Skyrim Special Edition Display Settings
A guide to configuring the best display settings for Skyrim Special Edition
by: The Step Team
The intent of this guide is to serve as a general reference for optimizing display settings for Skyrim Special Edition (SkyrimSE, SSE) irrespective of hardware variation. This includes workarounds for different use cases.
There are a few factors to consider in a 'Bayesian'1 approach to making configuration choices using this guide. Of course, exhaustive testing can be done, but it's impractical. Better to test a few likely candidates. This guide will refer to these factors when they are important in choosing how to configure certain display settings for SSE.
Variable refresh rate (VRR) Sometimes referred to as "adaptive sync" or "dynamic sync" allows the monitor to adjust the frequency at which it refreshes the image to match the frame rate from the GPU. Proprietery VRR technologies include NVIDIA's 'G-SYNC'2 and AMD's "Freesync"3 technologies. In order to use either of these VRR solutions with SSE, both the video card and the monitor must support the same VRR solution.
CPU The CPU speed and system bus efficiency are important in terms of serving frames rapidly to the GPU. The CPU is a decent indicator of the overall power of a system, and this has some influence over recommendations of this guide. Per the SSE guide, the Intel Core i5-4670 equivalent or better is used as an approximate threshold to more powerful systems (Intel Core i5-4670 equivalent or better).
Refresh Rate Monitor refresh rate is a gross indicator of likelihood to support VRR, screen size/resolution, and response time with monitors having 144 Hz or higher refresh rates being significantly more likely to have the higher-end qualities (VRR support, higher resolutions, shorter response times).
Resolution can be set by modifying the following lines in
[Display] iSize H=1080 iSize W=1920
Alternatively, these can be set using an INI editor like BethINI. Mods like SSE Display Tweaks can also be used to override many of the game INIs display settings (including resolution) by changing the following line in
SSE Display Tweaks also allows setting a resolution lower than the screen resolution and upscaling it to screen size while in borderless windowed mode. This will provide a significant performance enhancement at the expense of resolution, but screen size will remain unchanged. In order for this feature to work:
Another quick and easy way to change the resolution scale is also provided by SSE Display Tweaks. This tweak is essentially a resolution multiplier that preserves the screen aspect ratio. This can be uncommented and lowered to improve performance at the cost of resolution.
While the game does not natively support ultra widescreen aspect ratios, Complete Widescreen Fix is able to remedy this problem. Simply install the appropriate files, and ensure they overwrite any conflicting assets.
The game supports both windowed and fullscreen modes, with the option to run in borderless windowed mode, via the following INI settings in the SkyrimPrefs.ini file:
[Display] bBorderless=0 bFull Screen=1
Without mods, fullscreen mode will provide the best performance. Without SSE Display Tweaks, this is the only method that G-SYNC (and FreeSync?) will be able to be successfully used. Setting
bFull Screen=1 will enforce this method unless overwritten by a mod that overwrites this setting. SSE Display Tweaks users can use the following setting in the SKSE\Plugins\SSEDisplayTweaks.ini file to set this:
Borderless windowed mode
Borderless windowed mode is often preferred because of the ease of alt-tabbing to other applications. However, without SSE Display Tweaks, G-SYNC (and FreeSync?) will not work in windowed mode. SSE Display Tweaks users, however, can use G-SYNC or FreeSync in borderless windowed mode. Setting
bFull Screen=0 and
bBorderless=1 will enforce this method unless overwritten by a mod that overwrites this setting. SSE Display Tweaks users can use the following settings in the SKSE\Plugins\SSEDisplayTweaks.ini file to set this:
[Render] Fullscreen=false Borderless=true
Optimizing framerate and latency
By default, Skyrim Special Edition runs at a maximum of 60 frames per second. While this is fine for most users, some may find this restrictive. These users should disable this framerate lock by disabling bLockFrameRate in Skyrim.ini and installing SSE Display Tweaks.
Unlocking framerate for performance testing
It can be useful to unlock framerate completely for testing performance. To do so, perform the following:
- Turn off all settings regarding framerate limiting and VSync in your graphics card driver software
ForceVSync=falsein ENBLocal.ini from ENB
EnableVSync=falsein SKSE\Plugins\SSEDisplayTweaks.ini from SSE Display Tweaks
bLockFrameRate=0in Skyrim.ini and any SkyrimCustom.ini
Once your testing is complete, you should reenable settings as desired and explained below.
The game's physics only supports a framerate of 60 frames per second. There are several mods that can fix this, but should not be used all at the same time. It is recommended to use SSE Display Tweaks fix, as it is the most comprehensive and complete. The SKSE\Plugins\SSEDisplayTweaks.ini file comes preconfigured with the Havok fix enabled:
[Havok] Enabled=true DynamicMaxTimeScaling=true
If your system is struggling to meet 60 frames per second, lowering
MinimumFramerate may improve performance.
If you have set a framerate limit, are utilizing Fullscreen mode, or have VSync enabled, it is recommended to set
MaximumFramerate=0 to allow the plugin to determine this value automatically.
Skyrim has an alternative physics mode that lessens CPU usage in complex scenes such as the civil war battles at the expense of simulation quality. Users with weak CPUs can set
PerformanceMode=true to use this mode everywhere if they experience performance issues, especially when a lot of NPCs are around.
It is recommended to employ a framerate limit within the SKSE\Plugins\SSEDisplayTweaks.ini file of SSE Display Tweaks for all users to ensure the maximum latency. For users who employ G-SYNC or FreeSync, set
FramerateLimit to your maximum refresh rate minus 3 frames per second (e.g., 144 Hertz monitor - 3 = 141). All other users should set this to 1 FPS below their maximum refresh rate.
Users with good hardware will benefit from setting
FramerateLimitMode=1 for improved input latency. Weaker hardware configurations should leave this at 0 for more consistent frametimes.
AMD users should enable Radeon Anti-Lag to further reduce input lag. NVIDIA users should similarly set Low Latency Mode to On. Setting it to Ultra may reduce lag further at the cost of more CPU usage and a FPS penalty. Users can also experiment with setting
MaxFrameLatency=1 within the SKSE\Plugins\SSEDisplayTweaks.ini file of SSE Display Tweaks.
VSync (vertical synchronization) is recommended to be enabled in one manner or the other to prevent screen tearing. VSync can be set in multiple places, but the most common places include the following:
- SkyrimPrefs.ini (the official game INI settings)
- ENBLocal.ini (ENB users only)
- Graphics driver settings
- Varies between graphics drivers
It is recommended to enable VSync in only one place so you know exactly which VSync method you are using. It is preferred to enable VSync in the graphics driver settings for the game if possible.
Vsync is still recommended if using G-SYNC to prevent screen tearing 100% of the time.4
G-SYNC users should ensure they have set-up G-SYNC with the required hardware to use the feature:
- A G-SYNC compatible GPU,
- A G-SYNC compatible monitor (some FreeSync monitors work as well) with the appropriate OSD settings enabled,
- And the appropriate cord (a DisplayPort cable is generally required).
You can generally determine that you have it set up correctly if you get the "Set up G-SYNC" option in the NVIDIA control panel. Make sure that you enable it for both fullscreen and windowed mode if you are using borderless windowed mode. Also ensure that Monitor Technology is set to G-SYNC Compatible in Skyrim Special Edition's 3D settings. As already mentioned in the VSync section above, ensure that Vertical sync is set to On in Skyrim Special Edition's 3D settings. Also, ensure that you have set a framerate limit that is 3 FPS below your maximum refresh rate as also mentioned above.
Vsync is still recommended if using Freesync to prevent screen tearing 100% of the time.4
FreeSync users should ensure they have set-up FreeSync with the required hardware to use the feature:
- A FreeSync compatible GPU,
- A FreeSync compatible monitor with the appropriate OSD settings enabled,
- And the appropriate cord (a DisplayPort cable is recommended).
Make sure you enable AMD FreeSync for your monitor in Radeon Settings under Display and set AMD FreeSync to On for the game's profile under Gaming. Also, ensure that you have set a framerate limit that is 3 FPS below your maximum refresh rate as also mentioned above.