The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

This content was originally featured on and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.

The 3rd installment to the Elder Scrolls franchise is proving to be very successful. Since it’s premiere over 1 year ago, there have been two expansion packs (Tribunal and Blood Moon), countless modifications, and even inspired some pretty humorous plugins and comics. Since it doesn’t seem like this game is going to vanish any time soon, it’s important to continually evaluate modern video cards against this expansive game.

Once again, I am using Balmora as the “benchmark” town because of its large number of NPCs and buildings (great for back-face culling testing), and a large pixel-shaded river running through it.

Sunrise in Balmora.

Test Setup

View Distance 50%
Pixel-shading Enabled
Real-time shadows Disabled


ATi & Nvidia Video Card Roundup #2 - Graphics Cards 42
*Radeon 9700 is a soft-modded Radeon 9500 running at Radeon 9700 specs.

Morrowind benchmark results. 1600x1200
*Radeon 9700 is a soft-modded Radeon 9500 running at Radeon 9700 specs.


  • Radeon 9700
    The results of this test are pretty amazing for this card. It managed a solid 30 FPS in every test it ran in Morrowind, even with the highest details on the highest resolution! 30 FPS may not sound like a big deal to you shooter fans, but for those who have played Morrowind a 30 FPS number in Balmora at 1600×1200 is pretty amazing! The graphics look gorgeous and best of all the card performs very well.

  • Radeon 9500
    Here we see behaviour similar to what is seen in Freelancer. The Radeon 9500 performs remarkably close to the Radeon 9700 until it hits 1600×1200 with anti-aliasing turned on. Once you cross the 2×0 threshold, performance drops drastically – menus are harder to navigate and you feel like you’re walking the streets like a drunkard. I suggest staying with 1024×768 and turning on all the details or try 1600×1200 with 0x8 and adjust the settings.

  • GeForce FX5900 Ultra
    The FX5900 Ultra does a good job at maintaining FPS around the 25 range for all tests except for 8×0 and 8×8. Though these rates are largely playable, they are not as good compared to the Radeon 9500 and Radeon 9700 (similar to the results we’ve seen in Freelancer where the Radeon cards beat the FX5900 Ultra). What is curious here is that the results for 1024×768 are nearly identical to 1600×1200 with 25 FPS throughout. You would figure some decrease in performance, but the results are pretty much constant.

  • GeForce FX5600
    The FX5600 is pretty good up to and including 4×0 at 1024×768. But at 4×8 and higher, I started to notice some slow-downs when facing towards the center of the city and got progressively worse. At 1600×1200, 0x0 AAxAF is the only playable option (but you can try 8AF and adjust the view distance a little). Interesting to see the FX5600 performing comparably to the more expensive FX5900 Ultra.

  • GeForce FX5200
    The FX5200 can only play this game at 1024×768 with 0x0 to 0x8. Though these results may not look very impressive for the seasoned gamer, it’s not bad for those general users who want to pick up this game from time to time. I suggest playing at lower resolutions or adjust your view-distance settings if you want to play at 1024×768.

  • GeForce 4 Ti4800SE
    The Ti4800SE performs practically the same as the FX5600. Test for test, the Ti4800SE is never more than 5 FPS away from the FX5600. Once again we see that the Ti4800SE performing poorly at 1600×1200, but still playable at 0x0.
« PreviousNext »