StarCraft II Revisited: How Much Gaming PC Do You Need?

When Gigabyte suggested that we review the performance of StarCraft II on an all-Gigabyte graphics card lineup, we were delighted. We wanted an excuse to revisit the game, even though we had performed a thorough performance analysis of the StarCraft II beta a few months ago.

While the game engine hasn’t changed much between our beta review and the final release, we weren’t especially satisfied with the benchmarking method we were forced to use at the time. This is because the only consistent way to benchmark the beta was by playing back a saved game. This involved watching a movie of game play that had previously occurred. While this test did stress the graphics engine, it wasn’t ideal for measuring real-world performance. In an actual game play scenario, the system is forced to calculate variables in real-time. Playing back a saved game with a predetermined outcome doesn't generate the exact same processing load.

The release of the full title allows us to create a more realistic simulation. The bundled StarCraft II Map Editor gives us the ability to build a map pre-populated with multiple simultaneous battles involving all three StarCraft races at the same time. Now that the computer has to perform all of the necessary AI calculations, instead of simply playing back a movie with a predetermined outcome, we have the opportunity to perform a worst-case scenario stress test of the game’s ability to push PC hardware to its limit.

In addition, AMD released the Catalyst 10.7 beta driver that supports anti-aliasing in StarCraft II, so we can see how Radeon and GeForce cards compare with this graphical enhancement enabled. Of course, between then and now, AMD made its Catalyst 10.8 package available as well, wrapping in the improvements introduced in the hotfix driver.

With all of these considerations in mind, it's a good time to revisit StarCraft II, post-release. Let’s start by looking at the hardware we're using to benchmark this game.

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  • avatar_raq
    A very enjoyable article. Few points:
    1. While the benchmark the author kindly put a lot of effort to make is nice, I believe it's much worse than the worst case scenario for most ppl, most people play online against human opponents or play against the AI in the single player campaign or to get some training before diving into multiplayer. IMHO it should have tuned down a little or the GPU/CPU recommendation should be stated with less certainty. Readers should put that well in mind.

    2. ATI released CCC10.9 after the article was written and it is said to improve the performance while AA is on, but I really have to test this to confirm. If anyone tested the new driver please share the results!

    3. For those whiners about not including their hardware in the piece: STOP! It is near impossible to include all the hardware out there, besides I always noticed that Don is somehow limited on the hardware side, so he only used what cards Gigabyte offered, and that was clearly stated in the article. As for the CPUs he did a comparison of 1, 2, 3 and 4 phenom 2 cores, so this should give you a good idea how the game scales with CPU cores and it is obviously not threaded well enough to make use of Phenom II x6 6 cores.

    Feel free to thumb me down! :)
    20
  • letsgetsteve
    i wish the test was re-run with a bigger overclock so we could see how cpu limited the game really is and what card will really let it stretch its legs.
    16
  • letsgetsteve
    gpharmanI run it fine on my X58 Extreme3, core i7 920 @ 3.60ghz. 12GB DDR3 1600, 2 evga GTX470SC in SLI, Win 7 64 @ 1920x1080 with aa maxed on ultra.


    show off :P care you maybe share some frame rates with your bragging?
    14
  • Other Comments
  • duk3
    Nice article.
    I wish the i5 750 was included as a comparison.
    2
  • Doom3klr
    5770 should run it with a 3 core amd
    8
  • Doom3klr
    5770 should run it with a 3 core amd
    -15
  • ScoobyJooby-Jew
    a 5750+phenom II 945 runs smoothly with a mix of ultra and high settings. no aa.
    1
  • L0tus
    Quote:
    The Radeon cards are clearly bested by their similarly-priced GeForce counterparts here.


    Hence why I regret my ATI purchase.

    It's good hardware but the constant driver issues & benchmarks such as these make you think twice.
    -4
  • letsgetsteve
    i wish the test was re-run with a bigger overclock so we could see how cpu limited the game really is and what card will really let it stretch its legs.
    16
  • nativeson8803
    I wish they would have included my cpu: q9550 OC'd to 3.5Ghz

    Still relevant!
    -9
  • madass
    Are you guys sure the NV cards didnt beat the radeons due to bigger frame buffer?
    6
  • kingnoobe
    I don't reget my ati purchase at all. I'd rather deal with driver issues *which I never seemed to have with ati only nvidia.. for some odd reason*. Then deal with crap hardware with nvidia..

    Of course this is just personal exp.

    Some games will run better with nv, and some better with ati.. Don't really care as long as I can play it smoothly. And usually 1-5 fps don't determine that.
    -6
  • dingo_d
    Doom3klr5770 should run it with a 3 core amd

    Yep it worked flawlessly on my 5770 1GB + Athlon II X3 435...
    5
  • adonn78
    Why is there not a 5770 in the round up?
    8
  • nilfisktun
    Well my E8400 @ 3.6Ghz, and a gtx260 seems more then capeable of playing sc2. I got everything on ultra, and it have allways been running smooth for me. Even in me vs 7 FFA insane AI opponents.
    2
  • urlsen
    I run it just fine on my P5b deluxe 1080P,E8400,4 gb ddr2,8800 gts 320mb, win7 64.
    -2
  • Anonymous
    "Our 6 or their 4" I'll take their 4 any day of the week.
    1
  • gpharman
    I run it fine on my X58 Extreme3, core i7 920 @ 3.60ghz. 12GB DDR3 1600, 2 evga GTX470SC in SLI, Win 7 64 @ 1920x1080 with aa maxed on ultra.
    -18
  • letsgetsteve
    gpharmanI run it fine on my X58 Extreme3, core i7 920 @ 3.60ghz. 12GB DDR3 1600, 2 evga GTX470SC in SLI, Win 7 64 @ 1920x1080 with aa maxed on ultra.


    show off :P care you maybe share some frame rates with your bragging?
    14
  • krolo
    Yeah i wish my 9550 was in the benchmarks to see how the core2 duo stacks up.
    -4
  • Anonymous
    I wish the hexa cores from amd were included esp the 1090t
    1
  • rockstone1
    My GTX 260 and Phenom II 940 (overclocked to 3.5 GHz) plays nice with Starcraft 2... Ultra setting at 1920x1080 is beautiful, and I've never seen a slow down.
    0
  • scrumworks
    L0tusHence why I regret my ATI purchase.It's good hardware but the constant driver issues & benchmarks such as these make you think twice.


    What driver issues you are talking about? I had none. If you don't care about power consumption, temps and noise then perhaps you should consider Germi.
    1