Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

It may look nice, but does it play World of Warcraft?

So things have be a little quiet after the excitement of getting my MacBook, and this is mostly attributed to me playing World of Warcraft a lot. Furthermore, it’s been me playing World of Warcraft on my MacBook, which is not only possible but actually a good experience.

So far I’ve played WoW on 4 computers – my parents’ AMD Athlon 3000+ (512 MB RAM, 64 MB VIA graphics), Hari’s Pentium 4 (512 MB RAM, 128 MB nVidia graphics) and my Mac Mini (1.42Ghz PowerPC, 512 MB RAM, 128 MB ATi graphics), as well as my MacBook (1.83Ghz Core Duo, 1 GB RAM, 64 MB Intel Graphics).

Though WoW played on my parents’ machine, it’s not the greatest experience, with major lag in cities and slow framerates. Hari’s machine fairs better, but not by too much; I’ve really seen it get more than 20 frames per second while playing. My Mac Mini usually manages to average 10-15 fps and can get up to 25 in indoor environments, though cities like Ironforge do make it very slow.

And now to my MacBook. I really didn’t know how it would handle WoW – though it has the best processor of the lot, with a high clock speed and two cores, and the most RAM, its graphics abilities aren’t that great. However, out of the 4 machines, WoW plays the best on the MacBook. Framerates are between 15-20 fps on average with 30+ possible indoors, and there’s almost no lag, even in the busiest parts of Ironforge.

When you actually read the recommended system requirements for the game, this makes more sense – 512 MB is listed as the minimum RAM for the game, with 1 GB recommended – but it only recommends 64 MB or above for graphics. In other words, the problem with the other two machines is not so much their graphics, but their lack of memory.

The memory upgrade for Hari’s machine is still forthcoming and I’m now possibly thinking of going for 2 GB instead of 1 GB – though that will make it £150 instead of £75, which is a lot of money. I’d upgrade my Mac Mini too, but the method to take it apart looks quite scary and I’m afraid to damage it. Even then it can only take a maximum of 1 GB.


  1. I upgraded a G4 Mac Mini I bought on ebay to 1Gb on friday and it was surprisingly painless. Once I got a stripping knife thing from B&Q and used that to take the cover off I could get to the ram and replace it. Really wasn’t anything difficult to it.
    I was going to take picture but it was so simple I didn’t bother. I wouldn’t be worried about doing it.

  2. the 2 PC machines you list above will see a huge increase in WOW performance by upgrading the memory to 1gb.
    Im currently looking into getting a macbook, because it can dual boot XP/OS X, and to run WOW while im traveling. So ill probably end up getting more memory and a larger hard drive from the after market. ( 500 for 2gb from apple, i dont bloody think so).

  3. Yeah, get those other machines up to 1GB and see a huge improvement. It worked for me and I think sticking it up to 2GB will mean you can have other stuff running at the same time too.
    I’ll be getting an iMac by the end of the year I think and I’ll make sure it comes with the improved graphics and 2GB RAM in there.

  4. Yeah, I saw pretty good performance with the MacBook until I copied my addon’s over to the MacBook. Man did it bog down big time. I have a few installed and I think the problem is that they are pretty graphics intense. Plus I had the UI scaled down a bit. I haven’t tried it since then.

  5. I am interested in getting a macbook but the ones in the apple store all seem to have only 512 mb ram. I am currently playing WOW on my dell inspiron 1150, (intel celeron processor 2.6ghz, 768 ram [upgraded from 256], and 40gb) and wow runs shokingly slow most of the time. since my server has started filling up i can no longer go into orgrimmar or my computer simple crashes.
    Would i benefit from getting a macbook, despite the lower amount of ram?? I dont know what graphics my inspiron has but it isnt great… 32mb i think.
    Anyways, my other question is, what difference does a processor make? will it make my computer run faster, increase graphics quality? there isnt much point spending £750 on a new laptop if it isnt going to improve the perfomence that much…

  6. You can upgrade the memory on the MacBook up to 2GB. I did so for less than $180 buying the memory from
    I don’t know much about the Dell you have, but if it’s a model from last year or earlier, then you should see a significant performance boost. It’s hard to tell if your CPU is a Core processor or not. Intel has really messed with my head when it comes to the names of their chips these days. If it’s not a Core processor, Then just having two processors working for you instead of one is a plus. Granted, the game probably doesn’t take advantage of the dual processors.
    One other thing to consider is that the MacBook gets its graphics memory from system memory. Not the fastest way to do graphics. 3D performance isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly not desktop graphics card speed.
    Now, does WoW play well on a MacBook. Ehh. If you don’t use too many Mods. I was able to go into WoW OK with the default interface that Blizzard supplies. However, I copied over my Mods I use and the framerate all but died. I removed them and was able to move again.
    One thing that concerns me playing WoW on a MacBook is the MacBook fan starts spinning up pretty quickly. The game puts the CPU’s to the test.

  7. I am assuming that a 2.4ghz intel celeron processor is better than a 1.8ghz intel core duo thingy ?? but how important is the processor?? does it just make the notebook run faster?? i thought that was what ram was for…
    i just want to know if i will get less lag from a macbook than from my (2 year old) Dell laptop. if anyone wants to have a look at my dell to check, its one of these:
    Except i have 40gb and i added another 512 ram (giving me 768 ram)
    it seems to me that the laptop i have already should technically run faster than a new macbook. which cant be right, as my dell is two years old and only cost me £450. If i did get a macbook I dont know if i can afford to upgrade it to 2gb ram….
    im sorry, i cant keep up with all these tech words, im just a humble student. Any help would be massively appreciated…

  8. Sweep – the Core Duo is a faster processor. It’s essentially 2 processors on 1 chip, so it’s 1.83 Ghz + 1.83 Ghz = 3.66 Ghz. Core Duos also have more cache memory and are more efficient than Celerons (which are budget processors) so that would explain your slow performance. Memory doesn’t necessarily make your computer faster per se, but it will allow you to do more things at the same time, which WoW needs. The fact that it can do more will make it faster though, so lots of RAM is good. You really do need 1 GB though – I have 512 MB on my other Mac and WoW is quite slow, even though it has better graphics.

  9. Okey doke, in that case i reckon i am going to get a macbook. Would it be possible to take the upgraded ram out of my old laptop and put it into my macbooc?? or does it need a different sort of ram….
    anyways, thanks for the info, really helpful.
    Cheers lads

  10. No, you will not be able to use your existing RAM in a new MacBook. You will need faster RAM due to the faster processor. Plus there are only 2 slots for RAM on the MacBook. It comes with 2 256MB cards and you can upgrade to 2 512MB cards or 2 1GB cards.
    That said, if you are looking to avoid lag in WoW, I would suggest staying away from notebook computers period. Oh sure, there are some really powerful notebooks that could play WoW without lag. However, they will run you way over what you would pay for a desktop box that can very easily play WoW lagless.
    If you don’t use WoW addons or use a few, you will probably be able to play. There will be speed issues in the larger towns, but out and about you should be fine. Just don’t get into any raids.

  11. Ok thanks, i cant get a desktop because i move around too much but thanks anyways…

  12. Macs are not gaming computers, buy a pc they are way better, and get one with an AMD processor. AMD is coming out with a new processor that’s gonna blow intels out of the water

  13. Mr. Mac hater, Your not biased or anything right?
    OS X has quite a large base of Core resources that pretty much blow PC’s with DirectX out of the water. Leopard will introduce Core Animation which will allow developers to do much more with less code. If only Mac’s had a larger market share, they would have just as many games and probably would have the game out first before a PC version was released.
    Also, if you can’t find the game you want in OS X, you can simply reboot the Mac (Intel Mac’s of course), and have Win XP and probably Vista ready to play any game you want. With a Mac Pro, you would have 2 Core Duo Xeon’s at your disposal. AMD, well, maybe sometime next year they might have something that comes close. However, Intel released their Quad Core processors recently and I haven’t heard much about AMD’s Quad core processor. Is that coming soon?
    So, sure, someone wanting a new computer could wait a year or so for AMD to catch up, or they could get a Mac Pro and be top of the heap for quite a while.
    By the way, Valve is working on their engine so that it supports multicore processors. So, maybe Half Life II Episode 2 could be multicore compatible.

  14. grr this is annoying me.. all i know aobut my pc is it has 448MB ram (i suck at computers).. i want to play wow but its quite laggy and its annoying… add me msn and explain how i can make it run faster! 🙁
    or post here!
    thank you.

  15. James: This has been mentioned in the above comments, but I’ll re-iterate it. There are 3 upgrades that can be made that will help gaming performance.
    1. Memory. Increasing available physical memory will give you your best chance for a performance boost. It’s the least expensive too. When running any program on any computer, remember that the OS is in memory too. Windows does take a decent amount of memory. I would suggest having 1GB’s of RAM if at all possible.
    2. Video card. A higher performance graphics card can work wonders on just about any 3D video game. It’s a more expensive upgrade, but will make just about anything 3D work soo much better.
    3. Hard drive. This is the least important of the 3 possible upgrades and possibly the most expensive. Games are typically not all that demanding on hard drives. However, the OS is. The OS swaps out other programs into “virtual” memory or the hard drive to make room for active programs in physical memory. A fast hard drive with at least 10GB’s free is helpful. The drive that the OS uses to swap out programs to should be the fastest drive you have available. It needs to have enough space free to allow the OS to swap to easily and quickly.
    If after the first 2 options have been attempted and you are still not seeing decent performance in your game of choice, then it’s time to consider a computer upgrade.
    My Windows based computer is a 3.2GHz P4 with 1GB of RAM and an ATI RADEON X800 series. That configuration appears to run WoW faster than my Mac Pro (Quad XEON processors) with 2GB’s of RAM. Why? The graphics card in my Mac Pro is slower than the one in my Windows box.
    Hope that helps.

  16. That’s odd, my Item points up there didn’t come out right. They should be 1, 2, then 3, not 1, 1, 2 and I’m assuming that the Blog software here did the indenting.
    Ah well, you get the idea.

  17. Dave: I’ve fixed it. I use Markdown to try and format comments properly – I think you must have confused it slightly 🙂 .

  18. That doesn’t really surprise me. I probably used a colon after “1” but a period after the other two numbers.
    Thanks for fixing it.

  19. Hi, I’m a pc user wondering about switching to Mac (right now I run a crappy laptop cause it was free – Toshiba Satellite A10model (yr. 2004) not sure of specs, and can’t look them up now). Anyways, I started playing WoW about 2 months ago and dropped all the graphics to nearly zilch and the only times I have any major problems is when I’m in big cities or sometimes on BG’s. My question is, you’ve been commenting on MacBook’s performance…is this at the lower or higher settings? I don’t mind getting a MacBook if it will run smoothely (on any settings).
    If you’ve already commented to this, please excuse me and reiterate for me. Thanks so much.
    I’m wondering specifically about MacBook not pro because I don’t have the money to entertain that option 🙂 thanks again

  20. I run WoW on the MacBook with all of the performance settings turned down to low. Since writing this article, WoW Patch 2.0.1 has come out which brought many improvements to the graphics on MacBooks, and the Core 2 Duo MacBooks were launched which offer better all-round performance, so actually it should play better than it did for me back in August.
    You’ll definitely get better performance than on the Toshiba Satellite A10 – I used to have one of those 🙂 . My tip would be to look at getting 2 GB of memory instead of 1 GB if you can – it will cost more but you will get better performance. Getting a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook would be even better, but as you say, it’s not cheap 🙂 .

  21. Thank you so much, Neil. That was just what I was lookin for…I fear I might just be goin Mac very very soon…

  22. I’ve got 1GB ram now! or i think i have, before i bought the 512 card i had 448 (which is 512 i think) but after i put in the 512 card it says i only have 768 ram… can anyone tell me why?

  23. I have a gay stupid gaytway and im ubsest w/ wow i dont know if ican play it or if its going to mess up i have the space but my com is just to slow anyone have any comments!!!!!

  24. please tell what i should do PLZ!!!!!!!

  25. I have a new macbook that has no upgrades. 512ram, plenty of disk space, intel core 2 duo. I am wondering if wow will play well or not. I am thinking of getting it but I can’t stand to use my windows to play it. I am also thinking about trying the 10 day free trial.
    Will my machine play it well and if not how should I upgrade it?
    Any help would be very appreciated!

  26. Greg: You’ll probably get acceptable performance on your current setup, provided that you turn all of the video settings down to their minimum, but you may want to consider an upgrade to 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM as this will give smoother gameplay in towns and dungeons (especially raid dungeons), and also let you run other programs at the same time without impacting overall performance.
    As I’ve previously mentioned WoW performance on Macs has improved significantly since this article was written, especially with OS X 10.4.9 coming out recently which boosted graphics performance. While a MacBook Pro or Mac Pro will give you the optimum experience, you should still find the game very playable on your MacBook.

  27. Hello,
    to start off with, i am realy crap with computers and understand nothing about RAM processing blah blah blah. Now please dont belitre me with comments such as ” your a noob” and didnt you readthe article” i just want some help.
    Does world of warcraft run on windows vista please get bac to me ASAP please

  28. Yes, World of Warcraft will work on Windows Vista. Some other people in my guild run World of Warcraft in Vista with no problems.

  29. Thanks alot, I didn’t think a 512 MB RAM could even run WoW, but I’m still going to try and find a pretty cheap 1 GB RAM. Thanks again!

  30. Just wondering Neil, I have an Emachines with 256 MB RAM (don’t ask me, my parents bought a crap computer). As of now I cannot run WoW on my computer because my video card sucks, if I were to change my video card to a 1 GB RAM, would it still run WoW with little lag?

  31. OK about the notebook pc thing thats bs ok i have a ACER 1GB 1999Mhz HD dont matter as long as it can hold the 11GB file wow puts out this thing blows my game pc away i use full graphics and never have any lag at all not even once and i only use 6Mbit IC Its crazy it makes friends so mad to no that a $500 Pc Blows away there $7000 Machine HELL YEAH ACER!!!!!!! by the way the model # is Part #: LX.E990Z.007 oh yeah all you noobs out there quit worying about your ram and start thinking physical your HD make sure you get a Serial ATA NOT!!!!EIDE EIDE is only 100MBps and Serial ATA is 1GBps this is the transfer rate at witch your pc can send recive and use data so all your little processors that u just spent all your allowence on NAAA!!!! im not gonna be the one to tell you ill let somone else do it im tellin ya ive seen nothing but the HD upgrade fix all the lag problems with wow

  32. hell no 32 MB Integrated key word integrated
    n On
    n O n
    n O n
    n O n
    n O n
    get dedicated cheaper then ram and a whole lot better