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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RajHoOT

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Edited By RajHoOT

Intel Extreme Quad Core 3.04Ghz nForce 790i Ultra SLI Mobo Dual 4GB DDR3 Kingston 8GB Total Dual 280 GTX SLI Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit 1900x1200 w/ no problems. 1200W PSU Been building over the years, just purchased the 3d NVIDIA bundle w/ monitor, gonna upgrade GPU's to the Zotac 480's GTX SLI.

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alexmarin99

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Edited By alexmarin99

Intel Core i7 980x six core overclocked Dual 2GB GDDR5 Ati Radeon HD 5970 6GB DDR3 1866Mhz Killer Xeno Pro Windows 7 64-Bit I can run this game with no problem at all. :D

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spencerdean94

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Edited By spencerdean94

I have to run starcraft 2 on low and it still has video lag my computer sucks:(

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GeryGo

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Edited By GeryGo  Moderator

glad I have my 5770 :D

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deactivated-59ce9c4a8db86

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Pentium Dual Core @ 2.8Ghz 2 Gb Ram DDR3 Ati Radeon HD 4650 1024Mb DDR2 Win 7 32bit it defaults to ultra on a resolution of 1280x1024 and it runs flawless...

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Nosnitsttam

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Edited By Nosnitsttam

intel q9400 oc'd to 3.6ghz. xfx radeon 5870 4gb ddr2-800 ram w7 64 bit defaults to ultra 1680x1050 (my max resolution) and runs smooth the whole time. not really surprised with the low requirements for the game since blizzard takes so long to make a game that it usually loses it's graphical punch upon its actual release. on the other hand, i'm happy they didn't punk out and use the WOW engine again. they totally could have and the game would STILL sell a million copies

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ramo_zemog

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Edited By ramo_zemog

AMD Phenom Quad Core 2.2 ghz XFX ATI Radeon HD 5670 512 GDDR 5 4 GB RAM DDR 2 WIN 7 64 BIT Running the game fine in high quality, in some missions I can paly it on ultra without a drop in the fps

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ranger3d

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Edited By ranger3d

Athlon 64 X2 5200, 2.7 ghz 2 gigs of DDR2 GF GTS 250 win7 only running in low setts 20 to 30 fps... jeez....What am I doing wrong? answer me please....

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fzd88

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Edited By fzd88

The hardcore guys will turn everything down to low anyways. FPS more important than looks for these players.. remember back when Quake was the sh*t for tournaments? They turn the graphics down so low that it looked like n64 graphics....lol

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Prosercunus

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Edited By Prosercunus

e8400@3.6 coupled with a 5850... maxed out@1920x1080. Its not really that cpu intensive of a game.

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dandreid

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Edited By dandreid

It flies on Q6600 8Gb Ram and Gtx 285

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100m-specialist

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Edited By 100m-specialist

good advice! edit: save for the 9800 GTX which is quite an overkill, you can find most of the hardware in several 15 inch screen laptops!!

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AlmightyMax

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Edited By AlmightyMax

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

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trodeback

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Edited By trodeback

Running on an EVGA GTX 260 w/a Phenom II x4 965 3.4ghz. I get ~50fps on 1900x1200 res.

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sportwarrior

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Edited By sportwarrior

How about you tell me how to get it for less than $60, eh Gamespot?

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Kulcan

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Edited By Kulcan

I am playing this game at 1440x900 on Ultra settings except shaders (High) and V-Sync (off) . I am getting between 42-63 fps . I am happy that my 4850 still doing a good job :P

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Phantom_2

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Edited By Phantom_2

honestly, if i run it at medium id be pretty damn happy.

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geomyr

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Edited By geomyr

hope the game works on my amd 64 x2 2.6 whahahahahaha :)

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OshadowO

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Edited By OshadowO

Running it on a solo core Athlon 64 4000 (2.45ghz, yes ancient) & geforce 7800. Game runs ok at medium settings but freezes occasionally for 10-20 seconds even if I lower the settings. It's mostly to do with the sound because it typically happens when another char contacts you (portrait pops up). Once the sound loads it's all good though. It's annoying but honestly I don't mind it as much but I only play single player. If you want to play online then this is obviously not a good way to go.

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Chronikas

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Edited By Chronikas

If you want a real hardware comparison for SC 2, do yourself a favor and go to Guru3d,com...I'm not sure why gamespot keeps kidding themselves, they know nothing about pc hardware.

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KoreanSchoolKid

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Edited By KoreanSchoolKid

phenom ii x4 955 @ 3.2ghz ati 5850 2gigs of ddr3 @ 1066mhz 20fps-60fps (enabled v-sync) avg fps 30fps-40fps for anyone who wanted to know what amd/ati system can do

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metalkid9

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Edited By metalkid9

I got 9800GTX SLI and I run almost every setting on Ultra with quad core q6700 oced to 3.5GHz. And this hardware is from 2 years ago.

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chronolzx

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Edited By chronolzx

great, i hope it runs well on my laptop. i5 430 w/ mobility 5850.

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boybrushdred

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Edited By boybrushdred

im guessing diablo3 will run with these specs at hi-resolutions and maximum graphic detail

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FleeceJohnson

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Edited By FleeceJohnson

The conclusions from this article seem pretty obvious. As long as you have a decent video card and your processor isn't horrendously out of date (eg Pentium 4, Pentium D), there's no reason you should have trouble running this game.

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xJackelx

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Edited By xJackelx

" choctawfootball Posted Aug 4, 2010 11:21 pm ET interesting article but i believe the conclusions are flawed. first of all why not go with AMD cpu ?" "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. " Did you even read the article, or just look at the colorful bars?

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choctawfootball

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Edited By choctawfootball

interesting article but i believe the conclusions are flawed. first of all why not go with AMD cpu ? why would you even think about opting for a 9800 when you can go with a 5770 that has DX11 ? and how do you not include amd 5850 gpu in your benchmarks ?

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dgguidryjr

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Edited By dgguidryjr

I agree w/kozzy. People gripe so much about the comforts of console gaming over a PC, and having both within about 3 feet of each other, I see the advantages of both. Yes, it is very nice not to have to upgrade parts and whatnot, but I think the thing that scares people is lacking the knowhow on how to build one/upgrade parts themselves, which can greatly reduce the costs of PC gaming. You're also missing a few essential points: 1. the people reading this WANT to play this game. they're not going to troll on about how they love their Wii and PS3 and the PC is solely for the internetz and facespace. 2. the PC does have its own niche market, such as RTS and MMO, both genres are strong points that consoles fail to really capture because the nature of the console doesn't really provide the breadth of control needed for the game. And even those people that PC game are usually less inclined to drop a lot more money on a console to do the rest, which the PC can certainly do. 3. We really don't want to hear you cry about what you don't have. P.S. To people reading this, GameSpot overlooked both AMD processors and the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards. AMDs are usually a bit cheaper than intel processors and also the cost of AMD processor/compatible motherboard is less than intel's, plus a solid, above-3Ghz dual core from AMD would usually get the job done. The GTX 460 is also a new, around $200 video card that outperforms the Radeon 5830 and is only a tad behind the 5850.

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green_dominator

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Edited By green_dominator

For me any option I choose I should just buy a new system entirely, that breaks my bank. I have a less than last gen PC, it's good enough to surf the net and I can play original Starcraft. I kinda wish I had a powerhouse rig it would make life a ton easier.

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ichc1000x

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Edited By ichc1000x

My computer can run this on minimum, but I'm thinking about waiting to get it until I upgrade my system.

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Death_Masta187

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Edited By Death_Masta187

Now I'm wondering how it would run on one of my old ass laptops (3.4GHz P4 EE, 2GB DDR400 and 128MB Rm 9700). I guess I should install it on there and find out.

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kozzy1234

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Edited By kozzy1234

@feliscele there are no hoops to jump thru... Ive had my new pc for 4 years now.. I have not had to upgrade and 251 games have worked with NO ISSUES at all. Its also been more expensive for my console gaming this gen then it has been for pc (PS3 and 360 I have). Some people need to get there facts straight sometimes. PC gaming is not all this bad stuff that people make it out to be. Not one game has given me DRM issues, NOT ONE in 4 years.

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feliscele

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Edited By feliscele

@The_Wii_Lover Yeah, that's the nice thing about consoles. DON'T WANT TO START A FLAME WAR...but the problem with PCs is that there are so many hoops (especially DRM) you have to jump through to get games to work reasonably well that it completely turns me and a ton of other people off. EDIT: Wow, horray for violent comment hatred.

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The_Wii_Lover

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Edited By The_Wii_Lover

@feliscele: your laptop looks like heaven to me, i have a pentium 4 with nothing on it i juust used for the internet and well for games: i prefer my PS3 or my Wii over upgrading for a game that only worth 60 bucks

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puablo

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Edited By puablo

I have a dual-core 2.66 with a Geforce GTS 250, and it defaulted all settings to Ultra and runs perfectly smooth at 1650x1050. As such, I assumed this game didn't need much power.

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feliscele

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Edited By feliscele

And here I am with 816 megs of ram and an integrated video card on a laptop with a broken sound card.

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Edited By Daavpuke

I run an AMD 3000+ 1.81Ghz and Radeon 2400 AGP :D. It worked...barely. But that means people with ACTUAL Pc's should be fine.

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kozzy1234

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Edited By kozzy1234

Game runs great for me, loving it!

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Decko5

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Edited By Decko5

excellent

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