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The Gamer's Hardware Guide

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 smoother and lifelike behavior. The game won Best RPG and Game of the Year 2011 awards from various gaming websites.



Processor AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz Dual-core Dual Core 2.0GHz
Memory 3GB DDR2 800MHz 2GB
Video Card nVidia GeForce 9600GT 512MB DDR3(Green Edition) DirectX 9 compatible with 512 MB of RAM
Driver / Patch version nVidia Forceware 295.73 with High Resolution Texture Pack
Operating System / DirectX Windows 7 SP1 64-bit / DX 11 Windows 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 Utilization

CPU Utilization

Memory Usage

Memory Usage

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






Anisotropic Filtering


Radial Blur



Decal Quantity

Water Reflect


Object Fade


Detail Fade


Actor Fade


Grass Fade


Specularity Fade


Light Fade


Item Fade


Distant Object Detail



Anti-aliasing Off 4x 8x 8x Off
Anisotropic Filtering Off Off 8x 16x 16x
Texture Low High High High High
Radial Blur Low Low Medium High Low
Shadow Low Medium High Ultra Low
Decal None Medium High Ultra None
FXAA Off On Off Off Off
Reflect Land Off On On On Off
Reflect Trees Off Off On On Off
Reflect Objects Off Off On On Off
Reflect Sky Off Off Off On Off
Object Fade 1 2 7 15 8
Actor Fade 2 3 6 15 8
Grass Fade 0 3 5 7 3
Specularity Fade 2 5 10 20 2
Light Fade 2 10 25 35 2
Item Fade 1 3 4 15 8
Distant Object Detail Low Medium High Ultra High
Object Detail Fade Off On Off Off Off
High Resolution Textures Off Off Off Off On

We didn’t used 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

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.


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 Graphics section of the Skyrim.ini file (\Users\Username\My Documents\My Games\Skyrim).  

Individual benchmarks

For this benchmark, we used our Low preset as 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 like 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.  


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 finer and 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 NPC’s are seen from afar.



Add a Comment
  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!

    1. 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.

    2. 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

  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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