Beyond a Steel Sky: iPad Pro vs MacBook Pro + AMD RX 5700 XT

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I’ve been playing Beyond a Steel Sky that has just been released on Apple Arcade. Beyond the Steel Sky is the highly anticipated sequel to the 1994 released Beneath a Steel Sky. So far, I’m enjoying the game. It reminds me of the good ol’ adventure games that I used to play during my teen years. But wait, this isn’t a review of the game.

With Apple Arcade, you can seamlessly play the game between all your Apple devices. For me, that’s mostly between my iPhone and iPad. But occasional, a game title like Beyond a Steel Sky drops. A game like this should be played on a Mac to fully appreciate the visuals. Here, I will share the visuals of the game running on my iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. But of course, with a Sapphire Pulse AMD RX 5700 XT sitting in a Raxer Core X eGPU enclosure.

Beyond a Steel Sky on the MacBook Pro powered by an AMD RX 5700 XT

Firstly, let’s take a quick look at the visuals of Beyond a Steel Sky on my Mac.

Checking out the neons displays all across Union City

The AMD RX 5700 XT is quite a power horse. I set the game to run at the highest detail level. I’ve also set all the visual effects to the Epic setting.

The visuals on the MacBook Pro with a GPU like the AMD RX 5700 XT is very impressive. The lighting is a lot more natural when the settings are set at its highest levels.

Beyond a Steel Sky on the iPad Pro

The game is equally playable on the iPad with a game controller. I also observed that my 11″ iPad Pro (2018 model) doesn’t heat up even after long hours of play. Therefore I suspect that the settings are tuned down and is standard across all iPads at the moment. So while the visuals may not be as great, I do get a longer battery life when playing the game.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the lighting effect is clearly better on my Mac. On the iPad Pro, the colours are flatter.

A closer comparison

Here’s a few of screenshots I took in game of the same scene to get a better comparison.

On the MacBook Pro with a RX 5700 XT powering the game, much better lighting and colours is a given. But at the highest visual settings, you also get a depth of field and motion blur effects. This is hard to capture on a screenshot, However, I can definitely see it when playing the game.

MacBook Pro + AMD RX 5700 XT
11″ iPad Pro (2018)

At darker scenes like the screenshots below, the difference in colour and lighting is stark. While the game is still very playable on the iPad Pro, the visuals is simply day and night.

MacBook Pro + AMD RX 5700 XT
11″ iPad Pro (2018)

Update: In case you are wondering how Beyond a Steel Sky plays on the iPhone 11 Pro. Here’s a screenshot. The visuals looks the same as with the iPad Pro. But I personally would not recommend it. The screen is too small to really enjoy the game.

iPhone 11 Pro

Tl;Dr: AMD RX 5700 XT on an eGPU is worth the investment

I wondered if it was worth getting the Razer Core X and the Sapphire Pulse AMD RX 5700 XT. It takes a cross platform game like Beyond a Steel Sky to show me that there is clearly a difference. So there you have it. If you can afford it, I continue to highly recommend a setup like this if you’re a primary MacOS user.

Oh, the game is really fun. The voice acting is great and the music adds to the atmosphere of the game. If you’re not on Apple Arcade, you will need to wait a little longer before it is released on other platforms. Otherwise, this is a perfect reason to subscribe to Apple Arcade. Games like Beyond a Steel Sky, Oceanhorn 2 and Shinshekai alone are worth a year’s subscription of Apple Arcade.

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4 Responses

  1. gewappnet says:

    A comparison with the Apple TV version would be interesting as this is probably the most used version (at least Apple TV is Apple‘s game console). But I guess it is similar to the iPad.

  2. Ken Ng says:

    Unfortunately I don’t have an Apple TV otherwise I would also have had made the comparisons. But I would imagine it to be the same as the iPad Pro. They didn’t allow for any videos settings on the iOS version as and we would have to see how they continue to improve/tweak the settings to each device over time.

    But for now, I’m starting to play more on my MacBook. It’s just a much better experience.

  3. Hi!

    I’m curious if you can report the performance of the same setup playing other games on Apple Arcade. I have the same model of graphics card (but a version from Gigabyte) in a Mac Pro (Mid 2010) which isn’t officially supported to use later MacOS versions than Mojave, but things work really well even in Big Sur with a little modification and use of OpenCore:

    Anyway, my concern is that performance in games on Apple Arcade are not stable frame rate wises. In many games the performance is great most of the time, but then there are short pauses/hiccups in frame rate here and there which kind of take away the experience.

    For example the game Agent Intercept runs super smooth all maxed out on my 1920 x 1200 display for the most part, but there are hiccups every now and then. Same for titles like Samuari Jack and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure.

    Now, I’m curious if these hiccups are because of my computer (the CPU) lacking some feature and since it’s not officially supported by MacOS, but performance outside of gaming is really good and if I boot into Windows 10 on the same hardware games mostly fly without any hiccup whatsoever.

    How does other (3D) games on Apple Arcade run for you on your setup?

    Thanks in advance for any info! 🙂

  4. Ken Ng says:

    I’ve tried Pathless on the my MBP + eGPU setup and it definitely runs better and smoother compared to the iPad. I’ve not tried the others. I’ll do so and let you know. But I would have to say games like Alba and Samurai Jack aren’t as demanding so it’s hard to imagine the eGPU has problems supporting it.

    Having said that, the RX 5700 XT typically maxes out at 1440p at the highest settings.

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