World of Warcraft on Mac: Shadowlands & M1 Support Review

by | Jan 9, 2020 | MMORPG

World of Warcraft needs no introduction. Referred to as WoW by its hardcore fans, World of Warcraft isn’t only the most famous MMORPG ever created, it’s one of the most popular games in history.

WoW may have lost subscribers compared to its heyday, but make no mistake, WoW is still one of the best MMORPG Mac games available today.

First released in 2004, WoW has been around forever. But the steady stream of immense patches and ambitious Expansions have kept it young and at the forefront of the MMO genre. And its latest expansion, Shadowlands, is no different.

But how good is WoW on Mac? In this post, we’ll test WoW on several machines, including the new M1 Macs, but also go over Shadowlands.

World of Warcraft Mac art
92 Metascore
There's a reason no MMO has managed to take its crown. 10 years later, World of Warcraft remains the best MMO on the market.

World of Warcraft on Mac: Everything you need to know

Release Date: Nov 23, 2020
64-Bit Support: World of Warcraft on Mac: Shadowlands & M1 Support Review 4
API: Metal
M1 Support: Native

World of Warcraft tells the story of the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. Orcs vs. humans, undead vs. night elves, and so on. As a new player, you’ll get to chose a side (Alliance for life!), select a race, and begin your journey from level 1 to 60.

That journey will be full of quests, battlegrounds, dungeons, and raids. And it all takes place in a huge world that still looks great, a feat for a game that runs on an engine created more than a decade ago. That said, if you’re looking for the best looking MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online may be a better choice.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Mac 2

Competition has never been as fierce as today, SW: TOR and Final Fantasy 14 for Mac come to mind, but World of Warcraft remains the most solid and high-quality MMO in the market, with responsive gameplay, addicting leveling, and challenging Raids and PvP.

World of Warcraft Mac Metacritic

Plus, every new expansion introduces excellent new systems and even streamlines the core game to make it even better. And Shadowlands, the game’s latest expansion is another perfect example.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the latest Expansion

Released on November 23, 2020, Shadowlands comes with the laundry list of new features, zones, and quests you would expect from a WoW expansion. But in this case, the 4 new themed zones are remarkably good, dense, and full of personality. The new Covenants system is a great addition that revitalizes the endgame formula. And on top of it all, Shadowlands does a great job at improving some of the core mechanics in the game.

For example, instead of increasing the level cap again, this time it was reduced to a maximum of 60 levels. Each level should now provide more meaningful increases in progress and power and streamlines the entire experience.

Bottom line: Shadowlands is among the best Expansions ever released for World of Warcraft. It’s not perfect, and it’s not even as good as Legion, but it’s still a great addition to an already great game.

An improved pricing-model

It’s also worth mentioning that last year, Blizzard introduced the biggest change WoW’s pricing-model has ever seen. Instead of having to buy a “battle chest” including the original World of Warcraft and its previous expansions, monthly subscribers now have access to all of that content for free. The only Expansion you will need to buy is the current expansion.

This is a welcome change that newcomers will appreciate. Plus, paying $14.99 a month should be enough to have access to most of the game.

World of Warcraft Mac requirements

These are the official World of Warcraft Mac system requirements (updated with the release of Battle for Azeroth):

  • OS: OS X 10.12
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-760
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, ATI Radeon R9 M290 or Intel HD 530 or better
  • A Metal capable GPU
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Hard drive space: 100 GB

Notice the requirements are higher than the previous vanilla World of Warcraft. If your Mac already struggled with WoW, you may want to upgrade to a new machine before jumping back into the world of Azeroth…

That said, the game does support older integrated graphics cards, such as the Intel HD 530, which means Macs from 2013 onward should be able to handle it.

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Can your Mac run World of Warcraft? The Results

As a reminder, this is how we describe the different levels of performance:

  • Below 20 FPS: Unplayable: Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.
  • 20-30 FPS: Borderline: Can be OK in slow-paced games. Still, not optimal.
  • 30-45 FPS: Playable: Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).
  • 45-60 FPS: Smooth: Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.
  • 60+ FPS: Very Smooth: For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.

We usually aim for 30 FPS, because 30 FPS is enough to guarantee a smooth and fluid experience for most casual gamers.

An improved Mac experience thanks to Metal

World of Warcraft has always offered good performance on Mac but the team over at Blizzard made a significant improvement when they moved the Mac version of the game to Metal with the release of the Legion expansion in 2016.

At the time, we compared both World of Warcraft running with OpenGL and World of Warcraft running with Metal:

World of Warcraft Metal VS OpenGL V2

World of Warcraft was the first game ever to support Apple’s then-new Metal graphics API and the results were incredible. The Metal version of the game was 61% faster than the older OpenGL version!

World of Warcraft on M1 Macs

The latest M1 Macs with Apple ARM-based processors are a big deal. As always, Apple didn’t hesitate to call them revolutionary when M1 Macs were revealed. Apple can be overly optimistic when revealing new products, but this time they were right.

Apple M1 Mac gaming

M1 Macs are nothing short of impressive, as they are able to run games significantly better than their Intel-based counterparts. And this applies to all games, even those that do not have a native M1 version yet.

And when for those games that do, such as World of Warcraft, the results are impressive (in Frames per Second):

Benchmark 2016 MacBook Pro M1 MacBook Air Change (%)
800p & Medium Settings 35.5 60* +69%
900p & Ultra Settings 60*
1280p & Ultra Settings 40.5

And keep in mind that frames were locked to 60 FPS maximum on the M1 MacBook Air! Otherwise, it would have melted the 13-inch MacBook Pro even more. Our tests running the game at higher settings and resolution are proof of how fast M1 Macs can be compared to their Intel-based counterparts!

Can my Mac run World of Warcraft?

This graph shows you how our Intel-based Macs performed when running the game:

World of Warcraft Mac results

As you can see, the game runs great on all three Macs, including our 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro.

PS: 35.5 FPS on a 6-year old machine with integrated graphics is respectable, especially for an MMO.

World of Warcraft is a forgiving game that should run on most modern Macs. If you have a high-end Mac, be it a 15-inch MacBook Pro, an iMac, or any machine with dedicated graphics, you should be able to run it on high settings and at least 1080p resolution.

Our iMac can run the game at an impressive 156.9 FPS (frames per second), leaving a lot of room to significantly increase the game’s settings while maintaining 60+ FPS.

World of Warcraft Mac graphics V2

Can you play World of Warcraft on a MacBook Pro?

If you happen to have a more “casual” MacBook, say a 13-inch MacBook Pro with integrated graphics, you should still be able to easily run this game.

Our 2016 13-inch MBP can run the game at a comfortable 78.4 FPS. As long as your MBP is from 2015 or newer, rest assured it will run World of Warcraft without breaking a sweat.

But what if you have an older MacBook?

This section is usually where it gets tricky as older Macs offer a very limited gaming performance. In this case, however, even our older 2013 13-inch MBP runs World of Warcraft just fine at 35.5 FPS.

If you’re worried your Mac is too old to play this game, don’t worry. World of Warcraft on Mac is a well-optimized game that makes great use of MacOS’s latest technologies (Metal 2.0) and should run on virtually any Mac from 2012 onward.

Testing Conditions: How we benchmarked World of Warcraft on Mac

World of Warcraft may be over 10 years old but the game has seen its fair share of graphical upgrades over the years. Plus, MMOs have always been surprisingly demanding, not because of the levels of detail required but because of the sheer size of their worlds.

World of Warcraft graphics evolution

To evaluate how demanding WoW on Mac really is, we tested it on the following machines:

  •  13-inch MacBook Air (M1, 2020): Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU, 8 GB RAM
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016): 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
  • 27-inch iMac (5K, 2014): 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2013): 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)

Using our in-house FPS counter, we tested all machines using the following settings:

  • 1280×800 or equivalent resolution
  • Graphics Quality: Level 5
  • V-Sync: Disabled

World of Warcraft on Mac: Shadowlands & M1 Support Review 5

All benchmarks consisted of 5 minutes of real-time gameplay in an open area, running around and killing everything in sight. We prefer to test games outdoors because they tend to be more demanding and taxing than indoors.

For the record, Medium settings and 1280×800 resolution may seem low but it’s the best compromise when testing both high-end and low-end models. box.

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Download World of Warcraft for Mac

World of Warcraft has always been one of the most expensive MMOs in the market. Yet that’s never been a problem, as WoW has always delivered a premium experience well-worth the $15 a month.

What was annoying was the need to also purchase the base game plus each Expansion as they came out. Luckily, that changed when World of Warcraft (and all previous Expansions) became free to all subscribers.

You can purchase the Shadowlands expansion on Blizzard’s official store:

World of Warcraft Mac art
92 Metascore
There's a reason no MMO has managed to take its crown. 10 years later, World of Warcraft remains the best MMO on the market.

World of Warcraft Mac Review
World of Warcraft on Mac: Shadowlands & M1 Support Review 6

There's a reason no MMOs has managed to take its crown. 10 years later, World of Warcraft remains the best MMO on the market. And since the game was moved from OpenGL to Metal, performance has gone through the roof, allowing most modern Macs to run it without breaking a sweat.

Operating System: macOS 10.12 and up

Editor's Rating:

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  1. stu

    is it normal for MacBook airs to get hot and loud when playing wow could it damage my Mac???

    • Ric Molina

      I’m afraid it is very normal which can be uncomfortable and annoying. But you shouldn’t worry about damaging the machine. As long as temperatures are tolerable, it will run. If it ever becomes dangerous the mac will shut down automatically.
      My advice: don’t play games with your MacBook on your knees or a bed or anything that isn’t a hard surface 😉

    • Glen Andrew Vescio

      Can I play WoW on my iPad Pro

    • Linda

      Hi Stu! I figured my input might help you a little bit. Playing Wow on my macbook air has caused my already old computer to not be able to last 3 minutes without it being plugged in. It actually affects my DPS in-game, and raid lags are pretty severe.

  2. Elle

    Can you please do an article about how to get a gaming mouse to work with the Mac? For example I have HAVIT HV-MS735 mouse and the number buttons do work as number buttons but I can’t get it to respond to do Shift + (mouse number button). Which is how I had half the spells set up. I want to be able to install on the Mac because honestly the Windows computer keeps getting viruses that all the antimalware/antivirus is not detecting and it’s just annoying and frustrating. But you can’t really play an MMO without a 16 button mouse. First world problems. But I can’t find a single answer online so far on this and I’m guessing you may know how to fix it.

    • Dalton

      The mouse button configs is not support on MacOS as stated on their webpage for that mouse. is best free thing I could find. But I would suggest in the future finding a gaming mouse that better works with your Mac. Logitech and Steelseris both can cost a bit more but have always played well with Mac.

    • Star-affinity

      See if SteerMouse can help you:

      Not sure if it recognizes all the buttons on your mouse, but it’s worth a try. It’ has been working great for me for several years and is well woth the price. There is also the amazing but more convoluted ControllerMate, but that doesn’t support MacOS Catalina yet:

  3. Dalton

    WoW Classic is set to launch on August 27th, the game download will only be about 4-8gb and will have requirements a bit below the current WoW. So it should run even better and not a massive download. I can not wait. I have the 2018 MacBook Air and could run current wow just fine and ill make sure to send in full info on my classic experience.

    • Kenneth

      Yeah, me too. I will play on a MacBook Pro 13 inch 2017.

    • Stockman

      Yes please, I am looking forward! I can’t wait to play it. I will have iMac 27″ 5K lowest specs + SSD and More RAM (because of lightroom and photoshop).

  4. Cindy Vermillion

    How does MacOS Mojave effect WOW play on Macs? I have heard some people having trouble running WOW once they upgraded the OS.

  5. Devyn

    Hey! I’ve got a late 2009 27″ iMac which can’t run WoW anymore… Would an eGPU fix this issue?

  6. Sue

    What is the best way to play WOW on MAC? Mouse or keypad? I’m used to xbox controller’s and looking for ideas.

  7. JJR512

    Does it really need 70 GB hard drive space? Does it need that permanently, or just to install, after which it needs less?

    • ELodie

      It’s really need that space on your hard drive. I will personally buy an external SSD since my macbook got only 128go ssd

  8. Ben

    Can a Mac mini 2014 with an Iris 5100 work with wow CLASSIC?

    • Nick

      Hey Ben, did you ever figure out if WoW Classic works on your Mac??

  9. thor

    I’m currently trying to run Wow on my MBP 2020 13″ with 1.3GHz. I’m concerned about the computer heating up quite fast. Do you think 2.0 GHz is required in order to not overheat?

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