What is the most efficient way to reach the Armor Rating cap?

What is both the most efficient way to reach the cap of 85% physical damage reduction (567 Armor)?

Can it be reached without smithing/enchanting perks? Is it more efficient to not get some smithing or enchanting perks and just get heavy armor perks? Or is there some combination of crafting and heavy armor perks that gets to 567 armor with a smaller investment of perk points?

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  • For purposes of this question, most efficient is defined as the smallest possible amount of perks used to acquire the stated physical damage reduction, passively – i.e. without popping pots (temporary) or using extra buffs from stones, blessings, or +Heavy Armor skill enchants (to keep those slots on equipment free for other enhancements). Also, any skill used to achieve this can be assumed to be leveled to 100 (for example Heavy Armor could be assumed to be already leveled to 100).

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    Ran some console commands in the name of Science!

    First, I leveled light armor to see the what affect skill has on armor rating.

    Imperial Armor chest

    • 25 armor at 15 skill.
    • 33 armor at 100 skill.

    Well, that’s underwhelming. The rest of the numbers in this post are with 100 light armor.

    Then I maxed smithing and started making stuff.

    • 74 – 4 piece leather – no perks
    • 119 – upgraded with 100 smithing
    • 238 – agile defender 5/5 (cleanly doubled the value)
    • 357 – custom fit, matching set (and another 50% on top)

    So much for unperk-able leather. How about elven?

    • 297 – 5 piece elven armor, agile defender 5/5, custom fit, matching set.
    • 528 – upgraded with 100 smithing and elven smithing perk.
    • 610 – re-upgraded with Ring of Smithing (+15) and Necklace of Smithing (+15)
    • 537 – same, but shield-less

    Elven armor is the lightest armor I’m aware of. 4 piece is 7 units of weight. 5 piece is 11 units of weight. With this low weight, you can easily skip armor weight reducing perks.

    Then I headed off to the enchanting station for one last test. I enchanted with fortify armorer and saw no change to armor rating after the enchant. I recommend skipping the arcane blacksmith perk if you are planning to wear only your own crafted armor. Just upgrade before enchanting. (Ignore what the enchanting table tells you about armor rating, it’s wrong.)

    That’s 2 smithing perks, and 7 light armor perks. With 100 skill in light armor and smithing, you’ll be level 26 and easily able to afford these perks.

    Can you skip the 2 smithing perks? Possibly. You’ll need to compensate by raising smithing skill (much) higher, but if you’re already choosing enchanting perks and/or alchemy perks for other reasons…

    TLDR:
    You can reach 610 armor rating with 9 perks and minor un-perked assistence from alchemy or enchanting. 567 is the armor cap.

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