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Do you want a brand new Nvidia GeForce GTX 460? A video card so fit for playing StarCraft 2 that it actually comes with a free SC2 trial coupon? The very one we just reviewed here and raved about as being perfect for StarCraft 2, capable of taking on the game even at the highest quality graphics settings?

If you do, it’s time to sharpen your pencil. We will ship a new, sealed in box, EVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB to the creator of the best StarCraft themed flipbook animation. If you are not familiar with the concept, here’s a good sample video to get your started:

How to enter the contest:

  1. Draw an original StarCraft-inspired flipbook animation.
  2. Make a video like the one shown above.
  3. Submit your entry by either sending it directly to Anderson@SC2Blog.com or by posting on our Facebook page for others to see and comment on!

On August 21st, we will post the qualifiers here for our readers to vote on. Voting will last for 4 days, and the entry receiving the most votes will win the card! Runner ups will not go unnoticed, and will get some awesome StarCraft-related prizes as well.

GTX460 Box Back

What are you waiting for? Get arting!

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With StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty experiencing phenomenal growth numbers after going live just ten days ago, Blizzard’s ability to keep the servers live and available worldwide for each of the localized versions and various licensing plans is nothing short of a phenomenal achievement.

Blizzards Epic Achievement

That being said, Blizzard has already released two StarCraft 2 patches and is keeping an updated list of known issues here. Up until now, none of the documented issues, fixes and patches have affected unit abilities or multiplayer gameplay. However, playing a 2v2 with a flickering screen and scrambled voice communication is clearly not the optimal gaming experience.

StarCraft 2 patches so far:

PATCH 1.0.1

Bug Fixes


*     Campaign saves have been optimized.

*     Fixed an issue with sound not playing on some 7.1 systems.


PATCH 1.0.2


Bug Fixes

*     Fixed an issue where campaign mission victories would not always trigger properly.

*     Fixed an issue where some players were unable to access single player features.

The list of technical issues acknowledged by Blizzard at this point, however, is significantly longer:

1. Graphical issues

Issue:

You may experience random corrupted graphical issues affecting units, structures, terrain and transmission.

Solution:

None at the moment.

Issue:

You may experience corrupted graphical issues when the Paged Pool Memory is running low.

Solution:

Quit unnecessary background applications and processes then restart the game client. For additional information please read the following article:

Issue:

You may see missing buttons to create previously unlocked units, characters become white spheres or only able to start older missions on the Starmap.

This is due to save game corruptions and connectivity issues when saving.

Solution:

This is being patched shortly to prevent further occurrences but for now you should attempt to load an older save game that is not corrupt.

If this is unsuccessful you will need to restart the campaign.

2. Sound and Voice Chat issues

Issue:

In-game sound might not play properly on some hardware devices set to 7.1 Surround on Windows Vista / Windows 7.

Solution:

Set sound output speaker options to 5.1 Surround or lower.

Issue:

Players are able to send but not receive in-game voice on Windows 7 computers equipped with the Realtek HD Audio sound card when the Output Device in the Sounds Menu option is set to Speakers.

Solution:

None at the moment.

Issue:

Changing the OS speaker mode on Windows Vista and Windows 7 whilst the game is running causes all in-game sounds to stop.

Solution:

None at the moment. Temporary solution: Change the OS speaker mode prior to launching the game.

3. Galaxy Editor issues

Issue:

The Terrain editor may lag or stutter when dragging the mouse around the map.

Solution:

None at the moment.

Issue:

Changing certain values in the Galaxy Editor is causing a crash while in detail view.

Solution:

None at the moment.

4. Mac issues

Issue:

The game may occasionally crash on OS X 10.6 with Nvidia drivers.

Solution:

None at the moment.

Issue:

Playing with an USB headset will drastically lower in-game performance (FPS).

Solution:

None at the moment.

5. Miscellaneous

Issue:

A language pack error may occur under certain conditions.

Solution:

Ensuring your system clock is correct can help resolve the error.

Issue:

Players will be unable to download or use the digital installer when attempting to download or install the game to a hard drive formatted in FAT32.

Solution:

Download or install the digital client to a NTFS formatted hard drive.

Issue:

Error Message: „The Battle.net Account does not include an associated copy of Starcraft 2.” after registration of the CD-Key.

Solution:

Please change the password at the battle.net website. Make sure you use the correct game client EU game client for the EU StarCraft II Account or US/US

Blizzard is not the only company facing pressure over StarCraft 2′s performance, as hardware manufacturers scramble to update their drivers to be compatible with the game. ATI stands out after releasing the Catalyst 10.7a Beta Driver virtually solely for the purpose of supporting anti-aliasing in StarCraft 2 – a feature we had no problem with when reviewing Nvidia’s Geforce GTX 460 and GTX 470 graphics cards using a standard set of drivers.

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The results are in: according to our very recent poll, 48% of the our readers have hardware concerns that might prevent them from fully enjoying StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty.

StarCraft 2 HardwarePoll Results - a Thousand Votes

For many, getting to play StarCraft 2 is as easy as going to the store, buying and installing the game; for others, who have fallen out of the race to maintain a modern computer, capable of playing new games, it may not be so simple. Now that StarCraft 2 is finally out, the time has come to get some new gear, and one of the main things to consider is the graphics card.

Nvidia has just released a new graphics card – the GeForce GTX 460 – targeted at those wishing to get a cost-efficient gaming system without breaking the bank, and we will review it here today. As well, we’re going to go over some more hardware and recommend the best parts for a system built to play StarCraft 2.

At $199 ($229 for the 1GB variant) and including a trial coupon for the game, this card is positioned to compete in the mid-range graphics card arena and provide exactly the right amount of GPU-juice for StarCraft 2. Can the card really live up to this claim? The guys at Nvidia have sent us a shiny new EVGA GeForce GTX 460 with 1GB of memory to test just that.

THE CARD

First of all, let’s go over the card’s story and specs. If technobabble isn’t your thing, skip right ahead to the results down the line.

The GTX 460 is Nvidia’s second Fermi (GF104 core) graphics card, released after the GeForce GTX 465 – a more expensive variant that was essentially a stripped down version of Nvidia’s higher-end GeForce GTX 480 card. Not priced competitively, it didn’t do so well in the market.

The 460 is everything the 465 should have been in the mid-range market: as a slightly updated design, it performs more efficiently per clock cycle; it also has a higher price/performance ratio than the rest of Nvidia’s GTX line. It is indeed priced very competitively, performing better than the equivalent AMD model – the Radeon 5830. Not only that, it also overclocks like a champ: enough to outperform much more expensive cards and go toe to toe with its older and more powerful brother, the GeForce GTX 470; but more on that later.

SPECIFICATIONS

 —————————— GTX 460 1GB GDDR5   |   GTX 460 768MB GDDR5—————————

Graphics Clock                             675                                 675

Processor Clock                          1300                               1300

Memory Clock                            1800                               1800

Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)         37.8                                37.8

Memory Interface width             256 bit                            196 bit

Memory Bandwitdh (GB/sec)      115.2                               86.4

Maximum Power Draw                160W                              160W

Price                                           $229                               $199

TEST SYSTEMS

We tested 3 different cards in different price ranges, attempting to isolate GPU performance and determine the sweet spot for StarCraft 2 gaming. As well, two different CPUs were used to evaluate the impact of the CPU on performance.

System #1: Old/Mainstream

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 @ 3.6GHz
  • Motherboard: Asus P5B
  • Hard Disk: Intel X-25V SSD X 2 (RAID 0)
  • Memory: Kingston DDR2 800MHz 1GB X 4
  • Video Driver: Nvidia – 258.98 WHQL; ATI – Catalyst 10.7
  • Operating System: Windows 7 64 bit, freshly installed

System #2: New/High-End

  • CPU: Intel i7 860 @ 3.8 GHz
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3
  • Hard Disk: Intel X-25M SSD
  • Memory: Kingston DDR3 1600 MHz 2GB X 2
  • Video Driver: Nvidia – 258.98 WHQL; ATI – Catalyst 10.7
  • Operating System: Windows 7 64 bit, freshly installed

THE TEST

Two different replays were used. The first is of a typical 15 minute 1v1 game on Kulas Ravine, testing normal gameplay conditions with two players only. The second is a 2v2 game, meant to test our systems in an environment with 200-food armies clashing.

We tested the GTX 460 under many conditions: 1680X1050 using the high graphics option preset and high texture levels; 1920X1200 using the ultra graphics preset and ultra texture levels; 1920X1200 ultra with 4xAA/8xAF; and 1920X1200 with 4xAA/8xAF – overclocked. We also tested the impact of the windowed fullscreen mode on performance.

As well, we compared the GTX 460 using 1920X1200 ultra against ATI’s low-range Radeon HD 5750 card and Nvidia’s high-range GTX 470 card.

You can download both replays here:

1v1 | 2v2

We measured the minimum, average and maximum frames per second (FPS) in each test. The more powerful a system is, the more frames it can churn out in a given time frame. In the 1v1 game, we started measuring at minute 5:00 in the game and stopped at the end. For the 2v2 game, recording started at minute 26:00 and lasted till the end once more. If you wish to replicate our test with your system, download Fraps, play the replay until the aforementioned time point, hit the Fraps benchmark hotkey while simultaneously unpausing the game (Hotkey “P”), and let it record on “Faster” speed until the of the replay.

RESULTS

We began by benchmarking the GTX 460 and quickly noticed that it’s highly CPU-bottlenecked when tested on the main benchmarking system with the relatively old C2D E6700 CPU, even with its high overclock speed. Therefore, to make future tests more GPU-dependent, all tests were conducted with “Physics” turned off and “Effects” turned to low, as both of these options rely mostly on the CPU.

To start things off, we compared the different cards to see how the GTX 460 holds up against them. We used the highest quality settings – without anti-aliasing (AA) or anisotropic filtering (AF), as the ATI drivers don’t support them in StarCraft 2 – to make sure the different graphics cards show their strength.

Since StarCraft 2 isn’t a particularly graphics-intensive game, it’s not entirely surprising to see the $229 GTX 460 performing almost as well as the much more expensive, $350 GTX 470. It’s also easy to see that our 2v2 test was heavily influenced by the CPU, as the different cards show very little difference between them in the minimum FPS measurement.

Next, we evaluated the GTX 460′s performance using different quality settings and added a test to determine the effect of fullscreen windowed mode as well.

While lowering the resolution and decreasing the quality clearly has an effect on speed, the GTX 460 is more than able to take on the high resolution and maximum graphics quality settings and allow for smooth play. Throwing anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering into the mix and further increasing image quality still allows an acceptable gaming experience, though the intensive 2v2 test brings the minimum FPS level below what we’d recommend for serious gameplay. For those of you who are playing on struggling systems, it is important to note that windowed fullscreen mode takes a significant toll on performance. While it makes quickly tabbing out of the game easy, it’s definitely not worth it if it means the game itself becomes less playable. (Extra note: using an SSD makes tabbing out and back in, in normal fullscreen mode, much faster!)

Next comes the overclock test. As we mentioned, the GTX 460 is an amazing overclocker. Using the EVGA Precision overclocking program, our card easily achieved a 21% increase in core clock and 18% increase in memory clock – and we were quite conservative about pushing it! Using GPUTool and HWmonitor to stress test and monitor the card, we quickly increased the speeds until finding a stable point.

And off we were again to test the card! We chose to compare the most intensive graphics settings, running the ultra quality with AA and AF benchmark.


The GTX 460 benefits very nicely from overclocking, though the system is still clearly bottlenecked by the CPU. The most amazing find in our overclocking test, though, is the fact that the GTX 460 is almost completely unfazed by the extra speeds! Temperatures and fan speed at maximum operation levels remain almost exactly the same as when operating at standard levels; a 2-3C degree change at most, and almost 30C degrees below the maximum operating temperature as stated by Nvidia. What this means is that this level of overclocking can be applied indefinitely, increasing the value of this incredible card even further.

Lastly, we tested the GTX 460 on a system with an extremely fast CPU – Intel’s recent i7 design, running at 3.8GHz. It doesn’t get much faster than that, and it showed in this benchmark.

As we suspected, the mainstream system with the relatively old CPU is indeed quite bottlenecked by it. When installed on the newer system, the GTX 460 shows just how held back it was before, and confirms that it is more than sufficient to handle anything StarCraft 2 can throw at it. To get more information about different CPUs and their effect on StarCraft 2 performance, check out Techspot’s excellent writeup on the subject.

At this point of our analysis, we can whole-heartedly confirm Nvidia’s claim: to play StarCraft 2 at the highest quality settings, one does not need more than Nvidia’s new ~$200 offering – the GTX 460. And not only StarCraft 2, mind you; other reviewers have already crowned the GTX 460 as the “$200 king”.

CONCLUSIONS

In order to get the best performing computer for StarCraft 2 without going overboard with the expenditure, one should get:

1) An Intel i5-760 processor – another $200 wonder. Since StarCraft 2 only utilizes two cores, quad core CPUs such as the one used in our faster test system are somewhat of an overkill for it and for most other games. The 750 is the current sweetspot for Intel CPUs – despite its four cores, its price/performance ratio is hard to beat even in a dual core limited game – and it can also be heavily overclocked, which leads us to

2) A nice CPU heatsink/fan combo. We recommend one of the following models for their high price/performance ratio, quiet idle noise levels, and relatively powerful cooling abilities. Our first test system is equipped with a Scythe Mugen 2 Rev. B, as can be seen in the picture above. Our second test system sports a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus. The Xigmatek HDT-S1283 is a nice solution that’s cheaper.

3) An LGA 1156 board such as the one in our new test system or an Asus P7P55.

4) A good graphics card. It’s hard to not recommend the GTX 460 we reviewed here – it certainly does an amazing job and can handle everything StarCraft 2 can throw at it even at the maximum quality settings. At the $200-$250 price range, choosing the GeForce GTX 460 is a no-brainer.


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