Saturday, April 13, 2013

Diablo 3 on Intel HD Graphics

Diablo 2 was one of the most successful games of all time. Gamers had to wait 12 years for its successor but finally Diablo 3 is here and the waiting was well worth it. The question is - is your computer powerful enough to deal with the hordes of hell once again? Chances are that it is, even if you have a weak video card. Yes that's right, even people with the recent generations of integrated graphics cards such as the Intel HD Graphics and the AMD integrated Radeon graphics will be able to play this popular game perfectly fine as long as they play a bit with the game settings first. What, you say it would be better to play the game, instead of playing with the settings? Well, I agree and that is why I have created this article - it explains what each of the Diablo 3 video settings means and recommends you the optimal settings for Intel HD Graphics, so that you can enjoy playing Diablo 3 without any lag or overheating issues.

Diablo 3 is a well optimized game and Intel HD Graphics can run it fine on medium settings as long as you play on a reasonable screen resolution, but the problem is that if you play on medium, your computer (especially if it's a laptop) will be put to its limits and it may overheat and even turn off to prevent further damage. For example, my laptop - HP ProBook 4330s with Intel Core i3 2310m CPU, Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated video and 8 GB RAM, was able to produce 55 frames per second (FPS) on 1280x720 resolution and low settings in Diablo 3, but this made the temperatures of the CPU and the integrated video go up to 80°C, which is a bit high according to me. So my advice is that, especially if you are on a laptop, you should not try playing Diablo 3 on the maximum possible settings and/or frame rate your PC can handle, but on balanced settings and frame rate that both provide smooth gameplay for you and do not put your computer to its limits.

The screenshot below (click to enlarge it) demonstrates the optimal settings I have found for my Intel HD Graphics 3000 equipped laptop. Using these settings I enjoy smooth, lag free gameplay in Diablo 3 and they are also easy on my laptop - the temperatures never go above 70°C. Below the screenshot you will find what do these settings actually mean and why they proved to be the best option for computers with integrated Intel HD and AMD Radeon Graphics or for those with weak discrete video cards.

Diablo 3 Optimal Video Settings for Intel HD Graphics
  1. Display - determines the mode in which the game runs and can be Fullscreen, Windowed and Fullscreen Windowed. The windowed modes may lead to drop in performance, so switch to them only when you want to take a screenshot in Diablo 3. Recommended value: Fullscreen.
  2. Resolution - specifies the resolution in which the game should run. Higher resolutions will result in clearer picture, but will also be much more heavier for your computer to handle. The main idea here is to select the lowest screen resolution that matches your screen aspect ratio. Nowadays most computer screens are widescreen with aspect ratio 16:9, so the recommended setting is 1280x720. If you happen to have a monitor with 4:3 aspect ratio, you can try 800x600 or 1024x768. The 5:4 resolution 1280 x 1024, which was very popular among desktop monitors a few years ago, is also available.
  3. Letterbox - displays the game in widescreen aspect ratio regardless of the screen resolution. If your screen is now widescreen then black stripes will appear at the top and at the bottom. It's better to leave this setting unchecked and set a resolution that matches your screen aspect ratio, as advised in point 2. Recommended value: unchecked.
  4. Vertical Sync - synchronizes your frame rate to some fraction of your monitor's refresh rate. It's important to have this on if you experience screen tearing in Diablo 3. Recommended value: checked.
  5. Max Foreground FPS - when enabled this option allows you to control the maximum number of frames per second Diablo 3 should display. This is one of the most important settings, especially if you are on a laptop and/or your computer is having overheating issues. By default the Max Foreground FPS is set to 150, which is way too much and will put almost any PC to its knees. There's no point of such high frame rate by two reasons - the first one is that the majority of LCD monitors can show up to 60 frames per second and the second is that even 30 FPS are enough for the human eye to enjoy smooth transitions and animations. Recommended value: checked and slider placed in the interval 30-40. Set it to 40 only if your CPU and GPU do not reach high temperatures.
  6. Max Background FPS - this setting specifies the maximum frames per second when Diablo 3 is not the currently active application. By default it is set to 8 and there's no reason to change that.
  7. Texture Quality - determines the clarity and size of game textures. Better texture quality requires more video memory. I have tested both settings (low and high) and there was not much difference between them. Recommended value: Low.
  8. Shadow Quality - controls whether shadows will be shown and at what quality. This is a very computationally expensive feature, so it is best to turn it off. Recommended value: Off.
  9. Physics - determines the realism of game effects and gravity and relies heavily on your processor. Recommended value: Low.
  10. Clutter Density - controls the quality of ground clutter items such as grass and foliage. Recommended value: Off.
  11. Anti-Aliasing - smooths the edges of all in game elements, but may seriously affect performance. Recommended value: Off.
  12. Low FX - when checked the number of rendered particle system effects is reduced, which may greatly improve performance and frame rate. Recommended value: checked.

These are the settings I have found optimal for my Intel HD Graphics 3000 equipped laptop. They provided smooth, lag free gameplay with nice video quality while also being easy on my laptop, allowing him to run the game cool and quiet without any overheating issues. If you have one of the newer generations of integrated graphics such as the Intel HD Graphics 4000 or something equivalent from AMD, or simply if you have a stronger discrete video card, feel free to play around with the setting to find the optimal solution for your computer. For example you can try to enable Anti-Aliasing or to increase the texture quality to high. Do not forget to monitor you frame rate and temperatures after changing each setting. To view the number of frames per second in Diablo 3, simply press Ctrl + R while playing the game. In order to track your temperatures you should run in the background a software like Hardware Info (run it in "Sensor-only" mode) and when you exit Diablo 3, take a look at the Max temperatures of the CPU and the GPU. Everything above 80°C means that you should lower one or more of the settings to ensure your computer won't overheat and turn off.

I hope you find this article helpful and you enjoy fluent Diablo 3 gameplay without overheating issues with your Intel HD Graphics (or any other integrated graphics card). Let me know if these settings work well for you, too or if you have found better Diablo 3 video settings for you computer.

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  1. Great post. My dell inspiron 1464 Overheats while playing D3. I will try lowering the FPS when i reach home after work.
    Will comment later!

    1. Non-gaming laptops often overheat when playing new games, that's why it's very important to find the optimal settings of the game for you laptop. In the case of Diablo 3 lowering the maximum FPS can indeed solve the overheating problem. Let us know if that worked for you :)