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Our testing methods
Our testing setup, detailed below, should look familiar to folks who've read our Battlefield 3 article. It's the same one; we've just updated drivers and loaded up Skyrim on it.

We're still testing at a resolution of 1920x1080 throughout. Like BF3, Skyrim lacks a built-in, scripted benchmark, which forced us to test manually by playing certain portions of the game multiple times with each card. Covering multiple resolutions using that method would have been far too time-consuming. We chose 1080p because it seems to be considerably more popular: a quick look at Newegg's listings shows considerably more 1080p monitors than panels with other resolutions.

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers, with tests run five times per card. Our test system was configured as follows:

Processor Intel Core i5-750
Motherboard Asus P7P55D
North bridge Intel P55 Express
South bridge
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX
DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24 1T
Chipset drivers INF update
Rapid Storage Technology
Audio Integrated Via VT1828S
with drivers
Graphics XFX Radeon HD 6850 1GB (HD-685X-ZNFC)
with Catalyst 11.11 drivers
Asus Radeon HD 6870 1GB 915MHz (EAH6870 DC/2DI2S/1GD5)
with Catalyst 11.11 drivers
Gigabyte Radeon HD 6950 1GB 870MHz (GV-R695OC-1GD)
with Catalyst 11.11 drivers
Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1GB (ZT-40402-10P)
with GeForce 285.79 beta drivers
MSI GeForce GTX 560 1GB 870MHz (N560GTX Twin Frozr II/OC)
with GeForce 285.79 beta drivers
Asus GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB 830MHz (ENGTX560 TI DCII/2DI/1GD5)
with GeForce 285.79 beta drivers
Hard drive Samsung SpinPoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB SATA
Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB
Power supply

Corsair HX750W

OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Edition
Service Pack 1

Thanks to Asus, Intel, Corsair, Kingston, Samsung, and Western Digital for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. XFX, Gigabyte, and MSI for supplying the graphics cards for testing, as well.

We conducted testing using the Catalyst 11.11 driver from AMD and the GeForce 285.79 beta driver from Nvidia. We left optional AMD optimizations for tessellation and texture filtering disabled. Otherwise, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following test applications:

We used the Fraps utility to record frame rates while playing a 90-second sequences through each level we tested. Although capturing frame rates while playing isn't precisely repeatable, we tried to make each run as similar as possible to all of the others. We tested each Fraps sequence at least five times per video card, in order to counteract any variability.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.