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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  • 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...