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

Test Methodology

The StarCraft II Map Editor allows us to create a large map with a lot of melee units and structures ready to fight. For this purpose, we use the majority of a large 256x256 map space, filling it with different terrain details, including water and fog, and placing 380 melee units, 42 static structures, 96 mineral piles, and six vespine geysers.

All of the units are placed in a position where they will attack enemy units and structures from the get-go, and we’re careful to balance the forces so that the AI remains busy for the better part of a minute, which is perfect for our 60-second benchmark. Testing shows the results are very consistent, so we’re ready to generate some performance numbers.


Due to a ton of requests, I have posted the Tom's Hardware Benchmark to BATTLE.NET!


The first step is to download and install the FRAPS framerate measuring utility to record the frame rate.
Set FRAPS to record the min/max/avg frame rate for 60 seconds. Do not press the key to begin the FRAPS run just yet.

- Start StarCraft 2, and log in to your account.
- Select 'MULTI PLAYER' button at the top left side of the screen
- Click the 'CREATE A GAME' button at the bottom right of the screen
- In the 'SEARCH BY NAME' search field, type 'toms'
- Select the 4 player 'Toms Hardware Guide Benchmark' map authored by Cleeve
- Set Game Speed to Normal
- Start Game
- When the game begins, you will immediately see the 'Victory!' message suggesting that the game is over. Click the 'Return to Game' button to begin the benchmark

When I recorded benchmark results, I would center the camera on the Protoss mothership at the center of the map in order to be consistent. To do this, select the mothership, press the CTRL and number 1 key to apply the mothership to group 1, and then press the 1 number key to center the camera on the mothership.

Do this as quickly as possible. As soon as this is done, start the FRAPS utility to begin the 60-second frame rate data collection.

When I take this benchmark, I burn the first results because the initial loading creates a lot of inconsistency. In fact, the first time you can just start the game and wait 60 seconds without using FRAPS. After this, exit the map and immediately re-start it. Repeat this three more times and record those three runs to get an average.

If you alt-tab out of StarCraft 2, you will need to burn another run before recording any results as the game will force everything to re-load into memory to cause lags.

Now, I used this benchmark as a single-player map so there might be some variance there, but as far as I can tell you can't search for a single player map. You might have access to the single player map once you've downloaded the multiplayer custom version, I don't know. The single player is preferable because the game seems to pause until you click the 'return to game' button, where the multiplayer version seems to continue whether or not you press the button.

Have fun! Let me know your results.


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  • duk3
    Nice article.
    I wish the i5 750 was included as a comparison.
  • Doom3klr
    5770 should run it with a 3 core amd
  • Doom3klr
    5770 should run it with a 3 core amd
  • ScoobyJooby-Jew
    a 5750+phenom II 945 runs smoothly with a mix of ultra and high settings. no aa.
  • L0tus
    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.
  • 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.
  • nativeson8803
    I wish they would have included my cpu: q9550 OC'd to 3.5Ghz

    Still relevant!
  • madass
    Are you guys sure the NV cards didnt beat the radeons due to bigger frame buffer?
  • 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.
  • dingo_d
    Doom3klr5770 should run it with a 3 core amd

    Yep it worked flawlessly on my 5770 1GB + Athlon II X3 435...
  • adonn78
    Why is there not a 5770 in the round up?
  • 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.
  • urlsen
    I run it just fine on my P5b deluxe 1080P,E8400,4 gb ddr2,8800 gts 320mb, win7 64.
  • "Our 6 or their 4" I'll take their 4 any day of the week.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • krolo
    Yeah i wish my 9550 was in the benchmarks to see how the core2 duo stacks up.
  • I wish the hexa cores from amd were included esp the 1090t
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gedoe_
    Nexus wars brings anything to its knees, even i5 + HD 5850.

    That is why i always play low quality in nexus wars.
  • jfby
    Wow. I'm continually surprised seeing the performance of the 5850 vs the 460. I'm not complaining, and I wouldn't trade the months of fun I had with my 5850 before 460 was released, but it can be a bit much to swallow to keep seeing benchmarks like this... it just gives me a chance to advise others when they make a new purchase.
  • tipoo
    *Looks at 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo and Radeon 4670*

  • xanxaz
    c2d e6600@2.4ghz and hd5850 1080P ultra detail and it's very smooth... dont know why they say it needs a dual core at 3ghz or a triple core...