Best gaming MacBook 2023: which MacBook will raise your game?
Pick out the perfect MacBook for your gaming needs.
Traditionally, gaming on a Mac hasn't been much fun. While Macs have come equipped with graphics cards for years, they have always been to make them better for heavy workloads rather than gaming. Now, Apple realizes that even casual gaming is something almost everyone does with their laptop, and the ability to play some games is almost a necessity.
Steam will run on pretty much any Mac, and the library of compatible games is growing by the minute. These games all run great on Apple silicon-based Macs, with all their graphics cores making them pretty competent gaming machines. There's also Apple Arcade, which is not only chock full of games for iPhones and iPads, but also for Macs with Apple silicon. These are all games that have been ported over to Mac and run pretty well on the very powerful modern Mac hardware.
There are also game streaming services that make Macs very tempting machines. Services like Nvidia GeForce now will stream games to your machine with gaming quality of up to the RTX 4080. You'll be tied down slightly by the game choices that come with these services, but you'll be able to game to your heart's content, as long as you have a decent internet connection.
If you're a student looking to game, check out our look at the best MacBook for students to see what fits for you.
Best overall: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2023)
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16-inch MacBook Pro (2023)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
For ultimate Mac gaming, there's nothing better than the third-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro (2023). Like the 14-inch MacBook Pro (mentioned below), this model offers an M2 Pro or M2 Max SoC with up to 96GB of unified memory and 8TB of SSD storage. In addition, you get a 12-core CPU with up to 38-core GPU.
What does this mean for gaming? It means more graphics power to run games. The top Apple Silicon chips available in this MacBook are comparable to some of the most powerful graphics cards on the market, and you'll find very good framerates with compatible games on steam. Have a play around with the settings on certain games as well. You'll often find some games perform better than you might expect, so you can push them a little harder.
But there's much more. The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 by 2234 pixels) with ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz, so not only will your games look fantastic, but they'll also be smooth as silk. It's also packed with up to 22 hours of battery life between charges and comes with an all-new 1080p FaceTime HD camera with an advanced image signal processor and computational video.
Fancy gaming on a bigger screen? There's an HDMI port on the side of the device, so you can hook it up to a gaming monitor and play those pixels even further. It supports resolutions up to 4K, but it's worth sticking with gaming in 1080p instead to ensure you get a more stable gaming performance.
With macOS 13 Ventura, gaming is even better on Mac — especially on high-powered MacBooks like the 14- and 16-inch models. Besides offering a new Game Center experience, macOS 13 Ventura will provide better visuals, accelerated performance, and quicker load time.
With Ventura has come Metal 3, a new graphics framework that will make your games run better. It improves complex scene rendering for developers with resolution scaling and temporal anti-aliasing. Put simply, it makes it easier for developers to bring their games to Mac and makes your games run and look better on your MacBook.
The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook models (2023), some of the best MacBooks available, also offer MagSafe, an HDMI port, and an SDXC card slot, besides its three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports. If you're looking for any negatives, understand this is the heaviest MacBook Pro available (4.7 pounds). It's also costly, even at the base level.
The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro gives you the most power and performance, though the price tag is high.
Best alternative: 14-inch MacBook Pro (2023)
14-inch MacBook Pro (2023)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This is the one to buy if you want everything on the 16-inch MacBook Pro but with a smaller display and similar internals for less. Nonetheless, it's still an expensive computer, which is something to keep in mind.
If you want to buy it for gaming, heed our advice: buy as much memory and storage as you can afford. And remember, you can't change these options after purchase since upgrades aren't possible. So with this in mind, consider getting an Apple M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine with 1TB of storage and at least 32GB of RAM.
Remember that the cooling solution isn't quite as impressive here as on the larger model, mainly because there's less room for a big fan and heatsink setup. As a result, it might not push the frames quite as much, and you may have to drop a couple of settings to ensure you're not burning yourself on the MacBook's aluminum shell. With this in mind, however, you might still be surprised by how well the MacBook Pro 14-inch pushes games.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the 16-inch model except for the smaller display and price.
Best budget: MacBook Air (2022)
MacBook Air (2022)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Our third pick, the 2022 MacBook Air, is also our favorite MacBook overall. It features an all-new M2 chip that offers an 8-core CPU, up to a 10-core GPU, up to 24GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro (2022) also offers an M2 chip but we're not recommending it for gamers because of key differences between the two models. The MacBook Air has an all-new 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology that provides 2560x1664 resolution. It also has a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and is lighter than the Pro model. On the negative side, you'll need to pay extra for more GPU. Additionally, Apple has priced this model at $1,299 versus $999 for the previous model. It's still cheaper than MacBook Pro models, but not nearly as much as before.
Graphics performance from the new M2 chip is pretty special. In our MacBook Air M2 review, we ran some games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and found performance to be more than adequate. If you don't push those settings too high you'll have a great time gaming on the MacBook Air.
We even ran some benchmarks to compare this machine with others that you can grab, and multicore performance was even better than gaming laptops of a similar price. There is a lot of performance headroom here, and what the future holds for the M2 chip and gaming performance is very exciting. Particularly if you want to play games on the go on something as slim and as light as the MacBook Air M2.
The 2022 MacBook Air is an excellent choice for any gamer on a budget, although this is still an expensive machine.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is likely the best Mac for you if you're a gamer. The base model includes an Apple M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. You'll also find 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM.
You'll receive even more power when upgrading to the Apple M1 Max. With this SoC, memory jumps to at least 32GB, with 1TB of SSN storage. These specs would be ideally suited for the gaming advances Apple brought to the table with macOS 13 Ventura. These include advanced gaming features, SharePlay gameplay, a redesigned Game Center dashboard, and more.
However, if you think 16 inches is too big for the display, buy the 14-inch MacBook Pro. It offers the same specs with a smaller screen. And for those searching for a budget option, you can't go wrong with the MacBook Air with M2, which comes with the fresh M2 chip and up to 2TB of storage. It also has an all-new 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology that provides 2560x1664 resolution, allowing you to game with clear and vivid graphics.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.
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