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

Test System And Settings

StarCraft II is very attractive at its Medium graphics quality setting, yet it is a lot easier on the hardware than the Ultra quality setting. Therefore, we’re testing the same Medium and Ultra quality settings that we used in our previous StarCraft II beta performance analysis.

The AMD Catalyst 10.7 beta drivers (and newer 10.8 package) allow us to test AA on Radeon cards. Nvidia's drivers have supported this capability from launch day. However, we limit AA tests to the graphics cards that can supply playable frame rates at Ultra quality settings.

While some of the Gigabyte graphics cards employ a factory overclock, we're setting all of the cards to their reference clock speeds in order to provide a more useful comparison for the folks gauging standard performance.

Graphic Test System
Intel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
Overclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz BCLK
Gigabyte X58A-UD3R
Intel X58, BIOS version FA
Onboard Gigabit LAN controller
Kingston PC3-10700
3 x 1,024  MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T
Gigabyte GV-R587SO-1GD
Radeon HD 5870 Super Overclock 1 GB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-N470SO-13I
GeForce GTX 470 Super Overclock 1280 MB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-R585OC-1GD
Radeon HD 5850 Overclock 1 GB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-N460OC-1GI
GeForce GTX 460 Overclock 1 GB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-R583UD-1GD
Radeon HD 5830 1 GB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-N240D5-512I
GeForce GT 240 512 MB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-R557OC-1GI
Radeon HD 5570 1 GB DDR3 Overclock
Gigabyte GV-R555D3-1GI
Radeon HD 5550 1GB DDR3

(all clock rates have been set to reference specifications for the purpose of benchmarking)
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA,
500 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Thermaltake Toughpower 1200 W
1200 W, 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 10.7 Beta
Nvidia GeForce Driver 258.96 WHQL
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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...