a console, the MacBook is a great top-up for gaming, especially on the go and the inclusion of Apple Arcade opens up dozens of games you might otherwise miss; Sneaky Sasquatch is a delight.

If you’re looking for a pure gaming machine, you may still want to opt for a PC but if Apple continues to make inroads into the gaming space, Macs might just start becoming much more viable as the sole gaming machine in your household. For now, it’s a brilliant, if niche, addition to your gaming stable, especially if you’re using the MacBook for all its myriad other functions.

An Apple MacBook M1 Pro Max was provided by Apple for this piece.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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