The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Tested, Benchmarked

By on November 21, 2011, 12:26 AM

Based on early estimates, Skyrim has shipped seven million copies worldwide across all platforms, including digital stores such as Steam. During a peak hour last Monday, Valve's platform alone recorded some 287,000 Skyrim players -- greater than the combined peak activity of MW3, Counter-Strike, Football Manger 2012 and Team Fortress 2.

We usually don't open our performance reviews with sales figures, but we felt compelled to illustrate the magnitude of Skyrim's launch because role-playing games rarely garner this type of attention. Although its popularity is undoubtedly aided by the cult-like status of the Elder Scrolls franchise, Skyrim isn't just a clone of its predecessors (we're looking at you MW3). Bethesda has made many gameplay refinements, especially to the graphics and animations -- our area of interest.

While it may not bring your PC to its knees, Skyrim promises to be the best-looking Elder Scrolls title to date with its newly developed game engine, called the "Creation Engine."

Read the complete performance review.




User Comments: 48

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Guest said:

Great review but you have the charts listed as Battlefield 3

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

No, we don't... wait, yea fixed! Thanks.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Hmm I play on maximum (Ultra) in 1900 by 1200 using a slightly overclocked 1GB 550Ti and my game runs fine... Am I missing something or is my 550Ti special?

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Nvidia's graphics cards seemed to perform much better, as the GTX 560 managed 89fps versus the HD 6850's 77fps.

Thats sort of a puzzling comment. The GTX 560 is $50.00 more than the 6850, and the 6850 passes up the 560 at higher resolution.

I also dont understand why you would be "disappointed" with the 6950 at $250 when the GTX 570 @ $350 is just 3 FPS faster in your benches.

Arris Arris said:

Also "Meanwhile, the more modern i5-2500K was sitting pretty with a respectable 67fps -- 1fps below the i7-2600K.". In the chart it's actually 67 vs 70, 3 fps (still not a lot) difference.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Running a single X5550, GTX480, and 6GB DDR3 run's amazingly smooth on max settings with FXAA. I was surprised. Going to add a second xeon, use GTX480 for physics, and buy a 680 soon as they come out for main 120fps display

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Interesting review, especialy with regards to CPU scaling.

However I'm a little confused with the high/ultra settings - I get different values when clicking on the presets, e.g. for ultra you have AA=4x and AF=0x but when I click on ultra I get AA=8x and AF=16x. Maybe this explains the drop off in image quality between high and ultra?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Hmm I play on maximum (Ultra) in 1900 by 1200 using a slightly overclocked 1GB 550Ti and my game runs fine... Am I missing something or is my 550Ti special?

We got 55fps so I am not surprised.

Interesting review, especialy with regards to CPU scaling.

However I'm a little confused with the high/ultra settings - I get different values when clicking on the presets, e.g. for ultra you have AA=4x and AF=0x but when I click on ultra I get AA=8x and AF=16x. Maybe this explains the drop off in image quality between high and ultra?

What version are you using?

KRayner96 said:

Hey Steve, I've got a few questions if you don't mind.

1) Are you testing with Vsync off? I've heard there are problems when not running with it off (physics problems apparently).

2) My game also defaults to Ultra with AA=8x. I have a 2500K + MSI 560Ti

3) I can't seem to get my games FPS above 60 FPS even with Vsync turned off. Not that I like VSYNC off as I hate the screen tearing, just thought it was curious.

4) I have a weird lag issue. The game runs perfectly outdoors, but sometimes while I am indoors (in a corridor or a room etc.) the FPS drops to 30 and I notice quite a bit of mouse lag. Very annoying and it doesn't really make sense as these indoor areas are definately less intensive than the outdoors ones (which run at a stable 60 FPS). Funny thing though is my GPU usage is always at close to 100%, maybe it has got something to do with FXAA or the shadows and the CPU?

5) Have you tried testing the game with FXAA on? I've turned it on an it makes a huge difference visually as foliage etc. is a lot less pixelly. U can turn it on in the options (in the launch screen).

Guest said:

How do you enable maximum settings?

okrings said:

I really enjoy these types of reviews. I've never seen another site that takes on a single game the way TechSpot does here. Good work, and thanks!

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

okrings said:

I really enjoy these types of reviews. I've never seen another site that takes on a single game the way TechSpot does here. Good work, and thanks!

+1

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Hey Steve, I've got a few questions if you don't mind.

1) Are you testing with Vsync off? I've heard there are problems when not running with it off (physics problems apparently).

2) My game also defaults to Ultra with AA=8x. I have a 2500K + MSI 560Ti

3) I can't seem to get my games FPS above 60 FPS even with Vsync turned off. Not that I like VSYNC off as I hate the screen tearing, just thought it was curious.

4) I have a weird lag issue. The game runs perfectly outdoors, but sometimes while I am indoors (in a corridor or a room etc.) the FPS drops to 30 and I notice quite a bit of mouse lag. Very annoying and it doesn't really make sense as these indoor areas are definately less intensive than the outdoors ones (which run at a stable 60 FPS). Funny thing though is my GPU usage is always at close to 100%, maybe it has got something to do with FXAA or the shadows and the CPU?

5) Have you tried testing the game with FXAA on? I've turned it on an it makes a huge difference visually as foliage etc. is a lot less pixelly. U can turn it on in the options (in the launch screen).

1. Vsync has to be off to exceed 60fps so yes we were testing with it off, I noticed no problems.

2. Not sure why my ultra-settings were different, I was using the latest version at the time of testing.

3. You need to edit the config file to disable vsync.

4. A lot of people seem to think that has to do with the CPU, what CPU are you using? A dual-core?

5. Our maximum quality test uses FXAA.

How do you enable maximum settings?

Manually turn everything up.

I really enjoy these types of reviews. I've never seen another site that takes on a single game the way TechSpot does here. Good work, and thanks!

Thanks mate I am very happy you appreciate all our hard work.

Guest said:

There's is definitely something off with the default settings for your copy of Skyrim. For example, my high settings include 8x AA and 8x AF by default (8x AA and 16x AF for Ultra). Also, it's very odd that your Ultra setting have all the options disabled for water textures. I think with the correct presets, Ultra will actual be the Max mode you test in this article (except for FXAA enabled I believe). A retest might be order to get relelvant results for Skyrim players. These presets are very different from the correct/normal presets.

Red87 said:

As a heads up,the ultra preset is broken in that it does not set some of your sliders to the max, like high does. This might explain the disparity between high and ultra. You have to manually change them.

KRayner96 said:

1. Vsync has to be off to exceed 60fps so yes we were testing with it off, I noticed no problems.

2. Not sure why my ultra-settings were different, I was using the latest version at the time of testing.

3. You need to edit the config file to disable vsync.

4. A lot of people seem to think that has to do with the CPU, what CPU are you using? A dual-core?

5. Our maximum quality test uses FXAA.

1. Yeah I know, which is why I find it weird that mine never went above 60. I have using the Steam version of the game btw.

2. Same here (I played over the weekend)

3. Yeah, I know. skyrim.ini I think it was...

4. Intel 2500K, non-overclocked. I haven't played with the settings much but it still seems very odd that this is only happening indoors...

5. Sorry, obv I never read through this portion closely enough :-p

Anyways, thanks for your great performance review. I always enjoy reading these :-)

I think I will look into overclocking my 2500K to 4.5Ghz (I have a decent aftermarket cooler so it shouldn't be a problem).

KRayner96 said:

Oh, one more thing. There are a few ini tweaks out there I think really are worth trying out. I'm interested in the following two:

1) The tree and small object shadows enabled option

2) The GrassStartFadeDistance option

The second one in particular looks very compelling as I've noticed that even on Ultra quality settings when looking out over distances the hills look very bland as the grass stops rendering at a certain point.

You can see the full thread I read here: [link]

Guest said:

I am using an 460gtx with 8gig Ram and Core i3 cpu and i am having loads of trouble. Only having about 20-40 maybe sometimes up to 50 on low settings. Is something wrong?

Cota Cota said:

Guest said:

I am using an 460gtx with 8gig Ram and Core i3 cpu and i am having loads of trouble. Only having about 20-40 maybe sometimes up to 50 on low settings. Is something wrong?

if you have a GeForce GTX 460"M" then your cards doesn't have the juice for it, else yes there's something fishy, I'm using a 5770 and runs "fine" but whit lots FPS drops.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Sadly I have to run Skyrim on the lowest setting, it does run ok on a E8500 C2D, GTX8800 graphics card and 2 gigs of DDR2 ram. Only issue I get is sometimes in the outside world or right when I step into a new area the game with lock up for 5-10 secs then go back to normal. Twice I have had it completely lock up in the middle of larges fights and had to force quit the game .

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Steve said:

Interesting review, especialy with regards to CPU scaling.

However I'm a little confused with the high/ultra settings - I get different values when clicking on the presets, e.g. for ultra you have AA=4x and AF=0x but when I click on ultra I get AA=8x and AF=16x. Maybe this explains the drop off in image quality between high and ultra?

What version are you using?

The latest version. This is hardly the only bug in the game, let's hope they patch them soon.

Guest said:

Your article really should detail exactly what constitutes "Max" settings.

If AA and AF can be set independently of the preset, how is it valid to test with AF on with High and off with Ultra?

bexwhitt said:

seeing as most people who buy this will have much poorer graphic cards than the ones tested there are going to be lots of frustrated people.

Prosercunus said:

Using both a GTX 580 and a 6970 (currently RMAing the GTX 580) I can say they both will run the game wonderful at 1920x1080/1200 with max quality.

The GTX 580 runs it a bit better than the 6970, but is also 150 dollars more and the difference seems negligible.

Lionvibez said:

Prosercunus said:

Using both a GTX 580 and a 6970 (currently RMAing the GTX 580) I can say they both will run the game wonderful at 1920x1080/1200 with max quality.

The GTX 580 runs it a bit better than the 6970, but is also 150 dollars more and the difference seems negligible.

Just what I wanted to here on a 920 @ 3.8ghz + 6950 @ 900/1325 with unlocked shaders.

I should be able to play at max at 1920x1200 based on these numbers.

I was also quite surprised at the speed difference in SB-E would love to see a Westmere chip thrown.

Guest said:

Skyrim is not an ideal performance benchmark. Unless your intent is to measure a PC's performance against that of an XBOX 360 or PS3.

The lack of any post-DX9 features such as soft shadows, and its overall poor texture resolution make Skyrim unsuitable as a performance benchmark for PC hardware. That's not to say it isn't a great game, because it is. Just don't waste your time using it as a benchmark.

CalinTM said:

Ok, a i5 750 gives 56fps, but a i5 750 at 3.8Ghz, what it gives ?

Guest said:

I would like to point out the lack of optimization in the game engine which I blame for a lot of AMD's poor performing. For instance my build is as follows:

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T @ 3.7Ghz (OC'd with a 2Ghz northbridge/HT Link)

8 GB Kingston Hyper X T1 Ram @1860 Mhz

2 x Radeon 5770 HD XFired

No real need to mention the rest.

Out of the box performance was poor, however, looking a little under the hood and around the web you find no AMD CrossfireX optimization in the game engine at all. I added a modded d3d9.dll which helped with utilizing both GPUs and also installed an AMD post processing mod which enables some post processing effects which made the game look better and surprisingly increased frame rate.

The most peculiar part of it all is that if you ctl+alt+del in the game then just hit cancel and go back your frames increase dramaticaly.

Moral of the story is this: most games come out optimizaed for Intel and Nvidia products and AMD gets to wait in the back seat. To get the performance out of the AMDs you have to know how to do a little tweaking. My Xfired 5770s run maxxed out and post processed at 60 FPS for spurts, then I have to CTL ALT DEL to speed it back up from whatever behind the scenes memory leak.

It;s unfortunate that the hardware always takes the blame for shoddy optimization and lazy coding.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Your article really should detail exactly what constitutes "Max" settings.

If AA and AF can be set independently of the preset, how is it valid to test with AF on with High and off with Ultra?

If you read the review you would know that we did detail exactly what constitutes "Max" settings and even provided an image to avoid confusion. As for the high and ultra presets, they are just that presets. That said our Ultra did not seem to set correctly and that must be a bug in the game.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

According to the chart my 550ti should have less than 30 fps with maximum...now im wondering if it's on maximum? I did click custom and put everything the highest it could go.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

According to the chart my 550ti should have less than 30 fps with maximum...now im wondering if it's on maximum? I did click custom and put everything the highest it could go.

Not sure what to tell you maxing out the game reduced the 550 Ti to about 30fps.

Guest said:

If you have a beefy enough gfx card, try using transparency multisampling aa from the nvidia control panel instead of using FXAA. I have ran some personal tests and found it neglible in terms of performance hit. I am using a single GTX 580 and i7-930 overclocked to 3.8 GHZ

The blurring which FXAA introduces makes the whole game look slightly washed out.

Guest said:

You should definitely get a new graphics card or go SLI. I'm running on an E8400 OC'd to 4ghz with an OC'd GTX 295.. I get about 30 frames per second outside during vista views and action, and 60 avg inside with max settings @ 1080p w/ FXAA.

Zecias said:

wow i definitely didn't expect my 5870 to get a solid 60 fps on max settings. In Oblivion, with everything maxed, i'm lucky to get 40 fps(This is mainly because of the grass, but even without it, it hovers around 50 fps).

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

For anyone running AMD card(s) with Skyrim, AMD now have Catalyst 11.11a performance driver available for download (HD5000/HD6000 series)

Seems to be a bit of a mixed bag :

The Good

Improves performance 2-7% on single GPU configurations

The WTF

Disables CrossFireX (to resolve negative scaling and image quality issues seen when CrossFireX is enabled)

Not sure if this represents progress tbh.

Bug-fixes for Batman, Rage and BF3 included

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So reading that, it sounds like my stock clocked i7 920@266 will get 57fps with a 580 on Max settings at 1680x1050.

I have a 460gtx instead and that shows 45fps with an i7 2600k at max and 76 on ultra. So I can still play it on Ultra stock clocked and get 60fps. I hope.

Still, xmas sale for me. Looks like a lovely game but will I get the time away from Battlefield 3?

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Good review, I'm personally running an Ultra mix and having no issues on my system (6850). I am a bit disappointed with some of the textures and 'overall' look as some things downright look bad. Fortunately modders have released several great additions from tweaked files to high-rez textures that really take Skyrim to a whole new level.

yukka said:

Looks like a lovely game but will I get the time away from Battlefield 3?

Got me away or at least to take a break from it .

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

So no comment at all about how this game only uses 2 threads which even further adds to the poor AMD CPU performance?

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

So no comment at all about how this game only uses 2 threads which even further adds to the poor AMD CPU performance?

Quite true.

I'm amazed that AMD didn't take the marketing opportunity to launch the "FX-2100: Skyrim Edition"

Guest said:

Definitely excellent review.

I have been playing at 1080p on MAX settings with 2 GTX 280 in SLI (using the beta driver just released from NVIDIA, else SLI is not supported) and an Core 2 Duo OC to 3.8GHz.

Indoor scenes i got smooth 60FPS all the tyme (limtied by vsync, otherwsie probably would get more).

Outdoor i get about 40-50fps.

However, both GPUs are only 40-50% utilized each, while both CPU cores are used 97%,

Definitely your CPU is primary bottleneck for this this game.

I will try reducing shadows. I was wondering of a core 2 quad will help, it was interesting that the review said only one core was used at max, with the core 2 duo both cores were used at max.

Guest said:

Skyrim works on exactly the same 5 x 5 exterior cell grid as the Oblivion version of the Gamebryo engine so "draw distance" is the same as Oblivion. Type TCL in the console fly high in the sky, type TB in the console then look down and see an identical 5 x 5 grid as in Oblivion. The grid outline is even the same colour, do an identical procedure in Oblivion to compare. This is not meant as a criticism of the interesting article nor of the Creation Engine. I wish this engine had been available for Oblivion, it renders much more efficiently.

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

This is why a lot of folks are modifying the number of grids to load. I'm currently (luckily) running with uGrids set to 11 and a modded exe to address more RAM. I've heard horror stories about stability after doing this but I haven't had a single crash yet so I'm thankful. I'm also running with very high draw distances for trees and ground shrubbery and I've settled on a shadow value of 8000. Now if I could just get the menus reworked I think I'd be done tweaking. I was hoping for some better water tweaks also, but it looks like I may be out of luck for now. The ability to interact with (non-combat) things from my horse would be nice also.

Guest said:

If the game doesn't scale well beyond 4 cores, why is the 3960X so much faster than the 2600k?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

If the game doesn't scale well beyond 4 cores, why is the 3960X so much faster than the 2600k?

Its core efficiency.

Guest said:

hi, how exactly do you set it to maximum as there is no max in the options/ advanced settings windows.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

hi, how exactly do you set it to maximum as there is no max in the options/ advanced settings windows.

We provided screen shots of the settings used.

Guest said:

Certainly the best skyrim performance review out there. It must be because skyrim is often labeled as a crappy console port because sites never seem to want to use it a benchmarking tool so its exceeding difficult to find graphic card comparisons for the game.

Im running a i5 2500k OC to 4.3 ghz and radeon 6870 stock. I have tried overclocking the gpu but even at 945/1125 i only gain barely one fps. I get solid 60 fps anywhere thats not on the world map, 40-50 on most world map areas, and 30 fps in dense towns like whiterun. I'm at 1080p with "max" settings.

Based on the graphs it looks like going from a 6870 to a 6950 gives no performance improvement at 1050p, 4 fps at 1200p, and 2 fps at 1600p. is it safe to assume i made the right choice going with 6870 rather than 6950 and that i would see almost no gains if i were to upgrade?

mooney12 mooney12 said:

im using sapphire 4830 hd, 2.8ghz dual core intel wolfdale and 4gigs ram, what settings are best?

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