Building the Best PC for Warframe

Warframe Official Art

Last updated: February 2019

Warframe is a free-to-play, fast-paced, 3rd-person-shooter online action game, with Player-vs-Environment (PvE) and Player-vs-Player (PvP) modes available for your enjoyment. Originally released back in 2013 for PC, the development team has continued to improve the game over time. The game now spans versions for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. This might give you a little insight into the excellent engine optimization and customization that you can expect with the game, but more of that later on.

Warframe consistently receives very positive reviews for the current state of the game, and it boasts one of the most welcoming communities for any modern online game (thanks in part to how the game promotes good cooperative play).

Whether you haven't had a chance to play the game before, you're looking to update an existing PC to get the most out of the in-game visuals, or you just want to know how much of an impact each of the game's graphical settings have on performance—this guide will lead you on the right path towards an excellent Warframe experience.

In Section 1, we discuss the official minimum and recommended specifications for Warframe, and what kind of performance each set of specs could provide.

In Section 2, we provide four balanced example builds geared toward providing enough power to run Warframe at 60 FPS with different resolutions (1080p, 1440p, and 4K).

Finally, in Section 3, we have put together a Warframe graphics settings guide that will tell you what each graphics option does, and how much each of them impacts the FPS of the game.

Warframe Image 4

Warframe Official Hardware Requirements

The official system requirements for Warframe, according to Digital Extremes, are as follows:

Minimum System Specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo e6400 or AMD Athlon x64 4000+
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS or ATI Radeon HD 3600
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage Space: 25GB
  • DirectX: 10+
  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit (32-bit not supported)

Now, on paper, you might look at this and think you can run Warframe on a toaster. In fairness, you're not far wrong—but a lot of the higher quality options still need a half-decent system, and if you're wanting to throw out insane framerates to give yourself an edge in PvP without compromising on resolution, then you'll need even more power.

Before we get into the breakdowns, it goes without saying that if you're running a top-end rig with something like an i7-9700K and an RTX 2080 Ti then you're going to be pushing out 300+ FPS (if you take the in-game limiter off) even on maximum settings at 1440p.

It is also worth noting that different game areas and modes do give a different level of performance. For the comparison shots in the settings guide below, we've used some of the (relatively) early mission areas to give everyone a solid baseline to go off; yet, by the time you end up hitting some of the newer environments, you will see a larger difference (which is the main reason for us providing a range of FPS percentage changes to expect).

Warframe Image 1

Example Warframe PC Builds

These builds are designed to provide sufficient computing power for playing Warframe at 60+ FPS (or 100+ FPS, where noted) at 1080p, 1440p, or 4K resolution.

There is a difference between PvE and PvP performance, based on the speed and number of players which are often in your field of view at any time (hard to quantify, but can be around 10% difference in average output). Plus, some of the newer areas (from the Fortuna update) are graphically more intensive, usually to the tune of up to 30-40% less frames at 4K, with the intensity of the impact scaling down to around 10-15% at 1080p. This is why the example builds have been fundamentally designed with the Fortuna update in mind.

If you're not sure what resolution you want to play at (or how the different resolutions compare to each other), then take a look at our monitor resolution explanation page.

If you're not sure what frame rate you want to play at (or what frame rate is), then take a look at our FPS explanation page.

NOTE: Frame rates above your monitor's refresh rate will only by possible by disabling all forms of Vsync and turning off the game's FPS cap in its settings.

1080p 60 FPS [Low Settings] Warframe Build ($400)

For those of you on a tight budget that still want to play Warframe on a PC at a smooth frame rate, this is the build for you. This is the lowest-tier build that we feel can comfortably promise consistent 60+ FPS in Warframe at 1080p while playing with all graphics settings down to their lowest settings (or off, where applicable).

If you’re looking to play with Medium or High settings in MHW at 720p or 900p, this is also the build for you. Do note: While B320 and B350 motherboards are compatible with Ryzen+ chips (and preferable for this build due to their low cost), they may require a BIOS update in order to achieve that compatibility—check with the retailer to ensure that you are getting an already-updated motherboard.

CPU: AMD R5 2400G
Motherboard: ASRock AB350M-HDV
RAM: 4GB DDR4 2400
Storage: 1TB Seagate HDD
Power Supply: Corsair CX450
CPU Cooler: Stock
Case: Fractal Design Focus G
Operating System: Windows 10

1080p 60 FPS [High Settings] Warframe Build ($550)

For those essentially just looking to play the game, happily you can get there without breaking the bank when setting everything in game to the High preset. The parts selected allow for some moderate overclocking to, if you're wanting to squeeze out a little more performance!

Do note: in some areas of the game, this build is capable of running higher than 60 FPS at 1080p. But as we want to ensure at least 60 FPS for the entire experience, here's what we've come up with:

CPU: AMD R5 1500X
Graphics Card: GTX 1050
Motherboard: ASRock AB350M-HDV
RAM: 8GB DDR4 2400
Storage: 2TB Western Digital HDD
Power Supply: Corsair CX450
CPU Cooler: Stock
Case: Antec Gaming Series One
Operating System: Windows 10

1440p 60 FPS / 1080p 100 FPS [High Settings] Warframe Build ($950)

This is where the great optimization done by the developers really starts to show! Do note: you must have a monitor with a refresh rate above 60 to take full advantage of getting 100+ FPS in Warframe.

With some decent overclocking, this set-up should be capable of over 120 FPS in Warframe at 1080p with all settings turned up to their maximum.

CPU: AMD R5 2600X
Graphics Card: GTX 1060 6GB
Motherboard: MSI B450-A Pro
RAM: 16GB DDR4 2400
Storage 1: 256GB Adata SU800 SSD
Storage 2: 2TB Western Digital HDD
Power Supply: SeaSonic M12II 620
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4
Case: NZXT S340 Elite
Operating System: Windows 10

4K 60 FPS / 1440p 100 FPS [High Settings] Warframe Build ($1400)

Considering how great the various zones look, you might be surprised to hear that you don't need a supercomputer to really show the game at its fullest at high resolutions and frame rates!

CPU: Intel i5-9600K
Graphics Card: RTX 2070
Motherboard: MSI Z390-A PRO
RAM: 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4 3200
Storage 1: 500GB Crucial MX500 SSD
Storage 2: 2TB Western Digital HDD
Power Supply: EVGA Supernova 750 G3
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U14S
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro
Operating System: Windows 10

Warframe Image 3

Warframe Graphics Settings and Performance Guide

This section takes a close look at the graphical options in Warframe, and their effects on the game’s performance.

The ‘performance impact’ in each subsection below is the measured difference in average FPS between playing the game with all settings at their highest and turning only the setting in question down to the lowest (or off) while leaving all others untouched.

It is also worth pointing out that the performance impact is not necessarily perfectly additive. So if disabling one setting increases FPS by 10% and disabling another increases FPS by 10%, disabling both would not be expect to increase performance by 20%. Instead, the increase would likely be somewhere from 12-18% total.

As an additional last point before we get into it, there is a difference between PvE and PvP performance—based on the connection speed and the number of players which are in your field of view at any given time. Plus, some of the newer areas (from the Fortuna update) are graphically more intensive, usually to the tune of up to 30-40% less frames at 4K, with the intensity of the impact scaling down to around 10-15% at 1080p. This is fundamentally why, although comparison shots below are in the standard mission areas, the example builds above have been designed with the Fortuna update in mind.

Quality Preset

A simpler option for those of you who don't like messing between various settings, there are Low, Medium and High presets already in the game for your use. Most obvious changes come in lighting and texture detail.

Performance Impact: ~100% between Low and High

handle
Warframe Low Quality
Warframe High Quality
Drag the bar to compare Quality Preset on Low and High.

Runtime Tessellation

This setting allows for higher detail models to be loaded based on the player position in the world. If you're mainly a melee player, you might find this setting easier to turn off so that the engine doesn't have to work so hard placing you as you're zipping around the world. If you're like me and prefer sniping, leave it on for some lovely details when scoped!

Performance Impact: ~5% between Off and On

Local and Blur Reflections

Again, the impact here is very different depending on play style. If you prefer ranged, then you can feel free to leave this on. If you love your melee and like to be in motion, turn these off if you want to save yourself some performance.

Performance Impact: ~5% between Off and On

Volumetric Lighting

This setting is all about those lovely light rays and fog effects. As a lot of these environments have a significant amount of both, turning this off can really help your performance if you're struggling. In the example shot, take a look at how the smoke lights up significantly brighter when this is turned on as the light interacts with it, whereas with this turned off you can hardly notice the smoke at all.

Performance Impact: ~5% between Off and On

handle
Warframe Volumetric Lighting Off
Warframe Volumetric Lighting On
Drag the bar to compare Volumetric Lighting Off and On.

High Dynamic Range

HDR displays a broader spectrum of colors. This is something that's really nice if you have a good quality monitor capable of HDR—otherwise, it's a bit of a waste. In the example shot, the open space with significantly different light levels results in a noticeably different scene with HDR off, especially with the cavern walls and the amount of light being cast and highlighted.

Performance Impact: ~10% between Off and On

handle
Warframe High Dynamic Range Off
Warframe High Dynamic Range On
Drag the bar to compare High Dynamic Range Off and On.

Adaptive Exposure

Like HDR, this can have a very different impact on your performance depending on the environment—but it's more about how naturally light interacts with the environment, and looks balanced from the perspective of the player. In the example shot, it's very obvious from the direct light sources, yet the observant among you might be able to pick out the differences on the cavern wall as well.

Performance Impact: ~5% between Off and On

handle
Warframe Adaptive Exposure Off
Warframe Adaptive Exposure On
Drag the bar to compare Adaptive Exposure Off and On.

Glare and Film Grain

Glare is something you won't notice under normal circumstances; you really only pick up on it in environments where you go directly from dark indoors to very bright outdoors. But even then, it does not have a noticeable performance impact, so it's personal choice. Likewise for film grain. It's more noticeable at 4K, but at 1080p and 1440p it's not really in the way, like (for example) what you might see in Mass Effect.

Performance Impact: No noticeable FPS change between Off and On

Ambient Occlusion

This can have a high impact on your performance if you enter a large space with lots of detail, mainly because this setting handles how light interacts with surfaces. In the comparison, look at how having a little more accuracy on light and shadows can have an impact on how the mountains, buildings, and plants appear.

Performance Impact: ~10% between Off and On

handle
Warframe Ambient Occlusion Off
Warframe Ambient Occlusion On
Drag the bar to compare Ambient Occlusion Off and On.

Dynamic Resolution

By default, this is set to 100%, meaning the game is rendered at whatever resolution of monitor you're playing on. However, you can lower this down to as much as 50% of the original resolution, which (as you might imagine) can have a high performance benefit at the cost of a significant loss in quality. (This loss in quality can be a bit hard to detect in our screenshots, which are below the in-game resolution.)

Performance Impact: ~25-75% between 50 and 100 (depending on native monitor resolution)

handle
Warframe Dynamic Resolution 50
Warframe Dynamic Resolution 100
Drag the bar to compare Dynamic Resolution on 50 and 100.

Shadow Quality

Does what it says on the tin: impacts the quality of the shadows. This is not very noticeable on player shadows, but has a very noticeable impact when combined with having other light-specific settings enabled also.

Performance Impact: ~5% between Low and High

handle
Warframe Shadow Quality Low
Warframe Shadow Quality High
Drag the bar to compare Shadow Quality on Low and High.

Filtering and Anti-Aliasing

Lastly, these settings have been grouped together as—although there are 4 different options all-told—going from the maximum options to everything turned off will only total to a 8-12% jump in performance. Not to mention that you can actual reduce these as you go for higher in-game/monitor resolutions, as it can cancel out the need for additional smoothness due to the massive increase in detail displayed.

Performance Impact: ~10% between Off and on Anti-Aliasing Anisotropic (16x) with TAA 8x (and 100% TAA Sharpen)

handle
Warframe Filtering and Anti-Aliasing Off
Warframe Filtering and Anti-Aliasing Anisotropic (16x) with TAA 8x (and 100% TAA Sharpen)
Drag the bar to compare Filterting Off and on Anisotropic (16x) with TAA 8x (and 100% TAA Sharpen).

Choosing the Best Settings for Warframe

If your computer can achieve a steady 60 FPS with all the settings turned up at your desired resolution, then we recommend keeping things as they are.

However, if you’re not reaching 60 FPS, or if you have a specialized monitor with a higher refresh rate and want to get even better performance, there are certain settings you can lower in Warframe to improve your framerate without sacrificing too much in the way of visuals.

Unfortunately, as we said above the image sliders, lowering multiple settings will not have a straightforward cumulative effect on framerate: if dropping one setting gives 10% improvement, and dropping another gives 10%, lowering both will not give 20%, but possibly between 12-18%.

Improve FPS considerably with little to no impact on visuals

  • Turn off Volumetric Lighting and/or Adaptive Exposure
  • Turn smaller details like Shadow Quality down

Improve FPS by larger amounts with moderate impact to visuals

  • Turn off High Dynamic Range
  • Tweak Filtering and Anti-Aliasing options to suit your GPU and desired resolution
  • Use the Medium preset

Last Resorts

If doing all of the steps above still does not achieve your desired framerate, try some of the following:

  • Turn off Filtering and Anti-Aliasing
  • Drop down the Dynamic Resolution below the 100 default
  • Lower any remaining settings to at least Medium
  • Very last resort: Use the Low preset

If you try all of the above and still can’t run the game as smoothly as you would like, you may need to upgrade your hardware.

Warframe Image 2

Conclusion

If you cannot tell by this point, we were very impressed by the overall quality of the optimization of Warframe on PC, which highlights the benefits of seeing the game in its current form after being out for just over 5 years. There's a whole host of options for players to customize their settings specifically to their needs—and it's free-to-play too, so no excuses to not go and try it yourself if you haven't already!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or email us at contact@logicalincrements.com.

About Us

Chris is a contributing writer for Logical Increments, and has worked in the gaming and technology industries as a community manager for many years, as well as a live streamer. He has been building PC's for over 11 years.

When Chris is not here creating builds and guides, he can be found at University, studying for a BSc in Video Production as he makes the transition over to the film industry from gaming. You can read more about his journey on his website.

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