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Benchmark Results: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Picking A Sub-$200 Gaming CPU: FX, An APU, Or A Pentium?

Let’s start with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a popular game that we know to be a relatively processor-bound.

We sorted this chart based on minimum frame rates, determining the slowest attainable delivered by each processor to be most important.

Immediately, we're impressed by how well the Sandy Bridge-based Pentium G630 and G860 perform, outscoring all of AMD's processors except for the Phenom II X4 980, which tenuously holds onto a 2 FPS lead over Intel's $80 budget processor. It's interesting that an IPC advantage is enough for a dual-core chip with 3 MB of shared L3 to outpace two times the cores and cache in the Phenom II X4 955.

The Core i5s stand out as the performance leaders, but the Core i3-2100 delivers an impressive result as well, especially considering its relatively low price. AMD’s FX CPUs don't do well at all here. Neither do the Athlon II X4 and Llano-based A4 and A8 APUs.

Let’s dig deeper, though, and consider frame rates over time. Because there's so much data to cover, we'll split these charts up based on cost, with AMD's $125 Phenom II X4 955 serving as the middle-point.

First, we see the Pentiums dominate this segment with performance that rarely dips below 30 FPS. The Phenom II X4 955 manages to place just slightly below the Pentium G630, and AMD's FX-4100 achieves a notably lower result, with only about half the benchmark above the 30 FPS mark. AMD’s Llano-based A4-3400 and Athlon II X4 631 do very poorly, unfortunately.

Now let’s look at more expensive models:

You can still see the Phenom II X4 955 in red, with the Phenom II X6 1090T, FX-6100, FX-8120, and A8-3870K falling below it.

AMD’s best result comes from the Phenom II X4 980, which appears only slightly slower than Intel's Core i3-2100. The Core i5-2400 and overclocked Core i5-2500K never drop below 37 FPS, and usually stay above 40 FPS in this test.

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