Review Index:

StarCraft II Performance Review - Even your mom can play (UPDATED)

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: General

GPU Performance

Our GPU performance testing was pretty straight forward: use our existing GPU test bed with StarCraft II installed and swap out different graphics cards to gauge performance.  The rig was configured as normal:

  • Testing
  • ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution X58 + nForce 200
  • Intel Core i7-965 @ 3.33 GHz
  • 3 x 2GB Corsair DDR3-1333 MHz
  • Intel X25-M G2 160GB SSD
  • PC Power and Cooling 1200w Turbo Cool PSU
  • NVIDIA Driver version: 258.96
  • ATI Driver version: 10.6 + CrossFire X update

Jumping right into the action, StarCraft II isn't going to be very hard on most gamers' machines, and so we only tested a pair of resolutions: 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.  The 19x12 configuration is likely the most common for PC gamers today and we wanted to see the 30-in panel performance in order to get as many pixels processed as possible on these new graphics cards. 

Because the StarCraft II engine doesn't support AA (anti-aliasing) natively you will see our NVIDIA versus AMD battles run at 1xAA only.  However, NVIDIA has been able to enable AA in the game with the override setting in its driver so we will look at AA comparisons on the following page.

For the contenders, again because the game was much less strenuous on our system than we hoped, I limited testing on new cards to the GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 480 as well as the Radeon HD 5830 and HD 5870.  For users with somewhat older cards I also threw in a GeForce GTX 260 896MB and a Radeon HD 4850 512MB for a well-rounded group. 

We maxed out our image quality settings in StarCraft II

Both the GeForce GTX 460 1GB and the GTX 480 as well as AMD's Radeon HD 5870 basically reach our CPU-limited frame rate of about 100-110 FPS on average while keeping minimums at 80 or above while running at 1920x1200.  Even the aging GeForce GTX 260 has a great showing pulling over 80 FPS on average while the HD 5830 falls well behind the back.  But note that even though they are a healthy jump behind the HD 5830 and HD 4850 provide playable experiences at 19x12.

If you are lucky enough to have a 30-in panel you should be able to run StarCraft II at 2560x1600 fairly comfortably with anything from a GeForce GTX 260 or even HD 5830 though performance is much improved with the GTX 480 and HD 5870.  In fact, both of those high end cards are hitting that CPU-limited FPS barrier of around 100 again. 

I decided to throw some quick SLI and CrossFire testing in here as well using a pair of GTX 460s and HD 5830s that we happen to have sitting nearby. 

At 1920x1200, because the GTX 460 is already hitting a CPU limit, the SLI performance doesn't equate to anything and the extra card is kind of useless while the HD 5830 sees a noticeable boost in performance of about 49%.  At the 2560x1600 resolution the HD 5830 scales by 47% and the pair of GTX 460s scales by 55% after again hitting that 100-110 FPS barrier.

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