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 - Sunday, May 27, 2012 - link

    Yes, all of the higher than 1366x768 results were done on an external LCD where required (which was the case for Llano, Trinity, VAIO C, TimelineX, and Vostro; the other laptops had 1080p displays, except for quad-core SNB which has a 1600x900 LCD and I didn't run the 1080p tests). Reply
  • PolarisOrbit - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Good review for what it is, but I think it could have been a little more complete with some additional information:

    1) Use Act 3 Bastion's Keep for the "intensive" case instead of Act 1 Old Town. I think this would be better representative of the game's peak demand. (probably just a run through of the signal fires quest since it's easy to get to)

    2) Include a brief section on how much of an impact additional players put on the game. I find it can actually be quite significant. This doesn't have to be full-depth review just a quick.

    Overall, I'm using an A8-3500M + 6750M crossfire (overclocked to 2.2GHz) @1366x768 and my framerates during battles (ie. when it counts) average about 1/2 to 1/3 what the reviewer posts because the game gets much more intensive than Act 1, and having a party also slows it down significantly compared to solo.

    Just some ideas to expand the review if you want =)
    Reply
  • drkrieger - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Hey folks, I've got an older Asus G71Gx which has a Nvidia GTX260M, I can play it on medium/low at about 40 fps @ 1920x1200.

    Hope this gives some idea of older mobile graphics stack up.
    Reply
  • waldojim42 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    I have been testing this out on my W520 for the sake of seeing what I can do to play diablo and maintain decent battery life.

    For what it is worth, turning off shadows, and playing @ 1366x768 on the HD 3000 results in roughly 28fps - more than enough to play the game through the first difficulty anyhow. I have been using this for some time now with 4 players in game. When running @ 1080P, it dips down into the low 20's, and occasionally is a problem in act 3 so I wouldn't suggest it.

    Point is though, that anyone that has a notebook with SB and no video card CAN still play this game, even if it isn't ideal.
    Reply
  • Zoolookuk - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Given this is a cross platform game, it would have been interesting to provide Mac results with similar hardware. I play using a GT330m and i7 dual core, and it runs pretty well. I'd like to see how it stacks up to the latest AMD chips and HD3000 on a Mac. Reply
  • egtx - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Yes I am interested in Mac results as well. Reply
  • ananduser - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Provided the testing is done on a dual booting Apple machine, D3 under Windows will always run better. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Anecdotally, Brian and Anand have both commented that Diablo 3 on a MacBook Pro under OS X runs like crap. I'm not sure if they're running on latest generation MBP13 or something else, though, so that's about all I can pass along. Reply
  • ananduser - Sunday, May 27, 2012 - link

    Was there any doubt? OSX is severely lacking in the graphical driver support. Apple never gave a rat's rear about this crucial aspect of gaming support. They are always late with drivers and with the latest OpenGL spec. Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    The recommendations / minimum requirements on Macs are discrete graphics with good drivers though. I.e. no nvidia 7300 / 7600, ATi X1600 / X1900 etc. Starting point is 8600 GT. Obviously no integrated Intel graphics is enough there. OpenGL3.2 or OpenGL 2.1 with extensions should be fine for game developers and the drivers handle it, nVidia and AMD can put in performance improvements if they have the feedback. They could even launch their own "game edition" card for the Mac Pro with their own drivers outside of Apples distribution channel. Nvidia releases drivers on there site from time to time. That said both the game engine port and drivers are a bit less optimized then their Windows and Direct3D counterpart. They [drivers] are quiet robust and well working but might not be that fast. It's mainly a problem for the developers today though as most macs has somewhat decent graphics with maintained drivers and have pretty good driver support and support pretty much all the features you need any way.

    The OS is very dependent on OGL so the support it self is decent and fairly up to to date even if it is not OpenGL 4.2/3.3 yet. Latest OpenGL 4.2 is not even supported by much of any hardware that Apples uses either so. R700, R600, GF 8M, GF 9M and the desktop versions does not support more then OpenGL 3.3 any way which it self is a backport of as much as possible. 3.2 is a decent level there. Apple always support the whole API in the software renderer too so they have no joy hunting the latest features, though the vendors can use any extensions they wish to add those features, all the supported gpus supports the API too. Intel drivers on Windows do not have OpenGL 4.1/4.2 drivers. It's a lot better driver support then for say Intel graphics on Linux and in some regards even on Windows. Intel drivers on Windows don't support OpenGL 3.2 yet.
    Reply

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