Getting Ready for Diablo III on the Cheap

We show you how easy it can be to get Diablo III up and running on rather modest means, including one unusual recommendation that might surprise you.

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Any PC game that's as anticipated as Diablo III manages to conjure fear of hardware inadequacy. Quite often, uninformed system upgraders/builders construct a system that is way out of their price range and generally too powerful for the game that led them into this frenzied state to begin with. We're here to help with a short but sweet guide to make sure you're prepared come May 15 without spending unnecessary amounts of cash.

In an effort to calm this zeal-fueled hunt for the "perfect" system, we've assembled a handful of scenarios and laid out the most reasonable plan of attack. This is not a guide for extreme hardware enthusiasts, but for "average" gamers who might be on a bit of a budget, or simply unsure about what their options are. We do take the viability of our recommendations in regard to the current PC gaming landscape into consideration, but it's not our primary concern. Thankfully, if you are only interested in Diablo III, it won't cost you an arm and a leg to get it running, even on high settings.

Here's a video we made in October 2011 showcasing the various quality settings and their impact on the visuals. This footage is obviously from the beta, but it's a fair approximation of the final product.


Diablo III – Required Hardware Specifications

Diablo III will run in both Windows and Mac OS X, but most people upgrading or building systems are looking for a PC, so that will be our focus. There are three main components that will influence the viability of your system: CPU, GPU (video card), and RAM. Here are the hardware requirements and recommendations, straight from Blizzard.

Component Minimum Reqs. Recommended Reqs.
CPU Intel Pentium® D 2.8 GHz or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 4400+ Intel® Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 5600+ 2.8 GHz
GPU NVIDIA® GeForce® 7800 GT or AMD ATI Radeon™ X1950 Pro NVIDIA® GeForce® 260 or AMD ATI Radeon™ HD 4870
RAM 1 GB (XP), 1.5 GB (Vista/7) 2 GB

In true Blizzard fashion, Diablo III will run on most machines built within the last five years. You may have to survive on low settings with an aging system, but for Diablo, that's an acceptable scenario. Even on the lowest settings, you can still appreciate Diablo III's masterful art direction.

Still, it doesn't take much in today's market to bump the graphical settings to medium or high, even if you're limited by a budget. To give you a better idea of what I mean, let's look at the quality settings within the game and examine their relationship to your hardware.

Texture Quality
Physics Quality
Determines the clarity and size of textures used throughout the game. Texture Quality relies on your total video memory (VRAM).

Low: 256 MB
High: 512 MB
Determines the realism of colliding objects and gravity. Physics Quality relies on your computer's processor (CPU).

Off: No shadows
Low: 75% Reduction
High: No Reduction
Shadow Quality
Ground Clutter
Controls both the method and quality of shadows. Decreasing this may greatly improve performance.

Off: No shadows
Low: Low-resolution terrain shadows, blob shadows for units.
Medium: Low-resolution terrain shadows, high-resolution dynamic shadows near player.
High: High-resolution dynamic shadows for entire scene.
Controls the density and the distance at which ground clutter items like grass and foliage are placed.

Low: Short distance at which clutter items are placed with low density.
Medium: Medium distance at which clutter items are placed with medium density.
High High distance at which clutter items are placed with high density.

Shadow Quality

High Medium Low Disabled

Texture Quality

High Medium



With all that info under our belt, let's take a look at some of the options when it comes to upgrading an existing machine.



GPU Upgrade Options

Low- to mid-tier cards are strong enough to play Diablo III, and with a little extra investment, you can expect to handle more demanding titles as well. If you've built/purchased a system within the past five years, sometimes a new GPU is all it takes to hit the ground running.

People love to debate whether AMD or Nvidia is the superior GPU designer, but in reality, each company has competent hardware. Unless you're chasing the best available tech, sans financial limitations, it's best to realistically take stock of your needs and try to find the best deal. Nvidia is dominating the high-end market with its recently released GTX 680, and the forthcoming GTX 690 will continue this trend until AMD makes a meaningful move. On the lower end, AMD tends to undercut Nvidia with more competitive pricing.

Entry-Level Investment:
ATI Radeon HD 6670 1GB GDDR5 $90-100 (before $10 rebate)
Cost/Performance Investment:
NVIDIA GTX560 1GB GDDR5 $170-$250 or ATI Radeon HD 6870 $170-$230
Ultra Investment:
NVIDIA GTX 680 2GB GDDR5 $500 or ATI Radeon HD 7870 2GB GDDR5 $350-375

Our only entry-level recommendation, the Radeon HD 6670, is an excellent deal and should have no problem handling Diablo III on medium settings. If you're on the fence about upgrading, the roughly $90 price tag might temporarily soothe your gaming woes. If you're on a PC with an underwhelming GPU, it's a reasonable temporary upgrade until you decide to spend more on a modern PC, if only so you can sink your teeth into Diablo III for the time being. It helps to have a CPU that can keep up with the GPU, but if you meet the game's recommended requirements (Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.4GHz), you're no doubt in the clear with our lower-end recommendations on low or medium settings.

If you have a little more money to spend, the GTX 560 or the HD 6870 will significantly boost your aging system at a decent value. Both cards feature some of the best performance seen at that price range in years, and they shouldn't be scoffed at for not being top of the line.

Choosing between the two is tricky, as each has minor advantages in different categories. The AMD card is more proficient at anti-aliasing, but the GTX 560 will let you take advantage of PhysX in games that support it (complete list HERE), which can add a lot depending on its implementation (see Alice: Madness Returns and Batman: Arkham City). The bottom line is that both will be more than adequate for Diablo III, and if you find a good deal, the sacrifices made when choosing one card over the other will be negligible at this level of investment.

The final, completely over-the-top selections are beyond what you would need when preparing for Diablo III, but if you're looking into the future of PC gaming, these would be your best choices at the moment. As stated before, the GTX 680 is an incredible piece of hardware that is held back only by its lack of availability. Most retailers are sold out of the card, and have been since it launched in March, but that will change with time. You'll need a relatively modern setup to completely take advantage of the GTX 6 line, but if you're going to drop $500-plus on a GPU, you've probably invested a proportionate amount toward the rest of your machine.

The preference for the HD 7870 over ATI's top of the line HD 7970 is due to the extremely high cost of the 7970. It costs more than the GTX 680, yet fails to match its performance. That said, the 7870 is quite powerful and is cheaper than Nvidia's comparable GTX 580, with slightly more ram on average.



Building a New PC

So, for the sake of this story, let's assume that upgrading a GPU isn't possible. Whether you are on a pre-PCIe (PCI Express) motherboard, you've got a woefully inadequate processor, or you're looking to overhaul an entire system, there are further considerations to take into account when preparing for Diablo III.

"I want to build an up-to-date PC that can play Diablo, but I'm on a budget!"

When discussing what I'm about to suggest with office mates, I was met with skepticism and raised eyebrows. It used to be that integrated GPU solutions didn't pack enough punch to handle 3D gaming in a meaningful way. With the introduction of Intel's Ivy Bridge line of processors and the inclusion of Intel's HD Graphics 4000 GPU, things have changed.

The fact is, with the right Ivy Bridge CPU you can play Diablo III without a dedicated graphics card. You can even play Battlefield 3, a resource hog if there ever was one. According to CNET, the models touting Intel's HD Graphics 4000 silicon (rather than the 2500 variant) have adequately proven their worth.

To illustrate why our suggestion isn't completely off base, consider building a new machine from scratch. Parts don't always come cheap, and you often cut corners to afford a particular piece of equipment. Now consider building a machine and dumping all your GPU money into the CPU and other components. Since you can actually play games, you aren't sacrificing anything other than polish.

Considering most PC gamers are ever hunting for the best machine possible, we imagine this suggestion might seem ludicrous to most, but it's the first time it has even been a reasonable suggestion, and we have to consider all of our options.

In this case, we need to focus on the following parts: motherboard, CPU, RAM, and power supply. The stock CPU heatsink/fan is adequate, so we don't need to worry about extra cooling unless you plan on overclocking.

If you go with Intel's integrated chip, you may feel the pressure to get a dedicated GPU down the road, but at least you won't have to worry about upgrading the rest of your machine anytime soon. You'll also save money by waiting for the GPU you would have bought because of the inevitable price drops. It's easier to integrate a new GPU in an existing system vs. a new CPU, due to the occasional fluctuation in CPU socket standards.

If you decide to go this route, here are some component recommendations that will no doubt get you on the right track. Keep in mind that these are merely suggestions, not necessarily the best solution for every imaginable scenario/budget.

Component Model Cost
CPU Intel Core i5-3570K @ 3.4 GHz / *Intel Core i7-3770K @ 3.5 GHz $250 / $350
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H / **GA-Z77MX-D3H $160 / $140
RAM G.SKILL Ripjaws 2 x 4GB DDR3 1600 $50
Power Supply (PSU) OCZ ZS Series 550W $70 - $80
* Core i7s feature hyperthreading, which is beneficial when undertaking tasks that require heavy calculations, such as transcoding video, but it usually doesn't have a meaningful impact on gaming.
** The second model is a microATX board, meant for smaller cases. It's nearly identical to the first option in terms of features, but bunching together components on a smaller board can lead to excess ambient heat, so it's generally recommended only for smaller computer cases.

Assuming you've got a case, a hard drive, an optical drive, and a monitor kicking around, the cost of a new, powerful PC isn't that bad. Thanks to the GPU-less approach, we're able to spend a little more on the motherboard and CPU in the short term.


Conclusion

In summation, there's not a lot standing in your way if you really want to play Diablo III. Chances are, you've already got a rig that's more than capable. If not, you can easily get up and running using one of our suggestions, negating the need for that $2,000 gaming rig.

If you've played the beta, how is it performing with your particular setup? What have you done to make sure your PC is up to snuff?

Discussion

461 comments
phillkillv2
phillkillv2

The game still looks good on low at least to me.

InquisitorCrox
InquisitorCrox

This Peter Brown is really involve at promoting US based and game companies and flaming Tokyo based...

I m guessing he is earning an extra pay check, month in, month out...

The publicity D3 gets is disgusting though, a large proportion of every new article is a new publicity to D3, the log in failure. Why would anyone invest on a game, that does not even boost when the players wants, just because of a server error?

I believe that everyone who has a super premium corporal internet connection and paid the super premium price tag for D3, already has D3. This article one aims to bring more clients, in my high end PC, the bet looked cartoony and ugly as hell, this is not the game that would force anyone to make a hardware upgrade, Crysis 2 is...

However this article exposes how badly optimized this game is, in lower settings, in a 3-5 year old pc, it looks like a 10 year old game...

Shame, since was used to be Blizzard's strong point, but i guess Blizzard as we knew them are no more...

JussCaca
JussCaca

AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 3800+and ATI Radeon HD 2400XT 256MBI check and my video is listed as LOW so i can run it right? 

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

IT RAN ON INTEL GMA 4500MHD!!! SUCCESS!!! Everything was fine until the part where the servers died...

oohnat1
oohnat1

System requirements lab said my graphics card didn't meet the min. requirement.  I have an ATI Radeon 4200 with 256 mb.

mysak86
mysak86

I have a Macbook PRo with 2.8ghz 2 duo, nvidia geforce 9400m and geforce 9600m gt. 

Will my MBP run Diablo 3 and how well? 

x2rufff4u
x2rufff4u

Guys I have a 580gtx, 2500k I5, 12 gb of ram. Can i run this?

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

If you concerned, you can build a cheap rig using the AMD/ATI APG (CPU + GPU on a single chip), for around 500. I would recommend the A8 APU, as they have faster CPUs and a dual ATI chipsets. The A8-3870K is reasonably priced.

Magician679
Magician679

I have a 560Ti 2gb gddr5. I Runs everything close to maxed and I got a great deal on it. Skyrim runs awesome without a bit of slow down.

kraken2109
kraken2109

A £30 ATI 6450 can play it fine

Runock
Runock

These requirements are pretty low. It would be cheap just to buy the parts listed lol. I mean unless you gave your change to a homeless guy..

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

MINIMUM... - GPU NVIDIA® GeForce® 7800 GT or AMD ATI Radeon™ X1950 Pro

 

This means nothing to me... can someone translate please? Intel GMA 4500MHD...will it run? (my guess is no) Even if the Diablo games never seemed like they needed to ask much of video cards...but apparently do for some reason

Coseniath
Coseniath

For those also who want to buy a gpu just to maximize gpu settings: 

At the open beta I played a lot and all areas.

The game used only 70% max of the gpu and 490 max VRAM (GTX570 slightly factory o/ced).

So just go for a gpu with the 70% of the gpu power of a GTX570/HD6970 with any amount of RAM (there are no new gpus with lower than 768/1024MB VRAM anymore...)

mumrahh1
mumrahh1

Bottom line is Blizzard is setting a trend that goes back in time instead of looking for the future! I wonder when Blizzard starts releasing games that say on box, "6 year old pc required to play our game!". It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

mumrahh1
mumrahh1

The guy who claims Skyrim is taxing because of graphics is crazy. What computer do you have? I run SLI GTX 680's, 12 gigs of ram, and a new 2011 socket 6 core cpu from intel rated at 3.8 gigaherts. If I take off vsync I get close to 100 fps everywhere in skyrim in 1080p resolution on a 32inch sony Bravia led 240hz tv with every setting maxed out. No game is ever taxing on my pc's because I upgrade every 1.5 year. Build gaming machine and stay current on technology or don't play computer games because you ruin it for the enthusiasts! 

mumrahh1
mumrahh1

The game play will be solid and it will be fun and I know this because I was in the beta. But they failed me on the graphics part. No directx 11 support = fail. No tessellation support = fail. No shader 6.0 = fail. No doubt Diablo 3 will have huge sells and Blizzard will make hand over fist. With that said I have to ask the question?????? Why make a otherwise flawless game and then gimp everyone with 6 year old graphics?? Blizzard did this with WOW at launch. I mean look at Everquest 2 which was released around the same time as WOW. EQ2's graphics capabilities were light years ahead of WOW. They need to make there games have state of the art graphics, but make it scale-able so low end machines can run it where it looks like crap and people with 3,000+ dollar rigs like my self can gasp in awe at the pretty graphics. This is one thing about Blizzard I always hated. However, with that being said I like the Diablo series enough to play it with 6 year old graphics. It just saddens me that Blizzard operates like this.

mumrahh1
mumrahh1

Basically, I think the system requirements for Diablo 3 are a joke. Bottom line is the game will be awesome, but the graphics are very much outdated at release. This is very disappointing to someone who has a very high end SLI computer. I can only hope that someone will release a graphics mod for Diablo 3 that will make the graphics relevant to the year 2012 and fix the one thing Blizzard failed at. 

E-i-N-e
E-i-N-e

Just because the graphics requirements are low doesn't mean the game is going to be bad or it's going to look graphically impaired, it just means Blizzard is increasing it's game selling audience. The game looks and runs great and it's a good thing that people can play the game comfortably without a decked out computer. More power to the little guy with the average PC.

elessarGObonzo
elessarGObonzo

game don't take much. got my friend's phenom ii 955 with his radeon 4890 running stock speeds and blowing this game away. if you've played anything big in the last 4-5 years with decent frames you will play this the same way.

maiesitare
maiesitare

To be honest I played it with my desktop and my laptop and I found it always smooth. Well, my laptop is 5-6 years old with a p8400 inter cpu @2.26ghz, 4gb ram and the "mythic" 9600GT. With that specs I had only a little problem during a fight with over 20-30 monsters, but for the rest it was smooth as hell. So, u don't need an exaggerated pc.

maitkarro
maitkarro

Using Q9300@2.5GHz, GB-GTS250 1GB, 4GB ram on XPSP3 x86(32b) last beta ran fine* everything high, no need for normal antialiasing anymore, because of the FXAA (comes with beta driver 301.24 so far for nvidia) that gives 4xAA effect with 60% more performance than a normal 4xAA, though fonts are kinda effected by it too, but it's more like an issue of getting used to new font style kinda. *Well using only monitors that are on lower native like mine 1440x900, because 1980x1020 is useless on small monitors and especially sucks when using a non native res on lcd/led monitor the image is blurry, never happened on CRT, that's why I was like wondering great yeah smaller, but the image quality got shittier, CRT monitors have crystal clear images because they used glass not somekinda plastic feeling glass, I still can see on most of the LCD/LED (some of the laptops don't have those looks) monitors have that grainy look on the images, especially when very bright images and looking at it in a dark room.

Coleone12
Coleone12

I got a i5 with 6 gigs and a intel 3000HD intergrated . Beta ran very well on low settings. Hope final product isnt any different.

 

sg_hobbes
sg_hobbes

I essientually have a new system, i7-2600k, 16GB DDR3 on an EVGA Z68. The only thing is I'm still running Dual 9800GTX+, Managed to max out the settings on the beta :) I can't wait to play this on tuesday

Sharaddon
Sharaddon

this article is gud but i m playing Diablo 3 beta with no problem and games like Battlefield 3 ,Batman,COD MW3 ,F12011 and mass effect 3 run fine on my system and I only SPEND 350 $ on my PC my  system spec.  Intel Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz    4GB DDR2 800 MHZ RAM ,Powercolor HD 6770 ,550W Cooler Master Ex. PSU ,& i recommended HD 6770 bcoz excellent value of money bw 100$ -120$ ,even this graphic card better perform than Nvidia T550I ,So if you spend nearly 100-120 $ go for HD6770 instead of   HD6670 or any other card with that range

Zaka
Zaka

I ran the beta everything at max and had no problem with it!!!! I'm so excited!!! Just one more day left!!!!!

archiasif
archiasif

AH! lovely article thnx to Bilzzard & Gamespot.

pygmyschizoid
pygmyschizoid

 @ThAdEa82 You had to change something in order to start the game? I read in the Beta that you had to change some config file to even start the game with that graphic card. It ran at what resolution, specs and fps, exactly?

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

 @x2rufff4u your eyes will dry out like dry old paint and turn to stone from watching how slow the game will run on your system lol, Windows will make a new Blue screen for you, yes NEW. your PC will crash and open an gate way to the classic Another World setting where you must fight your way though a world with 3colours to live with      :-)

himsaad714
himsaad714

 @klugenbeel hit that up with 8 gigs of ram and a 6670 and boom duel graphics with the 6550 of the 3870k Apu turning them into the radeon 6590D. its runs diablo on ultra settings. no hiccups

Coseniath
Coseniath

 @ThAdEa82

 According to the list below, nope. Sorry:

Unsupported GMA 4500MHD

Coseniath
Coseniath

 @Lonelystrokez

 +1

I just checked this list and its nice. It misses some new gpus, but what the hell, the new gpus wouldnt have any prob running it.

Ripnail
Ripnail

 @mumrahh1

 sup m8, i believe we could not set up the full graphics in the beta, beside that i thought the graphics were nice. and im pretty sure your pc will have a hard time when the screen is full of creeps and demons with all the effects and so on. not to mention how busy the psix engine will be

 

Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

 @E-i-N-e That's not really an excuse to make a game with horribly dated graphics, I played it and it looks rather bad. Not average or so-so, plain out bad. And I don't see any other producer taking cover when they make a game with bad graphics. Everybody criticized Skyrim for its poor textures even though it was already taxing for even brand new machines.

 

Graphics options are there for a reason. When I crank out a new game to the max, it should look NEW. Not like it came out 5 years ago.

GamespotSucksD
GamespotSucksD

 @maitkarro u seein some very crappy, very old LCD monitors then. got a CRT 1024 right next to my LCD 1080 and the CRT looks like sh*t compared to the LCD even when they're at same res. come out of the cave and experience real hi-res.

Coseniath
Coseniath

 @Sharaddon

 I have the same speccs on CPU and RAM :D.

I agree on gpus. HD6770 and GTX550ti/GTX460SE should be the MINIMUM gpu if you want a gaming pc. Don't even think of HD6670/GT440...

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

 @Coseniath Thanks for the recommendation.  I only have a laptop and from what I hear I am SOL with this game unless I get some other computer (from what I hear)