Steam Mac Beta Framerate Comparison

As promised, I re-downloaded the Windows versions of Team Fortress 2 and Portal and ran some framerate comparisons.

In Portal running on Vista under Boot Camp, I get a fairly steady mid 20s to low 30s FPS at 1680×1050, using the recommended settings: model detail high, texture detail medium, shader detail high, water detail set to reflect world, shadow detail high, colour correction enabled, no antialiasing, 8X anisotropic filtering, vertical sync disabled, motion blur disabled, HDR on full and bloom off.

TF2, presumably running on the same Orange Box engine, unsurprisingly gets a very similar frame rate with the same settings. I have field of view set to 75. Obviously it can drop a little in particularly busy fights, but with a decent ping it never becomes unplayable. With the same settings on OS X, I’m getting about 10-12 FPS, occasionally peaking at about 15, and regularly dropping to low single digits when the fight gets crowded. To my mind that is unplayable. The recommended settings on the Mac version are lower; with the game suggesting low shader detail, medium shadow detail and trilinear filtering. Using those setting gained me, perhaps, a single frame every second.

With the same settings as under Boot Camp, the Portal Mac beta frame rate drops to a similar level. In narrow corridors it can reach the low twenties, but in large rooms, or as soon as I start placing portals, it falls shockingly low. If you’ve ever experimented with the Source engine’s frame counter you’ll know that, as well as displaying actual numbers, the text is displayed in traffic light colours. In the Windows games it appears to stay red up till around 35, and doesn’t go green till nearly 60. Under OS X it turns green at about 28-30. It seems Valve have decided that a lower frame rate is acceptable on the Mac, which is disappointing.

5 thoughts on “Steam Mac Beta Framerate Comparison

  1. “It seems Valve have decided that a lower frame rate is acceptable on the Mac, which is disappointing.”

    Well, I don’t think they actually decided to go this way.
    Just checked the forums, and a reliable source reveled that this perfomance is not at all what we should expect for the release date. Also, many updates have been planned with support from Apple to fix this graphical issues.

    So, I think we’ll have to wait ’til “May 12” to meet the real power of Source on the Mac.

  2. Indeed. I tried to stay away from posting about bugs, as that seemed unfair during a a beta release. But Valve were encouraging me to post impressions, and performance seemed to be what people would be most interested in. These aren’t new games. There’s not a lot of exclusives I can give about the games themselves.

    As you say, a Valve poster on the Steam forums has responded saying that they will be continuing to tweak performance up to and beyond release, and that the X1600 and X1900 chipsets are particularly susceptible to issues. I wouldn’t expect to see frame rate parity with Boot Camp any time soon though. If 10.6.4 changes that, I’ll be a very happy man.

  3. “It seems Valve have decided that a lower frame rate is acceptable on the Mac, which is disappointing.”

    You’re either laying on the “too lazy to optimize” bunk a little thick or don’t know how these things actually work. In Windows, the drivers are honed and tweaked for games to the point of being faster. On OS X, Apple writes the GL implementation and ATI/Nvidia write drivers to plug into that. It’s not a break-neck competitive gaming platform so you just don’t see the kind of performance you do in Windows. If you want to blame someone – blame Nvidia/ATI and Apple, not Valve.

    Show me any game that performs the same in OS X as it does in Windows – you can’t find one.

  4. There’s going to be an ongoing effort to raise performance after release. The X1600/X1900 are right on the edge of what is supportable by Source, as the drivers for those chips are missing a couple key features and we have to simulate them using additional shader code.

    BTW it wasn’t indicated whether you are testing on 10.5.x or 10.6.x. So drop me an email and we will take a closer look at it.

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