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World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm--Tom's Performance Guide

Test Hardware And Setup

Test Hardware
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-980X (Gulftown) 3.33 GHz at 3.73 GHz (28 * 133 MHz), LGA 1366, 6.4 GT/s QPI, 12 MB Shared L3Turbo Boost disabled, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
Intel Core i7-875K (Lynnfield) 2.93 GHz @ 2.93 GHz, 3.2 GHz, 3.73 GHz, LGA 1156, 8 MB Shared L3Turbo Boost disabled, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
Intel Core i5-655K (Clarkdale) 3.2 GHz @ 2.93 GHz, 3.2 GHz, 3.73 GHz, LGA 1156, 4 MB Shared L3Turbo Boost disabled, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
Intel Core i3-530 (Clarkdale) 2.93 GHz, LGA 1156, 4 MB Shared L3Power-savings enabled
AMD Phenom II X6 xxxx (Thuban) 3.3 GHz @ 3.3 GHz, 3.7 GHz, Socket AM3, 6 MB Shared L3Turbo CORE disabled, Power-savings enabled
AMD Athlon II X4 640 (Propus) 3 GHz, Socket AM3, No L3Power-savings enabled
AMD Athlon II X2 260 (Regor) 3.2 GHz, Socket AM3, No L3Power-savings enabled
MotherboardAsus Rampage III Formula (LGA 1366) Intel X58/ICH10R, BIOS 0505
Asus Maximus III Formula (LGA 1156) Intel P55, BIOS 2001
Gigabyte 890FXA-UD5 (Socket AM3), AMD 890FX/SB850, BIOS F5
MemoryKingston 6 GB (3 x 2 GB) DDR3-2000, KHX2000C8D3T1K3/6GX @ 8-8-8-24 and 1.65 V
Kingston 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-2000, KHX2000C8D3T1K3/6GX @ 8-8-8-24 and 1.65 V
Hard DriveIntel SSDSA2M160G2GC 160 GB SATA 3Gb/s
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 5970 2 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 5870 1 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 6870 1 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 5850 1 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 6850 1 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 5770 1 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 5750 1 GB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 4870 512 MB GDDR5
AMD Radeon HD 4850 512 MB GDDR3
AMD Radeon HD 4770 512 MB GDDR5
Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 512 MB GDDR4
Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 512 MB GDDR3
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB GDDR5
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1.5 GB GDDR5
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1.25 GB GDDR5
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1 GB GDDR5
Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 1 GB GDDR5
Nvidia GeForce GTX 295  896 MB GDDR3 * 2
BFG GeForce GTX 285 1 GB GDDR3
Zotac GeForce GTX 275 896 MB GDDR3
Zotac GeForce GTX 260 896 MB GDDR3
BFG GeForce GTS 250 1 GB GDDR3
BFG GeForce 9800 GTX 512 MB GDDR3
Asus GeForce 8500 GT 256 MB DDR3
Power SupplyCooler Master UCP-1000 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst 10.10
Nvidia GeForce Release 260.99 (For all Nvidia cards except GTX 580)
Nvidia GeForce Release 262.99 (For GTX 580)

All of the graphics cards used in this piece are set to their reference clock rates for the sake of keeping things as even as possible. The only notable specs that vary come from Sapphire's Radeon HD 4670 with GDDR4 memory (most models actually included GDDR3) and Asus' GeForce 8500 GT, which comes overclocked from the factory. With that said, the performance numbers of that card are low enough that we left the higher clock rates in place.

Our benchmark sequence will likely become the topic for debate in the comments section, so I'll address it in as much depth as possible here. Testing in WoW is tricky business. The environments that put most stress on your system are generally going to be busy cities and hectic raids. Neither of these makes for a repeatable benchmark (you try talking nine or 24 other guys into running through and then wiping on the same fight sequence one hundred and some odd times for the sake of a performance evaluation).

So, I went for the next best thing--a point-to-point flight path in Twilight Highlands, one of the new zones opened up in Eastern Kingdoms. After manually watching the frame rate counter and flying over most of the old world content, I'm pretty confident that this is "as good as it gets" for repeatable testing. Just keep in mind that you are likely to see frame rates drop when you get into gnarly raid encounters or when you cram into a city packed with toons ready for a Cataclysm leveling race.

And don't laugh at my UI. The focus is on benchmarking here. I literally transferred my toon over to Echo Isles and started testing.

  • Odem
    Kind of unfortunate to see if I had gone with an i5 750 instead of a 955 I'd be seeing more fps. Although the money I saved for the same frames in most other games leaves me happy.
    Reply
  • WOW only uses 2 cores by default. However youc an configure it to "quasi" use more cores. you have to manually edit your config.wtf and change the variable: SET processAffinityMask "3" (3 is the default meaning 2 cores) to the following values for respective processors:

    i7 Qudcore with Ht- 85
    Any Quadcore chips with no HT - 15
    i5 Quadcore which does not have HT as far as I know - 15
    i5 Dualcore with HT- 5
    Dualcore with HT- 5
    Dualcore without HT - 5
    AMD tricore - 7

    There used to be a blue post explaining the settings and how to calculate it for different cores. But the old forums got wiped.
    Reply
  • sudeshc
    not a that big fan of wow, but still happy to see that they do keep in mind that people also have low end hardware too.
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    I'm impressed, if Chris went to all that trouble to benchmark the new expansion for a mmorpg in such great detail it can me only 2 things:
    1. Chris is a closet WoW-player
    2. Really bored
    With that said, i really do hope to see more of these articles, albeit with a more demanding title on the bench, even if it's from a "lesser" developer/publisher combo.

    PS: I do hope ppl appreciate my sense of humor :P
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    Damn fine job Mr. Angelini, the most comprehensive hardware guide i've ever seen for WoW. This will save me hours, if not days of time when talking to players about their systems. Much appreciated.
    Reply
  • Bluescreendeath
    The Intel CPU scaling part was lacking...i7 980X at 3.7GHz? For WoW? Really?

    And why only Corei CPUs? Where are all the Core2s? 75% of Intel users still use Core2s and 775s!
    Reply
  • voicu83
    i hate you so much tom's hardware ... now i have to go buy an intel proc instead of my phenom ii x4 :D ... and add a dx11 board on top of it ... oh well, there goes my santa's gift :P
    Reply
  • Moneyloo
    Simply astounded by the time and effort that must have went into this piece. It also makes me greatly look forward to my new Maingear desktop arriving on the 23rd just in time for Christmas. Dual OC gtx580s in sli with a corei7 FTW. Ultra everything here I come!
    Reply
  • cangelini
    SpadeMI'm impressed, if Chris went to all that trouble to benchmark the new expansion for a mmorpg in such great detail it can me only 2 things:1. Chris is a closet WoW-player2. Really boredWith that said, i really do hope to see more of these articles, albeit with a more demanding title on the bench, even if it's from a "lesser" developer/publisher combo. PS: I do hope ppl appreciate my sense of humor
    It's a little easier to talk about WoW since I've been playing it for way too long, but I definitely want to see us doing more comprehensive coverage of demanding titles on launch day. It's all a matter of trying to convince the software guys to give a hardware site early access to the game. That's the hard part :)
    Reply
  • mitch074
    With hardware-accelerated cursor now enabled, OpenGL has finally become usable in WoW; was there any testing done on that? Not only does it sometimes give a boost to Nvidia cards, it's also the 'default' setting for Linux players - incidentally, the ones who were asking for the feature for a while.
    Reply