Maximum Quality Performance

Skyrim is quite demanding when running at max quality. When testing at 1680x1050, the HD 6750 was shoved below the 30fps threshold, while the HD 6770 and GTX 550 Ti barely made the cut. The HD 6790 and HD 5830 were about even at 38 and 39fps, while the GTX 460 and HD 6850 were the first cards to guarantee a mostly lag-free experience.

The HD 6870, 6950 and GTX 560 Ti all managed 58fps -- a decent showing for two of the cards, but we're disappointed by the HD 6950. That said, the GTX 570 was only a fraction faster at 60fps, while the HD 6970 managed 62fps. Nvidia's current and previous-generation single-GPU flagships were the most impressive, managing 69fps and 70fps.

When cranking the resolution up to 1920x1200, most of the lower-end products struggled to deliver playable performance, or in the case of the Radeon HD 6770 and 6750, completely bombed. Even the HD 5830 was quite sluggish with 34fps, while the GTX 460 failed to break 40fps. If you want to exceed 40fps, you'll need an HD 6850 or GTX 560, while 60fps+ will require an HD 6970 or better.

To enjoy Skyrim on its maximum quality setting at 2560x1600 or higher, you'll have to invest in some serious rendering power. The GTX 580, which was by far the fastest graphics card tested, managed 51fps, while the GTX 480 slipped to 43fps, followed by the HD 6970 at 41fps.