MacBook Pro and Eve Online – A Good Match?

Can you play Eve Online on the 15″ MacBook Pro 2.66 Ghz Core 2 Duo? Read this article to find out.

When I purchased my MBP, one of the things I was really unsure about, and could find very little about was whether it would play Eve Online at a respectable speed. I’d previously been using the HP ZD7000 which is mentioned elsewhere in this blog, and up until the release of Apocrypha that had been doing quite well. It wasn’t fantastic, but it managed 15fps in just about any situation (except large fleets perhaps) and to me, on a notebook, 15fps is acceptable.

With the upgrade to Apocrypha the ZD7000 managed 2fps in many situations, dropping to 0.4fps during warp. At least you don’t need to be too hands on during warp, but it’s just ugly. I hoped (and reasoned) that the 9400M chip in the MacBook Pro would significantly outperform the old FX5600Go that the ZD had in it. But just to be sure, I bought the MacBook Pro which also had the 9600GT – just in case the 9400M wasn’t all that up to it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. The MacBook Pro, with the 9400M enabled, plays Eve Online extremely well indeed. Now admittedly I have not engaged in any fleet battles, and it may well not be up to that. But in general space, warp, and in station I’m seeing 60fps most of the time, dropping to around 30 sometimes depending on what I’m doing. That’s in a Dominix – I’m not sure how much of an effect the ship model will have – on the ZD it made a huge difference, but that’s cos the ZD was struggling anyway.

I did try the 9600GT for a short while, but since I was playing on battery, I decided I wasn’t that fussed since 60fps when using the Interval 1 setting would be the most I’d get anyway. So there’s some future proofing built in now, the 9600GT is said to be somewhere approaching twice the speed of the 9400M so if CCP do an overhaul in a couple of years time I should be able to just switch on the high speed 9600GT and still get good framerates out of it.

The other reason for not using the 9600GT is heat. Eve Online heats the MacBook Pro up like an oven when you’re playing for more than about 5 minutes, and that’s just on the 9400M. I suspect that twice the power means twice the heat and since I am paranoid about heat on notebook computers I decided against using the 9600 for long.

The good news is there’s a couple of things you can do to dissipate that heat quicker and keep the overall temperature down to a satisfactory level. Firstly I started using the Coolpad – it’s an aluminium block (much like the MBP!) with a couple of USB powered fans embedded in it. The fans push cool air upwards onto the base of the MBP and help remove some of that external heat – at the very least keeping the heat off your legs if you’re using it on your lap. A cooler case means cooler internal components and the coolpad knocked about 8 degrees off my top temperature ( from around 80 degrees (ouch!) to around 72 degrees celsius ). I then noticed (thanks to smcFanControl) that the fans were still only running at 2000rpm even when the MBP is running at 72 degrees. I don’t know if that’s an Apple design feature or what, but it seems silly to me. Fans are there to help dissipate heat and prevent damage so if the thing starts getting hot, wind up the fan speed and get rid of some of that heat.

That’s when I search around and found Fan Control 1.2 for the Mac. I installed that, played around with the settings a little and I’m now hovering around the 60 Celsius mark, with the fans running at 4000rpm to keep it that way. Obviously when I shut down Eve Online I expect the temperature to plummet and the fan speed to decrease accordingly.

So, if you want to know if your new MBP will play Eve Online, the answer is a very emphatic yes. But get yourself a CoolPad and download FanControl 1.2 (and possibly smcFanControl to monitor the temperatures) and you’ll be good to go.