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

AMD: High-End Cards At Ultra Quality

Our benchmarking adventure begins with eight of AMD's fastest graphics cards. Not all are capable of playable frame rates in Cataclysm right up to 2560x1600, but they're all down to serve up solid performance at 1680x1050.

Interesting that the three fastest boards here are limited by our platform at 1680x1050. Remember that; Nvidia's cards seem to offer a bit more margin up top, though we're perfectly happy playing this game in excess of 80 FPS.

If you're rocking a 17" or 19" monitor and playing at 1680x1050, we're pleased to report that any of these cards (even the aged Radeon HD 4870) can yield playable frame rates at Ultra quality settings. Whether or not your processor and memory can keep up is another matter entirely.

The bottleneck up top dissolves as a higher resolution setting puts more pressure on our graphics cards. Everything down to the Radeon HD 6850 is plenty fast.

Now's probably a good time to point out the Radeon HD 5970 languishing in the middle of our charts. AMD claims World of Warcraft is supported by CrossFire, but all of our testing (and a good number of posts to Blizzard's forums) suggest that this game simply will not scale beyond one GPU, even when the GPUs are built onto the same card. As a result, what should be the fastest board here falls to the center of the pack.

Differentiation between each model is much more pronounced at 2560x1600. Everything down to the Radeon HD 5970 level runs fairly smoothly, after which point you'll see spots that probably warrant a compromise in graphics quality--especially if you depend on fluid frame rates for competitive reasons.

In order to better illustrate how average frame rates don't always translate to even performance, we plotted a sample from each second of our benchmark for all eight cards at 1920x1080 (what we consider a more realistic resolution for more gamers than 2560x1600).

Even the fastest card dips under 40 FPS, despite peaking beyond 120 FPS in other spots. And while the two slowest cards seem to serve up reasonable speed, you might find that more demanding raiding environments with spell-heavy fights push those numbers much lower than what we see during a flight around Twilight Highlands.

  • 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