Is MacBook Air Good for Gaming?

The MacBook Air is one of the top laptops available. It’s lightweight, versatile, and very portable. It’s a great all-around machine, and with recent upgrades to its graphics capability, many wonder if the newer MacBook Airs are suitable for gaming.

Older MacBook Airs were definitely not good gaming machines, and the quick answer for the newer MacBook Air is that they are not a whole lot better. Of course, this is dependent on the type of games you’re going to play and the kind of gamer you are.

My name is Eric, and I have been playing computer games since I was a kid in the early 1980s. While I am no longer the serious gamer that I used to be, I have some close friends and family who are, and I have consulted them about this question.

Using my knowledge and with the help of a few gaming experts, I have formed a solid opinion on this. Keep reading if you would like to find out more!

Is the Macbook Air a Good Gaming Laptop? 

I’ve given you my quick answer above, and for the most part, the MacBook Air is not a good gaming laptop. 

My gaming experts, who I have talked to, were quick to give me a similar negative answer. They agreed that they would not choose it for their primary gaming machine. They say they would definitely not go out and buy one just to use for gaming.

Let’s face it, it may be a quality product that can do many things, but it’s just not designed for this purpose. Since there are so many things that it does well, let’s take a quick look at them.

What is the MacBook Air Best for? 

It may not be a great gaming laptop, but it does exceptionally well for many other purposes. It’s best used for everyday purposes such as surfing the internet, writing papers or reports, creating spreadsheets, listening to music, and much more. 

Image Courtesy Apple.com

It’s a great computer for a student or professional to get their everyday work done. The most significant benefit to all who use one is its portability. It is very lightweight, compact, and designed to have a very long battery life, making it a great travel companion.

Is the MacBook Air with M1 Chipset Good for Gaming? 

If you have heard all the hype about the M1 chip used in the MacBook Air, you might have been hoping that the newer MacBook Airs would make that leap to handle intense games.

Image Courtesy Apple.com

With its 16 processor cores (8 CPU and 8 GPU), it sounds like a powerful chip, and it is, but it’s just not made for gaming. It is made for other uses, as we have described above. The main goal of its design is to be compact, efficient, and provide a long battery life. 

Even though 7 or 8 (depending on the model you get) of the cores are dedicated GPUs (graphics processing units), they are contained within the M1 chipset. They cannot perform as well as a separate external graphics card.

What Types of Games Work Well with the MacBook Air?

The MacBook Air can handle light gaming, especially simple arcade games or games designed specifically for macOS and the M1 chipset. It can do well with some older games, but the performance will still not be as good as on a machine designed for these types of games. 

Apple Arcade: Image Courtesy Apple.com

You will find that the MacBook Air can run some of the newer graphics-intensive games, but you will need to play them on the lowest settings, and you will probably still experience some stutters or glitches in your display. Probably not desirable for most game enthusiasts.

What Types of Games DON’T Work Well with the MacBook Air?

Graphics intensive games with lots of motion and action will be at the top of the list for games that don’t work well on the MacBook Air. Unfortunately, most of these games are designed and optimized to run on Windows machines with Intel or AMD chips.

Why the MacBook Air Isn’t Great for High-End Games

The gamers I have spoken to would not even consider playing high-end games on a MacBook Air. The experience is just not worth it. The stutters, glitches, and slowness make it challenging to play and is downright frustrating to deal with.

Let’s look at why a great productivity machine like the MacBook Air is unsuitable for high-end games.

Slower Processor 

While most will try to point to the processor speed right away, this isn’t necessarily the case. The M1 does have a 3.2 GHz processor, which seems like plenty of speed for any gaming machine. The problem is how the M1 is designed and how it uses that speed.

It is designed more for efficiently running multiple applications simultaneously, and it also focuses on power saving to extend battery life. While the processor has good speed, it is not used for graphics, which you need for good gaming.

Games not optimized for M1

Unfortunately, most games are designed for Windows PCs, and that means they are optimized for Intel and AMD processors, not Apple Silicon, which is the M1 processor specifically designed for Mac.

GPU

The MacBook Air is equipped with a built-in graphics processing unit or GPU. This is nice for making the MacBook Air very small and compact, and the GPU works very well for displaying photos, general videos, and everyday applications.

Although a built-in GPU works excellent for most productivity-type applications, it is not designed for intense gaming. The fact that it is built-in means that you cannot upgrade to a better third-party graphics card, which would significantly enhance gaming performance.

No Fan

Part of the MacBook Air’s sleek design is that it does not have any fans. This allows the laptop to be smaller and also use less power. In most situations, the laptop cools fine on its own, but when playing a high-resource demanding game, this can be a problem.

Many have reported that the MacBook Air will overheat while playing games. Overheating can possibly cause damage to your machine and will also cause poor performance, which will affect your gameplay.

Keyboard

The MacBook Air’s keyboard is not the best for playing games. The keys are not as responsive as full-size keyboards, but you can always connect an external keyboard to solve this problem.

What is the Best MacBook for Gaming?

The 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro or M1 Max is considered the best MacBook for gaming. While it still doesn’t measure up to most PC gaming machines, it handles most popular games very well.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max are designed to use the speed much better than the M1. With up to 64 GB of RAM and an 8 TB SSD, the MacBook Pro has what it needs to run most games smoothly, but my gamer friends say it’s still not a real gaming machine.

With that being said, if you are really set on using a Mac for gaming, then you may want to look at desktop Macs such as the Mac Mini, Mac Studio, or Mac Pro, especially if you don’t need a portable machine. 

You will have many more choices in hardware, and most of all, you will be able to add a high-quality graphics card which will significantly improve your gaming experience.

Conclusion

The MacBook Air is a fabulous computer. It does many things well, but it is designed mainly for portability, which makes it an incredible machine for professionals and students who need a laptop that can help them to get their work done.

The features that make it portable and productive do not help and actually hinder the computer’s ability to be a good gaming machine. For this reason, my opinion is that the MacBook Air is definitely not good for gaming. 

The system will do well with less intensive, arcade-type games and those designed to run on Mac systems, but high-end games will most likely disappoint the serious gamers.

I hope this article has provided you with the information you are looking for. As usual please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you.

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