World of Warcraft Performance Guide

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 3/23/2005 12:17 PM EST
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  • biegstvo - Tuesday, July 08, 2008 - link

    CPU seems to make a difference. I only have a 1.8 Ghz, and it's slow, but I'm not sure how much that has to do with the fact that it's a Celeron, with it's cut down cache, etc. If I got a 1.8Ghz P4, or even 2.* Ghz, would that help a lot?
    (I realize socket 478 is old, but I still have [cheap] room ahead of me even in this outdated format.)
    Reply
  • edeus - Monday, October 31, 2005 - link

    It would be good to know if there was raid on this test machine - as CPU tests may have been skewed because of it. Reply
  • shady28 - Saturday, January 07, 2006 - link


    This article should be updated in some way. With the advent of battlegrounds, the biggest performance hits come in battlegrounds where there are 30-40 vs 30-40 other players. The front lines can easily have 60 people PvPing, plus a dozen or more NPCs thrashing around.

    I can say unequivocably that a Radeon 9600Pro is incapable of dealing effectively with this. I seriously doubt anything below a 9800XT can give you even moderately good framerates in those circumstances. I'd also like to see something showing any differences in 512MB cards vs 256MB vs 128MB in games like WoW and EQ2, since those games have tons of textures and constantly have to reload new textures as you move around in-game (both for the landscape, and textures on other players representing their armor and weapons as they come into visual range).
    Reply
  • xinc - Friday, May 06, 2005 - link

    To poster 50.
    Yes, when ram comes into question, it would be more beneficial, to have at least 1gb of ram to avoid lag issues.

    Graphical quality wise, my laptop sucks for detail, and frame rates are mediocre at best (I use default settings for details etc), however with 1gb of ram, I am lag free when passing by the auction houses in Orgrimmar, and Iron Forge.

    Thanks to Anand & Co. for performing these tests... at least it gives us as the general public an idea of how to spec a "WOW gamebox"

    Now my question to anyone reading these comments, and who would know more about performance... would you choose either a Geforce 6600GT or a Geforce 6800? (not GT just 6800)
    it's about a $80 premium for the 6800 where I live in Canada. Thanks for any help.
    Reply
  • Solanio - Wednesday, April 13, 2005 - link

    I'm running it on a Mac with all settings set to max, highest refresh and all shaders on and I'm noticing hardly any lag*. But I haven't been able to compare it to a PC yet.

    People even complain about lag in open channel when I'm not suffering any. - But again, what seems 'normal' to me might seem slow to others. I'll know better when I'm able to compare.

    I have a G5 dual 2GHz with 2 G RAM and the 6800 Ultra DLL NVIDIA card connecting via DSL.

    I do have to say though that visually the game is beautiful and I'm really enjoying it.

    *(The only time I notice lag is when I log on at peak times, there's sometimes an initial second of jump and then now and then rarely when entering an area like Goldshire, when there are a bunch of characters and I've been off somewhere else, like Westfall - but that is rare and it only happens for a moment and then everything is smooth).
    Reply
  • bluebob950 - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    what model 6600gt did you use in your test? Reply
  • Anemone - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    2gb for the more intense raids helps noticeably on the Intel side of things.

    $.02
    Reply
  • matbe - Tuesday, April 05, 2005 - link

    Great article! It's hard to test mmorpg performance but you succeeded. Must be a first, at least with such reliable tests! Again Anandtech impresses me. Would love to see a test of the more graphics intensive EverQuest2 too! Reply
  • DPOverLord - Monday, April 04, 2005 - link

    Ram wise does this mean if we plan on building a computer it makes more sense to buy the ram now then later? Reply
  • drdavis - Friday, April 01, 2005 - link

    OK, followup to the Mac post. I was looking through the Mac support forum on the WoW community site. The FPS rate drop is a known issue that was introduced and a fix is in the works. So, hopefully Blizzard will have it soon!

    See http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.aspx?fn=w...
    Reply
  • Conspiracy - Thursday, March 31, 2005 - link

    I'm running an Intel 2.8GHz 800FSB overclocked to 3.4 and 1GB of memory. I also have a Geforce 6800GT Ultra. Nice setup and can play any game at max rez w/o issues. Even WOW is quite nice. However I did have a lot of issues with disk swapping, mainly in big cities like Orgrimar. I fixed it by setting up a Raid 0 config. I rarely, if ever, get any disk swapping issues. This is a pretty huge key factor with performance IMO. Reply
  • drdavis - Thursday, March 31, 2005 - link

    It was great to see the comparison to the Mac as I am a Mac user playing WoW (PowerMac G5 dual 2Ghz with ATI 9800 Pro) as well. I agree with the assessment that the bottleneck is most likely the OpenGL driver. I am curious, it would be nice if a comparison could be made to the PowerMac running an Nvidia 6800 instead of the ATI card. I have been told that ATI never was one for screaming OpenGL performance and Nvidia usually did a better job with OpenGL drivers.
    Reply
  • eastvillager - Wednesday, March 30, 2005 - link

    The only WoW performance issues I have are on Blizzards side of the connection, lol. Reply
  • eastvillager - Wednesday, March 30, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • Pinnacle - Tuesday, March 29, 2005 - link

    While I commend the intention of doing a performance review on game that are not first person shooters, I think you have missed the point. Yes your enjoyment of warcraft is going to depend on your hardware, but GPU probably has a secondary role to CPU, memory, internet connection speed, LAN speed and probably a host of other items.
    What I would like to know is something concrete about how much data is moved about while playing the game, and what you guys think the WoW servers should/could be running on to implement the game. Sorry if I sound too critical - I think The Anand Team does a great job!
    Reply
  • Brunnis - Saturday, March 26, 2005 - link

    Hey, Anand, did you ever get around to checking that AthlonXP 3200+ system of yours? Every test that you do with that system shows it being EXTREMELY slow. I've never seen an AthlonXP 3200+ doing this bad on any other site... Some results that you've published with that system have even been proven wrong. Most notably the 263kB/s WinRAR result (normal is 380-400kB/s).

    Just as the results from some of your previous reviews, this one shows the AthlonXP to be clock-to-clock as fast as a Prescott CPU. This is just as rediculous now as it was in your old tests.

    Are you really SURE that everything is okay with that AthlonXP system? I'm still not convinced.
    Reply
  • jiulemoigt - Saturday, March 26, 2005 - link

    Ok I'm confused there is a built in frame counter in wow so benchies should be cake. Oh and approacing the action house isn't video cards probs it's lag from too many people. The numbers are not right I have a AMD64 3200+ that gets more frames than the graph when set back down to the right clock speed, and the FX-55 when paired with a 6800gt is signifactly faster than the graph what did you use to get the frames per sec? Reply
  • Mizuchi - Friday, March 25, 2005 - link

    Wouldn't more memory help with disk swapping? Reply
  • mdk30 - Friday, March 25, 2005 - link

    "We found a maximum of 3% variation between runs as long as there was no disk swapping that occurred during the benchmark (more on that later)."

    Did I miss the follow-up to this comment about disk swapping? I just went back through the article again and still can't find anything. I've had annoying stuttering problems with WoW when my drive is working hard, so I was just wondering if there was anything that I could do to minimize that effect.
    Reply
  • Mizuchi - Friday, March 25, 2005 - link

    Holy crap. I ran the game with default settings, like use high quality textures and shaders and the game looks sooo much better. Guess that's the difference with a DX9 card. I will play on my laptop now, I think. :)

    Cancelling that order on the Dell. Keeping the RAM. I'm going to find a video card deal and get in... so much more enjoyable with better visuals. Choppy frames is still a problem, but I might get over it.
    Reply
  • Mizuchi - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    I have a generic laptop that I bought from Hugebee Corp (forgot the name of their smaller retail online storefront) that seemed to be an ECS model with a P4 2.8 GHz w/HT, 1GB mem, 5400 RPM drive and 9600 Pro. I'll see how it runs at it's native res, 1280x800 (WSXGA I think), and see if it's smooth enough.


    As for settings with my 2500+ XP Barton, 512MB, 7200 RPM (8MB Cache), 9700 Pro system, I'm running 1280x1024 with LOD, Shaders enabled (sub options off), and everything else min or off. These settings seem to run the fastest. Getting ~60 FPS normally... I guess I am fretting too much over crowded areas and upon landing from flight.

    For reasons unknown, the game runs choppier at lower resolutions. I went as far as restart my system with the lower res saved for my next log on and it still seemed choppier, just to prove that something was wrong. My monitor drivers are installed and working and it runs at 60 Hz at all supported resos...
    Reply
  • BopTop - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    Finally some benchmarks on MMO's. I'll agree with the previous posters, although I don't play it, I would also like to see EQ2 broken down.

    As an aside, I've read there's also been an issue with Intel's speedstepping cpu's to cause players to alternatively speed up and slow down ingame. This has actually led to accusations of speed hacking and bannings. Would be interested to know if this is a legitamate bug or a cover-up excuse.
    Reply
  • Kouri - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    Great article, it's very difficult to bench WoW.
    Too bad you don't have any mobile GPU benchmarks. I've been trying to figure out how to get the best quality/performance ratio out of my Dell Inspiron 9100 (/w a Radeon Mobility 9700 128MB) for a while now. Just going outside and doing normal quests you can get away with a lot of the higher quality settings, but going into cities or encountering a large number of players will get you killed (I think having lower texture settings really helps here).
    Reply
  • ElFenix - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    thanks for throwing in an AXP! Reply
  • darfur - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    This is just to the person who asked why their AA doesn't work in game. You need to disable the full screen glow effect, then AA should work just fine. Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    "Oh, one more question. Why don´t you write anythink about the command rate (1T or 2T) you used - it´s quite important! And if I remember correctly a tRas of 10 is not optimal for NF4 boards. I think its 7 or so. Possibly there are similar problems with the P4-setup."

    #25, I noticed on my Soltek SL-K8AN2E-GR motherboard with Mushkin PC3200 that the tRas makes about no difference whether it's set at 8, 9, 10 or 11. The difference in memory benchmarks was quite negligible. However, command rate (going from 2T to 1T made an obvious difference.)

    One thing I'd like to comment on ... for WoW, I upgraded from my old GeForce FX 5200 to a MSI GeForce 6600GT, and let's say that WoW acts WORSE on my 6600GT. I did raise the graphics settings, but even then, the card has no problem handling them. What it tends to do is this:

    www.aikouka.com/wow_crap.jpg

    The screen is flipped horizontally and then rotated 180 degrees, not to mention a ton of textures are missing. This is one of the "better looking" WoW screw-ups that I get on my new card, and what's even better is when I get the beautiful stop error x8E on nv4_disp.dll :P. It's quite annoying.
    Reply
  • Gholam - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    By the way, there's another repeatable scenario that you can benchmark on: flight. Take a bat/gryphon/whatever, preferrably along one of the longer paths, and measure the FPS as you go from point A to point B. Since the path is the same, results should be more or less comparable - players running by below fall into the margin of error :) Reply
  • Malladine - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    Ok, i take that back. It did slow down noticeably when large numbers of people were around, say 100+

    AH was usually ok, but tping into IF took 30 secs to become smooth, i assume due to loading all the gfx
    Reply
  • Malladine - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    Before quitting a month or so ago, I ran this game from release @ 1600x1200 with everything maxed out and it was always smooth.

    AMDXP300+
    1gb PC2700
    9800 non pro
    Reply
  • digit - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    my bad, just checked, pci-x 16 slot, sorry Reply
  • digit - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    #23
    did you check the motherboard specs on that computer?
    when i was looking at them to get one for my girlfreind the motherboard didnt have an agp or pci-x slot for an addon video card.
    i could be wrong though...
    Reply
  • g33k - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    Typo on pg 4. "Thankfully from a performance perspective, the Radeon 9800 Pro behaves very similarly to the X700 Pro (a big slower, but nothing huge)" Reply
  • ppi - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the article, I would however have one comment.

    The test itself does not show it, but in practice the game is quite CPU dependant, especially in areas where it counts - when the game gets crowded.

    My resoning behind this is that when I'm increasing or decreasing resolution by one step, performance difference is always minimal in any realistic scenario.

    I'm not sure how to test this, though. Maybe if you could stuff a full raid (40 ppl) in some corner of the game. I'm quite sure CPU dependancy would then be MUCH more pronounced.
    Reply
  • Hans Maulwurf - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    "I'm all about getting a lot of bang for the buck and here's what kind of system I chose to get"
    -Well, you shouldn´t buy a Dell.

    Anand, great review. I had to build a PC for EQ2 some time ago and couldn´t find any benchmarks. This WoW benches would have helped. Thank you!

    What I don´t understand is why Blizzard offers no benchmark for WoW. It would be very usefull. I thinks your benches are like the flyby UT-bench (though it´s not your fault - anything else is impossible for you), but a botmatch-like bench would be more interisting. I guess Blizzard could build a good benmark level with ease.

    Oh, one more question. Why don´t you write anythink about the command rate (1T or 2T) you used - it´s quite important! And if I remember correctly a tRas of 10 is not optimal for NF4 boards. I think its 7 or so. Possibly there are similar problems with the P4-setup.
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    I almost thought that was a downgrade until I read you plan on adding memory/video. Not too bad a deal but I almost feel compelled to ask "why?" when its not significantly different than your previous system. Im still using the same XP 2400+ for ages yet get a consistent 30+ fps just about everywhere (discounting large towns where it will drop to 15, but still... what kind of computer does good in Ironforge when there are 50 chars on screen?). No jittering at all.
    Reply
  • Mizuchi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Great article. This was exactly what I had been wanting to know, but it came 1 day too late, as I've already ordered a system without any recommendations.

    I am on a two year old 2500+ XP Barton with 512 MB PC2700, 80GB 7200RPM 8MB Cache, Radeon 9700 Pro system. General gaming away from many players is smooth, but going through the Crossroads, Origrammar, Ironforge, and flying on a gryphon/wyvern would be terribly choppy. I would guesstimate where I would run by holding down the movement keys during lag and then wait a second for an update and continue until I did what I had to.

    It is also a pain to alt+tab out to use Thottbot, which is why I so rarely use it... (I end up being the one of the newbs to beg in /1 (general chat) for hints).

    Along with the new system I've bought, I ordered extra RAM (2x512 Cosair Value Select $93 shipped from Chiefvalue.com) in order to multi-task better. And plan on looking up a good priced 6600 GT card.

    I'm all about getting a lot of bang for the buck and here's what kind of system I chose to get:

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    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Just a quick FYI: Level of Detail (LOD) has nothing to do with the textures. LOD is a ploygon scaling algorithm, so as you get closer to an object more polygons will be added to make it look more realistic. Done properly, it should be hard to spot. Unfortunately, doing LOD properly is very difficult.

    With the high-end GPUs, polygon performance generally isn't enough of a problem to make enabling LOD necessary. Lower end CPUs and GPUs can benefit, of course. In the past, I've seen LOD have less than a 10% performance impact, so I'm happier leaving it enabled in most games. (Not that most games actually expose LOD as a tweakable setting....)
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    I wholeheartedly agree with the Mac statements after playing it on a Mac myself. I have a 12" PowerBook Rev. A(867mhz G4, GF4 MX420, 640MB RAM, etc), and the performance I get out of WoW while on the road is abysmal(single digit frame rates when more than a handful of characters are on the screen). Just for comparison's sake, I loaded up WoW on a somewhat similar PC(AXP 2100+, GF2MX original, 768MB DDR, etc), and there's simply no comparison between the two; just eyeballing the FPS has the PC at well over 2x the performance. I even managed to isolate the CPUs in all of this, with the PowerBook almost never hitting 100% CPU utilization in this test(it hovered around 80% or so), meaning the PowerBook should have the edge over the PC, but as I stated before it was losing badly.

    I have a feeling a lot of this has to do with the fact that the Mac version is using an OpenGL renderer while the PC is using DirectX, but still 50% is insane. It beats not having WoW at all, but there's still some sort of large bottleneck in there, and I'm fairly sure it's all related to the graphics subsystems.
    Reply
  • civilgeek - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    I too would like to see a review like this for Everquest II. I don't play WOW and have not seen its graphics first hand but from the looks of the cards\resolutions that are being used in this review... Everquest is putting a lot more stress on the cards. I know that every video card I have seen thus far will crawl to a halt with the graphics turned up to Extreme Quality at 1280x1024. It would be very interesting to see where the bottle necks are and what card would do the best in this scenario. Reply
  • gotsmack - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    When measuring fps, could you also show the most common lowest fps achieved?

    I want to see what the lowest will be, if I upgrade my hardware.
    Reply
  • trs80m1 - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Great article, though I was disappointed to see that the ATI 9600XT (my card, of course) got left off. Hope you get a chance to add that, since I'd like to keep that card when I build a new A64 system soon.

    Two other requests: City of Heroes performance review, and how does the Internet connection affect framerate? i.e. Cable vs DSL vs Dial-up

    Thanks again!
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    I dont think WoW even supports AA, at least on my card (read above). I force enable it outside and it works up to the character selection screen, but in game it goes away (back to jaggies). What gives? Reply
  • Glayde - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Hey I want to say thanks for doing comparisons on a game I play, it's hard to compare other benchmarks to actual results i'd get in game.

    One thing I'd like to ask about though, none of your tests were with AA enabeled? (since AA isn't changed in-game in WoW, you need to do it out of game).

    Reply
  • cHodAXUK - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Nice article, how about a look at EQ2 and DAoC Catacombs as well? The later has just had a major DX9 engine upgrade and all the old art/textures/models have been overhauled. Reply
  • Gholam - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Heh, approaching Orgrimmar auction house/bank area in prime time really puts the stress on any system :) I have a Winchester running at 2.6GHz and a 6800GT PCIe at 420/1200, and it's still a little choppy there, especially on initial approach, although I suspect that is due to bunches of textures being loaded. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    For this particular test LOD didn't dramatically influence performance, but you all right, if it does annoy you turning the option off definitely helps.

    sbuckler

    That comment was made for lower clocked Northwoods, I've made the appropriate clarification in the review.

    Illissius

    The big difference ends up being in overall smoothness of gameplay, which is determined by minimum frame rates as well as averages. Unfortunately due to the nature of the test being non deterministic not all of the minimum frame rates make total sense, thus we left those statistics out.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • WooDaddy - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    My favorite part about the review is on the last page:
    "And as always we found that the Extreme Edition is a waste of money"

    I think anyone who is BUILDING a computer who uses a Intel processor for GAMING is nucking futz! I mean how many AT reviews do you have to read until you get it in your think skull that Intel is absolutely not the best way to go for gaming!?!</rant off>

    Sorry about that... Seriously, though. Good review. Time to upgrade the Ti4200 128Mb. I've been waiting for a review like this.
    Reply
  • Illissius - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    The 6600GT is only 15% slower than the 6800GT? That seems rather very odd... Reply
  • OrSin - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Alittle off subject can we get beachmarks with some RTS games too. Thier was time when they were all 2d games, but now alot of them are 3d now. Kohan 2, and Axis and Allies both use the Grybo engine. This engine is used in quite a few RTS games. Most games have in game films so you can re-run the film to test thier game play.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Interesting, I might have to try that some time, thanks for the quick reply on resolutions... might let me see a wider FoV, useful for PvP. Reply
  • SDA - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Nice, thorough article. I was surprised at how competitive the 6600GT was with higher-end cards in WoW... looks like it'd match or outperform the X800 Pro across the board. Thanks to the CPU scaling section, I can come to a fairly safe conclusion that this isn't because of other system bottlenecks.

    I tend to agree with #2/7 on LOD. If LOD isn't invisible or damned near it, I disable it immediately. It hurts my brain to see a blob morph into a tree.

    Question on widescreen: how does WoW generate the widescreen picture? That is, is it horizontally stretched or vertically clipped relative to the 4:3 image, or is it actually the same with more added on on the sides?
    Reply
  • sbuckler - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Why is my northwood cpu too slow? - you never tested with one so how do you know? Going by previous comparisons it's probably faster then a similarly clocked 5 or 6 series pentium. Reply
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Oh yeah, #2 is right, to be harder on the video cards, turn "Level of Detail" off. Its a feature that replaces far away textures with low detail ones, and subs in the high detail textures on the fly as you get closer. Keeping high detail textures on regardless would have been a more interesting test.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    EODetroit

    1280 x 768 is the resolution I used, it's a widescreen resolution that some folks have been using because of its 15:9 aspect ratio.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Nice article, its practically the first of its kind, since almost no one looks at MMORPGs even though they can get really low framerates at times. I heard EQ2 is the most graphically intensive game on the market, bar none, you might look into testing it too.

    WoW is now my game of choice, replacing Enemy Territories (I'm a FPS guy at heart, but WoW is fun and I'm hooked). I'm hoping that when Battlegrounds comes out, it'll be like ET on crack, except taking months to max your character instead of minutes.

    One thing... on Page 4, you list the one of the resolutions you tested as "1280x768". Is that accurate or was it really 1280x960 or 1280x1024, which seems more likely.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Woodchuck2000

    Ask and ye shall receive, the first page has been updated :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Minor points... I would add that using LOD causes a noticeable level detail change ass you walk along, you can see the obvious detail changes. I keep it *off* even if it reduces performance because otherwise mountains/trees/stuff look like they are morphing as you get closer to them :P

    Also, in large areas like the barrens setting the terrain distance to 100% makes a difference compared to Teldrassil as you showed. I still get 30 fps which is fair enough for a 9800 pro at max detail.
    Reply
  • Woodchuck2000 - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Any chance of picture rollovers? I'm finding hard to spot some that many DX8/9 differences scrolling up and down! Reply
  • vetonveton - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    I have pen intel{R} pentium{R} 4 CPU 3.00Ghz 2.99Ghz..... RAM: 1 GB.... grafic:96 MB!! Can i play WOW on this??? please guys,I need a quick answer! Reply

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