Building the Best PC for League of Legends

Last updated: May 2017

League of Legends, or LoL, is the most popular video game in the world, with millions of players online at any given time. It's a free-to-play game in which players control one "champion" on a team and face off against another team of champions, usually trying to destroy the other team's defenses and, ultimately, their "nexus".

Champions earn gold and experience throughout each match, hoping to eventually earn levels of wealth that match the money Riot Games has made from producing the game and hosting tournaments.

This guide is a detailed look at the graphical demands of League of Legends and the computer hardware required to play LoL on a number of graphical settings. If you would like to skip our in-depth analysis and just learn what to buy, go to the conclusion.

How Demanding is LoL to Run?

The good news: Compared to most modern games, League of Legends is a very easy game to run. You do not need an extremely powerful PC to play the game on high settings and at high resolutions. Let's look at how the Logical Increments tiers compare for running LoL.

What to Buy

We recommend builds in "tiers," with each tier containing the most powerful, most reliable, least expensive combination of parts for that price. We don't list the individual parts in this guide because they change frequently based on local prices and new releases.

You can see the latest individual part choices for each tier at the main guide page, which is updated regularly. Open it in a new tab to compare: Logical Increments Parts Guide

These benchmarks assume that all of the graphical settings in the game are set to their highest or turned on. You can get even better performance out of your PC if you adjust some of the graphical settings, but we explain that in more detail below.

Tier 1600x900 1920x1080 2560x1440 3840x2160*
Destitute ($170) Borderline Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Poor ($225) Smooth Playable Borderline Unplayable
Minimum ($310) Silky Smooth Very Smooth Very Smooth Smooth
Entry ($370) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Modest ($410) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Fair ($450) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Good ($530) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Very Good ($630) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Great ($750) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Superb ($840) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Excellent ($1070) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Outstanding ($1240) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Exceptional ($1670) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Enthusiast ($2100) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Extremist ($3600) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Monstrous ($4,000+) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Explanation
Below 20 FPS Unplayable Jerky animation, "lag" and "stutter".
20-30 FPS Borderline Ok for some, too "laggy" for others. AKA "Cinematic".
30-45 FPS Playable Acceptable to most people. Not very good though!
45-60 FPS Smooth Fluid animation, no "lag".
60-90 FPS Very Smooth Very smooth is very smooth to almost everyone.
Above 90 FPS Silky Smooth Criminally smooth. For hardcore and professional players.

Important note: The silky smooth rating for 4K resolution is purely academic, as there are no consumer screens available that can display more than 60 FPS on 4K resolution (as of early 2015). Your PC may be able to produce 120/144 FPS, but the screen will only display 60 of these frames if you have a 4K screen. There are 144Hz screens available, but in the 1080p and 1440p resolutions.

Logical Increments Tiers and How They Fare

Let's take a look at how the various Logical Increments tiers perform in League of Legends.

Destitute tier

We say that LoL is not a demanding game, but it might be too demanding for the Destitute tier. With a very weak CPU and a weak integrated GPU, this tier might be able to run LoL at a borderline 20-25 FPS at low resolutions such as 1600x900. But good luck running the game above that resolution.

Poor tier

With a better CPU than Destitute, and a significantly more powerful iGPU, you can expect a smooth ~50 FPS from the Poor tier at 1600x900 resolution. At 1920x1080, it should be able to produce a playable ~40 FPS.

Minimal tier

A dedicated graphics card helps a lot. At 1600x900, this tier can give silky smooth 90+ FPS. Increasing the resolution to 1920x1080 or 2560x1440 will still produce a very smooth 70-90 FPS. Even playing the game at 3840x2160 (4K) will result in a smooth ~50 FPS.

Entry tier

The Entry tier features mid-tier graphics cards, as opposed to the low-end ones in the Minimum tier. The performance jump is quite large, and it means that this tier can run LoL at silky smooth 120+ FPS at 1600x900 or 1920x1080, and ~100 FPS at 2560x1440. Playing at 4K resolution should result in a very smooth ~80 FPS, which your 4K screen would display at 60 FPS.

Modest tier

The Modest tier will achieve at least 144 FPS, which some high-end monitors can display, on all resolutions up to 2560x1440.

Fair, Good, Very Good and beyond

While performance is already excellent at the lower tiers, the performance at 4K resolution will continue to improve in the Fair and Good tiers. The Good tier should play LoL at ~125 FPS. One day, when there are 4K screens that can actually display 4K content with a framerate that is higher than 60 FPS, then these tiers will benefit League players. For now though, you buy higher tiers to play more demanding games, or for more features, and not for the LoL performance benefits at 4K resolutions. One of the features of the higher tiers is the availability of SSDs, which cut down loading times significantly: Only a few seconds to load the game or load a match, as opposed to a minute or two with HDDs.

A Note About Frame Rate (FPS)

Frames per second (FPS) measures the number of images your computer can produce every second. Higher frame rates mean that your screen will show more images per second, which means that you will see a smoother animation. Lower frame rates cause a game to appear to stutter, which is generally not enjoyable for the player.

A comparison of 50, 25, and 12.5 FPS.

For the purposes of our PC build guides, we recommend computers that will achieve 60 FPS in your game of choice. Some gamers are satisfied with frame rates as low as 30, but that depends largely on the gamer and the game.

For more information and animations explaining frame rate, please check out our Frame Rate page.

Higher Resolution for Better Gaming

A comparison of several common resolutions.

Resolution refers to the number of pixels on a screen. High resolution means more pixels and generally more space and detail, while low resolution means fewer pixels, and often less space. If you are using a typical (not high-end) laptop or an old screen, you likely have a low resolution. When comparing screens with a similar aspect ratio, it is always better to get a higher resolution screen. Higher resolution will always looks better, as you have more real estate and a sharper picture. The image below shows the difference in real estate between common resolutions.

For more information on resolutions, check our Screen Resolution page.

League of Legends Graphical Settings

League of Legends' graphical quality is based on four main settings (character quality, environment quality, effects quality, and shadows) as well as a few other settings that can be toggled on or off. The main thing to keep in mind is that higher settings will result in more impressive visuals, while lower settings will lead to improved performance if the game isn't performing as well as you'd like on the higher settings.

Each of the four main graphical settings can be set to one of five levels: Very Low, Low, Medium, High, and Very High. For those who prefer not to fuss with each individual setting, there's also a large slider that will adjust the overall graphical settings between seven levels: Very Low, Low, Medium Low, Medium, Medium High, High, and Very High.

Below is what the game looks like based on those seven overall graphical settings. Each of the following screenshots was taken at 1920x1080 resolution. Click on any of the images in this guide to see them in greater detail. If the 7 images below look too similar to make out any changes, check the zoomed-in image that compares Very Low, Medium, and Very High.

Very High

The game really feels alive at Very High. Textures are neat, lines are clear, effects dazzle, and character models properly show off the game's great art style.

High

It's difficult to detect much visual degradation between Very High and High. You may notice a performance improvement of ~2% on High compared to Very High.

Medium High

The Medium High graphical setting keeps all settings on High except shadows, which are turned to Medium. In our testing, we could not tell a significant difference between the High and Medium High visual settings in regards to either performance or visuals.

Medium

Changing to Medium settings is where you really start to see significant improvements in performance at the cost of visuals. Textures and shadows are less sharp, but performance is 15-20% better than having everything at Very High/High.

Medium Low

Medium Low might give you minor performance improvements over Medium. Expect performance ~20% better than Very High/High.

Low

Low settings set shadows to off. While the visuals are significantly worse, expect 25-30% better performance than Very High/High.

Very Low

At Very Low settings, textures are muddy, lines are jaggy, and shadows are still gone. For all its ugliness, Very Low will perform ~40% better than Very High/High.

Let's zoom in and take a closer look at Very Low, Medium, and Very High:

The differences between Very Low and Medium are immediately apparent: The textures and character model are much cleaner. The difference between Medium and Very High are more subtle, but most apparent are the improved details in the shadows and subtle character textures. Once again, click on any of the images in this guide to view them in greater detail.

Individual Graphical Settings in Greater Detail

Character Inking

One nice graphical option is Character Inking, an on-off toggle setting that puts a black outline around your champion at a minor performance cost.

You can see the outline most clearly around the bow, but you'll also see it around the rest of the champion. (This is with Character Quality set to Very High.)

Expect a ~5% performance improvement from turning off Character Inking. That said, we greatly prefer the look of the game with Character Inking on.

Character Quality

Character Quality determines how much detail appears on character models. Textures improve dramatically from Very Low to Medium, and then more subtly from Medium to Very High. Adjusting Character Quality will have a moderate impact on performance.

Along with making champions look better, Character Quality also impacts the appearance of other models, including the nexus and towers. Note the lack of detail in the objects when comparing Very Low to Very High:

Despite the serious changes it makes to the textures in the game, lowering the Character Quality does not seem to significantly improve performance. Expect a ~3% improvement lowering from Very High to Medium, or a ~5% improvement lowering from Very High all the way to Very Low.

Environment Quality

Environment Quality influences the appearance of base textures. Very Low displays muddy, pixelated textures, while the textures improve dramatically once you reach Medium and higher.

Environment Quality has a moderate impact on performance. Expect a 5-7% improvement lowering from Very High to Medium or a 7-10% improvement lowering from Very High to Very Low.

Effects Quality

Effects Quality controls how much detail is added to the effects, such as the glowing effects on the nexus as shown above. There's a clear progression from Very Low to Medium to Very High.

Effects Quality has a very large impact on performance. Expect a ~15-20% improvement lowering Effects Quality from Very High to Medium, and a ~30% improvement lowering it all the way to Very Low.

Shadows

Depending on the number of objects on screen that cast shadows, the Shadows setting can have a big impact on performance in LoL. Turning shadows off or setting them to Low could give you a significant boost to FPS, though turning them off completely causes the world to look significantly less detailed.

Other objects in the world cast shadows as well. Turning on Shadows significantly enhances the sense of detail on the maps:

It is nearly impossible to distinguish between Very High and High, but even lowering shadows down to High could give a 3-5% performance boost. Lowering to Medium gives a ~5% improvement, while going from Very High to Off gives a 10-15% improvement, though it causes the map to look significantly less detailed and rich.

HUD Animations

HUD Animations add a little life to your HUD and disabling them improves performance by ~5%. Some players strongly prefer to keep HUD Animations enabled because they make HP and mana values more noticeable, while other players do not care as much. If you need a small FPS boost, try disabling HUD Animations and see if it impacts your competitive edge.

Choosing the Best Settings for LoL

League of Legends is not a demanding game. If you're planning to play at 1920x1080 resolution, even a $340 computer should be able to play the game at a smooth framerate. If your computer can get at least a steady 60 FPS with all settings at Very High, we recommend that you keep those settings. If you are getting below 60 FPS, you can try lowering some of the game settings.

Unfortunately, lowering multiple settings will not have a cumulative effect on framerate: If a setting give 10% improvement, and another gives 10%, lowering both will not give 20%, but between 10-12%.

To improve your framerate, try the following steps, ordered by how they affect the game's visuals.

Improve FPS (slightly) with little to no impact on visuals

  • Turn off HUD Animations
  • Lower Shadows from Very High to High or Medium

It is almost impossible to tell the difference between Very High and High shadows, yet lowering the shadows is one of the single-best steps to improving performance in LoL without really hurting the visuals (until you turn them off completely). The HUD Animations don't really add anything interesting to the visuals.

Improve FPS (moderately) with a small impact on visuals

In addition to the above:

  • Lower Effects Quality from Very High to High or Medium.

Adjusting Effects Quality will not have a huge impact on visuals, but performance should improve considerably. It's very difficult to tell the difference between Very High and Medium Effects Quality when you're in the middle of a heated battle. The effects are the sprinkles on top, not the cake, even though they come at some of the biggest costs to performance.

Improve FPS (by a large amount) with a moderate impact on visuals

In addition to the above steps:

  • Set Character Inking off.
  • Lower Environment Quality from Very High to High or Medium.
  • Lower Character Quality from Very High to High or Medium.
  • Lower Shadows to Low.

This is going to hurt a bit, but it may be necessary to improve performance on weak PCs. Character Inking is a very attractive setting because it smooths over the more "jaggy" edges of character models and gives them more of a stylized, cartoonish look. Lowering the Environment Quality is a more noticeable change than lowering either Character Quality or Effects Quality, as it degrades textures that cover all areas of the maps. Lowering Character Quality will also make the visuals look more drab overall.

Last resort

If all the above fail to give you your desired framerate, try the following drastic measures:

  • Set Shadows to off.
  • Lower Effects Quality to Low or Very Low
  • Turn off music

Trust us: You'll want to lower Shadows and Effects Quality before anything else. Getting rid of these settings is far from ideal, but it's better than the alternative. Shadows are not essential and even with Effects Quality set to Very Low, the game can surprise you with some pretty effects. Turning music off will reduce CPU and HDD usage, and will help improve performance on very weak machines.

Taking these measures should significantly improve your FPS if you're having trouble with higher settings. Lowering the Character Quality and Environment Quality beyond Medium really makes the game look ugly to the point of being unacceptable to some players.

Note: Do not worry that lowering your settings below Very High will negatively impact your performance in the game. There are professional players who play on Medium and High.

League of Legends CPU and RAM Requirements

The minimum RAM for League of Legends is 1GB, while the recommended is 2GB. We most definitely recommend having at least 2GB of RAM. We really encourage you to have at least 4GB of RAM in your PC -- not because LoL needs it, but because 2GB is an extremely small amount of RAM for any PC.

CPU performance does affect LoL, but not noticeably so. In the Tom's Hardware benchmarks for League of Legends, even the ancient dual-core Athlon II X2 260 couldn't dip below 90 FPS, suggesting that even relatively old CPUs shouldn't be a bottleneck for running LoL.


Other Factors

There are some factors that affect your gameplay experience that are outside the scope of this guide.

  • Ping "lag". This is lag that is caused by your internet connection or internet settings, and not your hardware.
  • Different maps and modes. Larger maps are more resource intensive than smaller maps. Spectator mode gives vision of both teams, and is also more resource intensive.
  • Streaming. Streaming is quite CPU intensive, and requires good bandwidth.

These issues may or may not be an issue for different players. Some people do not stream their games at all, and some stream games for a living. Some people are still on a sub-1Mbit connection, and others have Google Fibre. As such, we want to point out that this guide is not a 100% comprehensive, as we do not cover these factors in detail.

Conclusion

League of Legends is an incredibly popular game with a very low barrier of entry. Not only can you build a very cheap PC to run the game well, the game itself is free to play!

  • At 1600x900, you can max out the game at the Minimum tier (~$310)
  • At 1080p and 1440p, you can max out the game at the Entry tier (~$370)
  • At 4K, you can max out the game at the Modest tier (~$410)
  • At 4K with 120+ FPS, you will need to look near the Good tier (~$530). Please note that 4K screens that can display anything beyond 60 FPS do not exist yet, so this is a recommendation to our readers from the future.

You can find all the necessary hardware for these tiers and several others at our main site, logicalincrements.com. So if your friends or teammates are still playing LoL on a toaster, please link them here!

Your suggestions, comments, and criticism are always welcome. If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know in the comments section below, or write to us at contact@logicalincrements.com.

Good luck and have fun!

Video

If you want more specific build advice on hardware suitable to play League of Legends on a variety of settings, we have a video for that!

About Us

Logical Increments helps more than a million PC builders each year with hardware recommendations for any budget.

Acknowledgements

We want to thank the people who helped in shaping this article with their feedback. If we missed your name, please let us know!

  • Vlad Cadar
  • Fedaykyn (EUW)
  • Doecky
  • Andrew Jeans
  • Andrew Bulmer
  • Timmy Teplant
  • Mark Harper

Sources

  1. Source used for making the table of contents
  2. Tomshardware benchmark
  3. Techspot benchmark
  4. SapphireTech benchmark
  5. Hardware Heaven benchmark
  6. MMOsite: LoL Ultimate Guide to Increase Your FPS
  7. League of Legends official page
  8. LoL wallpaper sources