Low End PC Performance Guide: Skyrim

Set 200 years after the events from Oblivion, Skyrim is the next open-world RPG from the Elder Scrolls series. Developed by the same Bethesda Game Studios, it utilizes the new Creation engine exhibiting lush environments, rocky mountains, and realistic weather effects. It also incorporates Havok’s Behavior technology which renders non-playable characters with smooth and lifelike behavior. The game won Best RPG and Game of the Year 2011 awards from various gaming websites.
 

TEST SYSTEM & REQUIREMENTS

 TEST SYSTEMMINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
ProcessorAMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz Dual-coreDual Core 2.0GHz
Memory3GB DDR2 800MHz2GB
Video CardnVidia GeForce 9600GT 512MB DDR3(Green Edition)DirectX 9 compatible with 512 MB of RAM
Driver / Patch versionnVidia Forceware 295.731.4.21.0.4 with High Resolution Texture Pack
Operating System / DirectXWindows 7 SP1 64-bit / DX 11Windows XP 32-bit / DX 9.0c

If we will be basing from today’s technology, it’s very easy to get past the minimum requirements and our 4-year-old system can definitely play this. But in a game like this, you would want to turn every graphical detail on high as possible for this is where you would really appreciate the beauty of the game. Playing on Low preset will look like you are playing an older game than its predecessor.

CPU Usage
Memory Usage

Skyrim can use the two cores of our processor and the 2GB memory requirement is sufficient to play this game.

IMAGE COMPARISON

Antialiasing

FXAA-Off AA-Off
FXAA-Off AA-2x
FXAA-Off AA-4x
FXAA-Off AA-8x
FXAA-On AA-Off
FXAA-On AA-2x
FXAA-On AA-4x
FXAA-On AA-8x

Texture

Texture - Low
Texture - Medium
Texture - High
Texture - High Resolution

Anisotropic Filtering

Filtering - Off
Filtering - 2x
Filtering - 4x
Filtering - 8x
Filtering - 16x

Radial Blur

Blur - Low
Blur - Medium
Blur - High

Shadows

Shadows - Low
Shadows - Medium
Shadows - High
Shadows - Ultra

Decal Quantity

Decal - None
Decal - Medium
Decal - High
Decal - Ultra

Water Reflect

Water Reflect - None
Water Reflect - Land
Water Reflect - Object
Water Reflect - Sky
Water Reflect - Trees
Water Reflect - All

Object Fade

Object Fade - 1
Object Fade - 8
Object Fade - 15

Detail Fade

Detail Fade - On
Detail Fade - Off

Actor Fade

Actor Fade - 2
Actor Fade - 8
Actor Fade - 15

Grass Fade

Grass Fade - 0
Grass Fade - 3
Grass Fade - 7

Specularity Fade

Specularity Fade - 2
Specularity Fade - 10
Specularity Fade - 20

Light Fade

Light Fade - 2
Light Fade - 18
Light Fade - 35

Item Fade

Item Fade - 1
Item Fade - 8
Item Fade - 15

Distant Object Detail

Distant Object - Low
Distant Object - Medium
Distant Object - High
Distant Object - Ultra

Settings

 LOWMEDIUMHIGHULTRACUSTOM
Anti-aliasingOff4x8x8xOff
Anisotropic FilteringOffOff8x16x16x
Texture LowHighHighHighHigh
Radial BlurLowLowMediumHighLow
ShadowLowMediumHighUltraLow
DecalNoneMediumHighUltraNone
FXAAOffOnOffOffOff
Reflect LandOffOnOnOnOff
Reflect TreesOffOffOnOnOff
Reflect ObjectsOffOffOnOnOff
Reflect SkyOffOffOffOnOff
Object Fade127158
Actor Fade236158
Grass Fade03573
Specularity Fade2510202
Light Fade21025352
Item Fade134158
Distant Object DetailLowMediumHighUltraHigh
Object Detail FadeOffOnOffOffOff
High Resolution TexturesOffOffOffOffOn

We didn’t use the actual Low preset because some of the settings were not exactly set in its lowest value like the texture quality was set on medium; instead, we altered and set every detail in its lowest value. Our altered version of Low preset is what we used in Preset Image Comparison and in our benchmarking process.

Preset Quality

Preset - Low
Preset - Medium
Preset - High
Preset - Ultra
Preset - Custom


Our Custom setting has three obvious differences from High preset – it lacks grass from the left side; lower shadow quality under the carriage and well; and rugged edges of wood on the right side. Ultra setting will give you more grass and more detailed mountain.

PERFORMANCE

For our benchmarking process, we used a 90-second FRAPS benchmark from the scene right after you and Hadvar escaped the dragon from Helgen Keep.

Also we disabled the VSync by adding “iPresentInterval=0” to the bottom of the Graphics section of the Skyrim.ini file (\Users\Username\My Documents\My Games\Skyrim).  

 

Settings Benchmarks

For this benchmark, we used our Low preset as a baseline to see which detail cripples our system when set to its highest value.  individual-benchmarks Using the results from this and image comparison, we came up with our Custom settings. Basically we turn off or set to the lowest each detail that doesn’t display visual enhancement, set to medium or high otherwise. 

 

Preset Benchmarks

If you looked back at our Preset image comparison, our Custom setting is comparable to High preset but performance-wise, you will have smoother gameplay with the Custom setting across all three resolutions. Low and Medium preset will give you the best performance but as we said earlier, this is a game where you want the best graphics possible. Playing at Ultra preset is a pain in the eye and this is where our 4-year-old system is reaching its maximum capability to play this game.

SUMMARY

Based on our Preset Benchmark results, you can either play Skyrim at High or Custom setting. We even didn’t have to overclock and tweak to gain more performance as our system is capable of playing the game even on high preset. We really liked games like this where you don’t need a monster gaming rig. Even though this is just a DirectX 9 game, visuals are fantastic plus the High-Resolution Textures adds more detail without taking much of the performance. For additional content, we added a video comparison between Low and Custom settings. Notice that our custom setting has more grass, and rocks, items, and NPCs are seen from afar.

7 Comments
  1. Lol I’m afraid this system is all too similar to my own…
    4GB DDR2 667
    GT 640 1GB DDR3
    Win7 64 Bit
    Athlon 64 X2 4400+ @ 2.65GHz

  2. HA! Do not need a monster gaming rig? I have a computer that can run ANYTHING else just fine, and this game is unplayable even after ini tweaks and settings modifications! It is IMPOSSIBLE. You WILL need a monster gaming rig of some sort if you want decent graphics, or an awfully powerful machine to even PLAY it at all!

    • No…you dont im running at 30 frames outside 60 inside and 20 in certain caves with 2 gigs ram and integrated radeon hd 3000…….its a problem on YOUR end

    • Uuuuh my laptop is only mid-low end, and i’m able to play Skyrim at pretty decent settings, that’s including texture mods for water, armor, landscape, etc.

      I think there’s something wrong with your computer hardware, probably should send a support ticket to Bethesda.

  3. Would increase the fps even more if you had thinned out the grass at least xd

  4. I’m at solstheim and it didn’t work out. It’s still slow.

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