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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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  • mepenete - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Thank you so much for this article. I'm looking to buy a new sub $500 laptop and was looking at the AMD A8 processors... and then the A10's got announced.

    Regardless, I was curious of how they would stack up. Really helpful seeing how midrange equipment stacks. Looks like I'm gonna pick up an A10 laptop.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Hopefully prices come down a bit; right now the only A10-4600M laptops I can find are going for over $700. They're decent chips overall, but I'm not convinced they're better than a dual-core Sandy Bridge with GT 540M. The Acer I used is clearly not the best representative of that market, as the 13.3" chassis is quite thin and just can't cool the CPU+GPU well enough to avoid throttling; pretty much any 15.6" chassis should do better. Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    It seemed to me that the Llano laptops were marketed the same way. The A8 seemed to always be considerably more expensive than the A6 model, when the chips could not be that much different in cost. However, the A8 was usually better equipped with more ram. Reply
  • JKnows - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    Pretty cool from A10-4600M to providing the same performance as Sandy Bridge with GT 540M for half energy consumption. Is it two weeks after Trinity's launch? Too bad still not possible to find these laptops. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 02, 2012 - link

    Right and the price is not going to be nice, so later in here a GT540 optimus laptop is recommended with a link by the author. $599 MC, $679 egg.

    So long gone is the hope the A10 comes in a cheap $350 or $400 walmart special like the (low end) brazos.

    If amd is going to charge high prices for their cheapo chip, the rest of the laptop had better be awesome not some plastic creaking crud - and the screen had better be good.

    I think what we'll see instead is junky cheap builds that cost a lot.
    Reply
  • QuantumPion - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    I got the Acer laptop with the core i5 and GT540M at newegg for $499 last year. That or a similar model would probably be a better bet. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 02, 2012 - link

    Well that was a find, still hard to get at that price. Reply
  • narlzac85 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    For people planning to play into Hell or Inferno difficulties. Be aware that elite monster packs will have 3 magical abilities on Hell and 4 on Inferno. You could also run into two or more packs of monsters at once, so you could be looking at 6, 8 or more magical effects. Also, some of the monster abilities cause them to replicate. I've definitely seen 30 or more monsters at once with the entire screen covered with fire, poison and lightning.

    I don't play on a laptop or use an IGP, but I assume this could have negative impact on performance. Normal mode and even Nightmare mode would probably not be too bad though.
    Reply
  • cjb110 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    I guess this is where the Low FX setting will be most useful then.

    Certainly a play through on normal doesn't seem to really get worse near the end...on average the mob size is slightly bigger, but that's about it.

    Co-op would be another interesting test, that's probably the most demanding that the graphics would get.
    Reply
  • Herald85 - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    I'm in Nightmare Act 4 and in the Keep (Tristram equivalent, the homebase) I get over 100fps. Taking on average mobs outside the Arreat Gate drops fps to 80. And that's on a 6950 , 1900x1200 everything maxed.

    On my laptop with a 8600m GT I could play fine in Normal until I got to Act4. I can still play but it's annoyingly choppy when there are lots of mobs. The 8600m GT is mentioned as supported 'Low' on the Bliz site.

    I would LOVE to see a review done on Hell.
    Reply

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