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Ubuntu 14.04 drastically improves gaming on a MacBook

For a couple of years, Valve has been saying that, when properly optimized, games run faster on Linux than on Windows. Granted, the company hyped Linux — most notably, Ubuntu — for quite some time because its upcoming Steam Machine was set to use Linux as its operating system of choice, as Valve tried to forego Windows.

Regardless of Valve’s seemingly incessant Linux-based claims and pleas, the majority of the gaming world didn’t care very much, mainly because of Linux’s limited gaming library — it doesn’t matter if games run faster on Linux if there are no games on Linux. Now, though, a new experiment carried out by Michael Larabel of Phoronix has found that if you install Ubuntu 14.04 on a MacBook, the gaming performance of the computer drastically increases.

How drastic is the increase? One game – OpenaArena, a popular Quake-like open-source arena-based shooter — ran at a low 20 fps on OS X 10.9.2 at a resolution of 1366 x 768, but on Ubuntu 14.04, ran at 137 fps at the same resolution. Interestingly, another open-source first-person shooter, Xonotic, initially ran better on OS X than Ubuntu 14.04 at its lowest settings by about an extra seven frames-per-second. However, on medium and high settings, Ubuntu 14.04 topped OS X to the tune of between 20 and 30 fps.

However, this is the computing world — full of many different configurations and ghosts in machines — and not everything is universally better on comparable hardware and software. Nexuiz, yet another open-source first-person shooter, managed about 37 fps at a resolution of 1366 x 768 on OS X, but dropped to about 25 fps on Ubuntu 14.04 at the same resolution.

OS X isn’t ideal for gaming — something that the gaming world has known for quite a while. However, the surprising bit is that simply installing another non-Windows operating system on your MacBook can significantly increase its gaming capabilities. Unfortunately, attempting to game with Linux’s library as your only resource means you’ll be running out of options sooner rather than later, but it may be a good way to breathe new gaming life into older hardware.

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