As mentioned, Skyrim can be very heavy on the CPU, esp. in the large towns, and it really only uses two of your CPU cores, so ... that is the problem in your case.There's a number of us
trying to reckon why the CPU load is so extreme in certain areas, and looking to see if there's a setting that can be dropped somewhere that doesn't affect IQ too much, but will remove a significant load from the CPU to give us higher FPS and GPU usage.
As it stands now, about all we've reckoned is that dropping shadow quality will result in a bit lower CPU load and should hence increase FPS in the troublesome areas ... but it's not the optimal solution and certainly (to me at least) doesn't appear to be the actual 'underlying problem' ... rather, it's just a band-aid wanna-be solution.
If it makes you feel any better, even people with Sandy's at 4.7GHz and GTX580's still see significant slowdowns in the large towns as well ... the places where you get 28-30, people with the highest-end stuff are only getting around 38-45fps, which is still a very noticeable slowdown in this game.
Dunno about BF3 specifically, but keep in mind that some gfx settings you can adjust can impact both CPU and GPU load (like Shadows do in Skyrim), so just because increasing 'graphics settings' in general lowers the FPS, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can rule out the possibility that your CPU is struggling. Remember that every single frame ever rendered on your machine is a new opportunity for either the CPU or the GPU to act as a limiting factor ... and which one *is* doing so can switch back and forth all the time while you play, depending on the game, settings, etc.
Lastly, from what I understand, BF3 can be a bit of a video memory hog, and the 295 has only 896MB effective vram capacity, so it's possible that you have two different issues between the two games in question, they just happen to be two problems that manifest themselves in a very similar way Edited by brettjv - 12/6/11 at 4:20pm