Currently on my computer i can only run starcraft 2 at the lowest graphics settings.

I am getting a new computer with a better video card that will most likely support higher settings.

My question is: What is the best mixture of graphics settings that will provide me with a nice visual with a low performance cost?

I am basically asking for which options have the best visual effect/performance ratio and where is a good point to draw the line on this ratio.

Also, I have read about tweaking SC2 graphics by manually editting the variables.txt file. Is this allowed by Blizzard & Battle.net and if so which options in here should be considered for altering?


EDIT: Since this question seems to be based on the computer (I was looking for lowend, midend, highend options) Here is my machine:

CPU: Intel i5-2500K
GPU: ASUS Radeon HD 6850
RAM: 4GB DDR3 1600-MHz GSkill
HDD: 7200 RPM 1TB Drive

Feel free to direct your answers towards this machine (I dont know if this is considered high, mid, or low end)

  • Maybe put some more info on your system cause if you have a higher-end system the most tweaks will lay at the AA and AF options. On mid-range systems it wil maybe vary a little in your AA or AF but probably going to particle effects or terain detail. This though totally depends on your system and resolution you're going to play on.
    – MrME
    Jun 20, 2011 at 14:19
  • 1
    Doesn't SC2 have a "detect" option so the game tells you what it would run best at?
    – Resorath
    Jun 20, 2011 at 16:45
  • How much money do you have to spend is the real question? A fast dual core and a good graphics card will sort you out for SC2.
    – Inzanik
    Jun 20, 2011 at 17:57
  • What resolution are you trying to run the game at? That machine should have no problem running the game at decent (Medium/High with some settings on Ultra) settings even at 1920x1080 or 1920x1200.
    – Crag
    Jun 20, 2011 at 18:56
  • @Crag - I was planning on running at a much lower resolution than you suggest. My main question is which options are the ones to put on Medium/High and which ones on ultra. I care more about performance than visual appeal but since i have the hardware i should take some advantage of it.
    – Josh K
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


I don't know about a comprehensive guide, but I have a few suggestions.

First, as background, every setting is going to be geared towards balancing two different (and diametrically opposed) optimizations--that of speed in calculation, and size in memory. For instance, your texture quality, and to a lesser extent, model quality, will have a large memory usage with relatively minimal processing imprints, whereas your physics, shadows, and reflections will be rough on the CPU/GPU but in some cases have absolutely microscopic memory footprint. I'll call this Speed vs Size.

Your Size-heavy settings are going to increase load times between levels and eat up RAM, which would slow down other processes, but we'll assume you're running SC2 by itself. Your Speed-heavy settings are going to affect your FPS the most, and also have the most wow-factor.

So with that in mind, whenever I have to turn my graphics down because I'm playing tug-of-war (I usually run on Extreme:D ) I default everything to medium and then turn texture quality to high, shaders to high, reflections off, particle effects to low, physics to low, and Model Detail to high. If you hover your mouse over each option it will detail out what it does, and you can usually tell whether it will be more of a Speed sacrifice or a Size sacrifice, and if it's not clear-cut it's a mix of the two.

I did a test to show the difference, this is a shot of a replay on ultra, and this is a shot with the above settings. I started the match with about 80 fps on ultra and about 130 on the frugal settings, and around this point (tons of marauders, roaches, marines, and carriers) I was running around 40-50 on ultra and around 60-70 on frugal. As you can see, there's not a whole lot of difference in the stills, but it was noticeable enough--you can see the lack of motion trails on the interceptors, for example, and some of the explosions weren't as spectacular.

You shouldn't have a problem with that machine, but if you do, you can try these settings as a starting point, or try setting the various Speed settings even lower. You probably won't have to put the texture or model quality lower, as in general that will just affect load times and not so much the calculations.

  • Great. This is what i was looking for! How does your machine compare to the machine in my OP?
    – Josh K
    Jun 23, 2011 at 15:56
  • AMD Phenom II 965 Black Quad-core, 3.4 gHz, 4 gB RAM, Radeon 5770, and about 3 TB or so of space. Fairly comparable, with the give and take.
    – Ketura
    Jun 23, 2011 at 15:58

I know this doesn't directly answer your question but have you considered building your own PC instead of a all in one solution because you can get more out of it (particularly if you live in America). Plus this question is probably not in major interest since it's particularly a personal preference when it comes to playing a game or any for that matter.

My computer can push everything on max settings but that doesn't mean it's the best idea to play it that was online. Since playing competitively, graphics can actually get in the way if you're trying really hard to push your edge.

All in all, anything from ATI that's 5770HD or above & for Nvidia I'd say go with anything that's 460GT or above. But the 560 is basically the same price for significantly more performance. Trust me don't get too bogged down on graphics with this game. Simply isn't worth the massive effort (and money) if you're quite a bit behind in PC gaming. Sorry for being vague.

  • Thanks for response. While i agree this question may be bias to a user computer, A good response could include low-end changes, mid-end changes, and high-end changes. Which will let the user decide what they want based on what computer they have.
    – Josh K
    Jun 20, 2011 at 13:53
  • Ah, I see. I thought you needed to get a computer that could run it on higher settings. Your computer has great specs btw. I hope you built it yourself, save so much that way :D
    – Valoric
    Jun 25, 2011 at 8:29

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