Diablo III Efficiency Check: Graphics & CPU

After eleven years in development and more setbacks than we can count, Blizzard has finally released a third installment for its classic dungeon cult crawler. After over a decade, the arrival of Diablo III was a bittersweet moment for avid fans. What must have felt like a gruesome joke, missteps in running Blizzard prevented many users from accessing content last Tuesday.

Diablo III requires a constant connection to Battle.net and its servers were just overwhelmed. That's not entirely shocking when you consider that over two million copies have been pre-ordered. Start day hiccups are almost inevitable with so many players storming your goals. Fortunately, Blizzard has implemented various optimizations and the servers will run smoothly from the end of Wednesday.

Even so, the bug has intensified the debates about always-online systems. Many users have expressed their disapproval with scathing ratings across the web (3.7 out of 10 on Metacritic). Whether or not this is fair, we envision (or at least hope) that the controversy will encourage developers to be more cautious about mandatory connections – a discussion that is well beyond the scope of this article.

While we don't agree to making single-player components online only, there's not much mortals like us can do about it. However, what we can do is beat Diablo III with the best hardware available today. Blizzard has a reputation for creating highly scalable titles that run on virtually all gaming rigs. So that's largely what we expect from the developer's latest offering …

Test methodology

We tested 26 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia installed together with an Intel Core i7-3960X to eliminate CPU bottlenecks. The latest official drivers were used for each card.

Test system specifications

  • AMD Radeon HD 7970 (3072 MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon HD 7950 (3072 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2048 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7770 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7750 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6970 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6950 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6870 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6850 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6790 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6770 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6750 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6670 (1024 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5870 (2048 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5830 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 5670 (1024 MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048 MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 670 (2048 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 (1536 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 570 (1280 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 (1024 MB)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (1536 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 550 Ti (1024 MB)
  • Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30 GHz)
  • x4 4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 (CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Gigabyte G1 Assassin2 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX series 1250w
  • Crucial m4 512 GB (SATA 6 Gbit / s)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 301.34
  • AMD catalyst 12.4

We used Fraps to measure the frame rates during a minute of play in Diablo III's first act. We tested the game for maximum quality at three popular desktop resolutions: 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600.

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