Starcraft II: On the Cheap

We'll tell you how to get Starcraft II running well without stealing all your pennies.

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Starcraft II runs well on a lot of computers, but performance really depends on a few key factors. We'll go over the basic points in this article to help you figure out what you might need to upgrade to get the game to run optimally.

We tested the game with a saved game that had over 170 Marines marching to and fro across a map. This proved to be much more intensive than many decent sized battles. While you might not see such a scenario play out in a single player mission too often, it's more than likely to occur when you have a 4v4 online, where each player can output hundreds of units apiece.

CPUs

The bare minimum CPU required to run the game is a 2.6GHz Pentium 4, and like other games before it, that's like saying all you need is a pair of legs to run a marathon. We found quicker Core 2 CPUs to be more than adequate to play the game, with only the occasional slowdown when under heavy load. Quad core CPUs didn't help out all, which means that brute MHz is key. Switching up to the Core i7, we found that Starcraft stretches its legs if given the room. But as we mentioned, the number of cores doesn't matter; you can easily get a quick Core i5 or Core i3 as a substitute with minimal performance degradation. Our AMD Phenom test bed was acting up; thus, we have no performance numbers for it, but the same basic trend should hold there as well. If you have an AMD platform, opt for brute speed over more cores.

Takeaway:

• Single core Pentium 4s do not hack it.
• A dual core CPU is enough.
• Opt for brute MHz instead of more cores.

We recommend stopping at the $125 Core i3 540. It'll get you running briskly without coming close to breaking the bank. For extra juice, jump up to a Core i5 with Turbo Boost.

System Setup:
Intel Core i7-870, Intel Core i3-530, Intel Core i7 965, Intel DX58S0, Intel DP55KG, 4 and 6GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 64-bit. Graphics Drivers: Catalyst 10.7, Forceware 258.96.

Video Cards

Starcraft II doesn't need much of a GPU to run well, but it does have a bare minimum threshold you need to get over. Midrange GeForce 8 series cards and equivalent Radeon HD 2000 series should get you going with medium-quality settings at moderate resolutions. For ultra-quality settings and a resolution of 1680x0150 and higher, a minor upgrade is in order. Our GeForce 9800 GTX+ took us all the way up to 1920x1200 with ultra-quality settings. It's currently a $135 video card. Alternatively, you can grab the Radeon HD 5770 for marginally more money. After that, you better have a powerful CPU to push the video card if you want to see gains.

Takeaway:

• Upgrade from old cards--Radeon 9000, X1xx, HD 2000 series/GeForce 6, 7 and 8 series.

Spend no more than $150 to get ultra-quality settings and resolutions as high as 1920x1200. A GeForce 9800 GTX+ or Radeon HD 5770 will be more than enough to run the game.

System Setup:
Intel i7-870, Intel DP55KG, 4GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 64-bit. Graphics Drivers: Catalyst 10.7, Forceware 258.96.

Settings

Unless you have old hardware you can probably move the settings on up to high or ultra and walk away. The performance gap between ultra and high is quite large, dropping down a notch is worth it for the extra frames.

Graphic Presets

Ultra High Medium Low

System Setup:
Intel i7-870, Intel DP55KG, 4GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 64-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX+, Forceware 258.96.

Monitors

It's rare for us to mention monitors in an upgrade guide, but with Starcraft II, visible screen space is important. It is easier to respond to what you can see onscreen. We went through all the various resolution types to determine which aspect ratio provided the most viewable onscreen area. The screenshots are arranged in order from most viewable area to least. The basic trend we found was this: The wider the screen, the better.

You don't need to run out and buy a monitor with a wider aspect ratio to take advantage of wider resolutions. A simple change to the graphics settings, in the driver's control panel and game settings, should allow you to run lower but wider resolutions. If you're not averse to stretched images, you don't even have to bother changing the driver settings.

16:9 16:10 4:3 5:4

The table below summarizes some of the more popular screen resolutions and their corresponding aspect ratios.

Aspect Ratio Resolutions
16:9 1280x720 1360x768 1600x900 1920x1080
16:10 1280x800 1440x900 1680x1050 1920x1200
4:3 1024x768 1280x960 1600x1200  
5:4 1280x1024      

Takeaway:

• Wider monitors give you more visible screen real estate.
• Grab a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor to get the widest possible screen natively.
• Or stick with your existing monitor and use 16:9 resolutions with black bars.

The Big Picture

A small system capable of playing Starcraft II at high resolutions and maximum settings will cost less than $600. If you're upgrading from existing parts, the outlay will be even less than that amount.

Full System:

• Intel Core i3 540 - $125
• Socket 1156 Motherboard - $90
• Radeon HD 5770 - $150 or GeForce 9800 GTX+ - $135
• 4GB DDR3 RAM - $85
• 500GB Hard Drive - $50
• Case + Power Supply - $50

Total - $550

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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ABDOzz2

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Edited By ABDOzz2

My PC 4Gb Ram Core 2 Duo 2.8/3mb ATI Sapphire HD 4670 1GB DDR3 I'm play the game With Ultra High 1280 1024 It's Fast and i love it

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Compuse

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Edited By Compuse

And the AI is made more recourse demanding, making it harder to upscale the eyecandy to much for the average system around =/

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P_R_E_Y

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Edited By P_R_E_Y

@ smookert010 @Ultramarinus Although it looks to be fairly dated graphics, Starcraft has a sort of HD "cartoon" look to it. Due to its bright colours it gives the wrong impression, but graphically its fairly detailed for a bird's eye view RTS. So yeah you don't need a monster PC to run it, but you need a PC that isnt 10 years old + like mine was (well ok not all the parts are 10 but it still couldnt run it over the smallest settings) to get a fairly decent looking game.

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Elrax

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Edited By Elrax

@X-7 I think.. Processor and RAM. I dunno about graphics card though.. I got a 9500GT and I still get the message saying "Run out of virtual memory" or something like that..

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Elrax

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Edited By Elrax

@Ultramarinus Uhh.. It looks like 2005? There is not one RTS that actually looks like SC2 that's from 2005. In fact RTS games that came out in 2005 don't look anything at all like SC2. Another thing, to fully run it.. You do NEED a beast machine. But if you just want to play, then you don't. But it won't look so great. It'll be slow and will look like those games that came out on 2005. But the fact that you NEED a beast machine explains that the graphics aren't poor at all :P

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smookert010

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Edited By smookert010

@Ultramarinus Thats what i keep asking myself why do you need a beast of a pc for such a poor game in graphics

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Yams1980

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Edited By Yams1980

nice, thanks gamespot... but what kinda crap case and psu can you get for 50 dollars? psu is the most important thing to a pc, a crappy one puts all your components at serious risk

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diegocancun

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Edited By diegocancun

@gavino411 Hey I have a 8500 GT and it works fine for me I started the game and the default for me was Intermidiet graphics which is the second (Low, Intermidiet, bla, bla). And I know I can make the graphics a bit better. The only thing it may happen is that your card might overheat and so your pc will crash. But don't worry there is a way you can fix that just look for it on your best friend google ;) And if doesn't run just upgrade your hardware. But I'm preatty sure it wil run. Have fun :)

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jedikevin2

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Edited By jedikevin2

@BornGamer Nvidia control panel + antiliasing settings + supersampling + x8 AA +x16 anisotropic filtering will make it look even better then ultra for you. Its gonna come at a steep graphics price but enjoy man.

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BornGamer

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Edited By BornGamer

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition @3.6Ghz (OC'd from 3.4Ghz because well... why not?) : \$180 GIGABYTE GA-870A-UD3 Mobo: \$107 OCZ Platinum 4GB DDR3 RAM 1600 : \$120 Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W PSU: \$80 EVGA 896-P3-1255-AR GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 Video Card : \$200 Antec Three Hundred Illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case : \$55 Runs SC2 like butter at Ultra settings. I wish the settings went higher than Ultra! ^^

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longlong123

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Edited By longlong123

@Bob777777: don't ever trust Window for its rating, My com is a i7-860, GTX 260 Super OC, 8GBs DDR3 HyperX 1600MHz, my HDD is 250GBs, it gave me a 5.9 XDXDXD

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karnis

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Edited By karnis

I am getting the i5 750 cause it has good reviews

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X-7

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Edited By X-7

Weird how the more powerful cards son't get much more of a boost. SC2 must be more processor intensive than anything. That or new drivers will help the performance.

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Geek12

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Edited By Geek12

A fantastic budget system for something like WOW, Diablo 1/2/3 and Starcraft 2 as well as a lot of other games would be something like: AMD Athlon X3 440 @ 3.0GHZ ATI Radeon 5750 / 5770 or GTX 460 if ya have a little more to spend Decent 500 - 550w PSU if one doesn't plan to SLI Crossfire Good case, Good hard drive, Cd Drive etc... You could get away pretty cheap and have a lot of power. The Athlon X3 and the 5770 is a great combo.

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Ultramarinus

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Edited By Ultramarinus

Why do they have such a feature for a game that looks like it's from 2005? Even 3 year old machines can run it in 1080p with all the bells and whistles anyway.

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bonereaper69

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Edited By bonereaper69

Im having issues running it on high with a 2.6ghz am2 5000+ dual core cpu, 2gb ddr ram, and a 4670 1gb ddr3 i just bought specifically to play it......yah im still a agp and it was the best i could get for my motherboard.....

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DragonAge07

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Edited By DragonAge07

I play the game on high settings, and with v-sync on, and i have 60 fps constantly. There is almost no difference between high and ultra.

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mrmoto

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Edited By mrmoto

i´ve got great performance with my old rig in high settings at 1920x1080 (c2d8400, 8800gt,2gbram, xp sp3), 60fps with minor hiccups!i didn´t tested on ultra yet, but in high looks really great!

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Hellspawn_1581

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Edited By Hellspawn_1581

i'll be posting my framerates in a couple of days when i try it on my C2D E7400 3.2GHZ, 3 GB RAM 800mhz, Geforce 9500 GDDR3 512mb, 20" monitor (1600x900) =)

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jedikevin2

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Edited By jedikevin2

Forgot to add last night: My backup system, Windows xp sp3 nlited, Pentium 4 3.0 ghz, nvidia 384mb 9600 gso, 2 gig ddr2 667, runs the game flawlessly on medium at 1280x960 resolution on 4v4 maps.

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hassy94

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Edited By hassy94

@SarjuS Fair enough :P I was just thinking in my head that $85 = £60 and that £60 for 1600mhz ram is impossible while on NewEgg there's 1600mhz OCz DDR3 RAM for $87. Cheapest place I've found in UK (online and off) is £80 (inc. delivery), which is a good $125+

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Compuse

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Edited By Compuse

Around 30fps at 1920*1080 on a e2200 2.7Ghz with a 5770 1gb, my laptop gives around the same results eventhough it's a i7-720qm witha mobility 5850 at the same native 1920*1080. And ofcourse, both rigs are running it on max settings edit; with only 2gb on ram in the desktop =/ soo, it's can always be a specific hardware problem, cos i only hate the loading times between levels..

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Tidal_Abyss

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Edited By Tidal_Abyss

I never worry about running anything (on ultra), it's just a matter if I want the game or not. Wasn't always that way, but it's how I'm living now. Long live PC gaming.

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BessenStock

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Edited By BessenStock

For a little more than the Xbox 360 Slim, you can get a decent enough PC. ATI video card, cheaper AMD/Intel Dual, decent PCI-X motherboard, and some basic memory.

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Teka

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Edited By Teka

on a q9550 2.83 oc 3.2 + gtx275sc+4gb ram+ runs greats! no complain in mi case....cheap and efficent

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SarjuS

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Edited By SarjuS

@hassy94 http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007611%20600006050%20600006066&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=20

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SarjuS

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Edited By SarjuS

@jedikevin2 The point of the article was to answer how to run the game very well as cheaply as possible. I didn't see the need to run lower resolutions if a $135 video card can manage to pull off 1920x1200 with Ultra quality settings. Yes, we could have waited until we had a working AMD testbed, but it's not terribly hard to figure out where you want to go with that if a $120 Intel CPU is good enough. @Gelugon_baat CNET's PC review team is based out of New York, we're in SF. The distance makes it difficult to simply grab something when you needed it yesterday. If there's that much interest in how the AMD side fares, I can try to cobble something together.

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Teka

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Edited By Teka

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

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ps3jamesm

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Edited By ps3jamesm

I'm so glad this game worked for my Compaq Presario CQ60-215DX Notbook PC ( I may not be able to have the setting on high to be able to enjoy the improved graphics but at least I'm able to have my graphic settings on med.) ^_^

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marvelous211

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Edited By marvelous211

I'm sitting nicely at the sweet spot. i3 530 @ 4.2ghz 5770 4gb ddr3 1600 21.5" 1920x1080

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jedikevin2

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Edited By jedikevin2

@Gelugan_baat If everything is not in line then don't make a article like this till it is in line. Just throwing it out like this just comes off as unprofessional. Gamespot should have (unless the sold them) many PC's available to do this test. They did a test like this on the beta and had many computers so its no excuse (including a p4 system). Would it have been to hard to have some lower resolution test results for the computers they shown? No it wouldn't. It just would have taken more time which I don't think they really wanted to waste. It all feels rushed for something like this.

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jedikevin2

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Edited By jedikevin2

Gonna just come out and say it.... WTH Gamespot? You make a comparison and only use intel products, and only say the AMD setup was acting up.? Any quality feature like this would get everything work properly then do a accurate test. Also, kinda confused as what are we really comparing? If you gonna do this right, you have to compare at MANY different resolutions for all test. This just comes across as not well thought out.

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weilian_basic

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Edited By weilian_basic

acer t6600, geforce 105M, 4G ram..... smooth in low quality, a bit lag in medium.... can't play in ultra at 1366x768...

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gavino411

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Edited By gavino411

ok im confuse, right now i have an aspire M5630 model with an E4500 intel core 2 duo cpu with 2.20 ghz, 3GB RAM. its a vista so i had it for a while. my computer says it has 500GB hard disk. it has a ATI graphics card. so i was planning to buy a geforce 8400GS because i heard its much more better than what i have, so do i just keep the core 2 duo or get a geforce 8400GS? well if not a geforce then what do i get that can run SC2 with a cheap price???

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Nobana

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Edited By Nobana

Shimo. I would be very happy to have that card. Anything other than my Radeon X1300 Pro... However it still runs Starcraft 2 at 1280x800 on high settings except for shaders. Im sure the 8400 will be fine.

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deactivated-5e95615f2403f

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@gavino411 that card is less powerful than some of the integrated gpus today! i don't know if it can run sc2, but if it does, it would only be at low resolution and low details. seriously, you need to upgrade.

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gavino411

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Edited By gavino411

will a geforce 8400GS be ok?

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kotetsu2k2

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Edited By kotetsu2k2

@hassy94 you can get ddr pretty cheap. It may not be corsair dominator trichannel ram, but it'll be ddr3.

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hassy94

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Edited By hassy94

What I want to know is where you're getting your 4GB DDR3 for $85 GameSpot!?

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mugupo

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Edited By mugupo

amd will be cheaper to run smooth than intel would, since intel motherboard are pricey if you want intel i7 cpu and ddr3 support. you would save $200 or more with amd chip for similar gaming result, but for non gaming intel i7 would do better.

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Edited By mugupo

I had intel 2 duo 3ghz, geforce 8800 640mb oc (3years old setting) run okay in medium 1080p setting, cheapest way to run smooth in ultra setting, is the EVGA Geforce 460gtx which cost $250 performance better than 5850 very close to 5870, but is better due to far cheaper and quiter.

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Edited By shadowcatjim

This game runs slower on Macs, especially Snow Leopard 10.6.4. Game runs much more efficiently on Windows machines. Apple is addressing the issue with the graphics performance including VRAM utilization. The issue is so bad on my Macbook Pro (2.4 GHz, 4GB RAM, GeForce 8600M GT) running OS X I have to play using Low settings to make it playable. When I use Boot Camp into Windows XP-or event better 7- I can play the games on medium settings @ 1440 x 900 resolution. If you plan to play this game or any game on a Mac, don't use Snow Leopard 10.6.4.

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Edited By RossRichard

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

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Adam_the_Nerd

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Edited By Adam_the_Nerd

My existing computer consists of almost exactly those parts! Woo!

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remanufactureff

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Edited By remanufactureff

I play it on ultra with toshiba qosmio x305 q701 laptop , this laptop just keeps going and going with all this new games . haha, great and cheap :)

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bob777777

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Edited By bob777777

I have a Toshiba C650 laptop Intel Dual Core I3 2.6ghz 4 GBDD3 ram and Integratted Intel hd graphics I looked on the ratings on my properties and it gave my prossecing a 6.9 our of 7.1 but what im worried about is the graphics anybody know if this would run it?

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demifiend22

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Edited By demifiend22

This is definitely better than IGN's. IGN makes people by alienware, that's how bad they are.

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