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Results: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim And Far Cry 3

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $750 Gaming PC

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

When we pack in high-end graphics muscle, Skyrim is mainly CPU-bound. The performance drop at 4800x900 is a result of the wider aspect ratio, and not just the demands of pushing more pixels.

The AMD-based PC trails, but still fares well enough. Best of all, even at stock clocks, neither machine with an Intel CPU drops below 60 FPS all the way through 4800x900.

Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 is the most graphically-demanding game in our System Builder Marathon suite, and one of those rare titles able to justify high-end graphics for medium-resolution play. It also happens to be the only one of our former titles remaining in the line-up moving forward.

At high-quality settings without anti aliasing, we see evidence through 1920x1080 that both overclocked PCs with GeForce cards in them are held back by their respective CPUs. In my opinion, though, even the stock $650 PC remained playable though 4800x900. This title doesn’t necessitate high frame rates for a smooth experience, and minimums never dropped below 34 FPS.

If you insist on higher sustained performance, you might prefer the 47 to 52 FPS floors established by the two costlier configurations.

At Ultra quality with 4x MSAA, a GeForce GTX 760 is as low as I'd go to play at 1920x1080. The $650 PC averaged less than 37 FPS, but never dropped below 32 in our test sequence (which is about as demanding as this game gets). The overclocked GeForce GTX 760 and factory-overclocked Radeon R9 280X are capable of staying above 40 FPS. But the newest machine wins, sporting the highest average and minimum frame rates, stock and overclocked.

None of my budget-oriented PCs survive through 4800x900 at these cranked-up settings. However, spending time in-game determined that simply disabling MSAA made the $800 machine playable. And today's configuration fares even better. In fact, after putting in hours testing for stability, I was able to turn on 2x MSAA and keep things smooth.

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