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Doom 3 for the Mac
on "Mid Range" Macs

Originally posted March 16th, 2005, the day Doom 3 for the Mac shipped
by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
March 24th Update -- We tweaked our tips on tweaks and added related links.

I posted a Doom 3 "tweak" page on March 11th using the fastest G5 with the fastest graphics cards. Most Mac users have "lesser" models and graphics cards. But they still want to run Doom 3 at decent frame rates. After some experimentation, I came to the conclusion that running at 800x600 Medium Quality with Shadows OFF should give frame rates most of you can live with while still maintaining some realism.

Some readers told me that the shadows in Doom 3 are a key ingredient in the game. Please understand that turning off shadows only affects moving figures. Static objects still cast shadows and the game remains as dark and scarey as before. But if you can't live without dynamic shadows, but want decent frame rates on your mid-level Mac, you can always run at 640x480 "Low" with Shadows = YES.

Graph Legend
PM G5/2.5 = Dual G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with 4GB of RAM
PM G5/2.0 = Dual G5/2.0GHz Power Mac with 4GB of RAM
PM G5/1.8 = Dual G5/1.8GHz Power Mac (Rev A) with 2GB of RAM
iPM G4/1.42 = Dual G4/1.42GHz Power Mac with 2GB of RAM
PM G4/1.25 = Dual G4/1.25GHz Power Mac with 1.75GB of RAM
Mac G5/1.8 = iMac G5/1.8GHz with 1GB of RAM
PB G4/1.5 = G4/1.5GHz PowerBook 15" with 1.25GB of RAM
RX800XT = ATI Radeon X800 XT (256MB, 8X)
R9800SE = ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Special Edition (256MB, 8X)
R9800P8 = ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (128MB, 8X)
R9800P4 = ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (128MB, 2X/4X)
R9700M = ATI Radeon 9700 Mobility (128MB, PowerBook built-in GPU)
R9600XT = ATI Radeon 9600 XT (128MB, 8X)
R9000 = ATI Radeon 9000 (128MB, 2X/4X)
G6800UL = nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultar (256MB, 8X)
G5200 = nVidia GeForce FX 5200 (64MB)
G4600Ti = nVidia GeForce4 Titanium (128MB)
** = Anisotropic Filtering = OFF (using ATI Displays override)

Robert Uyehara and his Macologist crew have been sharing their test data and insights with me since I first started testing Doom 3. They have put together two excellent articles on Doom for the Mac. Be sure to read their latest Doom 3 Mac Performance Followup.

Though the documentation with Doom 3 for the Mac specifies a 1.5GHz or faster Power Mac with at least a Radeon 9600 or GeForce FX 5200, you can run it on lesser Macs if you play with the settings.

In the past, I've stated that getting a Radeon 9800 Pro for your G4 Power Mac might be a waste of money since the AGP bandwidth and bus speed limit its effectiveness. However, when we ran Doom 3 on a G4/1.42GHz Power Mac, even at 1024x768 High Quality, the average frame rate was a respectable 28.

Though we showed the G5/2.5GHz Power Mac running turned in a 56 fps average at 800x600 on this page, with some tweaks we were able to maintain a 50+ fps average even at 1600x1200. The same cannot be said of most machines we posted on this page.

In case you are wondering why the Mac version of Doom 3 doesn't run as fast as Quake 3 Arena, we have an explanation from Glenda Adams of Aspyr Media at the bottom of our other Doom 3 page.

We thought we found a way to increase the PowerBook's speed by 33%.
We re-ran the 800 x 600 Medium config after "unzipping" all the files in the Doom 3 Base folder. According to our notes, that took us from 18 fps to 24 fps. However, subsequent testing showed that we were mistaken about the gain. The frame rate didn't drop back when we put the compressed files back in the Base folder. The only way we could get 18 fps is if we turned Shadows back on. For now, we are concluding that we looked at the wrong column of numbers in our spreadsheet.

There is one advantage to unpacking the Base folder: Doom 3 launches more quickly and loads textures into cache more quickly. On our PowerBook, before unpacking, it took 11 seconds to launch and 31 seconds to start up the timedemo including preloading textures into cache. After unpacking, it took only 8 seconds to launch and 17 seconds to startup timedemo.

We squeezed a few more frames per second out of our PowerBook by setting image_anisotropy "0" and image_filter "GL_LINEAR_MIPMAP_NEAREST." That got our PowerBook up to 26 fps.

But an even better gain was achieved using ATI Displays utility to set Vertical Vsync to NO. This got our PowerBook to 30 fps! (see "**" on graphs above.) Seems odd that this would make a difference with ATI's graphics processors since you can turned Vsync off in the Options menu. But I say, whatever works.


Macologist gives you the history of Doom and includes some early tests results. Their Performance Followup article contains extensive test results for various Macs at 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768, along with detailed explanations on factors that affect performance.

There are claims posted on CafeMacs that Doom 3 runs faster under Tiger (code name for OS X release 10.4). I have reports from readers saying the same thing. We have to remain skeptical untl we can test this for ourselves.

Bare Feats tries up to 5 stages of tweaks on Doom 3 to make it go faster at 1600x 1200 on the G5/2.5 Power Mac with the two fastest graphics cards.

Mac versus PC in 3D Gaming (Our related article where we test apps like Halo and UT2004 on fastest G5 Power Macs and some of the fastests PCs.)

Mac versus PC running Photoshop, After Effects, etc.

Doom 3 "First Look" by MacWorld. (Includes benchmark results)

SharkeyExtreme compares the PC versions of the GeForce 6800 GT and Ultra with the Radeon 9800 XT and X800 XT running Doom 3.

Anandtech Doom 3 shootout with PC versions of GeForce 6800 GT, 6800 Ultra, Radeon X800 XT, and 9800 XT.

WHERE TO BUY MAC GRAPHICS CARDS has a good price for the Radeon X800 XT at $451 after $15 off Coupon applied.

"Best Bang for the Buck" on a G5 Power Mac graphics card has to be's deal on the Radeon 9800 Mac Special Edition (8X, 256MB) -- $207 after $50 rebate and $15 off Coupon is applied.

Check also with Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

Apple's Online Store sells kits for the GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL and Radeon 9800 Pro Special Edition. (Click on "Displays" under "Accessories" -- left margin. Then scroll down until you see the graphics cards.)

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is also available from Small Dog Electronics.

If you have a G4 Power Mac, your best bet is the Radeon 9800 Pro 2X/4X AGP (128MB) card. has it for $172.66 net after $15 off Coupon and $50 rebate are applied.

For G4 Cube owners, I recommend the Radeon 9000 AGP card with 128MB of VRAM being sold by Other World Computing. If you can find a GeForce 3, it runs even faster -- but the fan makes it noisier.

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist