World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Hardware Performance Guide

Getting sluggish performance in World of Warcraft? Check out our Burning Crusade hardware performance guide to find out what components to upgrade.

By: Sarju Shah and James Yu - Posted on Thursday, January 18, 2006.

World of Warcraft wasn't a performance monster when Blizzard first released the game in late 2004. Players with modest and even mediocre systems could all get passable frame rates in Azeroth. Blizzard has stated that World of Warcraft will eventually get graphical improvements to keep the game up to date, but those changes aren't coming in the game's first expansion pack, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. With 8 million subscribers and growing, you don't need to push out advanced graphics and raise hardware requirements just yet.

We revisited World of Warcraft in this new hardware performance guide since many of you will be returning to the game for the opening of the dark portal, or using the expansion as an excuse to upgrade your PC systems. Several generations of video cards have passed since World of Warcraft's initial release. The GeForce 6 series has long been replaced by the GeForce 7 series, and the 8 series is already here. Entry-level video cards have improved in the past two years. The industry's rapid pace of innovation means that you can buy a lot more processing power today for the same amount of money. The game doesn't require the best hardware to run well, but you will get better performance from the latest technology.

It's difficult to create a reproducible benchmark in an MMO with a persistent world. You could spawn your own dungeon instance or find an empty spot hidden away from player traffic, but we wanted to include that foot traffic since it's a major part of the gameplay experience. We decided to use the first 60 seconds of the gryphon flight from The Stair of Destiny to Honor Hold in the Hellfire Peninsula as our benchmark. It's the first flight path you encounter in the new Outland area, and the path is the same every time you take it. One significant variable out of our control is the number of players and monsters we fly over on the path. Frame rates varied at the low-resolution settings but became fairly stable at higher resolution levels such as 1600x1200 and 2048x1536.

Game Settings

You can easily run the game with all the settings enabled on most midrange hardware, but you can disable a few settings to get more performance from less powerful systems.

Graphics

Upgrading your video card will get you higher frame rates and higher resolutions, but you can still get decent performance out of older hardware. We tested the Burning Crusade on 14 different video cards.

CPU

The Burning Legion is very CPU friendly. You'll be able to play just fine on a two- or three-year-old CPU, but getting a better processor can still improve your frame rates.

Memory

World of Warcraft still loves memory. If you're only going to get one upgrade for Burning Crusade, make it an extra 1GB of RAM.

Settings

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade looks good. It may not have all the advanced graphics effects, but it still looks great thanks to stunning artwork and a consistent design theme. You should be able to max out all of the settings without too much trouble on most midrange systems. We broke out an older card, a GeForce 6600 GT, to see how much each setting affected performance.

Draw distance reduced performance the most, shaving almost 30 percent off of the system's average frame rate. Disabling the shader settings will also garner you several frames at the expense of image quality. If you really want to reclaim some performance, you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way, by going easy on the resolution and antialiasing settings.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Cards: GeForce 6600 GT, Nvidia Forceware 93.71.

Image Setting Comparisons

Move your mouse over the default image to see the comparison image.

Terrain Distance Max. vs. Terrain Distance Min.

Shaders: Full Screen Glow Enabled vs. Full Screen Glow Disabled

Environmental Detail Max. vs. Environmental Detail Min.

More Image Setting Comparisons

Move your mouse over the default image to see the comparison image.

Shaders: Terrain Highlights Enabled vs. Terrain Highlights Disabled

Terrain Texture Detail Max. vs. Terrain Texture Detail Min.

Weather Intensity Max. vs. Weather Intensity Min.

Graphics

Burning Crusade likes bigger and faster video cards, but you might not need to upgrade to fully enjoy the game. If you're willing to play at lower resolutions, you can get away with using less expensive parts with no trouble at all. The only video cards that really gave us trouble were the older, budget-range cards, such as the GeForce 6200 or the Radeon X300 SE.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Cards: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB, GeForce 7900 GT 256MB, GeForce 7600 GT 256MB, GeForce 7900 GS 256MB, GeForce 6600GT 128MB, GeForce 6200 TC 128MB, Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB, Radeon X1900 XTX 512MB, Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1900 XT 256MB, Radeon X1650 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1300 XT 256MB, Radeon X300 SE 128MB. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 97.92, Nvidia ForceWare 93.71, ATI Catalyst 7.1.

Memory

Burning Crusade isn't a huge resource hog, but you'll definitely want more than 512MB of RAM. Our test system stuttered heavily while loading populated areas with only 512MB of system memory. All of our problems disappeared once we increased system memory to 1GB. Upgrading to 2GB of RAM might not be necessary, but consider it if you plan on upgrading to Windows Vista--Microsoft's new OS has a huge memory footprint.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), Corsair XMS Memory 1GB, Corsair XMS Memory 512MB, 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, Nvidia ForceWare 97.92.



CPU

If you have a good video card, you'll need to couple it with a powerful CPU to get the best frame rates possible. Burning Crusade scales very well with processor power, but quad-core didn't seem to do much for us in our tests. You'll be fine playing the game with a fast single or dual-core CPU.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 Quad X6700, Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 Duo 6300, Intel 975XBX2, AMD Athlon 64 FX-60, AMD Athlon 64 FX-57, AMD Athlon 64 4000+, ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 7900 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 93.71

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Discussion

286 comments
PSgeek
PSgeek

My CPU is from the stone age

bredeyabo
bredeyabo

i dont think the graphics in wow matters much to me because it will always be fun no matter what

Bytor60150
Bytor60150

I'm running w/ a Core Duo E6300-1.87- 1 GB of RAM and a GeForce 7600 GT OC and it runs great at 1280x1024 with everything cranked. Out side of cities where I usually get @ 35-45 fps I usually get 60-65 fps.

BrolyLSSJ3
BrolyLSSJ3

lol im running this on a very low end comp and it still runs just fine

Corey496
Corey496

I'm running this with an AMD Phenom Quad-Core 9850, Nvidia Geforce 9800GX2, 4GB OCZ Platinum 800mhz RAM, Creative Soundblaster XF-I Xtreme Gamer and a pretty decent motherboard (not sure of exact spec) But I absolutely destroy this game! lol

master_chief_MN
master_chief_MN

I'm running Wow+expansion just fine on a Dell Latitude D600 with 2Ghz Processor, 2GB ram, and a Radeon 9000 graphics card (32MB even!). I just bump down my resolution to 1024x768 to give it some extra kick when I need to. How is it that you are monitoring your frame rate?

soccerguy93
soccerguy93

@rokkuman09: Thanks for clearing that up for me.

gizmonix
gizmonix

to matt168, Thats what I am running my system with, and I have about a steady 30-45 fps in non-crowded areas. In, say, Orgrimmar, it drops to about 15. Btw I have my settings at max everything on 1028x700 res. p4 3.4, 2 gigs ram, and the 8500 gt gpu.

franekKimo
franekKimo

Plaing this on 2 laptops IBM ThinkPad T40 with 32MB graphic card (no problems at all) and on Toshiba P100-429 NVidia 7600 128MB - same thing.

saywat11
saywat11

this game is full of epic win

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

soccerguy93 in most notebooks it is impossible or near impossible to replace the graphics card. In some notebooks you could upgrade the processor (if you can find a processor that works with the notebook), but it might be hard to do.

Crappio
Crappio

I'm running at a super smooth 80fps alone and 30fps in Ironforge with my new system on all max at 1280 x 1024 Intel Core 2 Duo E550 2GB 667mhz RAM 2x nVidia 256mb 8600GT's in SLi Windows Vista Home Premium Thats well more than you need to play the game on max, I reckon this could easily do it: Intel Pentium 4 3.00ghz 1GB 667mhz ATI X1650 Windows XP

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

For those of you complaining, I'm running on AMD Athlong 1.1 GHZ, 512MB RAM and 64MB nVidia Geforce4 MX440. Who has it tough now fools haha.

Doric6
Doric6

Im using Intel Core 2 Duo 6400, Geforce 8800 GTS 640mb and 2GB DDR2 RAM with max video settings and still hover between 50 and 75 FPS

soccerguy93
soccerguy93

I'm not sure but, you can't replace the processor or graphics card on a notebook, right?

soccerguy93
soccerguy93

I'm running a 1.59 GHz 1.2 gigs of ram with a 128mb graphics card... I need an update....

matt168
matt168

could a 6150LE play this?

matt168
matt168

could a 6150LE play this?

mailbox2112
mailbox2112

matt168, get an 8600GT its a little more expensive but, definitly worth it

matt168
matt168

how would a BFG 8500GT play this game at 1024x768 and 1280x1024. i havent bougth the card yet but it was on sale for $129

Leria
Leria

This is a fun game, but they REALLY need to start cutting back on the requirements to get the best performance. On the lowest settings for everything...... my new notebook computer with an inline graphics card can BARELY manage to get 30 fps. Activating everything..... it's basically unplayable, with 3-4 frames per second, max. Sometimes, it just crashes without warning.

Specimen2501
Specimen2501

It was fun for about 2 months then.....SNOOOOOOOOOOOOORE!!!!!!

suetracy
suetracy

are these marks FPS? It just says performance not FPS so im not sure

V4LENT1NE
V4LENT1NE

Skormm, no one needs to even answer that, you know how it will run. It just sounds like you are showing off.

Skormm
Skormm

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Trazac
Trazac

Why not a performance guide?

eoin-99
eoin-99

why a performance guide?

Trazac
Trazac

Go back to XP, thats a suggestion. @Geon106 that is laughable. Do a bit of homework next time instead of thinking all hardware is ahead of time because of the year. That and laptops suck for gaming.

RTS-FPS-Gaming
RTS-FPS-Gaming

yea am i have vista ultimate and am just wondering if it will work for this game? any suggestings

Geon106
Geon106

Someone asked if they could play on Vista, yes, i beleive Blizzard released a patch for Vista. I wish GS had tested on older hardware, because i play on my laptop which is the following spec: AMD Sempron 2800+ NVIDIA GeforceFX Go5200 64MB RAM 512MB DDR RAM I got it in 2004 so I thought it would play WoW at relativly good graphics, but i have everything on low and a low resolution and it still runs fairly slow.

Trazac
Trazac

CPU has almost not pull in this game if you're just a moderate gamer

shamarke
shamarke

(Noob question)I got AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ do you guys think its a good performance????

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

This was a good article. My graphics card will run 90fps at 1600 x 1200. But Gamespot really needs to include more hardware. Like older processors and graphics cards. People still use them and want to know how will they will work with newer games.

matt168
matt168

is this game nvidia fav cause a 7900GS gets high frames then a 1950pro and i saw alot that the 1950 pro was a bit faster then the 7900GS

SteveN
SteveN moderator staff

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

MikeD213
MikeD213

i have vista. will i be able 2 play this on it

Aureoloss
Aureoloss

as always, you guys did not include older processors that people are still using.

vitz3
vitz3

Uhh you mean Burning "Crusade". Not Legion

pauldarkside
pauldarkside

lolgubbe ... Your, and I quote "intel core 2 duo 1.9 ghz so total 3.8 ghz" is where you sorely mistaken. It looks like you have the E6300 core 2 duo, a good chip but it's a basic C2D chip, nothing fancy. You have 2 cores capable of factory default clock speeds of 1.9GHz each. Perhaps you could apply for a job in Intel's marketing department because even they don't make the mistake of advertising an E6300 as a 3.8GHz chip. Thanks for the entertainment though - it passed the time away whilst waiting for the Supreme Commander demo to be released.

ldavidtw2000
ldavidtw2000

To be honest, I'll really pay attention to extra clouds while fighting, yeah. or take a close look at ground or water and try to satisfy myself with some glow and tell everybody about it. after all it's a cartoonish game, super high quality is still a cartoonish game, it's designated as so.

V3ilside
V3ilside

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

coolgames89
coolgames89

I got nothing to say, im happy about my pc, thank you gamespot for the article though would've liked to see how a 2 7600GT's would lol,

saugh
saugh

Yeah I really need the extra memory, oh well, hopefully this week.

ahrensy
ahrensy

There is talk about using old-spec'd PC's and having WoW run fine in most areas. This is true (in most areas), as long as you have 1G+ RAM, but start 40-man raiding in high level instances, and watch your framerate DROP... hehe :)

Trazac
Trazac

asus en7900 gs TOP? Really nice card, cheap and fast, yet the 7950 GT is about the same price and a little faster