The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion CPU Performanceby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 28, 2006 10:00 AM EST
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Whenever a PC game pushes the limits of what current hardware can do, it generally ends up being fairly GPU bound. In the past, as long as you had pretty much any Socket-939 Athlon 64 you had enough CPU power to drive even the fastest single GPU video cards. You would typically be running at fairly GPU-bound graphics settings - even if you were CPU-bound, frame rates would be high enough that it wouldn't really matter. However, every now and then there comes a game that is an equal opportunity stress test on your system, requiring an extremely fast CPU as well as a high end GPU. Bethesda Softworks' latest hit title, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is such a game.
In our initial article on Oblivion performance we compared high end and mid range PCI Express GPUs, discovering that we had finally found a game that was stressful enough to truly demand more GPU power than what is currently available on the market. Today's article uses the same benchmarks that we used in our first article, but focuses on finding the right mix of CPU and GPU performance for the best Oblivion experience.
It's worth stating up-front that we are not going to attempt to find ideal settings for every possible CPU/GPU configuration available. There are many tweaks that can be made that will dramatically improve performance on slower CPUs. Reducing the height of the grass as well as the density - or turning off grass entirely - will help a lot. Running without HDR, using medium textures, turning off shadow filtering... you can easily get performance to a level that many people will find acceptable, but it always comes at the cost of reducing the quality of the graphics - or at least the complexity of the graphics. We're interested in characterizing CPU performance under identical configurations for this article, providing an apples-to-apples look at how the Oblivion engine runs on a variety of processors.