Can Your Rig Run Oblivion?

The Settings

Oblivion offers a wide range of user configurable image quality options. The bad news is that many will do serious damage to your frame rates if set to maximum. Fortunately, it's a hugely flexible game engine that can be configured to run on most systems, albeit at the price of visual quality.

For our video processor comparisons, we created a configuration that delivers a reasonable balance between doing justice to the game's awesome graphical capabilities and avoiding a headache-inducing slide show. That said, those used to treating an average of 60 fps as the minimum for seriously smooth gameplay will need to adjust their expectations for Oblivion.

Even with the most powerful hardware, consistently smooth rendering in the most demanding areas of the game is nearly impossible at high-quality settings. We also created a reduced quality profile for testing the entry level video processors in the test, Nvidia's Geforce 6600 GT and the Radeon X1600 XT from ATI. Last but not least, each graphics processor and multi-GPU platform was tested running all three of Oblivion lighting modes: HDR, Bloom and Standard.

As for screen resolution settings, we matched graphics solutions with the most popular LCD native resolutions (running at non-native on any LCD is a serious bummer in terms of clarity and sharpness) ranging from 1280x1024 all the way up to the enormous 2560x1600 native of Dell's latest über-panel, the 3007WFP. The exceptions are the low-end graphics products, which were tested at 1024x768 in the interests of producing something approaching playable frame rates.

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Oblivion Image Quality OptionsHigh QualityReduced Quality
Tree fade90%90%
Actor fade50%25%
Item fade50%25%
Object fade50%25%
Grass distance50%25%
View distance100%100%
Distant landsOnOn
Distant buildingsOnOn
Distant treesOnOn
Interior shadows50%50%
Exterior shadows50%50%
Self shadowsOffOff
Shadows on grassOnOff
Tree canopy shadowsOnOff
Shadow filteringHighOff
Specular distance100%100%
Water detailOnOn
Water reflectionsOnOn
Water ripplesOnOn
Window reflectionsOnOn
Blood decalsHighHigh