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Windows gaming on MacBook Pro

Many bit-tech readers will know me as something of an Apple fanboy. I have used OSX as my primary operating system for almost two years now, and I can't see myself going back to Windows any time soon.

However, as a die-hard gamer, I don't exactly get much gaming done on my beloved Powerbook. Nothing is really released for OSX - save for The Sims - and even the stuff that is released runs pretty horrendously, thanks to woefully-ironically-named PowerPC processor and the ATI Radeon 9700-class graphics in my machine. OSX has a pretty horrid OpenGL implementation too, and it shows.

Now, however, things are looking a little different. Intel's Core Duo chip is inside the latest portables, the MacBook Pro, and the ATI X1600 graphics aren't too shabby either. These MacBooks are amongst the fastest 'PC' laptops out there, in terms of raw specs, certainly for the form factor. The MacBook is a fantastically designed machine, with sleek good looks and great build quality (for the most part). Many people love the design of Apple hardware, but could never buy into the Window-less world.

The new clincher, however, is Boot Camp. Using this application, it's now possible to dual-boot Windows and OSX, and rebooting into either takes less than 30 seconds. This allows users to have the best of both worlds: the desktop environment and usability of OSX, with ability of Windows to play games.

So we wanted to sit down and find out - is this really feasible? Could would-be Mac users tied to their Windows laptops by Counter-Strike and Battlefield really make the switch? The next couple of pages should answer this question.

The machine

The MacBook Pro was the first Intel machine from Apple. It looks much the same as the previous PowerBook, but there are some subtle differences in dimensions and expandability options.

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The machine (above, left) is slightly thinner and slightly wider than the previous 15" PowerBook. It has two USB ports, a gigabit LAN port, Firewire port and a couple of audio jacks. It also has a DVI to enable dual-screen output and an ExpressCard slot for... well, not much. Compared to the PowerBook, it lacks a FireWire 800 port and the new ExpressCard slot (annoyingly) replaces the far more useful old school PCMCIA slot. The MacBook also has a webcam integrated above the screen. Basically, everything you'd need on a laptop.

It's not too heavy (at 2.5KG) and the screen is a decent size and resolution - 15.4-inch, 1440x900. In our tests, we got just under three hours of battery life in normal 2D usage, under OSX.

The specs in full -
  • 2GHz Intel Core Duo processor
  • 667MHz FSB
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • 100GB 5400RPM SATA hard drive
  • DVD±RW
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 256MB
  • Wireless network card and bluetooth
  • FrontRow infra-red remote
  • Price: £1779 inc VAT
The MacBook is a little like a BMW or Mercedes: high purchase price but well specified with some decent hardware.