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Test System And Settings

StarCraft II Beta: Game Performance Analyzed

First and foremost, we need to stress that StarCraft II is still in the beta stage, and no matter how slick this game engine runs, there may be performance improvements before the game is released.

We tested a solid sample of cards from our Best Graphics Cards for the Money column, and even a few more. We tested AMD boards from the Radeon HD 5570 to the Radeon HD 5870 and most of the cards in between. We also included Radeon HD 5850s in CrossFire mode. Representing Nvidia's lineup, we tested from the GeForce 9600 GT to the GeForce GTX 260.

We chose the newest-available Nvidia 197.12 drivers at first, but these tend to crash StarCraft II on launch. We therefore reverted to the 196.21 drivers for our testing. For the Radeon cards, we used the Catalyst 10.3 prerelease drivers that were publicly available when we tested. Since then, the official 10.3 drivers have been released.

The only surprise we experienced when benchmarking was a 16- or 32-bit color-option inconsistency that changed based on the graphics card we used for benchmarking. In general, almost every graphics card configuration allowed for 2560x1600 32-bit color, 1680x1050 16-bit color, and 1280x1024 16-bit color.

However, not all cards support 1920x1080, so we had to benchmark 1920x1200, and not all cards supported the same color depth at this resolution. We simply benchmarked the color depth that was available to us at 1920x1200, and for peace of mind, we did test both the 32-bit and 16-bit color option on the cards to see if the color depth affected performance. Our results show that the difference in color depth doesn't affect performance enough to impact results.

Graphic Test System

Intel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8MB Cache
Overclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz BCLK


ASRock X58 SuperComputer
Intel X58, BIOS P1.90

Onboard Realtek Gigabit LAN controller

Kingston PC3-10700
3 x 1,024MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T


Reference Radeon HD 5770 1GB DDR3
Gigabyte  GeForce 9600 GT 1GB DDR3
Reference Radeon HD 5670 512MB GDDR5
Gigabyte GeForce 8800 GT 512MB DDR3 (representing GeForce 9800 GT)
XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5
XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB GDDR5
Asus ENGTX260 896MB DDR3
Reference Radeon HD 5830 1GB GDDR5
XFX Radeon HD 5850 Black Edition 1GB GDDR5
PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 LCS 1GB GDDR5

*all clock rates have been set to reference specifications for the purpose of benchmarking

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA,
500GB, 7,200 RPM, 8MB cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s


Thermaltake Toughpower 1,200W
1,200W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91

Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics Drivers

AMD Catalyst 10.3 Preview with the Jan. 21 Catalyst profile update and Nvidia GeForce Driver 196.21

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