StarCraft II: What Hardware do you Need to Play With Extreme/Ultra Settings?

Since StarCraft II was released back in July 2010, I have been playing it like I was back in 1998 when the first StarCraft was released. Oh to relive some of my youths video game binges! What I would like to cover in this article is somewhat of a personal benchmark, and insight into what exactly is required to play StarCraft II on the highest possible settings. This includes the January 2011 patch 1.2.0 addition of an Extreme setting for Graphics Quality, and the rest of the graphics options set to their highest relative settings of Ultra and High as seen here:

StarCraft II: What Hardware do you Need to Play With Extreme/Ultra Settings?

When Blizzard released patch 1.2.0 back in January 2011, they added the Extreme graphics quality option, which included “Space Ambient Occlusion“, which was first introduced and used for the first time in 2007 with the release of Crysis by Crytek. This essentially allows an ambient occlusion solution (adding realism by approximating the way light radiates in real life onto a graphical model) that is independent from a scenes complexity, no data pre-processing, no loading time, no memory allocations in system memory, works in dynamic scenes, works the same for every pixel on the screen, and has no CPU usage – instead an execution completely of a GPU.

With all that aside, I would like to benchmark my computer system against StarCraft II with all the highest settings. I have a pretty basic PC hardware build that allows me to play with the highest graphical settings, and I will show at what efficiency in a moment. I hope that you will be able to use my hardware as a baseline to further your understanding of what hardware specifications you would need to aim for in order to play StarCraft II on Extreme/Ultra settings without too much lag.

To start off I think its best that I list the minimum and recommended StarCraft II system requirements:

PC Requirements

PC Minimum System Requirements*:

  • Windows® XP/Windows Vista®/Windows® 7 (Updated with the latest Service Packs) with DirectX® 9.0c
  • 2.6 GHz Pentium® IV or equivalent AMD Athlon® processor
  • 128 MB PCIe NVIDIA® GeForce® 6600 GT or ATI Radeon® 9800 PRO video card or better
  • 12 GB available HD space
  • 1 GB RAM (1.5 GB required for Windows Vista®/Windows® 7 users)
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Broadband Internet connection
  • 1024X720 minimum display resolution

PC Recommended Specifications:

  • Windows Vista®/Windows® 7
  • Dual Core 2.4Ghz Processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 512 MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800 GTX or ATI Radeon® HD 3870 or better

*Note: Due to potential programming changes, the Minimum System Requirements for this game may change over time.

Mac Requirements

Mac Minimum System Requirements:

  • Mac® OS X 10.5.8, 10.6.2 or newer
  • Intel® Processor
  • NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT or ATI Radeon® X1600 or better
  • 12 GB available HD space
  • 2 GB Ram
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Broadband Internet connection
  • 1024X720 minimum display resolution

Mac Recommended Specifications:

  • Intel® Core 2 Duo processor
  • 4 GB system RAM
  • NVIDIA® GeForce® 9600M GT or ATI Radeon® HD 4670 or better

If you just barely have the recommended system requirements, then obviously you will not be able to play StarCraftII on the highest graphics settings. This is because Blizzard indulges in diverse hardware configurations and every game is shipped as PC / Mac compatible, making Blizzard Entertainment wonderfully inclusive.

My hardware and system configuration is as follows:

In my case, I play with a monitor resolution of 1920×1080 with the following hardware/system specifications:

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz Quad-Core
GPU: XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB
RAM: 4GB 1600
OS: Windows 7 64-bit
My computer hardware is pretty basic and seems to run StarCraft II fluently as it should. The recommend requirements for StarCraft II call for a Dual Core 2.4GhHz processor – I am using a Quad Core 3.2GHz processor, 2 GB RAM – I am using 4 Gb RAM, and a 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX or ATI Radeon HD 3870 or better – I am using a Radon HD 5770.

The StarCraft II Benchmarks:Playing Starcraft II on Extreme and Ultra Graphics Settings on my PC Gaming Build

PassMark Comparison:
First, I am going to compare my hardware/system to that of the reccomended system requirments set by Blizzard for StarCraft II. I am going by the assumption that this is the minimum system requirements required to play StarCraft II smoothly on the lowest settings. I will do this by comparing my CPU PassMark Value, and my Graphics Card PassMark G3D Rating to the CPU PassMark Value and Graphics Card PassMark G3D Rating for the minimum required components.
(*Note: To get a better understanding as to what “PassMark” Values/Ratings are please visit PassMark: It is a website that has a huge database of benchmarked CPUS, GPUs, HardDrives etc.):

PassMark CPU and GPU Comparisons:

*Larger Passmark Values are better
My CPU AMD Phenom II X4 955 at 3.2 GHZ 3936
My Video Card Radeon HD 5770 1GB 1632
Reccomended CPU Intel Celeron E3300 at 2.5 GHz (o.1 GHz > than reccommended) 1689
Reccomended Video Card #1 Radeon HD 3870 704
Reccomended Video Card #2 GeForce 8800 GTX 1050
PassMark Values
To conclude the top table I can arbitrarily calculate a percentage comparison of my components to the recommended components. I believe this can serve as a  ball park guess as to where my computers specifications stand without even playing StarCraft II:

My Hardware: PassMark Percentage Increase Over StarCraft II’s Recommended Requirements:

CPU Comparison AMD Phenom II X4 955 vs. Intel Celeron E3300 69.90%
#1 GPU Comparison Radeon HD 5770 vs. Radeon HD 3870 69.86%
#2 GPU Comparison Radeon HD 5770 vs. GeForce 8800 GTX 60.85%
AVERAGE: 66.87%
% Greater Than Recommended Requirements

An average of a 66.87% increase in a PassMark score over the recommended StarCraft II hardware requirements is pretty significant, which is no wonder I can pull out Ultra / Extreme graphics settings for StarCraft II.

Next, I will post some benchmarking data calculating a 60 second average Frames Per Second while playing StarCraft II using my computer as is: 1920×1080 resolution, and all graphics pumped to the highest.

StarCraft II Frames Per Second Benchmark: My System Specifications:

Frames Time (ms) Minimum Maximum Average
3407 60000 47 60 56.783


The final result is an average 60 second frames per second of 56.783. This is good rate of FPS in my opinion, and very playable; this provides a really smooth StarCraft II gameplay. In General, the greater FPS the better your gameplay will look, and the greater your average FPS the smoother your game will run. If you want to read an in depth article on the human eye and FPS, check out Human Eye Frames Per Second. I came across it while writing this article, and was an interesting read.

To Conclude:

Being able to play StarCraft II on Extreme / Ultra settings is a really satisfying experience, and with the final results of my comparisons / benchmarks I hope you can use this data as a baseline if you are choosing hardware specifically to play StarCraft II, or related games. You could essentially build a system $200 cheaper than what I currently have (which I am guessing is currently valued at ~$550) and still run StarCraft II on lower settings for example.

If you follow the methodology I used in this article, you could even predict a ball park figure of what settings you could play any given game. Just compare the PassMark score of the specific hardware you have in mind, to the recommended system rquirements of your prospected game and judge for yourself.

Thanks for reading: If you do not already own StarCraft II Please I urge you to:

Purchase StarCraft II

US: – Starcraft II

Canada: – Starcraft II


Build Your Own Gaming PC to Play Starcraft II:

Check out the: Gaming PC Builds of the Month Page

Starcraft II Archon Icon - Play Starcraft II On Extreme and Ultra Graphics!

Comments 23

  1. Hello there Corey .. again! 😀

    wonderful posts you do here .. very helpful actually!.. especially with the “Gaming PC builds” posts

    The plans had changed since the last time we talked .. I had to buy a Laptop for my personal business

    Now I have this

    Dell inspiron 5000 series and these are the specifications:

    core i7-6500U 2.5 GH / 2.6 GH
    16 G ram
    15.6 inch with 1920 X 1080
    Amd R5 M335 plus the integrated one HD 520

    Now my questions are:

    1- Can I add an external graphics card to this setup?
    2- If so, How high with the graphics card can I reach? according to the specs and to be smoothly compatible
    “no problem with the budget”

    sorry for all these questions .. hoping I am not keeping you busy or something

    Hear from you soon man

    1. Post

      Hi Ahmed,

      I hope you’ve been well! To be honest to play SCII that Dell inspiron 5000 should play the game just fine, even if connected to an external monitor should you want to. You could potentially get an external card using an external pci adapter, but it would cost you a little more considering you would then need a graphics card and have to purchase the adapter. Just try the games you want to play first and go from there. I’ve never used an external graphics card with a laptop to be honest though, have watched a few successful videos though.

      1. All well here, hope ur side is fine too

        actually when I run SC2 , the recommended graphics were Low .. and when I try to go any higher, it lags a lot and become very slow ..

        I have problems with my graphics programs too .. I am trying to return the Laptop to the seller again..

        Hope I can do it and I will think of a new build later then, if I succeeded and return it .. If so I will contact you again

        Wish me luck!

        Thanks for your reply

  2. I have the three sequels on my PC .. with “Wings of Liberty” and “Heart of the Swarm” .. it’s all good with the highest graphics .. but with “Legacy of the Void” when on extreme it becomes slow and lags so much especially in big battles .. this is my specification .. what do you recommend to improve or substitute?

    Card name: AMD Radeon HD 6670
    Chip type: AMD Radeon Graphics Processor (0x6758)
    Current Mode: 1440 x 900 (32 bit) (60Hz)
    Chip type: AMD Radeon Graphics Processor (0x6758)
    System Manufacturer: Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd.
    System Model: GA-MA78GM-US2H
    BIOS: Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG
    Processor: AMD Phenom(tm) II X4 940 Processor (4 CPUs), ~3.0GHz
    Memory: 6144MB RAM

    1. Post

      Hi Ahmed,

      The gameplay between the two shouldn’t be too much different and at the resolution your playing at (1440×900), but when Legacy was released the requirement for a higher end graphics card does seem needed. I have not dabbled into too many Legacy of the Void benchmarks or anything but this article here may be worth the read for you as it related to individuals experiencing what you are in legacy / older pc builds – ( )

      Try the following according to the article and it may help – “Based on the reactions in the comments section, and the outcry on Twitter, the issue appears to be related to CPU compatibility with the new 64-bit option. As a new experiment, try turning off the 64-bit version via the client. The 32-bit client appears to run much better on my machine so far.”

      Otherwise, it may be time for a new build.

      1. Thanks Corey for the reply! 🙂 ..

        I am actually very bored with the “AMD thing” and not just with games .. as a graphic designer, the Intel series are way better than AMD .. it was a mistake buying it from the start .. I have a laptop with intel i5 .. will try there and tell you if anything happens.

        Thanks again for your time! 🙂

      2. Hello Corey

        This is the new build that I am considering

        – Intel Core I7-4790 Haswell 3.6GHz LGA 1150 84W Desktop Processor
        – Gigabyte GA-H81M-S2PV LGA 1150 Motherboard
        – Kingston HyperX FURY White 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL10 1.5v (HX316C10FWK2/8
        – Seagate ST500DM002 500GB 7200.14 SATA 6Gb/s HDD
        – MSI N770 Lightning GTX 770 2GB GDDR5
        – SeaSonic M12II Bronze 620W 80 PLUS PSU
        – ZALMAN Z9 Plus Mid Tower Case

        tell me what you think about it ..

        Thanks in advance 🙂

        1. Post

          Hi Ahmen, sorry for a later response. This all looks good to me, do you already own the “MSI N770 Lightning GTX 770 2GB GDDR5”? Another graphics card if you are could be a GTX 970 if you can afford it, otherwise it should still be good.

          1. It’s ok .. I was busy too here

            Well, the plans had changed

            I have iMac late 2014 .. I almost used it for my work (I am a graphic designer) and didn’t want to use if for games.

            But don’t want to spend more money in a new build too

            at the other hand .. I can’t resist to play the game! 😀 .. so I am going to buy it ..

            I just want to make sure that I will be able to play the game on extreme sitting or at least ultra sitting .. less than this I will not buy it

            These are the specifications:

            – iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch (5120 x 2880), Late 2014)

            – 4 GHz Intel Core i7
            – 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
            – AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4096 MB
            – 1.12 TB – Fusion Drive

            Tell me what you think
            Sorry if I am keeping you busy or something with all these questions

            Waiting ur reply

            1. Post

              No problem and I’d say you’d do just fine if you want to use that imac for gaming in SCII as well for work. I’ll paste a link to a video below of an individual using the same Imac showing the fps on specific resolutions. Bottom line, 5K isn’y exactly playable, but you can still get 40-50fps at 2560×1440 resolution and ultra settings and could play with way higher fps at 1920×1080 no problem at all (which is al you need for SCII anyhow). –

  3. if you really want to run SC2 with better framerate , ditch the AMD cpu , intel processors just starcraft 2 much more smoothly , even tho AMD is a decent processor , the game is optimized for faster cores rather than more cores , and intel wins that match , if you really want to run the game with high framerate , invest in an i3, or i5 with at least 3.0 ghz

    1. you are right! .. I am actually regretting the AMD .. Intel is better at all levels and not just in games .. I am going back to intel series again

  4. I can run Starcraft 2 on my PC on extreme with no issues. On average I get roughly 45FPS.

    My system specs are
    CPU- Intel Core 2 Duo 3Ghz.
    GPU- 2x NVidia 8800GT SLI 512mb each.
    RAM- 4GB DDR2 Ram running at 800mhz
    Windows 7 Home premium

    In general make sure all drivers are up to date and you should be ok.

    1. Post

      Thanks Squall-27,

      Good to hear your running great on extreme with your setup there. “In general make sure all drivers are up to date and you should be ok” – Words of the wise!

  5. Hey Corey, i have an intel i7 990x extreme edition CPU and an AMD Radeon HD 6950 2gb GPU. Motherboard is Asus Rampage III extreme. When i play on the extreme setting for starcraft, my FPS is around 15-40. The game lags without even major battles, and when i looked inside my computer, the built in fans of my GPU werent spinning. Can you help me?

    If possible can you reply by email?

    1. Post

      Hey Justin,

      I just sent an e-mail your way so hopefully we can solve that, because with a system like that you should be burning through SCII!!

    1. Post
  6. I own a Radeon HD 5670 1GB DDR5 and I can handle all processes bound to the GPU with no problems at the highest settings on 1920*1080p. You need a solid CPU though because SC2 drains a lot of resources from it. I have an Intel Core 2 Duo E5300 2.6 GHz but the Reflections, Effects and Physics must be on High/Off, otherwise it lags. No need for a Quad/Six Core unless planning for Rendering with other applications since SC2 only drains resources from 2 cores.

    If on budget I think a Phenom/Athlon II X2 @ 3.2 GHz or so might do the trick. The 5670 is quite cheap, especially nowadays with Radeon 6000 Series being on the market.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Post
  7. Im currently using an AMD X4 2.4 GHZ Quad Core processor. Im going to swap it out for the Phenom II Hexacore this friday (Six Core) 3.2 GHZ. I have a MSI Radeon HD 5450 1GB gfx card installed and 8 GB of 1330 ram. I can run High settings pretty well although my roommate has said that when he has a huge battle it tends to lag up. But i cannot play on ultra. As i said im going to buy the Phenom this friday and i also plan on getting the other 8GB of ram to equal 16 (i have 64 bit Windows 7) and a Nvidia GTS 450 which is supposed to be able to support ultra/extreme no problems. I really want to play on those settings to get the best out of starcraft i can! Thanks for your information!

    1. Post

      Hey Ciaro Quezada,

      Right now I would say your biggest set back is the Radeon HD 5450 1GB video card. Once you do upgrade to the NVidia GTS 450 you should be fine, or better yet save the money on the extra RAM and get a Radeon HD 5770 Graphics card or even a Radeon HD 6850 graphics card. To be honest you definitely do not need 16GB RAM for SCII. Other than that I hope you enjoy your new upgrades! Hope this helps.

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