Spec out a Starcraft 2 machine

Generally, I’m a console gamer. I’ve not played PC games in years, and my desktop is a first-gen Macbook (dead screen, hooked up to external display) with an Intel GMA 950 video card and all of two gigs of RAM. However, Starcraft 2 is right on the horizon - and I deeply, madly loved the first Starcraft. If anything could get me back into PC gaming, this game would.

So, how much should I expect to pay for a system that would run Starcraft 2 really, really well? Blizzard has posted the beta’s minimum requirements online (http://us.blizzard.com/support/article.xml?locale=en_US&articleId=26242), but I’d want to be able to play this game with the graphics at or near maximum settings at an acceptable framerate. I would also prefer not to build my own system. Lame, I know, but I do have other hobbies.

Can anyone recommend a good system, preferably under $600? I’ve already got speakers, monitor, and so on.

Any reason you’re not considering just buying a new Mac (considering the age of your current model)? Blizzard games are simultaneously released for Mac and PC.

Two reasons - the first is price. The only Mac desktop under $1,000, let alone $600, is the Mini. It’s not a terrible system, but it’s barely more capable as a gaming machine than my Macbook - it uses a Geforce with shared system memory, I believe.

The second is that I’ve already got a Mac, and so long as I’m getting another machine, I figure I might as well gain the ability to use Windows programsas well as Mac. (I’d keep running my Macbook, probably as a living-room PC.)

Do you feel comfortable with self-installing a video card?

I ask because there are a lot of good Dell deals, especially if you can wait around for just the right one (which you probably can since we still have a bit of time before SC2) - but they usually come with really terrible graphics solutions. So to get a great computer a budget price, you grab a $450 Dell on sale then plug in a $150 video card.

I do - I did it plenty of times back in those misty days of the early 2000s, when a TNT 2 was still considered an acceptable option. However, I don’t feel comfortable selecting a video card. Any recommendations?

Depends largely on the power supply of what you’re putting it in to, but right now the Radeon 5000 series seems to be where it’s at for the cost/power intersection. I think the 5770 at approx. $160 is a hard place to go wrong, but there are a ton of good options right now across the board once you pick the price range you want. Nvidia comes out with their latest line later this month, I think, but I haven’t heard anything especially encouraging so far.

More generally, slickdeals.net and techbargains.com will pretty thoroughly cover any particularly good PC deals that come up; I always check them once or twice a day even when I’m not actively looking to buy, just 'cause sometimes you see something REALLY cheap.

You said you wouldn’t want to build your own, but that you be ok with installing a video card. If you’re willing to go a little bit further I think you would do fine by getting a bare bones kit. They usually come with a case, psu, mobo and cpu. And you can usually have them put that stuff together for you and ship it. You then plug in the GPU, RAM and hard drive/optical drive and you’re good to go.

This one at tiger direct looks like an awesome gaming machine:

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=5642399&CatId=332

the only things you need are another 2 gb of RAM ($35), a CPU fan ($20) a GPU (I’d recommend the ATI HD5770 for great 1680x1050 gaming and decent 1920x1200 gaming - $130).

That would bring you to a total of $485. For a bitching system. The only other thing I’d recommend upgrading might be the PSU for another $60 you can pick up a 600 watt one.

Damn it, lost my edit. I forgot the OS - windows 7 hoem premium 64 bit OEM will run you ~ $90. Basically you’re looking for an AMD Phenom II or Intel i5 class CPU, 4 gigs of RAM (DDR2), An ATI HD5750 or HD5770 GPU, a 500+ watt PSU (make sure it has a 6 pin PCIE module to power your GPU), 500 GB of Hard drive space and an opticla drive. Finally windows 7 home premium OEM. As you cna see that system cna be had for under $600, even if you have it prebuilt (mostly).

I just wanted to also point out that the above is a sex gaming PC. It’s way overkill for starcraft alone. Of course I was only thinking of all the future PC gaming you’ll be doing. Once you go PC gaming, it’s hard ot let go :slight_smile: If playing star craft 2 is really your only objective, and you’re not interested in future proofing your PC, then an older generation Q6600 or Q9550 intel CPU or an Athalon 64 x2 AMD CPU with 2 gigs of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 260 or HD 4750 will fit the bill for a good $150-$200 less.

Based on the benchmarks of the Starcraft 2 beta (for example: http://www.legionhardware.com/articles_pages/starcraft_ii_wings_of_liberty_beta_performance & PC Games Hardware (PCGH): Computer, IT Gaming, PC-Spiele)
and various other generic benchmarks of CPUs and graphics cards I’ve concluded the following:
Starcraft 2 uses 2 cores, more or less, a quad core (at similiar speed) will only increase performance by aproximately 10-20%. This, however, may change, possibly in the expansions later on. It is possible that more than 2 cores becomes important in very demanding situations such as those that might ocur in custom maps.
Starcraft 2 is very much CPU-heavy and a good dual core CPU is therefore of supreme importance, thus:
The powerful and expensive graphics cards are of less importance, a midrange graphics card will do fine.



CPU: 		i3-530									$125


This is CPU should be almost as fast as the most expensive models like the i7 870 and is much, much cheaper.



Motherboard: 	GIGABYTE GA-H55M-USB3							$110 ($10 MIR)


Decent motherboard with USB 3.0, nothing much to say, most compatible motherboards should do fine



Case & PSU: 	Antec Sonata III 500 with 500W PSU (EarthWatts 500)			$110 (20 MIR)


A decent case with good airflow is always nice to have to prevent any overheating mishaps, the PSU is suprisingly good too, and this combo is good bang for the buck.



Graphics Card:	MSI R5770-PM2D1G-OC Radeon HD 5770 1GB (or any Radeon 5770 card)	$160 ($10 MIR)


The 5770 is more than plenty, has low power consumption and has Directx 10.1 and 11 too.
It’s really the only card I would consider in this case. It can run Starcraft 2 (beta) in 1920x1080 at the highest settings, and it’s fairly cheap.



RAM:		Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066			$97


2 GB is too little, 4 GB should be enough, can always be upgraded later to 8 GB.



Hard Drive:	SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB					$90


Well any harddrive will do, a slightly slower harddrive will increase the loading time, but little else.

Total: $652 (with MIRs)

If you want to reduce the price a bit you might be able to use your current PSU and hard drive, but without any more information, it’s hard to say.
if you desire not to build your own system I would recommend buying a system with an Intel i3 orIntel i5 CPU, they should offer the best performance-value by far in Starcraft 2. You could do with less, like the Phenom II X4, but you said you wanted something that runs Starcraft 2 really, really well.

I would NOT recommend this computer. As I said previously Starcraft 2 is very CPU-heavy and the Phenom X4 9650 is just not good enough. You need something like the Intel i3, Intel i5, Intel i7 or the Phenom II X4 965, but the i3 will probably provide the best value and should perform almost as good as the most expensive CPUs.

I usually wouldn’t recommend buying a premade system though, they tend to skimp on things like PSU, cases and graphics cards, and it really only takes about 2 hours to build your own and it’s not that hard either.
If you must buy a premade system go for one with one of the aforementioned CPUs, and buy the Radeon 5770 graphics card seperately.

Oops I thought that was a phenom II. My bad.