World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Hardware Performance Guide

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King comes with a slew of graphical improvements. Take a look and see what you need to run the game.

World of Warcraft has had tremendous staying power since first arriving in 2004. The game has taken over the massively multiplayer online game market with more than 11 million monthly subscribers, and it has had two expansion packs. The newest installment, Wrath of the Lich King, gives you the entire continent of Northrend to continue questing for loot and glory. Much of World of Warcraft's charm comes from fantastic artwork that doesn't rely on technical muscle, but Wrath of the Lich King comes with a few graphical upgrades that can challenge systems if you choose to enable them. Modest PC systems will still be able to run the game without a problem, but players running near the game's minimum specifications should consider swapping in a better video card and more memory.

We tested Wrath of the Lich King using the flight path between Dalaran and Ebon Watch. We took the average of three runs using FRAPs and a 65-second run time. We ran a separate in-town Dalaran test for our CPU evaluation, where we ran around the city square for 65 seconds.

Settings

Even a game as old as World of Warcraft has a few settings you can tweak to improve performance. Keep an eye on draw distances and shadows to squeeze out a few more frames.

Video Cards

Modern GPUs won't have any problems running Wrath of the Lich King. We tested 20 cards from the past and present to help you decide how much is enough.

CPU

Newer CPUs improve performance for Wrath of the Lich King, but you can probably survive Northrend without a processor upgrade. We tested the game using our Core 2, Phenom, Athlon 64, and Pentium 4 processors.

Memory

We tested the game with 1GB, 2GB, and 3GB of RAM. Our minimum spec test machine with only 512MB of RAM ran World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King smoothly after we lowered the graphics settings, but we recommend going up to at least 1GB.

Systems

The required system specifications for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King are amazingly low: Pentium 4 1.3GHz CPU, a GeForce 6200 class GPU, and 512MB of RAM with Windows XP. We didn't even have hardware that old left in our offices. The closest we could get was a Pentium 4 1.6GHz CPU, a GeForce 6800, and Windows XP with 512MB of RAM. Surprisingly, the game ran well on the minimum spec system after we dropped the resolution and quality settings, but walking around Dalaran was still difficult, with frame rates regularly dipping into the single digits. Blizzard's recommended system specs are an ATI Radeon X1600 or GeForce 7600 GT GPU, paired with a Pentium D or Athlon X2-class CPU. We built our recommended system with an Athlon FX-60 and a GeForce 7600 GT. After seeing how well the minimum spec system held up, it's no real surprise that the game ran just fine on the recommended specification system. Our Intel QX9770 high-end system could probably run this game with a hammer put through three of its four CPU cores.

System Setup:

High-End System: Intel Core2 QX9770, eVGA 780i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 280 GTX, Nvidia Forceware 180.48.

Recommended System: Athlon FX-60, Asus A8RMVP, 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 7600 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 180.48.

Minimum System: Intel Pentium 4 1.6GHz, Asus P4C800, 512MB Corsair XMS Memory, Seagate 160GB 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 6800, Nvidia Forceware 180.48.

Settings

If you don't have the budget room to upgrade your computer, you can look at tweaking a few settings to improve performance. Quite a bit has changed on the settings page since our last visit to the game in The Burning Crusade.

Players with decent video cards similar to our GeForce 8800 GT test card will be able to increase screen resolutions up to 2560x1600 before seeing a performance hit. The view distance setting is by far the biggest performance sap. Lowering the view-distance settings will hurt image quality, but you'll get a nice performance increase. After that, disable shadows and environmental details for added boosts. You can also easily give up ground clutter radius for a few extra frames.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 QX9770, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 180.48.

Graphics Comparison

Quality Settings

High Good Fair Low

View Distance

100% 75% 50% 25% 0%

Shadows

Low High

More Graphics Comparisons

Environmental Detail

High Medium Low

Terrain Detail

High Low

Terrain Clutter Density

100% 0%

Video Cards

World of Warcraft wasn't particularly taxing on the GPU when the game first came out, and that hasn't changed much in the most recent expansion. Pretty much any GPU made in the last two years will run the game very well even when pushed to very high resolutions with maximum quality. Older cards, such as the GeForce 6800, will run fine if you sacrifice image-quality settings. The cluster of results at the top of the graph look suspiciously like a V-Sync cap, but we double checked to make sure that V-Sync was disabled. It looks like the Intel QX9770 processor becomes the bottleneck when you get to the GeForce GTX 260 and Radeon HD 4870 level and above.

System Setup: Intel Core2 QX9770, eVGA 680i SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Cards: GeForce 280 GTX, GeForce 260 GTX 192, GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB, GeForce 9600 GT 256MB, GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB, GeForce 7900 GS 256MB, GeForce 7600 GT 256MB, Radeon HD 4870 X2, Radeon HD 4870, Radeon HD 4850, Radeon HD 4670, Radeon HD 3870 512MB, Radeon HD 3850 512MB, Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB, Radeon HD 2600 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 180.48, beta ATI Catalyst 8.11.

CPU

The floating city of Dalaran, with its high population count, served as the perfect CPU benchmark area. The most taxing part of any massively multiplayer game is usually the city. Our frame rates halved whenever we entered Dalaran. The game was still more than playable even with our lowly Pentium 4. Adding additional cores didn't seem to help, but faster clock speeds improved performance.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 QX9770, Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, Intel Core2 E6320, Intel Pentium 4 3.8GHz, AMD Phenom X4 9600, AMD Phenom X3 8750, eVGA 680I, Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 180.48

Memory

World of Warcraft requires 1GB of RAM with Windows Vista, and the game runs well at the recommended spec. Adding an additional gigabyte of RAM on top of that didn't do anything for performance or load times. The game halted repeatedly when we tried dropping the memory down to 512MB, but we'd never recommend trying to run Windows Vista with only 512MB of memory.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 QX9770, eVGA 680i SLI, 3GB Corsair XMS Memory (2GBx2), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 180.48.

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Discussion

100 comments
MyTesticlay
MyTesticlay

8800 GT 2GB Ram Windows 7 x 64 3.0 Ghz Duo processor Full Settings full addons and graphics macros..... 45 FPS :D:D:D .... Beautiful

firedaisy
firedaisy

Our extra computer for when our friends come over is actually still windows 2000 with... idk how old video card.... Lol everything in it is so old most people wouldn't even remember it. But it plays Wow with a resolution of 1024x740 with about mediumish settings. So I would say the minimum requirements are way off. I think even some of the crappiest computers can handle WoW on low settings.

dalscowboys22
dalscowboys22

i can turn everything to "ultra" and get 25 fps, i turn down the shadows 1 click and bam 60 fps in stormwind.

remmy0
remmy0

The shadows look atrocious. I'd say it;'s best to stick with the low setting, even if your system can handle "High". Look at the shadow for the building. Wouldn't you prefer the one with "Low"?

Yojhosh
Yojhosh

i love world of warcraft,especially the lich king expansion pack,its the best thing i have ever played in my whole life

drakersen
drakersen

my computer has a 1680 x 1050 screen geforce 9600 will do great

Media_Mind
Media_Mind

Yeah, I cannot stand spec sheets for a game, although the game looks better than ever before

Tuppe666
Tuppe666

280 GTX? Why? Why!? Heard about HD4870x2? But anyway, it's going way over the WoW, or even what WoW3 will ever require :D

-Celeste-
-Celeste-

I run WoW on my 7900gs with 2 gigs of dual channel 800 ram, a AMD 64x2 processor, at 60-50 fps on a 1680x1050 resolution at maximum graphics 16x Antisotropic filtering, and 8xs Antialiasing because my card doesn't allow higher Antiailiasing then 8xs. I think getting anything higher then a 7900 series card to play WoW is a pretty bad investment personally, especially because you aren't getting a much better experience with the graphics cranked up in my opinion. It doesn't take much for a video card, but a gig or two of ram wont hurt ya if you're low, especially sense it's so cheap now of days. ------------------------- I call BS on this. I run 4G of ram, 2 7950s, and a AMD X2 and it wont even stand up on all high settings. Framerates in Northrend hover between 20-30, dipping into the teens in towns on fair settings. There is no way in **** that you're pulling 50 FPS on high settings with that.

graavigala
graavigala

jansdman, if i would like crysis i would stay in it :)

lister82
lister82

wasn't even gonna make a comment on this, cause of the arguements it would cause, but Sam2k9 with your comment, i mean, you quite obviously have not played wow on a good pc with everything turned up full, its really quite nice, especially in wotlk, I run wow with 8800 gtx, 3gb ram, intel 6700 dual core 2.66ghz with a fuk load of addons, and get 30-40 fps in crowded areas around 150fps or more (without vertical sync ofc) anywhere else. About ram, 1gb is recommended but let me tell you after 1 of my ram sticks went faulty and having to play with 1 gig till replacement arrived it sucked, since wow took up the gig in memory instantly, now im on 3gb, and its heaven :) Comments seem to want to imply that if u play wow on a noob pc itll look the same as a top pc, which is more wrong than saying that sadaam was a good guy. I personally can't stand wow on low gfx, and i can imagine ppl gettin a trial for it loading up the game seeing the default settings and alt+f4ing cause of it, full gfx alone make me want to play it cause of how it smooth and good it looks. Although i stopped playing wow for about 6 months because of the lack of extra content, and blizzard adding things to the game i really didn't care about (arenas cough) and fixing little things that made the game fun. But wotlk when i started playing again is a gd expansion with an impressive mount of additions they should have had at launch., ill pretend that i didn't expect wow haters on here talking about it but i can see why ppl would hate wow, and fair enough to ya, but i like it along with alot of other ppl.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

Nevermind. I was tinkering with Catalyst Alias settings and nothing worked. Set display om WoW to windows mode, and shadows work now @ highest setting with no flickering...I wonder if that'll work on Crysis...clouds in the sky flicker on that game when I play it.

Licurgo
Licurgo

I would like to see a performance test for macs... I run wow on my macbook and I have to use everything on minimum. I think about changing my macbook for this new version, for people say the videocard is way better. It would be nice if GS test the game for mac as well.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

I'm using an i7extreme cpu and 2x 4870X2's in Crossfire...6 gigs of triple channel. Settings at max except for shadows...they come out weirded (flickering) but that's a chipset configuration that I'll need to fix in catalyst...Maybe an Aliasing setting. Anyway, the game looks beautiful...the only hitch I get is if I try to turn around too fast...it pauses for a second before it catches up. Kind of annoying in battle. Not sure what to fix...again, probably a Catalyst setting. Anyway, I just started playing WoW on Sunday, total newb...so much to learn...but I will say it's already addicting.

RazorBlankGiga
RazorBlankGiga

I run WoW on my 7900gs with 2 gigs of dual channel 800 ram, a AMD 64x2 processor, at 60-50 fps on a 1680x1050 resolution at maximum graphics 16x Antisotropic filtering, and 8xs Antialiasing because my card doesn't allow higher Antiailiasing then 8xs. I think getting anything higher then a 7900 series card to play WoW is a pretty bad investment personally, especially because you aren't getting a much better experience with the graphics cranked up in my opinion. It doesn't take much for a video card, but a gig or two of ram wont hurt ya if you're low, especially sense it's so cheap now of days.

Dannik52
Dannik52

@Hassy: Yea, I'm sure you've played for only couple hours at this game. You're one of those addicts/ex-addicts who just say that they never got addicted in the first place. Pathetic...

great_rulo
great_rulo

I hope that Unreal Engine thing was a joke, can't see why anyone would want to see a Blood Elf look like Marcus Fénix.

DSgamer64
DSgamer64

I was getting 30 FPS in Burning Crusade on an ATI Radeon 9200, I get about 20 FPS out in Northrend aside from Dalaran where it sometimes lag spikes when there are lots of people on (or during the holiday events where there are more NPC's and stuff in the area)

DSgamer64
DSgamer64

In reality this game is far more detailed then the last expansion, and BC had a lot of detail in the artwork and overall design. Getting FPS drops in Dalaran isn't from your video card, it lags for everyone because it is a big city with lots of people in it. I know people who have higher end machines then me and they still get lag there, Shattrath was the same way in Burning Crusade. I think Blizzard paid more attention to detail when it comes to designing the game, everything from the armor to buildings is far more illustrated here, so while it may use the same game engine, there are visual enhancements that make Wrath look nicer then the original or BC.

Sam2k9
Sam2k9

no matter what they do, warcraft will always look like an N64 gae on steroids..therefore, 200% crap. unless they do something intelligent, and switch to the Unreal Engine 3

jansdman
jansdman

@graavigala You must be blind or color blind. Just play your crysis stay out of WoW.

ohsogood8
ohsogood8

When other company's realize like Blizzard has that you don't need high-end graphics for high-end gameplay then maybe-just maybe-Blizzard will get some competition in the MMO dept.

graavigala
graavigala

ye... really great graphic changes WotLK did bring us... the game still looks same as it did 4years ago. Nothing changed in the games graphics so this performace guide is useless

Yellowshirts
Yellowshirts

i play this on my laptop on all low settings and it still looks great

weaselciuy
weaselciuy

why the heck do a hardware guide for a game so ancient, this game can run max on any decend GPU, anything at 100$ will do ... not many players play it at 2560x1600, and even then a decent 9600GT will give u 40 fps ... Laptops own this game lol :) gl,i hate wow

metalisticpain
metalisticpain

my bro used to play on min settings with integrated graphics lol. looked bad but it was worth it

trodeback
trodeback

None of the WoW expansions or the original needed high end computer parts to run. This is probably another reason why WoW is so successful because they're not discriminating the players who use low end graphic stations.

dan-rofl-copter
dan-rofl-copter

i was not expecting such a huge difference in the comparison but hey.

FloatingOrb
FloatingOrb

viewtifuljon111...I have no problems at all on high...I haven't done any major frame rate analysis, but I run on high without stutter or lag...I don't play it anymore. Hassy...Im not one of those "addicted" players of wow...I get maybe 15-16 hours a week to play, so I am more of your "casual" gamer on wow...if taken in moderation WoW is awesome...

djmiranda15
djmiranda15

@shani_boy101 i said " don't need to be full of graphical detail", i didn't said they need to totally ignore on the graphics section i for once, i'm totally angry when someone releases a game for playstation that as the tendency to crash in case of pc, well, you always want to play the newest hot game, and of course, you need to spend money for a new graphics card, over and over again a graphics card only is in the spotlight for a month at best

viewtifuljon111
viewtifuljon111

Floating Orb, Crysis on High with a 9600? Really? Isn't the 9600 just a slightly modified version of the 8600? I know for certain that an 8600 struggles with mosh settings on Medium. Gratz to you if you've managed to coax that much performance out of it, though.

hassy94
hassy94

FloatingOrb, I must agree with you that graphics really don't matter (hell I played tetris for 3 hours myself yesterday!), but I disagree when you say Blizzard are the wizards of gaming. I believe they are wizards when it comes to making an addictive, but not an actually GOOD setup of a game. WoW is a game that if you think about, you will realise it's NOT a good game and it's just designed to be addictive. WoW is a game that I stopped myself from playing (I only played it for a few hours at my friend's house) because I realised that EVERYONE who plays it excessively is not actually having fun playing it anymore, they just have an urge to play due to the addictiveness that Blizzard have created.

FloatingOrb
FloatingOrb

-Unreal- I have to disagree...I'm running a modest high end gaming setup. No SLI or anything...Quad Core, 9600GT 512, 4 gig G-Skill, XP Pro and it runs like butter with everything set to max. My system can be built for about 500 bucks...I can play Crysis on high settings without any problems. Bioshock, you name it...I'd throw anything at it at this point. The thing is, I never play those games. Blizzard are wizards when it comes to gaming. The settings and art of the game are completely fantastic. Style, playability and fun counts...not graphical realism. Hell...I still play Tetris.

Sins-of-Mosin
Sins-of-Mosin

Something is wrong with their system setup stats. The Lich King requires SP3 if you run on XP. Says it right on the box and myself and others had to upgrade from SP2 to 3 to play the game.

GSgirl
GSgirl

WoW is great but I will like to see a World of Diablo in the future with killers graphics, more realistic.

Kurrando
Kurrando

From my experience with WoW the performance is one of its biggest strengths and no doubt a major reason behind its success, its a very well optimized game. Bear in mind that when comparing WoW's performance you don't compare it to normal games, you compare it to other mmo's, ofcourse an offline game is going to run and look a lot better, but there is a pretty huge difference in how much is going on in the game. Normally i play at 1680x1050 with 8xAA, everything maxed out, this is on a E8400, 8800GTS(512), 4Gb RAM and Vista 64-bit. It runs smooth even in cities. Tried running a second client on another monitor at the same time, at 1280x1024, still smooth. If only more developers could follow Blizzards example when it comes to optimization, pc gaming would be in a lot better state.

yasso
yasso

My PC runs Dead Space & Call of Duty 4 at everything maxed out totally, and they run smoothly. Crysis runs almost maxed out too, and smooth. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King? It is too sluggish at maximum settings in Northrend, and even when I decrease shadows (which I must because there is a bug that makes shadows flash continuously all over the map if they are maxed) and a couple of other settings a bit, it can run smoothly. Blizzard gets 10/10 in creativity. 1/10 in web & phone customer support. And 2/10 in technical skills. Enough said. And it is pathetic the gaming industry still hasn't come up with something better!

-Unreal-
-Unreal-

The game maxed out with full shadow details runs pretty crap even on high end systems. Especially in places like Howling Fjord as shown in that screenshot. It's because of the scale of the environments and how everything casts a shadow, it's bound to run crap.

mkraush
mkraush

My system exceeds all their req's and the game runs fine unless im on my DK. Seriously i get 15+ fps better on all other characters.

lannyboy334
lannyboy334

And after actually looking at their comparisons, I will be turning down my settings if I resubscribe (I run around 25 at max with 2.4 P4, 7600gt, 2gb 3200 ram), not that I care to, DotA is fine for me.

lannyboy334
lannyboy334

My answer to the Crysis problem? Make it so you dial down the graphics even more, the game looks great on the lowest settings, are you telling me they can't go down a leeetttlee more?

lannyboy334
lannyboy334

One of the most standout parts of the Blizzard business model is that they want EVERYONE to be able to play their fantastic games. I know it is a tired example, but Crysis is a pure example of a game that has solid gameplay, multiplayer, and storyline, but doesn't hit critical mass because it is too intensive. Now I am not saying this is a terrible thing, but look who developed Crysis! EA! Look who is getting hit really hard by the global economic recession! EA! I am not saying one game put EA in the tank, but it didn't help simply because it never hit critical mass. It was a game that they soaked a lot of funding into, essentially make the current standout benchmark for video games, but that doesn't mean it will sell. Sure every graphics test uses the game to show off a machines capabilities, but that doesn't mean it sells. If WoW were to get a graphic overhaul, continuing into expansions, Blizzard would shut down an entire block of their current or former subscribers (ME!) It is a business model, look at it from an inside-looking-out perspective, there is a reason Blizzard is THE ace company.

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

@djmiranda15 sure games need great gameplay, but if all game developers had what you said in their minds, we would never get amazing games with amazing graphics, just amazing games with half-as*ed graphics.

foxfire0666
foxfire0666

I thought the xpac was supposed to have better graphics, this looks pretty much like the old wow

djmiranda15
djmiranda15

this game sends a very good message it doesn't need to be full of graphical detail to be one of the most successful games in the market, it just needs great gameplay the sooner everybody gets that in their minds, the better