Diablo III Benchmarked
Welcome to Hell! After years of waiting it is finally available: Legendary developer Blizzard Entertainment has at last launched Diablo III, the long-awaited successor to one of the most popular action role-playing games of all time. We dug into the dark fantasy world and ran Diablo III on several notebook graphics cards. Can your notebook system make it through Hell alive?
The launch of Blizzard's latest action RPG clickfest was not optimal to say the least. Overloaded servers, error messages, connection loss, broken achievements.. those who pre-ordered or stood in line to purchase the game likely went through a Hell of their own as Blizzard scrambled to hotfix the game-breaking issues.
Still, user madness has calmed a bit now that Blizzard's servers have had a few days to settle down. Of course, this hasn't stopped us from benchmarking the game with a wide range of mobile GPUs - both discrete and integrated. Blizzard titles have historically relied more on creative artwork than beefy hardware to express their games and, in this article, we find out exactly how wide of a range of mobile GPUs Diablo III can reliably support. Let's begin!
Assuming that you have logged in, you'll be greeted to a dark yet welcoming atmosphere reminiscent to its predecessor over 10 years ago. It's not a graphics horsepower to be sure, but its distinct feel and tone both highlight the dystopian setting perfectly.
What really makes the atmosphere pop aren't the number of polygons but rather the fine attention to details, impressive lighting and the encompassing art style. Unlike the graininess of Diablo II, Diablo III appears to be a mix of watercolor and comics with a pale but more colorful range. Blizzard could have easily made the game feel look like a WoW-clone with a top-down perspective, but have genuinely found an agreeable balance to perfectly capture the Hellish setting that is so unique to the Diablo Universe.
Our benchmark scene takes place in the old but familiar grounds of New Tristram as seen in the video below. The tested scene is as follows:
We directly teleport to the village market square from "The Old Ruins" where we then immediately activate FRAPS. We command our hero to follow a winding upward path and along the street. After hitting some bushes right outside of town, we turn and run back the same path to the start location of the test. The duration of the recorded scene is approximately 30 seconds long.
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We utilized four different graphical settings to test each of our mobile GPUs. Our lowest settings, which should be suitable for office or entry-level notebooks, ran the game at only 1024x768 pixel resolution with everything either on Low or Off. The more standard setting of 1366x768 pixel resolution is more ideal for cheap, all-round notebooks. Multimedia or gaming notebooks will be able to play at 1080p on High or Ultra details right from the get go.
As usual, we deactivated VSync during our benchmarking tests.
It's practically a given that a Blizzard game can run on low-end hardware, but what really surprised us is the texture quality difference between the lowest and highest settings -- or should we say, the lack thereof. Unlike many other games, changing the graphics settings will actually not reduce or improve in-game textures by a significant amount. Unless if you are concentrated on looking for minute differences (which you probably shouldn't be doing considering the hordes of Evil trying to kill you), you will hardly recognize the texture quality discrepancies during the heat of battle.
Instead, altering the graphics settings will have a more profound effect on shadows and antialasing. In a game where lighting is key, the loss or reduction in shadow quality can quickly deteriorate the engaging atmosphere Diablo III has to offer. Jaggies can become apparent as well, which is especially unfortunate on characters and NPCs as they will consequently sport slanted edges and appear too polygonal for our tastes. In general though, Diablo III never looks bad regardless of the settings and has definitely surprised us in terms of visual fidelity on lower-end settings.
If case if you haven't figured out the good news yet, your trip back to Hell isn't going to require luxury notebook hardware. If you have reserved settings and resolution demands, Diablo III can be played even on Intel's last generation HD Graphics 3000 in low details.
However, we still recommend using a discrete GPU to experience the Blizzard title at its fullest. A graphics card on par with the entry-mainstream GeForce GT 630M will be able to play on medium to high details without a problem. A typical upper mid-range mobile GPU like the GeForce GT 640M can run the game at maximum settings.
Note: Regardless of the computer you might experiences stuttering. The frame rate depends on game mode and number of opponents and our test scenario is not very demanding.
Many thanks to Schenker notebooks, who kindly provided us with the following laptops:
- XMG P501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GTX 560M, GTX 580M, Radeon HD 6970M & HD 6990M, 8 GB RAM)
- XMG A501 (Core i7-2630QM, HD Graphics 3000 & GeForce GT 555M, 8 GB RAM)
- Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M, 4 GB RAM)
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Please find a list with further Diablo III benchmarks below.