Boost Game Performance on Retina Macs with a Simple Trick

Apr 16, 2016 - 8 Comments

Civilization on Mac

Mac users with Retina displays may have noticed that gaming performance is sometimes reduced on these machines. The reason is quite simple; if you’re running the game at native resolution, then the Mac has to drive the game at full resolution of the display at 2880 x 1440 or greater. A common solution to this is to go into a games individual Display settings and manually adjust them so the games resolution is lower, but another approach to this is available for Retina Macs like the iMac and MacBook Pro.


What this trick does is force the game to launch in low resolution mode, rather than Retina mode. This effectively cuts in half the games resolution, which typically offers a huge and dramatic boost to gaming performance on Retina Macs. Nearly everything will be much faster, with considerably higher frame rate (FPS) performance, draw rates, and just generally all around smoother for games. The downside is that by lowering the resolution the game won’t look quite as good, but typically with the low resolution mode enabled you can go to other Display settings of a game and turn them onto higher detail and it largely evens out, as long as your face is not inches away from the Mac. lowers the resolution and offers a dramatic increase to game performance on most Retina equipped Macs.

Hugely Improve Game Performance on Retina Macs with a Simple Trick

This is a really simple trick, but you have to enable it on each game that you want to improve the performance of. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Quit out of the game if it’s currently running
  2. Go to the Finder in Mac OS X and navigate to the /Applications/ folder
  3. Locate the game(s) you want to improve the performance of by reducing resolution, then hit Command + i to open Get Info for the game app (altnernatively, go to the File menu and choose “Get Info” when the app is selected)
  4. Check the box for “Open in Low Resolution” then close the Get Info window
  5. Improve Mac game performance

  6. Relaunch the game and enjoy the new considerably speedier performance and higher frame rate (though at a lower resolution)

This trick easily doubles the FPS performance of some games on the Mac immediately, so if you have a game that is struggling to play in OS X on a Retina Mac when action gets busy, try it out, the difference can be like night and day.

A perfect example of where this benefit is huge is with the popular strategy game Civilization 5, where when a lot of onscreen action is going on at native resolution on a Retina MacBook Pro, the FPS drops to nearly nothing and tiles start having to draw in and render on each move of the map or a piece. Changing the resolution of the game can help, or changing the resolution of the Retina display can help too, but rather than that approach you can simply open the game in the non-retina Mac mode. The drawing and FPS issues are completely resolved by opening the game in Low Resolution mode, and suddenly the game is as fast and smooth as can be, and for the most part the appearance looks basically the same, though text is a little more pixelated when at the lower resolution.

Civilization on Mac at Retina resolution

This is particularly great if you’re using a Retina Mac connected to a TV for big screen gaming with a PS4 controller (or PS3 controller) since the TV is almost always far enough away to never notice the games resolution difference. I do exactly that with OpenEMU running as a Nintendo 64 emulator and PS1 emulator, and the performance is fantastic even with aggressive smoothing filtering running on the game emulation.

Open a Mac app in Low resolution mode for better gaming performance

So, if you’re a Mac gamer with a Retina display computer and you think performance is a little drab, try this out, it works wonders to make a game play smooth.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Games, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

8 Comments

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  1. Peter says:

    Nice tip, helped bump up the FPS in Civilization and Starcraft 2. Mac doesn’t have many games, but the few it does perform less well than Windows. This helps.

  2. Olof Ogf says:

    Well this is a great solution, I believe it worked for me too.

    On another note, Safari crashes constantly!

  3. avenged110 says:

    I actually use non-HiDPI mode on my Haswell 15″ Pro all the time and am quite happy with it. I really have no problem with the lower resolution and get to enjoy buttery smooth animations everywhere, even in pos iTunes. It also tends to make the shadows heavier which is nice.

  4. crimsonfancy says:

    When will Apple come out with cost comparable tools to run games in high FPS without sacrificing display quality? Shame really imo. I thought I was done with PC for many reasons but for less than half the cost of my RMBP, I now (had to) have a Windows machine that will run any game at max settings plus. I realize this is a long discussed and sore concern but to what end?

  5. a says:

    Or, you know, just add a good quality graphics card instead of integrated bulls**t? :)

  6. a says:

    Not but honestly this is ridiculous – after retina came out we struggled to get non-Apple apps run in retina resolution. And now we try to make them NOT run in retina, cos the hw cannot take it. Yay!

  7. Joe says:

    I think Retina is over rated. I fine with 1080p. I just wish Apple would quit using Intel graphics chips and go back to Nvidia or ATI. Intel chips are just generic for gaming and 3D modeling. The price you pay for a Mac, it should come with a better graphics chip.

  8. Timbow says:

    Hi

    Is there also the possibillity to do this in Win 10 bootcamp? I can also only use the high resolution (doom beta) in my 27″ late 2015
    Thnks for your answers

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