Building the Best PC for Overwatch


Last updated: May 2017

Overwatch is a multiplayer, team-based first-person-shooter developed by Blizzard, the creators of some of the most popular PC games on the planet. Players choose a hero from a roster of unique characters, and then join a team to battle against other players across a variety of game modes. The game features a graphical style that feels modern while still reminiscent of many venerable Blizzard titles, and performance is relatively easy on PC hardware considering how good the game looks.

This guide takes a close look at Overwatch's graphical settings and the impact they have on the game. We'll also give you a good idea of the kind of PC hardware you'll need to run Overwatch to your own personal satisfaction. If you just want to know what to buy without all the in-depth analysis, you can skip to the Recommendations Section.

If you already have a PC but want to know what settings to use for best performance, check out the Graphical Settings section.

Overwatch is built on a brand-new, proprietary game engine considered to be extremely well made by many in the game industry. Based on information gathered during beta sessions, the game is more demanding on CPUs than most games -- especially for a first-person-shooter. That said, Overwatch is somewhat easy on PC hardware considering it’s a fast-paced, visually appealing game.

To get started, let's take a look at what Logical Increments tiers are best for playing Overwatch.


What to Buy

At Logical Increments, we recommend PC builds in "tiers," with each tier containing the most powerful, most reliable, and 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 PC Parts Guide.

Note: This is assuming Ultra game settings, not Epic (the maximum possible in Overwatch). Epic settings include a heightened Render Scale, which significantly impacts performance and requires very powerful hardware to run smoothly. Keep that in mind as you review these benchmarks.

Tier 1600x900 1920x1080 2560x1440 3840x2160
Destitute ($190) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Poor ($240) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Minimum ($340) Borderline Borderline Unplayable Unplayable
Entry ($390) Playable Playable Borderline Unplayable
Modest ($410) Very Smooth Very Smooth Playable Unplayable
Fair ($450) Silky Smooth Very Smooth Smooth Playable
Good ($490) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Smooth
Very Good ($530) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Smooth
Great ($630) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Superb ($750) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Excellent ($1000) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Outstanding ($1100) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Exceptional ($1400) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Enthusiast ($1600) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Extremist ($2500) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Monstrous ($3,500+) 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.

Note: NVIDIA graphics perform about 10% better in Overwatch compared to their AMD equivalents.

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.

Overwatch Hardware Requirements and Performance

Before we discuss how various PC components influence Overwatch’s performance, let’s take a look at the game’s Minimum and Recommended specifications, according to Blizzard:

Minimum System Requirements:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 460, Radeon HD 4850, or Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • CPU: Intel Core i3 or AMD Phenom X3 8650 (modern equivalent: Intel Pentium G4560)
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM

Recommended System Specifications:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 660 or Radeon HD 7950 (modern equivalent: RX 460)
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 or AMD Phenom II X3 (modern equivalent: i5-7500)
  • Memory: 6 GB RAM

By modern standards, these official specifications are easily achievable. The Entry tier ($375) on the Logical Increments parts list is roughly on par with Blizzard’s official recommended specifications.

Recommended GPUs for Overwatch

Compared to many modern games, Overwatch is not very demanding on graphics cards. That said, you’ll still want a good graphics card to get the most out of the game’s visuals and maximize your FPS.

Note: NVIDIA graphics perform about 10% better in Overwatch compared to their AMD equivalents. You will get better performance for your money in Overwatch with NVIDIA graphics cards.

For gaming on Ultra settings at 1080p with 60 FPS, we recommend at least an RX 460.

For Ultra settings at 1440p with 60 FPS, we recommend a GTX 1050 Ti or an RX 470. To get 60 FPS on Ultra at 4K resolution, or 144 FPS at 1440p, you’ll need a GTX 1070 or better.

Recommended CPUs for Overwatch

The CPU is an important component for Overwatch, but the game does not have particularly high demands.

An inexpensive Intel Pentium G4560 will keep your average FPS above 100.

If you want to achieve 144 FPS in Overwatch, an Intel i5, such as the i5-7500, or AMD Ryzen 5, such as the Ryzen 5 1600 will get you there. The extra cores will help raise the minimum FPS too. This will also be more future proof and get better performance in more demanding games.

Overwatch Graphical Settings

Overwatch’s visual settings fall into three categories: Display Settings, Graphical Settings, and Advanced Graphical Settings.

Display Settings

Display settings include settings such as resolution, field of view, and vertical synchronization (VSync).

If you’re looking to improve performance without lowering your graphical settings, we recommend disabling Enable Triple Buffering and setting Limit FPS to None.

Graphical Settings

This section simply lets you choose a preset that auto-adjusts various graphical settings under “Advanced Graphical Settings.” The following presets are available: Low, Medium, High, Ultra, and Epic.

All of our benchmarks are based on the Ultra preset, one step down from Epic. Lowering the preset will significantly improve the game’s performance if you’re not achieving your desired framerate on Epic.

However, you can likely achieve a better balance of visual detail and performance by adjusting the Advanced Graphical Settings yourself.

Advanced Graphical Settings

This section is where you can really tune the game to perform best on your hardware. In total, there are 15 settings to adjust. Let’s take a detailed look at some of the settings that have the greatest impact on performance.

Render Scale

Render Scale downsamples or supersamples the rendering resolution of the game. For example, if you have a 1080p monitor, you can play the game at “4K resolution,” by increasing the Render Scale to 200%, which will make the visuals look more smooth, with fewer pixelated “jaggies.” Conversely, lowering the setting below 100% will make the game look more blurry, but will improve performance dramatically.

"High" (100%) matches your chosen display resolution (set under Display Settings). “Ultra” increases your rendering resolution by 150%, and “Epic” increases rendering resolution by 200% (for example, turning a 1080p monitor into 4K rendering resolution).

Out of any setting, this has the greatest impact on performance in Overwatch. We recommend keeping this at 100% unless your hardware surpasses your desired performance. If you’re getting better framerates than you need, feel free to crank up the Render Scale, if you feel the visual improvement is worth the performance cost.

Performance impact: ~65% between High and Epic. ~45% between Low and High.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Render Scale on High (100%) and on Epic (200%).

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Render Scale on Low (50%) and on High (100%).

Texture Quality

This affects the appearance of the game’s textures, which cover the game’s characters and environment. Higher-quality textures eat up VRAM, which can affect performance on lower-end graphics cards. Graphics cards with only 2GB of VRAM are not allowed to use the High setting.

Performance impact: ~3-4% between Low and High.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Texture Quality on Low and on High.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Texture Quality on Low and on High.

Texture Filtering Quality

This setting relates to how the textures are applied to 3D models. Higher settings minimize the blurring and blocking of textures on models.

Performance impact: ~3-4% between Low and Epic.

Local Fog Detail

Honestly, we’re not entirely sure what Local Fog Detail does. In our testing, we could not tell a huge visual difference between the Low and Ultra settings. What makes this especially perplexing is that Local Fog Detail has a pretty big impact on performance. If you’re looking to get better FPS, this is one of the first settings we would adjust. (And if you know more about what this setting does, let us know in the comments below!)

Performance impact: ~12-15% between Low and Ultra

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Local Fog Detail on Low and on Ultra.

Dynamic Reflections

This setting affects FPS pretty dramatically, and reflections still look relatively good when set to Low.

Performance impact: ~20% between Low and High. Another 7-8% between Off and Low.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Dynamic Reflections on Off and on Low.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Dynamic Reflections on Low and on High.

Shadow Detail

As the name implies, this setting influences the level of detail in shadows. Ultra looks very defined, while the shadows look blurrier as you lower the setting.

Performance impact: ~5-6% between Low and Ultra. Another ~4-5% between Off and Low.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Shadow Detail on Off and on Low.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Shadow Detail on Low and on Ultra.

Model Detail

You guessed it: This affects the level of detail for models in the game!

Performance impact: ~3-4% between Low and Ultra.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Model Detail on Low and on Ultra.

Effect Detail

The details of certain effects in the game. The performance impact of this setting varies depending on what’s happening on screen, but it is never very performance-taxing.

Performance impact: ~5% between Low and Ultra.

Lighting Quality

This setting influences the luminosity of lights in the game. Turning it up makes the environment look brighter!

Performance impact: ~7-8% between Low and Ultra.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Lighting Quality on Low and on Ultra.

Anti-Aliasing:

Anti-Aliasing is another way to smooth out “jaggies” caused by pixelation. Overwatch has a few different forms of AA, between Off and Ultra. It has a small performance hit, so we recommend turning this setting up as high as your PC can handle.

Performance impact: ~5-6% between Off and Ultra.

Refraction Quality

We had a hard time finding a noticeable difference between this setting turned all the way up and all the way down. Thankfully, it also causes little performance difference.

Performance impact: ~3-4% between Low and Ultra.

Local Reflections

This is an On/Off setting, and boy does it make a difference to the visuals, while barely making an impact on performance. We recommend keeping these on, unless you really hate reflections. Check the screen comparison below.

Performance impact: Less than 1%.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Local Reflections Off and On.

Ambient Occlusion

This is another On/Off setting adds more detailed shading to the game’s environment at points where two surfaces meet. While ambient occlusion can make a noticeable difference in some games, it is very subtle in Overwatch.

Performance impact: ~5-6%.

handle
Drag the cursor to compare Ambient Occlusion Off and On.

Choosing the Best Settings for Overwatch

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 to improve your framerate without sacrificing too much in the way of visuals. 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%.

Improve FPS considerably with little to no impact on visuals

  • Set Dynamic Reflections to Medium or Low
  • Set Local Fog Detail to Low

Improve FPS by larger amounts with moderate impact to visuals

  • Set Dynamic Reflections to Off
  • Set Shadow Detail to Medium or Low
  • Set Lighting Quality to Medium or Low

Last Resorts

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

  • Set all settings except Render Scale to Medium or Low
  • Set Ambient Occlusion to Off
  • Very last resort: Set Render Scale to 75% or even 50%. Lowering the Render Scale will make the game look pretty terrible, but it will improve your performance dramatically.

If you try all of the above and still can’t run the game, you likely need to upgrade your hardware.


Logical Increments Tiers and How They Fare

To determine how your PC will perform Overwatch, you’ll need to consider three things:

  1. The resolution you want to play at (usually your screen’s native resolution)
  2. How much graphical detail you want
  3. How smoothly you want the gameplay to run

For our purposes, we aim for a very smooth 60+ FPS with the graphical settings turned to Ultra (not Epic, which requires even greater hardware power). If you’re willing to lower any graphical settings, or you’re happy with framerates lower than 60 FPS, you can get by with an even lower-tier PC.

Below, we list the the tiers on our parts list that would achieve that 60 FPS baseline on High graphical settings at a range of progressively more demanding screen resolutions.

1600x900

The Modest tier, featuring an RX 460 and Pentium G4560, will get you very smooth performance in Overwatch at 1600x900 for around $400.

1920x1080 (1080p)

The Modest tier, with its RX 460 and Pentium G4560, will get you very smooth performance in Overwatch at 1080p too, for around $400.

However, if you want to play more demanding games at 1080p, a more powerful build like the Very Good build would be better.

2560x1440 (1440p)

The Good tier, featuring the GTX 1050 Ti and i3-7100, will get very smooth performance at 1440p for around $500.

If you want to play more demanding games at 1440p, a more powerful build such as Superb would be better.

3840x2160 (4K)

The Outstanding tier will handle 4K smoothly, with a GTX 1080 and an i7-7700K. That PC will cost you roughly $1,200 to build, and will handle any current game at 4K. Although you may have to turn down the settings a bit in the most demanding games, or add a second GTX 1080.


Conclusion

A well-balanced, moderately powerful modern PC should have no problem running Overwatch and making the game look great.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the necessary PC hardware for running Overwatch to your satisfaction. If you want to do further research on PC hardware, please visit our main PC parts list on our homepage.

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

About Us

James is the content manager for Logical Increments. He’s a big fan of Blizzard games and has been building PCs for more than 15 years.

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

Sources

  1. Source used for making the table of contents
  2. Source used for making the image comparison slider
  3. Overwatch System Requirements
  4. Gamers Nexus Overwatch Benchmarks
  5. YouTube: Overwatch PC Performance Review
  6. Gameplay: GTX 970 and i5-2500K
  7. Gameplay: GTX 960 and i7-2600
  8. Gameplay: GTX 750 Ti and i3-4160
  9. Gameplay: R9 280X and FX-6300
  10. Gameplay: R9 280X and i5-2500K
  11. Gameplay: R9 380 and i3-6300