The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion CPU Performanceby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 28, 2006 10:00 AM EST
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In many ways, the message this article sends is something we've already known: a fast GPU needs a fast CPU. The difference with Oblivion is that the impact of a slow CPU on a fast GPU is far more noticeable than on many games we've tested in the past. While we can't realistically provide a CPU scaling chart for every GPU we tested in the last review, you can draw some general conclusions based on the four GPUs we focused on in this review. If you're using an older Athlon 64 3000+ or 3200+ with anything around the speed of a Radeon X1800 XT or faster, you'll want to look at upgrading (or overclocking, naturally) your CPU; otherwise, you'll be leaving a decent amount of GPU performance on the table.
As we've continually seen during the past couple of years, AMD's Athlon 64 and X2 processors are the best of the best, but even within the family you'll still want to opt for something faster than an Athlon 64 3500+ in order to make good use of any high end GPU.
It's also important to look at the multi-core optimizations that Oblivion provides. The benefit of a dual core processor is definitely visible in Oblivion, and we welcome more games where there's a tangible real world performance improvement to multi-core processors. The difference isn't quite as large as what we've seen with Quake 4, but we're heading in the right direction.
Those lucky enough to have a high end CrossFire setup, for example with two X1900 XTs, will definitely want to invest in a high end Athlon 64 X2. Oblivion is quite possibly the first game we've tested where we can actually justify (and this is a stretch) an FX-60 and a pair of X1900 XTs, as they enable you to have much more than you get out of them in most games. As we stated in the beginning, you can also try hacking your configuration files and downloading some mods, improving performance in other ways. If you just want to set the detail sliders on Maximum and play the game at high resolutions, though, X1900 XT CF and a fast dual-core CPU will get the job done nicely. (Good luck convincing yourself or your significant other of that "need", though!)