WoW Performance Guide For Macs - Patch 8.0

Mac Technical Support
1 2 3 20 Next
The World of Warcraft Performance Guide For Macs - Battle For Azeroth - Updated 08/21/2018

Introduction & Personal Notes

Hello everyone and welcome to my WoW Performance Guide For Macs! The Burning Legion has been defeated... again... but at a dire cost. The very heart of Azeroth is in need of healing but the denizens of said planet are now caught in a struggle for control of the very planetary resources needed to heal it! Now we must prepare for the impending Battle For Azeroth.

It's been quite the rollercoaster the last few years hasn't it? Both in terms of the lore and the technical aspects of the game. Sadly Patch 8.0 does not buck this up-and-down trend, and we are again at something of a low point. We've lost a lot and gained very little.

Patch 8.0 brings us a lot of new features like a much-advanced engine running on the Metal API, but we've lost the ability to run the game in fullscreen. I'm told that the loss of fullscreen is actually due to a deficiency of DirectX 12 on Windows, but for whatever reason, Blizzard has chosen to maintain the Mac and Windows build of the game in such a way that keeping parity means forcing the Mac build of the game to lose fullscreen as well. Don't quote me on this as I'm only hearing about this 2nd hand, but that's what I've been told.

Regardless of the reason for losing fullscreen mode, the fact that it's gone means that we as players have to do quite a bit more work on our end to get the game running smoothly on our Macs. This loss of fullscreen has had a lot of ripple effects that negatively impact a lot of people's ability to play the game outright. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is right now.

With that said, if you're logging in for the first time since BFA launched, and you're wondering why the game runs so much worse at the same settings, I'd like to remind everyone that because of general upgrades to the textures and graphics, the settings you used in Legion will actually now be a notch or two lower than they are now. So if you were playing the game at the "7" preset, you'll want to run it at 5 now to maintain the same overall settings.

On top of that, the loss of fullscreen means we have to do some drastic tweaking to change the game's resolution. In short, it's actually impossible to play at the exact same settings you had in Legion. All of the old resolution options have been removed. So comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

The Settings: A Precursor

If you only read part of this guide, this is the part you should probably read.

The vast majority of Macs that Apple now sells include what Apple dubs "Retina Displays". This is just Apple's marketing term for putting very high resolution monitors in their Macs, and then using software trickery to scale and enlarge the images on those screens so they're not too tiny to read, despite the very high resolution being displayed. On a standard desktop, this makes images and text nice and crisp to read.

The problem is that Apple pairs those displays with relatively weak graphics cards or "GPUs", which is what renders all the pretty graphics on the screen. With Retina Displays now standard on virtually all Macs made within the last several years, I need to point out the most crucial thing of this entire guide.

Not a single Mac on the market has a GPU powerful enough to play games at native resolutions.

This has become even more crucial in BFA with fullscreen mode now removed from the game. The loss of fullscreen in addition to Apple's implementation of Retina scaling has made things very difficult for us to run the game smoothly without it looking pixelated or fuzzy.

As an explanation, the 15" Macbook Pro has a 2880x1880 resolution display, and the 27" iMac has a 5120x2880 "5k" resolution display.

Neither of these Macs have GPUs anywhere near powerful enough to play games at these resolutions. Even a GTX 1080Ti, one of the most powerful graphics cards available, struggles to play games at "5k", and the GPUs in these Macs aren't even close to that. The only GPU that could come close is the Vega GPU in the iMac Pro.

Worse still, the baseline 21" iMac, the 13" Macbook Pro, the Macbook Air, the standard Macbook, and the Mac Mini all use Intel integrated graphics instead of dedicated GPUs. So playing games at reasonable resolutions like 1920x1080 "1080p" is difficult even at modest settings on these lower end machines. Let alone at the much higher "Retina Display" resolutions.

In layman's terms, if the graphics listing has "Intel" in the name, it sucks. It's an integrated graphics solution bolted onto the CPU, and is NOT a dedicated graphics card. Intel doesn't even make dedicated GPUs. So if it has Intel on it, just assume it's barely capable of minimum settings. WoW will run, but not well and it'll look like garbage.

The Settings: External User Tweaks

I would read this next part too if I were you.

If you're on a Mac that has a Retina Display, the game will now choose to always run at a specific very high resolution regardless of what you set the scaling to in your System Preferences>Display settings. And as I stated in the section above, this resolution is probably way too high for your poor graphics card to handle.

There are now two main ways to deal with this:

- Set the in-game Resolution Scale down to something lower than 100%.

- Run the game in "low resolution mode".

To do this, close WoW, open a Finder window, navigate to the directory WoW is Installed to (usually "Macintosh HD/Applications/World of Warcraft"), right-click (command-click) on the executable itself (Not the WoW Launcher), and click "Get Info". In the new "Get Info" window that pops up, tick the "Open in Low Resolution Mode" checkbox. WoW will now open at the same resolution as what the System Preferences>Display panel says your screen "looks like". From here on, you can open WoW normally from the launcher's "Play" button.

The main differences between the two options are as follows:

Running the game at native resolution and adjusting the resolution scaling lets you keep UI elements like your unit frames and action bars sharp while making the actual game world more or less pixelated.

In contrast, running the game in low resolution mode will make everything, including the action bars, slightly more pixelated. But not as overall drastically so as lowering the resolution scaling does. Either way, it's a trade off from what we had in Legion.

Personally I think running the game in low resolution mode looks and runs better on my personal Macbook Pro, but do whatever you think works best for you.

Let's use my Late 2016 Macbook Pro with a Radeon Pro 460 Polaris GPU as an example:

Sample Settings Taken From A Late 2016 Macbook Pro as Mid Ranged Baseline

Graphics > Display

Display Mode: Fullscreen (Windowed)

Window Size: 1920x1200

Resolution Scale: 100%

Monitor: Color LCD

Anti-Aliasing: None

Vertical Sync: Disabled

Base Settings

Graphics Quality Slider: 5

Graphics > Textures

Texture Resolution: High

Texture Filtering: 16x Anisotropic

Projected Textures: Enabled

Graphics > Environment

View Distance: 5

Environmental Detail: 5

Ground Clutter: 5

Graphics > Effects

Shadow Quality: Good

Liquid Detail: Good

Sunshafts: Disabled

Particle Density: Good

SSAO: Disabled

Depth Effects: Good

Lighting Quality: High

Outline Mode: Disabled


Advanced > Advanced

Triple Buffering: None

Reduce Input Lag: None

MSAA: None

Multisample Alpha-Test: Disabled

Post-Process AA: None

Resample Quality: Bilinear

Graphics API: Metal

Physics Interactions: Player Only

Graphics Card: Auto-Detect

Max Foreground FPS: 60

Max Background FPS: 10

Contrast: 50

Brightness: 50

Gamma: 1.0

As you can see, I've generally kept my settings on the modest side for my Macbook Pro. I've disabled some of the more demanding settings like Sunshafts and SSAO. Another thing you might have noticed is that I'm running the game at 1920x1200, which implies that I've already set the game to run in low resolution mode as described in the section above instead of opting to run the game at native resolution and just adjust the resolution scale accordingly. Ultimately it's up to you to fiddle with the settings and decide what you're most comfortable with.

The Settings: Explained

Graphics > Display

Display Mode:

This lets you choose between running the game within a window on the desktop, or to fill up the screen while running in a borderless window.

Resolution Scale:

Also known as DSR, super sampling, or "SSAA", resolution scaling is basically a slider that adjusts the “internal resolution” of the game. Setting this to 200% will literally render the game at 200% of the game’s current resolution, and then downscale it to match your monitor. Gamers with extremely high end gaming rigs like to crank this up as a form of Anti-Aliasing to help smooth out edges of textures and generally make the game look better, but this has by far the single biggest impact on the performance of the game. If you’re on a 4k iMac and set this to 200%, you’re essentially running the game at 8k resolution. So unless you’ve somehow modified your Mac to have an industrial grade GPU, never set this above 100%. You can even decrease below 100% it if you want a little more performance out of the game at the cost of graphical fidelity.

Extreme performance impact.


As the in-game tool-tip says, it is a graphics filter used to smooth out jagged edges. In general, the severity of visible jagged edges changes drastically depending on the game and the graphics engine used to display it.

The different types of AA listed are shown in order from the least taxing/worst quality to the most taxing/best quality, from top to bottom. Describing each type of AA goes beyond the scope of this guide, but suffice it to say, MSAA is generally the best compromise between quality and performance.

FXAA is a sort of lens filter that overlays the entire screen after the game has already been rendered, and acts as a post-render effect, blurring everything including the UI elements like action bars. MSAA is added during the rendering of each frame, and only smooths out the edges of textures. As described above, SSAA is an extremely taxing method of AA that renders the AA at a much higher resolution, then downscales it to match your game’s current resolution. It’s by far the best type of AA, but it kills most graphics cards. For more info on the types of AA, go here:

Moderate to High performance impact. Use MSAA 2x for best balance.

Vertical Sync:

Vertical Sync aims to reduce the amount of "screen tearing" that occurs when the game's frame rate drops out of sync with the monitor's refresh rate. The result is a more fluid image at all times. The trade off is that it does this by limiting the game's frame rate to a multiple fraction of the screen's refresh rate. So if you have a 60Hz monitor (as most all Macs do) and the game's running at 60fps, but then drops below 60fps for whatever reason, V-Sync will instantly drop the game's frame rate down to a divisible fraction of 60fps, such as 30fps as opposed to 59fps, to avoid tearing. This can sometimes throw players off if they're not expecting the sudden drop and jitteriness in motion animation.

Use whatever your eyes are most comfortable looking at.

Graphics > Base Settings > Graphics Quality:

This slider is an overall preset function that collectively tries to adjust every setting at once. Personally I'm more inclined to sewt it to "custom" and tune each and every setting manually.

Graphics > Textures

Texture Resolution:

Changes the sharpness of the in-game textures like flooring, player armor, NPC skins, etc. Setting this higher doesn't require much more raw processing power from your GPU, but it does require more video memory, or VRAM. So if two video cards had 256MB of VRAM, and another had 4GB of VRAM, but the video cards were otherwise completely identical, the 4GB card would be able to load much higher resolution textures with zero performance loss because it can simply hold more in it’s memory. Think of VRAM as your video card’’s stamina. Trying to load textures on a card that doesn't have the VRAM for it will force the card to keep switching out textures in order to display them, and will generally cause the game to stutter as you move and pan the camera as it tries to load the textures it needs.

Performance based directly on the amount of video memory your video card has.

Texture Filtering:

A filter used to enhance the sharpness of textures, as opposed to just the edges. Lowering this will increase performance, but very few modern GPUs have trouble with 16x TF anymore.

Minimal performance impact.

Projected Textures:

This enables the projection of certain textures, like spell effects, onto the game's terrain and other object surfaces. Turning this off can drastically improve performance, especially on mobile GPUs where pipeline bandwidth (The GPU's ability to process multiple instructions to and from the CPU at once) is limited.

Moderate to high performance impact.

Graphics > Environment

View Distance:

Increases and decreases the point at which distant objects change from being flat decals to rendered, textured objects. This has a profound impact on game performance, especially in newer zones from more recent expansions, where the game's textures are much higher resolution than older zones. This uses both raw GPU power and VRAM. The higher the setting, the more the GPU has to render at once.

High to extreme performance impact.

Environmental Detail:

This is essentially View Distance for grass. It changes the distance at which grass and other minor ground objects, like pebbles, are rendered. AMD video cards are less affected by this setting than nVidia cards are. nVidia cards have a harder time with it.

Minimal to Moderate performance impact, depending on video card.

Ground Clutter:

Changes the density of ground clutter, like grass and pebbles. The higher the setting, the denser the grass becomes. Like Environmental Detail, nVidia cards have a harder time with it than AMD cards.

Mild to Moderate performance impact.

Graphics > Effects

Note: Some of the following effects may be disabled completely on some lower end graphics hardware.

Shadow Quality:

Changes the amount of shadows rendered in the game, as well as how many layers of shadows are allowed to stack on one another. This can have a dramatic affect on performance. And in fact, Shadows has been bugged in WoW for years. High and Ultra shadows are a LOT more demanding than they should be. I personally recommend keeping Shadows to "good" on all but the highest end systems.

High performance impact.

Liquid Detail:

Changes the water effects in the game. Low uses the old water maps from Classic WoW, while Fair and higher use the new liquid maps from Cataclysm onwards. Again, High and Ultra have a pretty large impact on game performance, especially on lower end cards. I'd keep this on "Good" unless you have a higher end Mac.

Moderate to High performance impact.


Changes the sun's ability to shine down on objects. Again, this setting is currently bugged, and requires a lot more power to run than it really should. Keep this on "Good" or lower.

Moderate to High performance impact.

Particle Density:

Changes the density of spells and effects. For example, on Low, a Mage's Blizzard spell might drop 20 icicles. But on Ultra, the same spell will drop 100. This setting has the most impact in raids where lots of players are casting many spells at once. If you're in a raid and suddenly need to lower your settings, this is a good one to start with.

Moderate to High performance impact, depending on situation.


SSAO, or Screen-Space Ambient Occlusion is an algorithm that approximates ambient lighting. Most noticeable indoors. Higher settings add more ambient lights, and render existing ones more accurately. As with Sunshafts, SSAO is somewhat bugged, and requires more power than it should.

Moderate to High performance impact.

Depth Effects:

Controls the depth of certain particle effects.

Moderate performance impact.

Lighting Quality:

Changes how accurate lighting effects are rendered, and the quality of the effect.

Moderate performance impact.

Outline Mode:

Adds colored outlines around NPCs and players alike based on faction reputation.

Moderate performance impact.


Well there we have it folks. The complete updated guide for World of Warcraft: Battle For Azeroth. I hope you all had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. See you in the impending war!

3-B. Past Changes

- 08/21/18: Major revisions for launch of BFA.
- 09/06/17: Rewrite for major changes in patch 7.3.
- 07/20/16: Major rewrite for Legion.
- 10/23/14: Total revamp for WoD in light of new Retina Macs.
- 10/17/13: Changed the format of the guide completely.
- 03/21/12: Added Late 2011 Mac Models, updated to represent 64-bit performance.
- 04/22/11: Added Late 2010 Macbook Air, notes on integrated graphics.
- 12/14/10: Updated for Cataclysm, lowering some settings to accommodate slow performance.
- 10/14/10: Revamped settings for new graphics interface. Removed older Mac Models.
- 04/28/10: Added newest Mac models, revamped settings to uniform 60fps across all models.
- 02/12/10: Revised, condensed, and corrected small typos.
- 12/01/09: Added Snow Leopard and newest Mac models. Removed PowerPC Macs.
- 04/21/09: Updated settings to match the new scheme in patch 3.1.
- 03/13/09: Added early 2009 Mac models.
- 11/20/08: Updated new information after Wrath of The Lich King launched.
- 10/08/08: Complete & utter overhaul in preparation for WoTLK.
- 03/30/08: Updated findings for patch 2.4.
- 02/13/08: Added details concerning the OS X 10.5.2 Leopard Graphics Update.
- 02/07/08: Included PowerPC G4, G5, and newest Core 2 models.
Just adding the existing performance guide to the new forums. Hope people find it useful.
Stickied. Again. ;)
Ooo! Thank you!
I strongly suggest you add Mac Pros to this list including the standard video cards and the upgraded cards if at all possible. (I game on an '09 Mac Pro myself).
As I mentioned in the old forums, I didn’t add them originally because at the time I made the first iteration of this guide, the “Video Card Upgrade” sticky already had the Mac Pros covered. However that thread soon fell to neglect and disrepair. So I was going to add the Mac Pros to this thread a revision or two ago.

But my working situation changed, and I don’t have access to any Mac Pros anymore. I can only add the models I can personally test. The moment I get my hands on multiple Mac Pros to test the variances between them, I’ll do so.
I'm assuming this guide is for when 10.6.5 is actually released, seeing as unless I've been under my rock for too long, it's still in pre-release starus (latest dev seed came in about 10 hours ago).
Can you put the Model Identifiers back in please it's easier to find your Model.
I appreciate your efforts. I too will be looking forward to the Mac Pro updates. Just bought a 2.8 Quad core with the upgraded HD 5870 card. Only 6GB RAM atm, not sure if anymore would help.
Very helpful! My 2008 Macbook is running 50 fps now. Much obliged.
I appreciate your efforts. I too will be looking forward to the Mac Pro updates. Just bought a 2.8 Quad core with the upgraded HD 5870 card. Only 6GB RAM atm, not sure if anymore would help.

I'd kill to know why there are plenty enough 5870s out there for BTOs, but not one single kit available for sale retail for the rest of us Mac Pro owners wanting to upgrade.
I appreciate your efforts. I too will be looking forward to the Mac Pro updates. Just bought a 2.8 Quad core with the upgraded HD 5870 card. Only 6GB RAM atm, not sure if anymore would help.

I'd kill to know why there are plenty enough 5870s out there for BTOs, but not one single kit available for sale retail for the rest of us Mac Pro owners wanting to upgrade.

actually, the apple store has FINALLY started selling them in last couple days (at least they are taking orders now). however they still have no available ship time. but it's a step up. Maybe they were waiting for 10.6.5 all this time before selling kit? BTO they kind of had to ship with crappy drivers, cause it'd be dumb to not offer them card then make them upgrade 2 months after buying a new mac. But for everyone else maybe they just wanted to wait for 10.6.5 so the card wouldn't suck so bad for us?
I have a iMac (Core 2 Duo 2.8 Ghz), 4 GB memory, and a ATI Radeon 2600 video card with 256 MB Vram.

Should I follow the "Core 2 Duo iMac with ATI 4670 Graphics Card" guide?

Also, if I want to set my view distance to high, what should I lower to compensate?

Sadly the ATI x2600 Apple used in it™s iMacs was severely underclocked, and performed WORSE than the x1600 card at just about every test I threw at it. I removed the model completely from the list when I couldn't get it past 15fps in any kind of party or city situation after 4.0.

Follow the GT130 set if you want to, but know that the 2600 won't perform well no matter how low you set the settings. The GT320 integrated solution actually does almost twice as good.
Sadly the ATI x2600 Apple used in it’s iMacs was severely underclocked, and performed WORSE than the x1600 card at just about every test I threw at it. I removed the model completely from the list when I couldn’t get it past 15fps in any kind of party or city situation after 4.0.

Ugh. Fantastic. :-( Well thank you for the info.

I suppose there is not much I can do except hope that 10.6.5 will fix this a bit.

Or get a new machine.

While your efforts here are appreciated and laudable, I must point out that your information- at least as it pertains to the system specs of my own computer- are frankly WRONG.

On a late 2009 iMac i7 (ATI 4850), the sunshaft/water settings you list drastically reduce performance.

Raising the water effects level above fair reduces the frame rate to 15fps, regardless of any other setting.
Turning on sunshafts AT ALL reduces the frame rate to 15fps, regardless of any other setting.

This is on a computer with 4gb of RAM, the above-mentioned processor/graphics setup, and running the fresh and new 10.6.5. This is with GLL.

I'm not sure what is going on now, but it is very frustrating to have a machine running at ULTRA settings in 3.3.x now reduced to "good" settings with bad water and no sunshafts.

I'm not sure what is going on now, but it is very frustrating to have a machine running at ULTRA settings in 3.3.x now reduced to "good" settings with bad water and no sunshafts.

Because what was Ultra in 3.3.x is probably somewhere between Good and High in the scale of 4.0.x. Every expansion Blizzard ups the graphic quality but they don't add 'Super Ultra' or anything to the end of the scale, instead they recalibrate it. The new Ultra is designed for the very latest and most powerful gaming machines.
I'm not sure what is going on now, but it is very frustrating to have a machine running at ULTRA settings in 3.3.x now reduced to "good" settings with bad water and no sunshafts.

you're complaining that your ultra settings from before match your current settings? ultra in 3.3.5 was old water, no sunshafts, so running 4.x at those settings is still your old ultra, but with a new name. nothing more. just like ultra view is equal to high view now, fair ground clutter, and fair or good object view distance (not sure which)...settings have a new names but your 3.3.5 fps shouldn't be any different than 4.x fps at the actual equivilent settings. if you think the new ultra is same as old ultra you are very incorrect

that said, 4.x still has some stutter bugs, which isn't so much related to fps but in loading, but it makes fps tank as a side effect (they climb back up once stuff is loaded)...this happens regardless of settings but naturally gets worse the more loaded at a time (such as view distance)...THAT i hope the devs address. but the majority basis of your complaint is that you don't like that your setting doesn't say "ultra" anymore, even though nothings changed visual wise from what you had going on in 3.3.5
Fine. All of that said, the water and sunshafts issue is unresolved, as is the fact that the graphics listing in the ORIGINAL POST in this thread is incorrect, at least for my machine.

Sunshafts at anything other than "off" and water at anything above "fair" dumps fps to 15. The guide here says I should be at "good" and "low". It is incorrect.
yes that much is true strict. they take way more performance than they really should. i use sunshafts off and water fair on my system cause i know they subtrack about 30fps. I also see a lot of bad stutter in certain areas, worst being strand of the ancients.

however, i still get 62fps everywhere but dalaran with my settings just as i did in 3.3.5 cause they are compariable to 3.3.5, not ultra across the board, when not stuttering from the bad loading bugs in 4.x

Join the Conversation

Return to Forum