Is Apple Making a Gaming Mac?

A report of a potential “gaming” Mac has me speculating on what a Mac for gaming would actually look like.


Back in December the Chinese website Economic Daily reported that Apple is working on an e-sports focused gaming PC that could cost up to $5,000. The article doesn’t give many details about the new machine other than it may be an all-in-one desktop or a large notebook. The report also states that it is expected to be announced at WWDC this year.

Given how thin this report is, it should be taken with a hefty grain of salt. No information about components, specifications, or form factor are given, and the report doesn’t even know if it will be a desktop or laptop. All signs point to this rumor being off base.

But in all rumors there is usually a hint of truth, and I think this is the perfect opportunity to speculate on what PC this report might actually be talking about and what an Apple gaming PC might look.

Theory 1: This is the new iMac Pro

Although the report specifically says “up to” $5,000, that price would sound awfully familiar to anyone who’s looked at the iMac Pro. The iMac Pro was introduced in 2017 and hasn’t seen an update since, making this a good time for an upgrade. Given that the iMac Pro is already a decent gaming Mac for those who can afford it, and given that an update will likely include AMD’s more gaming-focused Navi GPUs, it wouldn’t be surprising if a supply-chain insider saw the Navi GPUs and concluded the iMac Pro refresh is gaming-focused.

Remember the Vega GPUs Apple currently uses in the iMac Pro were designed as a compute-focused architecture first and a gaming architecture second. It often out-performed more expensive Nvidia cards at compute tasks while disappointing at gaming performance. Navi GPUs also need something that Vega cards don’t, and that’s GDDR6 VRAM. Vega cards use the more professional-focused HBM2 VRAM, while GDDR6, which is more common in gaming GPUs, is used for Navi. A supply-chain insider might look at Apple ordering Navi GPUs and GDDR6 VRAM and conclude that Apple is focusing on gaming. And this leads me to my next theory:

Theory 2: More gaming components in Macs

When Apple announced the second-generation iPad Pro with a 120Hz display it came as a pleasant surprise. Few outside of the e-sports gaming world had seen a 120Hz display running at full speed before, and the iPad Pro introduced many more people to the change in fluidity and responsiveness 120Hz makes. The other display technology introduced in that device that wasn’t talked about as much was variable refresh rate. Although Apple uses the technology mostly to save battery life, it also has an important use in gaming. Variable refresh rate is the technology that powers G-Sync and FreeSync, which are gaming technologies designed to give a greater sense of fluidity in games that fail to run at a constant frame rate.

Ever since the second-generation iPad Pro was released people have been asking for 120Hz displays in other Apple products and Apple might just be ready to do that for Macs. Although 120Hz and variable refresh rate displays are considered gaming components, Apple may put them in Macs for other reasons. 120 is perfectly divisible by 24, meaning that films running at 24 frames per second will no longer have the stutter they currently have on 60Hz displays. This is a great feature for film production, which is a common use for higher-end Macs.

Although 120Hz displays is an easy example, Apple may be looking more into components and technologies that are commonly thought of as “gaming” and find new uses for them for the traditional use cases for Macs. It might be disappointing that Apple isn’t implementing these technologies with gaming in mind, but gamers will likely get the benefits either way.

Theory 3: An actual gaming Mac

In my opinion, this is the least likely of my three theories. If Apple wanted to attract gamers to Mac, they would be smart to start with software instead of hardware. But while we are speculating, what would a gaming Mac look like? Although it is very unlikely, it would have to be upgradable like the Mac Pro and use high-end but not workstation components. Remember, if Apple was willing to use high-end consumer parts instead of workstation parts their pro machines would likely be a lot cheaper and perform about the same if not better. Workstation components are technically more reliable, but how would Apple explain that to consumers when the workstation component-filled Mac Pro would cost more than a consumer parts gaming Mac and perform the same?


This report is almost certainly off base with the idea of a gaming-focused Mac, but the idea that Apple is taking more inspiration from the world of gaming PCs isn’t as far fetched. Navi GPUs are certainly coming to more Macs. They are already in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. 120Hz displays are probably on the horizon, and more gaming tech is likely to come. Apple could probably even find a good “professional” use for RGB backlit keyboards if they wanted to. Apple isn’t blind to the world of gaming tech, as the 120Hz iPad shows, and Apple will likely continue to take inspiration from gaming tech, it just probably won’t produce a gaming PC.

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