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Skyrim PC Performance

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December 13, 2011 11:17:37 AM

Playing Skyrim I've noticed considerable drops in framerate around towns. I chalked this up to the game having to process all those NPC's but it seems this is actually an issue after reading similar posts from different forums. Indoors I would get a constant 50-60 FPS, outdoors 40-50 but when in towns specifically with NPCs in sight it would drop to 20-30. I'm running it on high settings with AA and AF off and instead forcing it through CCC. I've read all kinds of explanations from ATI not having the right driver to Skyrim not being properly optimized to the game being capped to just using 2GB of RAM.

I'm not well versed when it comes to hardware issues so I'll just leave my specs for someone to judge whether this would be normal for me. This is pretty much a copypasta of my dxdiag. I'd be more than happy to provide more info if it would help. Thanks :) 

[System]
OS: Windows 7 Professional64-bit (6.1, Build 7601)
System Manufacturer: Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd.
System Model: P55-UD3
BIOS: Award Modular BIOS v6. 00PG
Processor: Intel Core i5 CPU 750 @2.67GHz (4 CPUs), ~2.7GHz
Memory: 4096MB RAM (DDR3)
Page File: 2578MB used, 5602MB available
DirectX Version: DitectX 11

[Display]
Name: ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series (5770 to be specific)
Manufacturer: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
Chip type: ATI display adapter (0x68B8)
DAC type: Internal DAC(400MHz)
Display Memory: 2804 MB
Dedicated Memory: 1014 MB
Shared Memory: 1789 MB
Current Mode: 1920 x 1080 (32 bit) (60Hz)

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December 13, 2011 11:59:01 AM

The best way to approach your issue is to monitor your CPU & GPU load. If you notice that your CPU is at full load in towns (even it it's only 1 or 2 cores) then you know your CPU is the bottleneck. From what I understand, Skyrim doesn't fully use quad cores so your CPU frequency becomes quite important.

If CPU load seems fine then your GPU power might simply not be enough for the settings you've chosen (which is what I expect to be your problem - and everyone else's problem). Towns have more objects to process which can lead to your GPU simply not being able to keep up with the multiple textures, etc.

For now, I'd say monitor both and see where your bottleneck is...then comeback and we'll assist your further (if we can).
December 13, 2011 4:55:31 PM

everything that alex said,

if you're not sure about the program which to use, I'd recommend hwinfo. It can monitor both utilization and temperatures for both CPU and GPU. Just make sure to get the one for your system type (32 or 64 bit)

I'd take a guess and say that it's likely GPU afaik 5770 is not enough to run 1080p
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December 13, 2011 10:22:07 PM

The good news about your system is the i7 920 (I have the same cpu) is a very good overclocker. If it is a CPU bottleneck (quite likely), you'll find with a simple CM hyper 212+ aftermarket cooler can let you easily clock to 3.5ghz with almost no hassle. Beyond that requires a bit more know how.
December 13, 2011 11:42:23 PM

OK so I've downloaded HWInfo64 (thanks for that AntiZig) and made a short 6-minute log monitoring my CPU and GPU loads.

Starting with virtual and physical memory I seem to be peaking at 47.00% and 72.00% respectively, averaging at 43.89% virtual memory load and 67.41% physical memory load

Core #0 usage peaks at 83.70% with an average of 55.41% (the monitor's logging that this core's frequency goes down to 0.0 MHz three times over the course of the log. Is that normal?)

Core #1 usage peaks at 47.10% with an average of 28.98%

Core #2 usage peaks at 73.00% with an average of 39.96%

Core #3 usage peaks at 68.60% with an average of 46.18%

Total CPU usage peaks at 59.40% with an average of 42.63%

On to the GPU load:

GPU load is peaking at 99.80% (I suppose this should sound some alarm bells) while the average comes in at 71.81%.

Seeing these numbers I'm guessing that my GPU is the bottleneck am I correct?
December 14, 2011 12:12:59 AM

Yes, in your case, your system is probably GPU bottlenecked. I don't know about AMD GPUs but believe the 5770 is not a particularly powerful card.

Your stats are interesting, but what they don't do, is indicate how utilisation varies in different locations. This is a significant factor for the following reason: Skyrim is a heavily CPU dependent game. Moreover, it is poorly optimised for multiple threads. Cities in Skyrim are the most demanding locations but this leaves open the question of which component is bottlenecked first - it could be either the CPU or the GPU. Because of your system spec, I suspect the GPU is the more binding constraint.

I have also experienced choppiness in Skyrim, despite a fairly powerful system. I have a core i7 920 running at 4GHz with 2*GTX 560 Ti. I have a dual monitor system and used it to monitor what's going on with GPU and CPU utilisation in varying environments in real time. I found the following:

- cities: reduced frame rate, CPU utilisation on one core about 85%, on the second core, around 40%

- outside cities and indoors: high framerate, CPU utilisation low, GPU utilisation 100%

CPU utilisation of 85-90% can be about maximum. The measurement of CPU utilisation is not an exact science and is sensitive to what part of the CPU's utilisation you are measuring (ie execution units, pipeline, etc). This indicates that in my case, performance is CPU bound. (Incidentally, it's the only game I have played in a long while that's CPU bound. Most of my games are GPU bound despite having 560 Tis in SLI). In my case overclocking my CPU makes a huge difference, while overclocking my GPUs makes none whatsoever.

So in other words, your stats don't really reveal anything except that in some situations your CPU is bottlenecking performance, while in other cases, it's the GPU. I would expect that you would get a bump by upgrading your GPU, but the danger is this would move the bottleneck to the CPU. You have a highly overlockable CPU. Overclocking can easily be done on your system without risk, so you do have potential headroom to exploit the potential of a better graphics card.

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December 14, 2011 12:15:05 AM
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FruityBard said:

Seeing these numbers I'm guessing that my GPU is the bottleneck am I correct?


Yes. And no.

Yes: When your GPU runs at 100%, it is, technically, a bottleneck, because it cannot work any faster, and therefore cannot put more FPS on your screen.

No: However, a GPU at 100% is a GOOD thing. It's GOOD that nothing else limits it and it can work as fast as possible. Take some new measurements and look closely at your numbers. Then correlate them with what you are doing in the game. In Skyrim's case, I will bet you anything that GPU usage falls in the cities. That's because the cities are more CPU-intensive, and the GPU starts waiting for the CPU. In the cities, your CPU becomes the bottleneck. If you are not against it, you should try overclocking the processor. Bystander got your CPU wrong :p  but his advice still stands. And fortunately, your i5 750 overclocks just as well as his i7 920.
December 14, 2011 12:50:55 AM

bwrlane said:
Yes, in your case, your system is probably GPU bottlenecked. I don't know about AMD GPUs but believe the 5770 is not a particularly powerful card.

Your stats are interesting, but what they don't do, is indicate how utilisation varies in different locations. This is a significant factor for the following reason: Skyrim is a heavily CPU dependent game. Moreover, it is poorly optimised for multiple threads. Cities in Skyrim are the most demanding locations but this leaves open the question of which component is bottlenecked first - it could be either the CPU or the GPU. Because of your system spec, I suspect the GPU is the more binding constraint.

I have also experienced choppiness in Skyrim, despite a fairly powerful system. I have a core i7 920 running at 4GHz with 2*GTX 560 Ti. I have a dual monitor system and used it to monitor what's going on with GPU and CPU utilisation in varying environments in real time. I found the following:

- cities: reduced frame rate, CPU utilisation on one core about 85%, on the second core, around 40%

- outside cities and indoors: high framerate, CPU utilisation low, GPU utilisation 100%

CPU utilisation of 85-90% can be about maximum. The measurement of CPU utilisation is not an exact science and is sensitive to what part of the CPU's utilisation you are measuring (ie execution units, pipeline, etc). This indicates that in my case, performance is CPU bound. (Incidentally, it's the only game I have played in a long while that's CPU bound. Most of my games are GPU bound despite having 560 Tis in SLI). In my case overclocking my CPU makes a huge difference, while overclocking my GPUs makes none whatsoever.

So in other words, your stats don't really reveal anything except that in some situations your CPU is bottlenecking performance, while in other cases, it's the GPU. I would expect that you would get a bump by upgrading your GPU, but the danger is this would move the bottleneck to the CPU. You have a highly overlockable CPU. Overclocking can easily be done on your system without risk, so you do have potential headroom to exploit the potential of a better graphics card.


Wow you are on the nose on that one. I spent the first few minutes in Whiterun (around NPCs, up and down the steps, etc.) and GPU usage is in the 60-70% range while the GPU load is in the 70% range.

Going outside is when my GPU starts going into the 90% range constantly while my CPU load drops to 30-50% range.

I'm considering overclocking my CPU since a few of you guys recommend it but I don't know where to begin. I've found Overclocked on Air: Intel's Core i5-750 on this website (I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post liks so I won't) as well as an overclocking tutorial on Youtube ("Intel Core i5 P55 Overclocking Tutorial Part 1 (NCIX Tech Tips #48)"). If you guys have recommendations on any tutorials I should follow I'd appreciate it. Or if you won't mind sharing some know-how that would be very cool too.

As for a new GPU I'm not sure if I can afford one right now any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
December 24, 2011 12:38:11 AM

Best answer selected by FruityBard.
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