If Macs have had one black spot over the years, it’s gaming. A limited game selection and so-so GPU performance has led most gamers to look elsewhere. Nvidia’s GeForce Now Ultimate changes everything. Suddenly the Mac became a brilliant gaming platform.
GeForce Now is Nvidia’s cloud gaming service that lets you play a huge library of Windows games on a Mac. title like Cyberpunk 2077, A Plague Tale: Requiem and the Far cry series is among the list of gorgeous looking games on offer. Previously taboo titles such as Fourteen days – a victim of Apple’s legal battle with Epic Games – is playable on Mac.
Forget everything you thought you knew about cloud gaming: choppy performance, low-resolution graphics, poor latency. The new GeForce Now Ultimate tier is powered by the graphics of the RTX 4080 series and the performance is sensational (assuming your broadband has enough). Games can take full advantage of stunning Mac displays with 4K frame rates of up to 120 frames per second – far beyond what most Mac displays can even handle.
And since most of the processing work is done on Nvidia’s servers, there aren’t any huge demands on your Mac. That means you can enjoy games without the fan noise in the background, especially if you’re using a newer Mac with an M1 or M2 processor.
Here’s how to turn your Mac into a great gaming machine.
GeForce Now Ultimate – what you need
To get the best gaming performance on a Mac, you need the following:
- A GeForce Now Ultimate subscription – You can login to the Nvidia website. It costs $19.99 a month in the US, and Nvidia is in the process of rolling it out in Europe too. There’s a cheaper priority level, but it beats it at Full HD resolution at 60 frames per second, meaning you’re not taking full advantage of the resolution on your Mac’s screen. However, Full HD is good enough for gaming on devices like the MacBook Air with smaller screens.
- Fast Broadband – To stream games in 4K at 120 frames per second, you need dedicated bandwidth of up to 45 Mbit/s. That’s not a 45Mbps connection, it’s 45Mbps reserved for the gaming service only. In my testing, the average required bandwidth on a 16-inch MacBook Pro playing at 4K and 60 frames per second is around 10-20 Mbps.
Here’s how to get the most out of GeForce Now Ultimate on a Mac
If you want to get the most out of GeForce Now Ultimate on your Mac, here are a few tips:
- Connection via Ethernet – It’s possible to play over Wi-Fi, and Nvidia pulls all sorts of stunts to make Wi-Fi streaming as smooth as possible, but even with a high-end Wi-Fi 6 mesh router in the box same space as my MacBook Pro, I experienced stuttering, dropped frames and lag. Connecting to the router via an Ethernet cable offers much smoother performance. It’s really easy to forget that you’re using a cloud service instead of playing locally. If your Mac doesn’t have an Ethernet port — and most modern MacBooks don’t — you can buy a cheap USB-C Ethernet adapter.
- Optimize display settings – Nvidia’s app does a pretty good job of automatically finding the best settings, but I found it best to take manual control. In the GeForce Now app for Mac, click the menu icon in the top left of the screen and select Settings. Go to Streaming Quality and choose Custom. Then choose the resolution of your particular screen and the maximum frame rate. If you’re not sure, Apple’s website will show your device’s specs. For example, on my 16-inch MacBook Pro, the display is 3,456 x 2 x 234 pixels and the refresh rate is capped at 60 Hz, or 60 frames per second.
- Enable in-game graphics settings – You will also find an option in the settings menu to save your changes to the in-game graphics settings. For example, the viewing distance or the graphics quality can be changed in the game itself. I find Nvidia’s automatic settings a bit modest, and you can get better graphics quality by controlling them yourself. Unless you’re familiar with in-game graphics settings and how they affect performance, it’s probably safer to stick with Nvidia’s recommended settings.
- Get a good controller – Mouse and keyboard input are of course supported, but you may want to use a gaming controller as well. You can connect Bluetooth-enabled Xbox and PlayStation controllers to your Mac through the Mac’s Bluetooth settings menu. GeForce Now should automatically detect them. It even supports vibration feedback on my Xbox controller. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true of the Google Stadia controller, which can be converted into a Bluetooth controller after the service shuts down, but didn’t offer vibration support in my testing.
- Connect all shops – Unlike Microsoft’s Game Pass, GeForce Now does not include games in the price. Instead, you connect your Steam, Epic Games, or Ubisoft accounts and play the games you’ve already purchased through those stores. (Warning: Not all games in these stores are supported in GeForce Now – the full list of supported games can be found here.) It’s worth signing up with all of these stores even if you haven’t bought games there before, and they often give away freebies free games to add to your library.
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