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Detailed FRAPS Runs and Closing Thoughts

For those of you that want a different view of the gaming action, we’ve selected the highest quality but still playable result for each GPU. In general, that means we wanted average frame rates of 25 or higher, with minimum frame rates always above 15 FPS. Obviously you could tweak settings in other ways and still get playable results (e.g. by dropping the resolution, you might be able to run our Enthusiast settings at 1366x768 instead of Mainstream 1600x900), but we’ve stuck with our three basic categories for the following charts. We’ve ordered them in terms of increasing performance/quality.

Given what we’ve said already, your best results will generally come by keeping minimum frame rates above 20. Assuming there are other segments of the game that will be more taxing than our benchmark sequence, you might still drop into the upper teens, but as long as you’re above 15 FPS you shouldn’t “lose sync”. Even at our Value settings, HD 3000 is already dangerously close to dropping below 15 FPS at times; you might have to give up on Shadows altogether to get acceptable performance. HD 4000 at our Mainstream settings ends up staying above 20 FPS for the most part but rarely gets above 25 FPS; by comparison, Llano’s HD 6620G ranges from around 22 FPS to nearly 30 FPS. For a smoother experience, though, you’ll still want 30 FPS or more, and that’s where the HD 6630M and Trinity’s HD 7660G fall, with Trinity averaging just slightly better performance despite one large dip to the low 20s.

As shown in our earlier charts, the real winner in terms of gaming performance looks like NVIDIA, though the use of Ivy Bridge CPUs for our two fastest test laptops leaves room for debate. The Acer doesn't appear to have any real issues with throttling in this game, however, despite my earlier fears; it looks like Diablo III (at least early on) just doesn't tax the CPU enough to routinely need more than a moderate 1.2-1.6GHz on the i5-2410M. The 15~20% performance advantage of the N56VM over the 3830TG instead comes from a higher clocked GPU, despite earlier indications that the opposite was the case.

Closing Thoughts

Wrapping up, while Diablo III isn’t the most demanding new release, it can still bring basic laptops to their knees. Unfortunately, unlike desktops it’s often not possible (or at least not practical) to upgrade a laptop’s graphics capabilities. I’ve had a couple friends ask for help with running Diablo III on their old Core 2 Duo laptops, and they’re basically out of luck unless they want to purchase a new system. That’s something we’ve tried to explain in our laptop reviews, and Diablo III drives the point home: buying at the bottom of the barrel in terms of GPU capabilities may not matter for you right now, but kids and/or future applications may eventually make your IGP-only laptop insufficient.

In the case of Diablo III, even a moderate HD 3650 or GT 330M should still be able to handle the game in single player on Normal difficulty, but IGP solutions from two or more years back are likely going to come up short. Naturally, anything faster than the GPUs we’re testing here will allow you to increase details/resolution, and it’s nice to see “mainstream” mobile GPUs like the GT 540M/GT 630M able to handle 1080p gaming for a change.

And again, in case you missed it, the later stages of the game, particularly on Hell difficulty level, are said to be quite a bit more strenuous. If you're the type of player that intends to defeat Diablo not once but three or more times at increasingly difficult settings, our results from early in the game are probably not representative of what you'll experience later. Performance does appear to stay relatively consistent among the various GPUs, though, so if you take half of our performance results as a baseline of what to expect, you're probably not far off the mark.

Diablo III Mobile Performance Compared
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  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Problem is, to test on Hell I have to play through all of Normal, then all of Nightmare. I know people who have already done that, sure, but I only got the game two days ago and I have a family and a life outside of playing games. Hence the disclaimer at the beginning. I'll update the text to mention slowdowns on later areas. Reply
  • kmmatney - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Can you use someone else's save file? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Not that I know of; everything is stored on Blizzard's servers. The only way to access your characters is to login to Battle.net. Reply
  • Herald85 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    If you want, you can use my account to test. You'll need to sign a contract I receive that MSI laptop if you abuse my account.

    Seriously though, I wouldn't mind you using my account (the greater good and all that). Only problem I see is I'm playing on Europe servers so the lag might spoil testing.
    Reply
  • shank15217 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    There is a basic reason why the game runs so well in Act 1 Normal.. play through Act 3 Hell then come back and redo your review. Only the 650M has a chance of playable frame rates in those levels and we haven't even covered multi-player. My 7870 OC to 1100 Mhz has some slowdowns in those levels under some high stress scenarios and basically the game becomes an absolute nut-fest in later difficulties. People will want to play through the later difficulties, its part of the game's progression. Now I get that its hard to benchmark through the randomness but you can make subjective comparisons or do several run throughs. I can say with absolute certainty, none of the apus have a chance in playable frame rates in scenarios where it will matter. D3 is a very unforgiving game, it can take a split second to die, smooth frame rates in non-normal difficulties is essential. Reply
  • dingetje - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    +1 on that ! Reply
  • snakefist - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    agreed, act1 is much less demanding

    did the test included multiplayer? game staggers when more than one player is in game on some configurations, while it's totally smooth in single player...

    also, memory usage tends to increase greatly in later acts, may hurt performance if memory is shared....
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Tell you what, guys: email me your account login and password and don't play the game for a day, and give me instructions on a good stressful area to play on Hell difficulty, and then I can test that area. Otherwise, I simply don't have the 40+ hours needed to get to that point in the game in less than a week.

    And in case it's not clear, I'm mostly joking here. I've got several items I'm working on reviewing that are going to be higher priority than revisiting Diablo III performance in later acts. Perhaps this summer I'll have a chance to go back, but by then it won't really matter that much. So I'd suggest taking these figures as a way of getting relative performance from the various GPUs/IGPs, and then extrapolate from there. If you need to play on Hell difficulty on a laptop with maximum details enabled, you're probably going to want at least a GK107 dGPU (or perhaps Southern Islands).
    Reply
  • dingetje - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    lol ;) Reply
  • snakefist - Sunday, May 27, 2012 - link

    hehe, but it's not that hard - you don't even have to be on higher level difficulties - its only ACT 1 OF NORMAL, which is more like a tutorial and considerably less populated (and task manager is claiming ~300mb ram, which increases up to 1gb later, still on normal)

    all the things mentioned later, like having freezing monsters or duplicates or 100+ creeps on screen are happening on nightmare also, and even on late normal, so it shouldn't be that kind of bother...

    on account topic user/password, use freejack/demise001xp, that's mine :)

    (joking of course, but you could give me YOUR user/password and authenticate it with one of those mobile apps while on chat, and i could level you up pretty fast, playing since diablo1. being on normal, you don't have much to lose, i'll even leave you some nice gear to start nightmare with - seriously, talking about few hours job)

    and all is in good-faith, since i don't play d3 on laptop anyway :)
    Reply

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