StarCraft II Beta: Game Performance Analyzed

Test System And Settings

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.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Graphic Test System
CPUIntel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8MB CacheOverclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz BCLK
MotherboardASRock X58 SuperComputer Intel X58, BIOS P1.90
NetworkingOnboard Realtek Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryKingston PC3-10700 3 x 1,024MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T
GraphicsReference Radeon HD 5770 1GB DDR3Gigabyte  GeForce 9600 GT 1GB DDR3Reference Radeon HD 5670 512MB GDDR5Gigabyte GeForce 8800 GT 512MB DDR3 (representing GeForce 9800 GT)Asus ENGTS250 DK 1GB DDR3XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB GDDR5Asus ENGTX260 896MB DDR3Reference Radeon HD 5830 1GB GDDR5XFX Radeon HD 5850 Black Edition 1GB GDDR5PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 LCS 1GB GDDR5*all clock rates have been set to reference specifications for the purpose of benchmarking
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA, 500GB, 7,200 RPM, 8MB cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s
PowerThermaltake Toughpower 1,200W1,200W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversAMD Catalyst 10.3 Preview with the Jan. 21 Catalyst profile update and Nvidia GeForce Driver 196.21
  • bmadd
    no GTX480/470??
  • LLJones
    Nice review, never played the original, will have to give this a try. I'm tired of run and gun.

    A small request. Would you be so kind as to include a 4 series Radeon in your next review? Maybe a 4870 or 90. I know that my CF/OC 4770's give me 4890ish performance, but have no idea where this is in 5 series.

    As you used older Nv cards, I will guess that the game is DX11 but DX10(.1) playable.

    With a little luck, a few months from now, I will only need to look at the 5 series charts.
  • Gin Fushicho
    unnn. I wanna play this game, now I feel like your teasing me Tom's.
  • IzzyCraft
    "For example, Terran Wraiths are gone and there are no more Terran air units that can cloak"
    banshees yo...
  • patdohere
    Cool, so one question. When does starcraft 2 come out?
  • Ragnar-Kon
    lljonesWould you be so kind as to include a 4 series Radeon in your next review? Maybe a 4870 or 90.
    I have a Radeon HD 4870, and my performance on the Starcraft 2 beta is about the same (usually better) as my roommate, who has 5770. When I'm looking at the FPS it usually sits around the 78fps mark. I couldn't tell you during an intense battle because... well... I'm not looking at the FPS meter. In general, our cards performs about the same in most games we play. The rest of our systems are also comparable, with the exception that he has a significantly faster hard drive than me, which usually only comes into effect on load times (he can load a Bad Company 2 map about 15 seconds before I can load mine).

    Of course our little benchmarking isn't as precise and Tom's is, but maybe that'll give you a starting point.
  • Ragnar-Kon
    ragnar-konWhen I'm looking at the FPS it usually sits around the 78fps mark..
    This should be 48 fps, not 78. Damn lack of edit.
  • drutort
    i would have hopped to see more scaling and not so much cpu dependent oh well... also the multi core code hope that will improve cause everyone will soon have 3-6 cores... and if only 2 cores are giving you any advantage i hope they optimize it at least down the road
  • Lessqqmorepewpew
    why does fps cap seem so low?
  • deividast
    I was dissapointed that there were no GTX470/480, since i'm planning on buying them :)
    Other thing that bothers me is a CPU :( i have Phenom x4 at 2,3ghz and as i see this game runs better on faster CPU's :(
    and man, i can't wait to get my hands on this game :D