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I recently built a half decent PC for home use, media centre and programming. It's based around an AMD Quad Core Phenom. I put a nice 700w power supply in it, 4 gigs of ram and a couple terabytes of disk space. I don't game often so I didn't bother with a graphics card. Recently, I bought starcraft 2 thinking I could while away a few hours with it on my Thinkpad T61p. That doesn't work. the game runs for 10 minutes before the NVidia quadro overheats and the laptop shuts itself down to prevent damage. So I installed it on the PC and it runs but the graphics can get choppy and gameplay is a little slow and jerky. Also, I don't get to use a decent resolution or the game slows right down.

So with a budget of £100 to £200, what should I look for in a graphics card. I know very little about this subject. I currently have one 24 inch display and might add another. I want Starcraft 2 to work the way it's supposed to but I probably won't do a whole lot more gaming than that. If I get a decent card, my son might make use of it for warcraft and stuff like that.

I have seen a XFX HD 6870 for £200 that looks nice and seems to tick all the boxes but I wonder if there are comparably priced NVidia cards that I should look at too. Maybe the Gigabyte GTX 460?

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migrated from superuser.com Dec 6 '10 at 6:49

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What does Starcraft show as the recommended and minimum specs for graphics. Go with that. –  ChrisF Dec 5 '10 at 13:31
    
I hadn't thought of that. But just checked their website (starcraft2.com) and it says "We'll have more details on specific system requirements closer to the release date". It's been out for ages. Mine was a downloadable so no box cover to check. I'll have a look in the installed files for a readme... –  grenade Dec 5 '10 at 13:40
    
Checked the installed manual and it recommends an "ATI Radeon 9800". ATIs website only goes up to 9550. So perhaps they're saying "Get a good one"? –  grenade Dec 5 '10 at 13:53
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grenade, the 9800 is very old - like, eight years old! If that's really all that's needed to play Starcraft II, I do have a spare 9800 Pro lying around that you are very welcome to ;) –  ZoFreX Dec 5 '10 at 16:11
    
possible duplicate of How to buy a graphics card? –  Matthew Read May 5 '12 at 16:19

2 Answers 2

Well, like most computer hardware questions - it depends.

What resolution will you be running it at (if you are using an LCD, probably its native resolution). What settings do you want to be able to run it at? (i.e. do you care if you have to turn it down to low settings, or do you want it to look great).

I found some graphs of frames per second on various different graphics cards, and it doesn't seem to require much (which is what I expected) - every card they tested gave good results!

TechSpot did an even more comprehensive review of hardware for SCII. Gamespot summarised the article thus:

The good news is that basically any modern graphics card will be able to run the game very smoothly on Medium settings, so even if you're not someone with a water-cooled monster gaming rig, you'll be fine. This isn't the most graphically-intensive game in the world.

But if you're in the market for a new card, want top-notch performance in the game without spending a boatload of cash, it looks like the GeForce GTX 460 is the card for you. It was recently released and can be found for about $200.

I don't know much about the current generation of graphics cards, but the GTX 460 [is available on Scan] starting from £120, which is within your budget. If you want an expert opinion on current hardware I recommend picking up a copy of CustomPC (my sub failed to update when I moved house, otherwise I would check it for you - WH Smiths usually have it). I think AMD are currently favoured over NVidia, but it's probably pretty close as usual.

Lastly - SCII is more intensive on the CPU than GPU, so double check that your CPU is fast enough too.

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SC2 is indeed hard on the GPU, if you crank up the beauty settings a bit.

If you are planning to go dual 24" sometime in the future, then I would definitely suggest a 6870. They are almost budget class now and so silent, you wouldn't hear it among other fans in your case.

GTX 460 is a bit more powerful than 6870 clock for clock, especially DX11, which SC2 won't use, but therein lies the problem. Stock speeds are much lower clocked, and the factory overclocked versions are as expensive as a 6870.

I would say go with the 6870.

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