Just when you thought it was safe... Just when you thought that your brand-new quad core CPU and next-generation GPU were capable of handling anything...Futuremark releases a new benchmark: 3DMark Vantage.
Why use 3DMark?
Technology pundits like to debate about the role of synthetic benchmarks. Some say that real-world "minimum fps" testing is the only way to go. After all, isn't the purpose of reviews and benchmarks to help you decide what to buy? This same camp argues that synthetic benchmarks are susceptible to manufacturer optimization and often do not reflect real programming practices. Synthetic benchmarks often lack the level of programmer-level optimization or may arbitrarily use inefficient code to "stress" the hardware.
While all of these are potentially true statements, no one can benchmark the games of tomorrow. Just because a system can run Crysis well doesn't mean that it'll run "Half-Life 3" well. The challenge, of course, is planning for the future without spending excessively. By the time the "games of tomorrow" are released, so will the "GPUs of tomorrow."
Futuremark straddles the border between real-world and synthetic benchmarks. While "Feature tests" in Futuremark act as pure synthetic tests, the actual game scenes represent realistic games of the future. Through the Benchmark Development Program, Futuremark works with companies like AMD and NVIDIA, as well as analysts such as those from FiringSquad, to ensure that tests are fair.
What’s new in 3DMark Vantage?
The short answer: DirectX 10. A $5 million budget. No "free" version.
Although you can download the "Trial Edition" of 3DMark Vantage, this is a one-time only version. Enthusiasts will need to spend $7 for a multi-use edition, or $20 for the "Advanced" version that most people will want. Futuremark explains that with the increasing cost of development, and system integrators/resellers using the free version of 3DMark for commercial purposes, they had to do this to remain a financially viable company.
But the $5 million budget really shows. Not only does 3DMark Vantage have considerably upgraded tests which stress even the most powerful of GPUs, but there is now a robust set of CPU benchmark tools as well.
Besides the new tests, FutureMark has also incorporated a new scoring system which features four new presets: entry, performance, high, and extreme visual quality settings. Each preset has its own group of graphics settings, the entry setting for instance runs at lower resolution (1024x768) than the extreme setting, which runs at 1920x1200. The higher presets also turn on features such as AA/AF. These graphics settings only apply to the game tests, the CPU and feature tests are run at the same settings regardless of the preset you select.
When your final overall Vantage score is generated it includes the preset used. For instance if you used the “Performance” preset to test your GPU, your score will start with the letter “P” followed by your Vantage score (P3000 for instance). When running Vantage with one of the four presets, the overall score generated applies to that preset only, in other words, you can’t compare 3DMark scores with the Performance preset with 3DMark scores run with the High preset. FutureMark says that higher presets emphasize graphics performance more heavily than lower presets when determining the overall 3DMark score.
The following chart summarizes the settings for each preset in 3DMark Vantage:
|3DMark Vantage Presets|
|Shadow Shader Quality||Entry||Performance||High||Extreme|
|Shadow Resolution Qualty||Entry||Performance||High||Extreme|
|POM Shader Quality||Entry||Performance||High||Extreme|
|Volumetric Rendering Quality||Entry||Performance||High||Extreme|
|Disabled Post-Processing Effects||Motion Blur, Depth of Field|
ProcessorRequirement: SSE2 support
Recommendation: A dual-core processor with performance equivalent to Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, AMD Athlon X2 6000+, or higher
Requirement: Fully DirectX10-compliant graphics hardware Display Device Capable of 1280x1024 resolution
Recommendation: Graphics Card Capable of 1920x1200 resolution needed to run all the presets
Requirement: Windows Vista minimum requirement
Recommendation: 2 GB or more
Requirement: 1 GB of free hard disk space
Requirement: Windows Vista with Service Pack 1