Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: PC Performance, Benchmarked

Skyrim Scales Well On Slower Systems

Oblivion asked a lot out of hardware when it was released back in 2006. At its highest detail settings, Skyrim is certainly more demanding than its predecessor. To be honest, though, what you see as an improvement doesn’t seem commensurate with the hardware requirements. Thankfully, graphics and CPU technology have both come a long way in five years. And, for gamers with modest PCs, the game does a great job of scaling detail down to manageable levels without sacrificing too much visual appeal.

You are Dragonborn. No, it doesn't mean you're part dragon. That would be awkward and hard to explain.You are Dragonborn. No, it doesn't mean you're part dragon. That would be awkward and hard to explain.

Skyrim simultaneously taxes CPU and GPU resources. So, if you’re looking to run at ultra detail settings using 1920x1080 and texture transparency AA, you need a Sandy Bridge-based CPU and a Radeon HD 6850 just to hit a 30 FPS minimum. For a smoother experience, consider a GeForce GTX 570 or Radeon HD 6970, or maybe even a dual-card setup. Nvidia hit us with its 285.79 beta driver capable of enabling SLI in Skyrim, while AMD claims its CrossFire driver is on the way. It's just a shame there's nothing to show the folks looking to play this game with a pair of Radeons at launch.

Watchin' the game, havin a Bud.Watchin' the game, havin a Bud.

The good news is that you don’t need an uber-rig to enjoy the game. A 2.5+ GHz Phenom II matched up to a Radeon HD 5770 or GeForce GTX 550 Ti is enough to enjoy at least 40 FPS using high-quality details at 1080p, even with FXAA enabled to help smooth out the bothersome aliasing artifacts. That’s a reasonable requirement that probably won't necessitate many upgrades. Best of all, the result looks almost as good as ultra-quality details.

Dungeons: always fun to explore, no matter how many you've pillaged.Dungeons: always fun to explore, no matter how many you've pillaged.

Gamers at the entry-level side of the spectrum should be happy to learn that a GeForce GT 430 or Radeon HD 5570 delivers a 35 FPS minimum frame rate at 1680x1050 using medium details. As settings drop, so do CPU requirements. So, any dual-core processor running at 2 GHz or more should be ample.

I'm pretty sure this leads to Denver.I'm pretty sure this leads to Denver.

That covers the hardware requirements, but what about the game? If you loved Oblivion, you’ll love Skyrim. If you like RPGs but haven’t played Oblivion, you owe it to yourself to give this title a shot.

No DirectX 11 tessellation? GHOUL TANTRUM!No DirectX 11 tessellation? GHOUL TANTRUM!

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    Top Comments
  • jdw_swb
    Wait a minute........I'm confused!

    Is this that new Scrolls game being made by Notch?
    22
  • Jarmo
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.
    16
  • lunyone
    Quote:
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.

    Well with a Athlon II x3 450 and an AMD 4850 512mb GPU w/6 gb's of DDR2 it seems to work fine. The game has picked "Ultra" settings when launching the game the first time. I haven't seen all of the settings that the game has selected, but the game looks pretty good and is running quite well. I haven't run any FRAPS on it, but it seems to be about 30-40 FPS, from what I can tell, which is good enough for me :)
    11
  • Other Comments
  • xx12amanxx
    Ive been a fan of the Elderscroll series for years i look forward to playing this!
    6
  • Jarmo
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.
    16
  • lunyone
    Quote:
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.

    Well with a Athlon II x3 450 and an AMD 4850 512mb GPU w/6 gb's of DDR2 it seems to work fine. The game has picked "Ultra" settings when launching the game the first time. I haven't seen all of the settings that the game has selected, but the game looks pretty good and is running quite well. I haven't run any FRAPS on it, but it seems to be about 30-40 FPS, from what I can tell, which is good enough for me :)
    11
  • lunyone
    Oh and forgot to mention that the game is running at 1920 x 1080 resolution (unless the game adjusted to something different). I'm trying to play and post, so I'm a bit distracted to say the least. I'll post back if something changes :)
    3
  • computadoro
    O well, was hoping to see the 560ti and 6950 tested as those are the two cards I was going to choose between.
    9
  • cleeve
    Anonymous said:
    O well, was hoping to see the 560ti and 6950 tested as those are the two cards I was going to choose between.


    Just look at 6850/GTX460 and 6970/GTX 570. The 560 Ti and 6950 will be in the middle of those, closer to the higher end though.
    10
  • Swolern
    Bethesda disappoints PC gamers again! It's very sad that Bethesda chooses to optimize the consoles and leaves PC with a basic port with a little extra detail. I'm not saying it's not a great game because it is, but the thought of what it could have been if Bethesda put a little extra effort into the PC makes me sick!
    0
  • Swolern
    Bethesda=Activision. Dice blows em both away!
    -15
  • koogco
    I havent played this yet, due to a pending CPU upgrade (somehow i doubt my athlon x2 5600+ (2,8ghz) is enough for much.
    But even if this game doesn't quite push the top cards, you gotta commend them for the great scaling! Some of the worst console ports doesn't even HAVE graphics settings, in other games the settings make little difference in the hardware needed, and based on these screenshots (if rather small, larger ones please!) the game looks almost as good if you turn the settings down some.
    4
  • Anonymous
    Man looks really castrated so it can work on xbox/ps3. Too bad, 5 year old graphics are lame.
    -4
  • Stardude82
    koogcoI havent played this yet, due to a pending CPU upgrade (somehow i doubt my athlon x2 5600+ (2,8ghz) is enough for much.

    I bet you that CPU is plenty to push something like a 4850 with reasonable resolution and quality. I mean my old Core 2 Duo with a 2600XT managed to hack Fallout 3 fairly well at appropriate resolutions and quality settings.
    0
  • cumi2k4
    so, will i see another wave of thug wearing daedric armor as i progressed in level like Oblivion?
    -2
  • ojas
    Quote:
    At ultra details with transparency anti-aliasing and 4x MSAA, only the fastest cards like AMD's Radeon HD 6970, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 570, and its GeForce GTX 460 in SLI provide playable frame rates.


    So does the 6850...barely, but it does...
    1
  • ojas
    What about memory usage? I've been curious to see what effect BF3 and Skyrim would have on that 1GB vs 2GB 6950 article...

    Would be good if we could just get charts for both games with max VRAM usage for cards with memory greater than 1GB for ultra and high settings at various resolutions...i know my 9600GT goes up to 800MB with BF3 set mostly to medium at 1024x768...
    1
  • Jarmo
    lunyoneWell with a Athlon II x3 450 and an AMD 4850 512mb GPU w/6 gb's of DDR2 it seems to work fine.


    Sounds promising, even if I'll have to push it to 1920x1200.
    I can do without AA but I'd like the action to stay smooth even (and especially) when crowded by opponents.
    -1
  • jdw_swb
    Wait a minute........I'm confused!

    Is this that new Scrolls game being made by Notch?
    22
  • molo9000
    Was vsync enabled or disabled for this test?

    I think Skyrim enables it by default and you have to either turn it off in an .ini file or force it off with the graphics driver.
    -2
  • Onyx2291
    Hmm seeing that a 6670 is right between the 240 and 5770 it should be playable at the settings I'm looking toward.. Leaning more and more toward upgrading my GPU.
    0
  • Kamen_BG
    I wonder why the game gives such a little difference between 2 and more cores on AMD CPU's but it seems to use 4 SB cores.
    -3
  • enkichild
    This is proof dev are in bed with AMD/NVIDIA

    How can this run on console hardware, yet so poorly on a more recent computer?

    $$$
    -8